Awareness campaign focuses on cluster bomb treaty

Large piles of shoes appeared in various cities across the world, certain of getting people to pay attention to the dangers of landmines and cluster munitions.

Bill S-10 should appear before senate next week

A pile of shoes in Montreal's Phillips Square represents the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost limbs due to landmines and cluster ammunition. (CBC)

Large piles of shoes appeared in various cities across the world, certain of getting people to pay attention to the dangers of landmines and cluster munitions.

The event is part of Handicap International's awareness campaign for landmines.

Marc Drolet, executive director of Handicap International's Canadian chapter said "it's an inhumane armament. It should be banned, we should never use it. Ninety per cent of the victims are civils and that's our concern, so it's really a humanitarian concern."

This April 15, 2011 photo provided by Human Rights Watch shows a remnant tail section of a cluster bomb purportedly found in Misrata, Libya. Opposition forces claimed Gadhafi's forces used cluster bombs during the conflict in Libya, which pose particular risk to civilians because they scatter small bomblets over a wide area. (AP Photo/Human Rights Watch)

The pyramids are symbolic of people around the world who have lost limbs because of landmines.

In Montreal's Phillip's Square, the pile amounted to more than a thousand shoes – only a small fraction of the number of people who have been affected by the harmful devices.

"There are still many victims in the world," said Andrea Barsony, spokeswoman for Handicap International Canada. "the fight is not over, we have to go on thinking about these people and helping them."

Barsony said that every two hours, a person steps on a landmine or is maimed by a cluster ammunition somewhere around the world.

Such landmines lurk underground in 83 countries and nearly 500,000 people are living with injuries from the blast these bombs create.

In 1997, Canada along with 39 states, signed the Ottawa Treaty, or the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personal Mines and on their Destruction. Since then, a total of 160 states have ratified the treaty.

More recently, the Canadian government has been attempting to ban the use of landmines but its involvement in a new treaty on cluster munitions has lead to criticism.

In February, Canada's former chief negotiator on the treaty urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper not to succumb to pressure to lighten down the treaty and pass Bill S-10, a law to ratify cluster munitions, through senate.

Canada was one of more than 100 countries to sign the cluster bomb treaty in December 2008 in Oslo, Norway, but failed to table legislation in Parliament to ratify it at that point.

Bill S-10 still has not passed through senate but was rather modified to allow military personnel to "aid and abet the use of cluster munitions while in combined operations" with other countries.

On June 22, Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire argued in senate that "it does not make sense to comprehensively ban an immoral, indiscriminate weapon and then turn around and say it is still okay to use them in combined operations."

Dallaire went on to argue that the Canadian Forces does not conduct operations that represent a single nation anymore but rather conducts them under the United Nations, NATO or regional authorities.

Paul Hannon, executive director of Mines Action Canada said "we believe Canada is listening too strongly to what the U.S. wants. Instead of having our own strong independent foreign policy and our own response to this treaty, we've never used them, we've never produced them, we can't understand why Canada would ever envision supporting somebody else to use them."

The legislation will appear for a third round of discussion before senate next week.