The policy of the Government of Canada is to press for global, comprehensive and verifiable treaties banning all biological and chemical weapons. To this end, Canada is a State Party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention) and also, to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (the Chemical Weapons Convention).
However, while the threat from such weapons endures, be they in the hands of state or, potentially, non-state actors, the Government has a recognized obligation to ensure that members of the Canadian Armed Forces are adequately equipped and trained to protect themselves against exposure to biological and chemical warfare agents. Such protection is required not only during the course of operational deployments abroad, but also in the context of military support to responses to terrorist incidents at home or other domestic emergencies involving these agents or related materials.
This said, the Canadian public and the international community have the right to be assured that Canada’s policy of maintaining only a defensive capability in this field is fully respected at all times, and that any research, development or training activities undertaken are conducted safely.
To facilitate this assurance, the Minister of National Defence, in May 1990, directed the establishment of the Biological and Chemical Defence Review Committee (BCDRC) as an adjunct to the Defence Scientific Advisory Board. Today, the BCDRC operates at arm´s length from Government. Its mandate is to provide an independent, third party review of the Biological and Chemical Defence (BCD) research, development and training activities undertaken by the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) with a view to assessing whether they are defensive in nature and conducted in a professional manner with minimal risk to public safety or the environment.
The Committee normally comprises three non-governmental experts in scientific disciplines relevant to BCD such as chemistry, microbiology and toxicology. One of these is selected by the Committee to serve as Chair. New members are appointed by the Chair on the basis of recommendations solicited from the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Biological Societies, the Canadian Society of Microbiologists, the Chemical Institute of Canada, the Society of Toxicology of Canada, and the Canadian Association for Neuroscience. The Chair also arranges for a non-governmental administrative staff member to function as the Committee´s Executive Officer.
The Committee´s annual cycle of activity includes:
- Briefings on current BCD issues from officials at National Defence Headquarters and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
- Visits to selected Canadian Forces training establishments, operational formations and units where BCD activity takes place, and to associated government (mostly DND) research and development facilities such as the Defence Research and Development Canada research centre at Suffield, Alberta (which is visited every year)
- Attendance at selected BCD exercises, training courses, workshops, seminars and symposia conducted by the CAF or the DND
- Publication of an Annual Report in the public domain with key observations, conclusions and recommendations
The Committee´s Annual Reports, dating back to 1991, are available on this website. No report was produced in 2010 due to a delay in renewing the Committee´s mandate.
The work of the Committee is funded by a contribution from the Government of Canada Department of National Defence.