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History of Mines and Mine Action

Why does Canada have a Landmine Foundation? Humanitarianism and the Movement to Ban Landmines

For some, antipersonnel landmines (or AP mines) do not immediately invoke images of Canada. Fields scattered with hidden explosives, innocent civilians with missing limbs, and poverty stricken regions still feeling the heat of a battle fought long ago, are not something seen in the “Great White North”. Nor does Canada have a reputation for being a military powerhouse eager to employ landmines in combat. One might justly wonder why Canada has a landmine foundation at all. It would further surprise such skeptics to learn that not only is Canada active in the clearing of landmines, but that it was at the heart of an international movement to ban AP mines in the 1990s. In fact, the Mine Ban Treaty, which includes over one-hundred signatory countries, was signed at Ottawa, Ontario in 1997…

 

Antipersonnel Landmines:  “A Weapon of Mass Destruction in Slow Motion”

In my previous post I outlined the movement to ban antipersonnel mines in the 1990s. After the signing of the Ottawa Treaty, countries participating destroyed stockpiles of millions of AP mines. But the treaty did not ban landmines of all types. The movement was focused primarily on this specific subset of landmines, which unlike their counterparts, specifically target individuals and are most devastating to innocent civilians. A significant percentage of landmine casualties are the result of antipersonnel landmines. In Mozambique from 1980-1993 for example, over eighty-percent of all landmine casualties were caused by antipersonnel mines. A more recent study looking at the impact of explosive remnants of war (ERWs) in 60 states/regions indicated that in 2010 alone, ERWs caused 4,191 causalities with landmines being the largest contributor (71%). Of the landmines causing injury or death, antipersonnel mines had the highest percentage (34%), with victim-activated IEDs (18%), anti-vehicular mines (10%), and mines of “an unspecified type,” (9%) making up the rest…

 

Pre-Modern Uses: Traps, Spikes and Caltrops

In a previous blog post I explained the difference between antipersonnel mines and other landmines or IED’s. As the second definition suggests, landmines derived their meaning from the fact that they are dug into the ground. The Latin word mina means “a vein of ore” and mining is the act of retrieving material from the Earth. The word gained its association with militarism during the First World War when mines were dug under enemy positions and packed with explosives. One may therefore wonder how landmines could have existed prior to the Industrial Age, or indeed the discovery of gunpowder, as the title to this post suggests. But the definition given in the Ottawa Treaty is a diplomatic and legal definition. One must shed away specifics to see the military and historical constants of landmines. Understanding their basic military function reveals how booby trapped spikes in Roman times evolved to the contemporary explosives we see today. Viewing the evolution of landmines from this perspective reveals that landmines have changed relatively little in their five thousand year history, yet we have reached a pinnacle and monumental moment in the history of warfare, we have banned their use…

 

Mine Action in the Classroom

Danger in the Earth: Teaching about Landmines

No, no, don’t look at the sky, they cannot do you any harm from above anymore. Lower your head because the danger is in your mother earth. If you have survived the war, try to survive the peace!

This grave warning comes from elementary school student, Melisa Dzanovic, from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sadly, she’s right. Tens of millions of landmines, also known as anti-personnel mines (APMs), lay hidden in the earth, waiting to strike, in over 80 countries around the world. They cannot tell the difference between war and peace – they last long after wars are over – nor can they tell the difference between the footsteps of a soldier and those of a civilian – 80% of victims are innocent civilians. Moreover, landmines are most often found in the poorest countries, least capable of coping with the problem. Removing landmines in the ground, banning future use, and raising mine awareness worldwide are vital to achieving a healthy planet…

 

Contact Information

Matt Baker, Administrative Coordinator

Phone: (519) 885-5183
Toll-free phone: 1-866-346-5221
[email protected]

Mailing Address
Canadian Landmine Foundation
c/o LCMSDS, Wilfrid Laurier University
75 University Avenue West
Waterloo, ON, Canada
N2L 3C5

Physical Address
232 King St. N. Waterloo, ON

Business Hours
Monday to Friday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday to Sunday: Closed

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