Press Release re: Weaponization of Space

Statement on receiving an Honorary Doctor of Laws at York University, Toronto
by Senator Douglas Roche, O.C.
June 13, 2002

Yesterday I introduced a Motion in the Senate calling for Canada to lead an international effort to ban all weapons in space.

This work has now become urgent following the official termination of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and U.S. military plans to include space-based weapons in the National Missile Defence (NMD) system.

Unrestrained by the ABM Treaty which it abandoned today, the U.S. is moving ahead with the development of space weapons. The Missile Defense Agency has requested $1.3 billion to develop and test "kinetic kill vehicles" a system of rockets situated in space. The Agency wants to spend an additional $285 million for research on space-based lasers.

Space will become the next battlefield unless the international community quickly moves to create a binding international agreement against the weaponization of space.

The weaponization of space risks instigating a dangerous and costly arms race and would jeopardize the peaceful commercial and scientific activities of some 1,100 companies in 53 countries using space for many kinds of communications and financial transactions. This annual $81 billion business would be put in peril.

For three decades, Canadian government policy has opposed weapons in space. But the Conference on Disarmament, the U.N.'s disarmament negotiations body, is deadlocked on this and other issues. To obtain an Anti-Personnel Landmine Treaty, the Canadian government bypassed the Conference on Disarmament with an "Ottawa Process." A new "Ottawa Process to Ban Weapons in Space" would work with like-minded governments and civil society leaders to build up world pressure to stop the weaponization of space.

Canada faces an extremely difficult moment in its relations with the U.S. If Canada supports the U.S. Missile Defence System as it proceeds into space, Canada will be breaking its long-held policy opposing weapons in space. A fundamental shift in Canada's foreign policy will then have occurred. Canada must work now to stop the deployment of any weapons in space.