A group of UNBC students has raised 629 signatures encouraging Canada to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions on Dec. 3.
Signatories to the treaty would ban the use, production, stockpiling and sale of cluster munitions on humanitarian grounds. Cluster munitions primarily bombs and artillery shells scatter multiple bomblets over the target area.
Students from the UNBC International Studies Student Association gathered the signatures as part of the Canadian Red Cross’ “Disable Cluster Bombs, Not People” campaign.
“We think it’s a very important issue that needs to be addressed,” student association president Christina Bjorn-Hansen Bock said. “As one of the countries in the forefront of banning landmines, it would be embarrassing for Canada not to be in the lead on this.”
Former Canadian minister of foreign affairs Lloyd Axworthy was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to bring about the 1997 Ottawa Treaty which banned the use of land mines.
Student Melanie Carle said many people they spoke to were not aware of what cluster munitions are, or what impact they can have on civilian populations.
“The damage that cluster bombs do is quite severe.”
Red Cross manager of humanitarian issues for Western Canada George Chandler said the scattered bomblets are an immediate threat to civilians in or near the target area and for years afterward.
“It’s both the inaccuracy of these weapons and the inefficiency of these weapons which makes them so dangerous,” Chandler said. “(Approximately) 10 to 25 per cent do not explode on contact, so they become effective landmines.”
Cluster bombs were developed during the Second World War and were used heavily in the Vietnam War. However, they continue to be used in recent conflicts, Chandler said.
“In the last few days of the Lebanon conflict, over one million bomblets were dropped,” he said.
The United States has admitted using them in Afghanistan and Iraq. Russia used cluster bombs during the invasion of Georgia and Israel used them against Lebanon.
“Canada has never deployed cluster munitions to date. And we have no stockpiles of them,” he said. “(But) we want the government of Canada to follow through and sign the treaty.”
Canada is one of 120 countries which agreed to sign the treaty during the Wellington Conference on Cluster Munitions in June.
According to Handicap International, between 1965 and 2006 13,306 people are known to have been disabled by cluster bombs. Of those, 27 per cent were children.
The student group sold amputee gingerbread men on campus to promote awareness of the campaign, raising $130 for the Red Cross. They also held an awareness night and asked participants to try living without their most-used arm for the evening.