Canada is reiterating its stance against the use of cluster munitions following the Biden administration’s decision to send the controversial weapon to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.
In a statement sent to CTV News, the Government of Canada said its longstanding position on the weapon is clear in that Canada is fully against its use in accordance with Canada’s ban against landmines.
“Building on the trailblazing work of Lloyd Axworthy on the Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines, Canada championed the adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which is now ratified by more than 100 countries,” the statement said.
“We do not support the use of cluster munitions and are committed to putting an end to the effects cluster munitions have on civilians – particularly children.”
Canada, along with 123 nations, have pledged to the Convention on Cluster Munitions introduced in 2008 that prohibits the production, use, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. In 1997, Canada introduced the Ottawa Treaty to ban the weapon that disperses explosive bomblets at random, which can lead to civilian injuries and deaths.
“Canada is fully compliant with the Convention and we take seriously our obligation under the Convention to encourage its universal adoption,” the statement continued.
On Friday, the U.S., which is not a part of the global convention, announced it will be sending cluster munitions to Ukraine despite its risk to civilians. During a White House briefing, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan argued that because Ukraine does not have enough artillery, the weapons can be used to save more civilian lives against Russian troops moving in on Ukrainian territory.
Earl Turcotte, who led the Canadian delegation in negotiations of the convention and was the former UN chief advisor to the government of Laos, compared the decision made by the U.S.to having similar repercussions as the Vietnam War.
“There was extensive carpet bombing in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and the war ended for America in the late 70s, but it continues in Southeast Asia,” Turcotte told CTV News.
“People continue to die because of the use of this type of weapon.”
Turcotte said cluster munitions are far more dangerous than landmines because of the extensive ground they cover once they’re released, becoming an indiscriminate weapon that can put anyone in danger. Additionally, he notes sub-munitions often fail to detonate on impact and become a threat to lives in the future.
While the Canadian government has not specifically condemned the move by the U.S., or Ukraine and Russia’s use of cluster munitions, Turcotte said officials have a legal obligation to the convention to speak out.
In a letter written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Turcotte noted reports from the Human Rights Watch (HRW) that found Russia has used six types of cluster munitions since the war began, likely killing thousands and damaging hundreds of homes and hospitals. A separate report by the HRW estimates at least eight civilians were killed in 2022 by Ukrainian cluster munition rocket attacks in Izium, and at least 15 were injured; however the HRW says these numbers are likely to be greater.
“The point must be made clearly and forcefully that any immediate military benefit cluster munitions might afford would be nullified and far exceeded by their humanitarian impact on the Ukrainian citizenry over the longer term,” Turcotte said in the letter.
Since the start of the war, Canada has contributed $8 billion in aid for Ukraine, $1 billion of which has gone towards military aid including the donation of eight Leopard 2 main battle tanks.
With files from CTV National News Washington Bureau Chief files from the Associated Press and the Canadian Press.