Sign of the mines
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Canada will lend its John Hancock to a worldwide treaty today in an effort to ban the production and use of all anti-personnel land mines.
World leaders gathered in Ottawa this week for a 3-day conference on land mines highlighted by the signing of the treaty scheduled to take place this morning.
When Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy called for the support of all countries in this initiative last October it gave the issue the amount of momentum it needed to go forward, said spokesperson for the department of foreign affairs and international trade Rodney Moore. Over 100 countries have already committed to signing the treaty.
Yet the signing of the treaty is only the first phase of the campaign aimed at banning land mines and will be followed by Ottawa Process II. "Once the treaty has been signed, the countries will begin looking to increase assistance in de-mining and victim assistance," Moore said.
Several of the main countries including the U.S. and Russia will not be signing the treaty because of national security reasons but will be observing, Moore said. America has also said they would donate approximately $80 million for de-mining purposes.
The treaty will be put into force under the United Nation's code six months after the treaty has been signed by at least 40 countries. Ratified countries will be asked to stop the production and use of the land mines, destroy mines and help with victim assistance in addition to several other initiatives.
Harry Qualman, executive director of the United Nations Association of Canada, said they are proud of Canada's role in this endeavor to ban the mines, but are also aware of the tremendous amount of work which lies ahead. "We shouldn't lose sight of the fact many of the key countries have not yet agreed to sign the treaty."
The association supports the United Nations in the ban by raising awareness about different aspects of land mines including the education and promotion of a strong Canadian role in de-mining activities.
The Oxfam Association of London, a non-governmental organization working towards social justice, has also decided to become involved in the fight to ban land mines through the use of a petition.
Oxfam programmer Mark Priest said the petition acts as a symbolic show of support in encouraging those who plan to sign the treaty as well as those who have yet to sign. Twelve schools, including Western, have been contacted with the petition which will eventually be presented to the United Nations by Mines Action Canada in January.