The Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War and the Mouvement Québécois pour la paix (Quebec Movement for Peace) forwarded on April 13 to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau an open letter from one hundred prominent Canadians, asking him to suspend Canada’s economic sanctions against the twenty countries against which it currently maintains these “coercive economic measures”. The purpose of the request to Mr. Trudeau is to enable the sanctioned countries, and indeed the entire world, to cope better with the Covid-19 pandemic. This request echoes the appeal by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterrres to G-20 countries on March 23, 2020, for those countries “to waive sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support.”
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Text of the open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau follows (we have omitted the French version that was also part of the press release).
April 13, 2020
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
In his March 23, 2020, letter to the leaders of the G20 countries, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared, “I am encouraging the waiving of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support. This is the time for solidarity not exclusion... Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world.”1 At the same time, ambassadors of eight countries currently affected by economic sanctions, namely, Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Nicaragua, China, Russia, and North Korea, petitioned the secretary-general for “the immediate and complete lifting of those (coercive economic) measures to enable nations to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.”2 Furthermore, in his Easter message, Pope Francis echoed Mr. Guterres’s call to suspend economic sanctions now.
Following upon Mr. Guterres’s appeal, we, the undersigned, call upon your government to set a bold example for the G-20 and the world by suspending all of the economic sanctions regimes which Canada currently maintains against twenty sovereign states and/or their citizens, half of which are located in Africa.
Applying economic sanctions is a warlike act, and often kills more people than actual weapons. That’s why the power to level economic sanctions is restricted exclusively to the United Nations Security Council. Moreover, these sanctions hurt the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of society by causing hunger, disease, and unemployment. They are explicitly designed to do so. Officials of the US government, which routinely levels sanctions against governments it doesn’t like, have spoken openly about using suffering to try and spur ordinary civilians in targeted countries to rebel against their national authorities. The US government has also forced other countries to obey its sanctions regime against targeted states through the use of extraterritoriality, that is, by penalizing foreign corporations that dare to trade with countries which the USA has sanctioned. Humanitarian goods such as medical supplies, which are exempted from economic sanctions under international law, have consistently been denied to countries such as Iran and Venezuela, despite the crises that those two countries face. That the US government would actually increase the sanctions against those two countries during a pandemic is simply barbaric.
We note that your government has also levelled unilateral, i.e., illegal sanctions. Only in the cases of Iran and North Korea has the UN Security Council authorized multilateral sanctions and, regarding Iran, those sanctions were to have been lifted in 2015 in accordance with the signing of the JCPOA and its ratification of UN resolution 2231. In response to the global pandemic, we believe that Canada’s economic sanctions, whether unilateral or multilateral (excluding those sanctions relating to the arms trade) should be suspended in accordance with the wishes of UN Secretary-General Guterres.
Finally, we note that, on April 10, your government publicized its full support for Mr. Guterres’s call for a temporary global ceasefire,4 but announced it would give the green light to new Canadian arms sales to Saudi Arabia.5 We find these two actions contradictory. We applaud the former and oppose the latter, at least until the government of Saudi Arabia ends its illegal war on the people of Yemen. We further call upon your government to follow action for divestment and disarmament mandated by the United Nations and to adhere to the climate objectives stated in the (COP21) Paris Climate Agreement.
In view of the urgency created by the pandemic, we look forward to your earliest possible reply.
2 Associated Press, https://apnews.com/496de0e2df595e74298265d2e3e3c7b0