Garden hoes and cluster bombs: Bill S-10 and MCC’s message to the Canadian Senate

By Casey van Wensem, Advocacy Research Intern, MCC Ottawa Office

In a small village in northern Laos in early 1981, a mother of 11 children accidentally strikes a cluster bomb with a hoe while working in her garden, and is killed.

Titus Peachey with hoe head given to him by Laotian family 30 years ago.

The next day, MCC service worker Linda Peachey pays a visit to the woman’s family. During her visit, Linda is given a gift, and with this gift, she is given a request: “Take this hoe head back to America,” says the woman’s husband. “Use it to tell our story, so that this won’t happen again to other families in other countries.”

Linda and her husband Titus have been carrying this hoe head around for over 30 years, telling and re-telling the family’s story. Today, Titus presented that hoe head to the Canadian Senate.

Titus’ testimony to the Senate Foreign Affairs committee is part of the Senate’s ongoing study of Bill S-10, Canada’s legislation to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). The MCC Ottawa Office has also presented a written submission to accompany Titus’ oral testimony.

The Senate committee has been studying this bill for four weeks so far. Senators have now heard testimonies from several members of the government (including Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird), as well as representatives from a variety of concerned civil society groups.

While members of the government are content with the current form of Bill S-10, which allows for a wide range of exceptions to the prohibition on cluster munitions, civil society groups have stood in unified opposition to the government’s position. Their message is loud and clear: If passed without amendments, S-10 will weaken the international pressure against the use of cluster munitions and cost innocent lives.

Cluster bomb hidden among plants.

Titus Peachey reminded the committee today that victims’ voices must be included in the legislative process. When the international community drafted the Convention of Cluster Munitions, victims were there to ensure that the terms of the treaty were consistent with their lived experiences. The Canadian legislation, unfortunately, would not stand up to that same scrutiny.

The following are some excerpts from MCC’s written submission. These recommendations come out of our longstanding grassroots relationships with communities affected by cluster bombs in places such as Laos and Lebanon.

  • “Canada once again has the opportunity to stand as a global leader in preventing the devastating impacts of an inhumane and reprehensible weapon.”
  • “Despite aiming to implement a Treaty that clearly calls for a comprehensive ban on cluster munitions in all situations, Bill S-10 maps out broad exemptions that, in the end, legislates only a limited prohibition on the weapon.”
  • “Governments can, and must, do more to address this unacceptable humanitarian problem.”

You can read the full submission here.

The Ottawa Office will continue to track this bill as it progresses through the Senate and on to the House of Commons. For more background on Bill S-10, you can read our blog post of two months ago. You can also follow live updates from committee and other government proceedings on Twitter at #S10.

If you would like to get more involved in this issue you can sign Mines Action Canada’s petition calling for amendments to S-10, visit the Ottawa Office’s cluster bombs website, and pray for world leaders to end the use of these deadly and inhumane weapons.

By Casey van Wensem, Advocacy Research Intern, MCC Ottawa Office

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