In this interview the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) in partnership with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) interview Senator Marilou McPhedran, Senate of Canada on "Towards evidence-based arms control and disarmament". This is a BONUS video interview which is part of the wider 40-min documentary video on the same topic. You can watch the documentary video here.
Ashley Müller: Senator, thank you so much for joining us for this interview today, may I kindly invite you to introduce yourself.
Senator Marilou McPhedran: Thank you so much for the invitation to be with you today. My name is Marilou McPhedran. And I was born and raised in the prairies of Canada. Some people say that when that happens, a young woman learns to be assertive from an early age. And that adjective has been used to describe me. I came to the Senate of Canada, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in late 2016. So I'm just approaching my fourth anniversary in the Senate. Prior to that, I was a professor. And I still am a human rights lawyer with a specialisation in looking at human rights, both international and local. And a lot of my roots are actually in civil society. So many of my clients over the years and many of the opportunities that I had to work on issues, including disarmament and arms control came primarily through civil society organisations. So I think it's fair to say that very often, my framework is not a narrow parliamentary framework or a narrow institutional framework. Although I'm very grateful for the opportunities that I've had in a number of universities, I also have some background, limited background, working within the United Nations (UN) system. And for a number of years, I ran a course, a UN study course where I took students from Canada to the UN. And the course was actually built around classes held in a UN context, with lecturers from UN many of whom were in fact, Canadians, so they were often very helpful. My involvement on the topic for today, disarmament and arms control does come out of civil society primarily. And it comes from a very practical concern that I've had for a long time, as a mother, as a woman. And as someone who greatly respects indigenous teachings from Canada, what we can learn from elders. And for a very long time, indigenous women elders have been teaching us that planning is something that must not occur in the short term, that we need to plan seven generations ahead. And when we bring that man's to disarmament and arms control, I think it really, really helps to understand how high the stakes are, and how many mistakes were actually making on an almost daily basis in multiple, multi multilateral contexts.
Ashley Müller: Thank you so very much for that wonderful introduction. And to understand more about your involvement with disarmament affairs. My first question is, in your experience, of fulfilling your mission of oversight of the executive, what are the challenges you're facing in accessing accurate, independent and timely information on arms control and disarmament issues? What kind of evidence is needed? And what is working best? What could be improved?
Senator Marilou McPhedran: Well, I may be reverting a bit to my professor stance when I answer that, but I believe that answering questions has a great deal to do with the lens that we bring to the question. And for me, one of the most important perspectives to bring to that question is, yes, I'm a parliamentarian. But I also need to step back and understand the context. And I think that we have, we're struggling with a fundamental problem here with our definitions. And I think I would start with just our definition of security. You know, the surveys that have been done in country after country, including Canada, indicate that still, people tend to equate militarism with security. And the research doesn't support that. If the kind of security we're discussing and security of dictatorship, security where people's freedom is severely limited. Then okay. But that but the definition of security that has been evolving since the 1980s, in trying to appreciate what actually creates a secure society, and its people that create a secure society, it's people with the resources to be able to engage and to be the best human beings they can be. And to have a definition of security, that is, a parliamentarian that is largely filtered through a NATO lens, or a defence forces lens means that the true meaning of security on a day to day basis, which is health, and safety, and being able to access the essentials of life, in order to be fully functioning human beings, is lost. So I feel and I felt this more strongly with each year being a parliamentarian that we don't really bring together the evidence that is available.