Conventional Weapons

Table of Contents


The term “conventional weapons” refers to all types of weapons that are not weapons of mass destruction (i.e. chemical, biological and nuclear weapons). Conventional weapons include large weapons systems such as large caliber artillery, tanks, and ships, as well as small arms and light weapons such as rifles, hand guns and grenades. They also include weapons delivery systems like ballistic missiles which can be used to deliver both conventional ordnance as well as ordnance carrying weapons of mass destruction. Conventional weapons that were used in previous conflicts but did not detonate are called explosive remnants of war.

Ballistic Missiles

Canada is concerned about missile proliferation – a threat that continues to increase as the numbers of both local missile development programs and new exporters rise. In a shifting international security environment, the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems form a great challenge for the international community. As a partner country to the Missile Technology Control Regime, Canada ensures strict controls of missile-related technology and contributes to the fight against the proliferation of missiles to countries of concern. Canada has also been instrumental in creating the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), which serves as an important transparency- and confidence-building measure.

Anti-Personnel Landmines

Anti-personnel landmines, scattered in close to 80 countries, are a global humanitarian problem. These horrific remnants of war kill and maim innocent victims trying to use their land, travel or just play outside. Anti-personnel mines are a costly burden on affected countries. They affect citizens who live with the fear of death or injury with every step, and they directly affect victims and their families who live with the dire consequences. Landmines impede development and drain the medical resources of the countries they infest.

With international negotiations to limit landmines stalled in the mid-nineties, a small group of countries (including Canada) and other organizations (including the International Committee of the Red Cross and International Campaign to Ban Landmines) met in Geneva with an aim to address a rising global concern.

In January 1996, Canada announced an immediate moratorium on the use, production, trade or export of anti-personnel mines. By May that year, Canada announced we would host an international meeting to plan how to completely ban these weapons.

The Ottawa Convention was signed in December 1997 and Canada was the first country to sign and ratify the Convention, considered by many as among the most successful disarmament treaties ever established. The Treaty provides a broad framework for dealing with the global landmine problem. Signatories to the Treaty agree to:

Through the collective efforts of States, international organizations and civil society, 162 countries are now States parties to the Convention.

Cluster Munitions

Canada is committed to ridding the world of cluster munitions. Unexploded bomblets from these munitions pose a threat to civilians long after the fighting has ended. The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons. Canada’s implementing legislation for the Convention, An Act to Implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions, entered into force on March 16, 2015, and Canada ratified the Convention the same day. Cluster munitions have never been used in Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)-led missions, and CAF completed the destructions of its remaining cluster munitions stockpiles in July 2014.

Explosive Remnants of War

Explosive Remnants of War (ERWs) are conventional weapons used during past conflicts but which did not detonate and now lie dangerously unstable. Weapons from former wars such mines, cluster munitions, and artillery shells remain buried in fields, or near homes, hospitals and factories rendering them unusable. Innocent civilians, including children, are often the latest victims of these weapons long after the conflict in which they were used have ended. One of the key international conventions that deals with the issue of ERWs is the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its 5 Protocols.

Small Arms and Light Weapons

Canada supported efforts to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the Government intends for Canada to become a state party to it. The ATT aims to prevent the illicit trade in conventional weapons for the purpose of contributing to international and regional peace, security and stability, reducing human suffering, and promoting cooperation, transparency and responsible action by states in the international trade in conventional arms. Canada similarly supports the UN Programme of Action for Small Arms and Light Weapons in its efforts to coordinate global actions to impede the flow of illicit weapons to those who would misuse them.

Man-Portable Air Defence Systems

Canada is mindful of the serious threat to civil aviation posed by the unauthorized acquisition of Man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) by criminals, terrorists, and other non-state actors. We are taking steps to counter the emerging MANPADS threat to the international community.

Date Modified: