In a November 19th Globe article, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced that Canada would invest 10 million dollars over the next 18 months into the clearing of cluster munitions. Baird, who just recently returned from a trip to Laos, a country which is the most cluster bomb contaminated country in the world on a per capita basis, stated that he hopes this money will help alleviate the pain and suffering caused by cluster munitions.

10 million dollars is a lot of money. That’s a million dollars for each number in Bill C-6. It’s generous. Without a doubt, but I wonder to what degree it’s really just a bandaid or as Dambisa Moyo might say, a deadaid. Throwing money at a problem is contrary to what good development is all about. Clean up the clusters and clean up the Bill. Press the US to ratify and rectify a global problem. Don’t defer or demur Mr. Baird. Stand up for what’s right. Commit and take a position that will save lives, communicate what’s necessary and put Canada back into a leadership role with regard to foreign policy.

Landmines and cluster bombs look a lot like toys. What a great idea. These whimsical-looking objects of destruction were designed during World War II for various militias looking for more efficient ways of killing their enemies. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of individuals who are victims of cluster munitions are not soldiers, but rather civilians. In fact, a recent analysis indicates that 98% of victims of cluster munitions are non-combatants a third of which are children.

Bill C-6: An Act to Implement The Cluster Munitions Convention, is our federal government’s answer to the global request to ban cluster munitions. Unfortunately, Bill S-10 represents a poor attempt at what should be powerful legislation. Canada was one of the first countries to sign the Cluster Bombs Munitions Convention in 2008. We have been leaders in the arena of social justice before. The Ottawa Treaty, which was drafted in September 1997 under the leadership of Jean Chretien, has led to serious change and reform, receiving the support of over 156 counties.  In fact the Ottawa Treaty is often regarded as one of the most successful organizations of international law. Unfortunately, Bill C-6 lacks energy or efficacy and fails to meet the standards that Canada has so proudly set in past. According to Mines Action Canada (MAC) it’s one of the weakest draft bills put forward by those who have already joined the Convention.

Why should Canadians care? Cluster bombs are usually dropped on fields where they will be easily accessible to children and innocent victims. If a person who comes into contact with a cluster bomb  doesn’t immediately lose their life they are very likely to suffer from blindness, the loss of limbs and permanent scarring. Bill C-6 says Canadian are OK with this.

MAC believes the draft of Bill C-6 has significant omissions, which could have fatal consequences in many countries. Are we merely pandering here to the US that clearly still wants to use the weapon? Will Canada, a country that has never used cluster munitions pass legislation that will help other countries use them? Bill C-6 in its current form makes Canada complicit in the use of this deadly device. Paul Hannon executive director of MAC says the money is a good commitment, but 35 million would make more sense. Wow. Expensive. That works out to about a dollar per Canadian. It’s a fiscal outrage. Pricey? Indeed.

Although I am thrilled that Canada is making strides towards ratifying the Convention on Cluster Munitions, I am ashamed that our draft legislation, if passed unamended, will be the weakest in the world.  A petition has been created for all those concerned to sign. It’s called The People’s Treaty. People who sign it will support revising Bill S-10 to make it clear that no Canadian should ever be involved in the use of cluster munitions.

The statistics are horrifying. Imagine wandering through a park somewhere in Toronto and coming across a cluster bomb. How would you respond? Write a letter? Run? Call the police to complain? Or walk away and let someone else deal with it? Canada is sitting idly by if it signs a weak document.

A dollar each.

My son Spencer is six and my daughter Victoria is four. Elizabeth, my wife, and I know what our children play with. We don’t have to worry about severed limbs, maiming and death in the playground. Why should any other child, based on an accident of geography, have to deal with such a global scourge, one that Bill S-10 would make Canadians complicit in?

DP- 11-2013