October 30, 2002
ILLUSTRATION: Photo: Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen / Harvard lecturerKim Campbell waits to appear before the Commons foreign affairs and international trade committee.
OTTAWA -- Kim Campbell, Canada's first and only female prime minister and a former tough-talking defence minister, made a surprise Parliament Hill comeback Tuesday as a "hard-nosed" peace activist.
Campbell, who now lives primarily in Boston and lectures at Harvard University, is leading an international delegation that advocates as its ultimate goal the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the planet.
Speaking privately to senior federal ministers and publicly to a parliamentary committee, Campbell had sharp words of criticism for U.S. President George W. Bush's unilateralist foreign policy style and his administration's advocacy of expanded use of nuclear weapons.
And, in a surprising move for a woman whose political career was crushed by Prime Minister Jean Chretien in 1993, she voiced support for the Chretien government's cautious approach to the Bush administration's war on terrorism.
Chretien and Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham are right, she said, to regularly question the Bush administration's approach to the war on terrorism and the possible invasion of Iraq.
Campbell, who was prime minister in 1993 for only a few months before leading her Progressive Conservatives to humiliating defeat, said she preferred Canada's measured approach to that of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's unquestioning ready-aye-ready support for Bush.
"In the past there have been times when Canadian governments have been kind of knee-jerk anti-American, and I think that's stupid. And I don't see that from this government," Campbell, 55, told The Vancouver Sun prior to her presentation before the foreign affairs committee.
"What I see is, in fact, a kind of thoughtful attempt to stick to some principles, and say, 'we need to know what's going on, we need to base our policy on real evidence, but we're certainly not on the side of the bad guys.' "
In her presentation to the committee, Campbell urged MPs to support initiatives that would reduce nuclear arms and ultimately eliminate the possibility that anyone -- superpowers, rogue states, or terrorists -- would use such weapons.
She told them not to get get sidetracked by charges that advocates for peace are bright-eyed idealists.
"We know there are bad people out there doing bad things," she said at a meeting that included some peaceniks in hippie garb, including one wearing a 1960s-style peace-symbol medallion.
Campbell said the existence of thousands of nuclear weapons around the world, and the absence of measures to reduce that arsenal, heightens the risk of nuclear catastrophe rather than acting as a deterrent.
"What's really important is to insist that this agenda, far from being naive about security, is extremely hard-nosed and realistic about security," she said.
Campbell and other experts from the Middle Powers Initiative delegation said here Tuesday that citizens should be alarmed by increasing talk in the U.S. and Russia about the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons.
The Bush administration, for instance, is developing a policy that would include use of nuclear weapons against targets able to withstand strikes from conventional weapons, such as deep underground bunkers used by terrorists. The Pentagon is also developing a tactical nuclear strike plan in response to an adversary's use of biological or chemical weapons.
The trend, warned Campbell, could lead to an eventual acceptance of the use of a weapon that has horrific consequences both at the time of an attack and for decades thereafter.
Campbell's alliance with the anti-nuclear movement may appear a unusual, given the tough approach she took on foreign policy and defence issues during and prior to her political career. The former Tory leader and MP for Vancouver Centre taught strategic studies at the University of B.C. and was an outspoken critic of the former Soviet Union.
When she was named defence minister in early 1993, a little over three years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Campbell declared: "It's highly premature to beat our swords into plowshares."