Peace Groups Issue an Emergency Appeal to Mayor John Tory to Examine the Dangers of Nuclear Weapons
For Immediate Release
July 19, 2017 (Toronto) Two weeks after the UN ratified a treaty banning nuclear weapons that was boycotted by Canada, thirteen peace, faith and environmental groups have issued an emergency appeal to Mayor John Tory warning that the world is at the greatest risk of a nuclear catastrophe since the Cuban missile crisis. The organizations have appealed to Mayor Tory that he ask the Toronto Board of Health to hold public hearings on the ongoing threats to Toronto and its communities posed by nuclear weapons.
122 countries approved the text of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the UN on July 7. Only Netherlands, a member of NATO like Canada, voted against and Singapore abstained. Under pressure from the US, Canada boycotted the negotiations and vote on the treaty, which will enter into force after it has been signed by 50 countries.
The groups participating in the emergency appeal to Mayor Tory include the Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition, the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, Physicians for Global Survival, Science for Peace, Project Ploughshares, Peace Magazine, Toronto Article 9, the Toronto Area Interfaith Council, Soka Gakkai International Canada, Pax Christi, the Quaker Social Action Committee, the Ontario Chapter Sierra Club and Greenpeace.
With North Korea making rapid advances in its nuclear weapons and missile technology and an erratic American president in control of the US nuclear button, the groups say the Doomsday Clock stands at 2 ½ minutes to midnight.
Russia and the US are modernizing their arsenals which hold the bulk of today’s 15,000 nuclear war heads and plan to retain nuclear deterrence and first strike policies indefinitely. Tensions and risk of military confrontation in Eastern Europe between the US and Russia are high. North Korea’s missile tests and threats, and the US installing of missile defences in South Korea and making military manoeuvres are destabilizing. Eighteen hundred missiles, Russian and US, are on launch-on- warning, threatening North American and Russian cities. The disarmament promised by the nuclear weapon states is at a standstill as all the nuclear weapon states are modernizing their arsenals. By accident, miscalculation, or design, nuclear annihilation looms.
“In the event of a nuclear blast, the first response and responsibility will lie with the municipal government and the Mayor’s office,” says Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow. “Torontonians will be looking to you for guidance and leadership in the most challenging situation that any government could face, greater than any Canadian Mayor has faced before. Thus it is imperative that you address this issue as the Mayor of Toronto.”
Toronto maintains its Peace Garden on Nathan Phillips Square. “But what are City Council and Mayor Tory actually doing in the face of the increased nuclear weapons dangers? With humanity in peril, and cities long a target for nuclear bombing, this is an urgent issue,” says Anton Wagner of the Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition.
“It is unconscionable and in defiance of humanitarian law, according to the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (1996), to use these weapons,” says Janis Alton, Co-chair of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. “Even to threaten their use violates the spirit of the UN Charter which is to resolve inter-state conflict non-violently.”
In 1982 the Toronto Board of Health accepted the findings of an international conference of experts entitled “The Medical Consequences of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War” held at the University of Toronto and made a series of recommendations to City Council. These recommendations included that City Council direct the Department of Public Health to develop a pamphlet on civil defence and the dangers of nuclear weapons for distribution to every household in Toronto. The Board also recommended that City Council accept its ongoing responsibility with respect to this danger to public health and that it develop a mechanism to ensure that the issue of nuclear weapons and nuclear war continued to be dealt with by the City of Toronto.
Toronto City Council accepted Toronto Board of Health recommendations at its meeting on 1 April 1982 and voted to hold a referendum on worldwide nuclear disarmament in the November 8 Municipal election. 78% of Torontonians voted yes to support nuclear disarmament by all nations to the ultimate goal of a world free from nuclear weapons. In 1983, City Council designated Toronto a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone and approved the building of the Peace Garden on Nathan Phillips Square at a cost of $480,000 [over $1 million in 2017 dollars] to commemorate the City’s 150th anniversary.
Thirty-five years after its 1982 recommendations to City Council, the peace, faith and environmental groups are calling on the Board of Health to re-examine the current nuclear weapons dangers and to advise Council what the City can do to protect its citizens.
“No municipality is equipped to effectively manage the devastation of a nuclear explosion,” says Dr. Vinay Jindal, President of Physicians for Global Survival. “Municipalities must stand together and effectively represent their citizens for a world free of nuclear weapons.”
According to Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director of Project Ploughshares, “Tired arguments over the purported value of nuclear weapons possession have been replaced by a renewed emphasis on the humanitarian imperative for nuclear disarmament. The catastrophic humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use outweighs any and all alleged benefits. Hiroshima and Nagasaki could happen again.”
The groups are waiting to hear Mayor Tory response to their emergency appeal to have the Toronto Board of Health hold public hearings on the dangers of nuclear weapons.
Setsuko Thurlow will read excerpts from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki peace declarations at the annual August 6 commemoration at the Toronto City Hall Peace Garden. The keynote speaker will be the Hon. Douglas Roche, former Senator, MP, and Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has led hundreds of Order of Canada recipients to petition the Canadian government to pursue a treaty convention that would ban nuclear weapons.
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Backgrounder: Toronto City Council and Nuclear Weapons Abolition
28 March 1978:
City Council urges Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Parliament to oppose deployment of the neutron bomb by NATO and to ask President Jimmy Carter to stop its production.
6 March 1979:
City Council reaffirms support for its motion of March 28, 1978 opposing the neutron bomb.
20 August 1979:
Mayor Takeshi Araki’s Hiroshima Peace Declaration is read into the record of City Council.
7 May 1982:
City Council votes to hold a referendum on worldwide nuclear disarmament in the November 8 Municipal election. The report entitled “Public Health Consequences of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War” adopted by City Council is distributed to all Toronto households as information for the referendum on disarmament.
20 May 1982:
City Council urges the federal government to urge the United Nations to declare 1983 a Year of Disarmament.
8 November 1982:
78% of Torontonians who cast ballots in the municipal election vote yes to the following resolution: “Do you support nuclear disarmament by all nations on a gradual basis to the ultimate goal of a world free from nuclear weapons, and mandate your federal government to negotiate and implement with other governments steps which would lead to the earliest possible achievement of this goal?”
16 December 1982:
City Council forwards the results of the November 8 referendum on disarmament to the federal government and calls on the Government of Canada to urge the United Nations to conduct a global referendum on nuclear disarmament. City Council also urges the federal government to halt cruise missile testing in Canada.
24 January 1983:
City Council designates Toronto a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone.
7 March 1983:
City Council adopts the Inter-City Solidarity Programme proposed by the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and becomes a member of Mayors for Peace.
12 December 1983:
Toronto City Council approves the building of the Peace Garden on Nathan Phillips Square at a cost of $480,000 [$1,086,000 in 2017 dollars] to commemorate the City’s 150th anniversary “by creating a lasting physical expression of our highest aspirations in our most public place. In symbolizing peace and a love for mankind, it will represent our continuing struggle to avoid the devastation of war.” In 1984 Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau turned the sod to initiate the construction of the Peace Garden and Pope John Paul II kindled the Garden’s peace flame with an ember from the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima and poured water from Nagasaki in its pool. Queen Elizabeth dedicated the Peace Garden as a lasting expression of Toronto’s commitment towards peace on 2 October 1984.
16 July 1984:
City Council endorses the Four-Continent Peace Initiative for the “freeze in the production and development of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems by the nuclear weapons states.”
City Council approves the report Healthy Toronto 2000 which specifically refers to questions of “safety, security and peace,” thereby accepting that the City is accountable for the immediate personal security of its citizens.
13 and 14 July 1989:
City Council approves the establishment of a City of Toronto Peace Committee. Its mandate includes co-operating with and providing financial support to community groups in their initiatives to pursue peace, disarmament, common security, and the reduction of violence; promoting better relations between the City of Toronto and other cities of the world; promoting education concerning local and global peace, disarmament, common security, and factors (including ecological justice and human rights as defined by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights) that contribute to these; providing advice to City Council on policies and issues relating to peace, disarmament and common security.
Backgrounder: Canadian Peace Groups and Nuclear Weapons Abolition
Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition:
The Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition is the successor to Hiroshima Nagasaki Relived peace group, founded by Setsuko Thurlow in 1975. The HNDC has organized commemorations of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Toronto City Hall Peace Garden every August for the past several decades. The organization was instrumental in convincing Toronto City Council not to destroy the Peace Garden on Nathan Phillips Square but to relocate it on the Square. The group has organized annual photo displays of the effects of nuclear weapons inside Toronto City Hall and in other locations. For the August 6, 2017 commemoration, the nuclear weapons abolition advocate Douglas Roche will be the main speaker at the City Hall event. The HNDC website is http://www.hiroshimadaycoalition.ca/
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace:
From VOW’s founding in 1960 to today, we have advocated for the abolition of nuclear weapons. It was, in fact, our founding issue when there was no other voice in Canada organized to do this. Within a couple of years our membership mushroomed to be in the thousands. An early initiative was our successful baby tooth campaign which proved the health hazard of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing. Over the years, we have broadened our scope of activities to educate on the unprecedented risk to humanity of these weapons. We continue with resolutions, petitions, and direct dialogue with our Canadian Mission to the UN, to demand that Canada step up to support fresh international efforts to achieve a ban on nuclear weapons. Our conference this September in Ottawa will continue this focus.
Physicians for Global Survival:
Physicians for Global Survival is a national physicians group formed in 1983 committed to the abolition of nuclear weapons, the prevention of war, the promotion of nonviolent means of conflict resolution and social justice in a sustainable world. The Physicians for Global Survival website is http://pgs.ca/?page_id=89
Science for Peace:
Science for Peace comprises mostly scientists, engineers, technologists and scholars who work to reduce threats to humankind posed by warfare and, especially, by the continued existence of nuclear weapons. We seek to educate the public and seek a just and sustainable world. The Science for Peace Nuclear Weapons Working Group exists to inform citizens and political leaders on this issue and to influence our government in working toward a nuclear weapons-free world. As part of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, we work with other organizations to stay abreast of international developments and initiatives in this field. The Science for Peace website is http://scienceforpeace.ca/
Project Ploughshares is an operating division of The Canadian Council of Churches that works with churches, governments and civil society, in Canada and abroad, to advance policies and actions to prevent war and armed violence and build peace. Ploughshares’ mission is to articulate policies and strategies based on the best available evidence that will prevent war, build sustainable peace where violence has caused destruction, and control and reduce expenditures on weapons and direct those resources toward sustainable economic and social development.
Since 1985 Peace Magazine has published articles about campaigns to disarm the world’s nuclear arsenal, along with essays and news items about other peace workers who are seeking justice and human security. The publication is based in Toronto. It’s website is http://www.peacemagazine.org/
Toronto Area Interfaith Council:
The TAIC or Toronto Area Interfaith Council comprises Toronto’s most influential and inspiring leaders of all faith communities in the world’s most pluralistic city, working together to make a positive difference in the community. The TAIC encourages dialogue among the faiths in the Toronto area and affirms equity for all, assists and serves the spiritual needs of the community, and contributes to social justice without political partisanship. We also work together in supporting important social service initiatives as well as serving as liaisons with Mayor John Tory and City Hall. Our website is https://www.taic.ca/
Soka Gakkai International Canada:
SGI has participated in nuclear weapons abolition and peace education since 1957, with second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda’s call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Since then, under the leadership of the third president, Daisaku Ikeda, peace, culture and education have been the foundation of the organization’s activities. In Canada, an exhibition was held in Montreal and Toronto titled “Nuclear Arms: Threat to Our World” at McGill University and the University of Toronto. In 2010, SGI, in cooperation with ICAN, created a new exhibition, “Everything You Treasure – For a World Free From Nuclear ”Weapons.”
http://www.peoplesdecade.org/decade/exhibition/eyt/eyt.html . SGI carries out ongoing activities for peace and nuclear disarmament:
Pax Christi Toronto is a member group of Pax Christi International, a Catholic and faith-based peace movement with 120 member organizations worldwide promoting peace, respect for human rights, justice and reconciliation. Pax Christi collaborates with coalition partners such as Abolition 2000 and International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and participates actively within networks such as the International Peace Bureau and the Ecumenical Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament of the World Council of Churches. Pax Christi International and several of its members attended the UN negotiations to draft a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Pax Christi nuclear disarmament resources can be found here http://www.paxchristi.net/our-work/disarmament-and-demilitarisation
Quaker Peace and Social Action Committee:
The Quaker Peace and Social Action Committee is part of Toronto Quaker meeting and we work on several peace and justice issues including climate justice and disarmament. We organize and sponsor events at Friends House, 60 Lowther Ave., and have just started a peace library.
Ontario Chapter Sierra Club:
The mission of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation is to be a voice for the earth. We work to protect and preserve the natural environment and to empower people to be stewards of the earth in their communities. Our website is http://www.sierraclub.ca/en
Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace was founded in Vancouver in 1971, when a small boat of volunteers and journalists sailed into Amchitka, an area north of Alaska where the US Government was conducting underground nuclear tests. This tradition of ‘bearing witness’ in a non-violent manner continues, and our ships are an important part of all our campaign work. Our website is http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/home/