President Ignatieff's Report To The Annual Meeting Of May 7

My two-year period as President of Science for Peace has been a time of transition in our internal organization, and also a period of development of new thinking about security in the nuclear age, especially as it affects East-West relations.

On the domestic scene, we have transformed from an organization primarily based in Toronto to a more truly national one with new initiatives involving active chapters in different parts of Canada. The Board of Directors, upheld by a general meeting of members last February, decided as a matter of both principle and circumstances that the time had come to rotate the Executive among major centres, the first move being to Vancouver which had an especially strong chapter. The task faced by the President and the Executive in effecting this transition was not easy. Because Science for Peace is currently incorporated in Ontario, its head office for legal purposes must remain in that province. In any case, the National Office, with its membership and financial records, its computerized equipment and Secretariat, is not easily mobile, and it was decided that it should stay in Toronto when the Executive moved to Vancouver.

The challenge of coping with this transition has meant a marked increase in the strain falling on the Executive. As President I wish to pay tribute to my colleagues on the outgoing Executive for their dedication and hard work in improvising solutions to endless technical problems, such as producing a new computer or a new format for the Bulletin, modernizing the national office and computerizing its records. This process was greatly aided by the devoted services of Catherine Armstrong.

While the move to Vancouver has come upon us rather quickly, the transition to a national network has been a gradual process. The initiative to establish a network of Research Directors was taken by Paul LeBlond. A similar network of Education Directors to coordinate Chapter activities was formed by my predecessor Anatol Rapoport who also volunteered his services to establish the first Chair of Peace Studies at University College, University of Toronto, as well as lecturing in many places. I have endeavoured to follow in his footsteps, speaking at conferences of Science for Peace, Operation Dismantle, the Group of 78, Physicians Against Nuclear War, as well as serving on the Advisory Council of Rotary International for their peace program.

Technology helped in the development of a national network. BITNET lets us transmit and receive messages between Chapters more promptly than by the use of mail or telephone services. Electronic mail will make it possible to maintain efficient communication between the new Executive in Vancouver and the National Office in Toronto. Indeed the use of computer technology makes it possible to contemplate the creation of an effective network for Science for Peace operating from coast to coast.

On the national scene, an important factor was the public cause created by the Canadian Government’s White Paper on Defence. Public opinion was provoked by the assumption that “the principal threat to Canada continues to be a nuclear attack on North America by the Soviet Union” and the consequent expensive counter-measures, including nuclear-powered submarines, advocated by the White Paper. Surveys showed that most Canadians felt that current tensions were due to a lack of trust between East and West, rather than to a Soviet threat of nuclear attack, and that American policies as well as those of the USSR were to blame for those tensions. This perception was reflected, for example, in the public enquiry into Canadian Defence Policy and Nuclear Arms held on November 8 and 9, 1986 in Edmonton, which attracted over 5,000 participants. Your President was invited to present alternative policies to those advocated by the White Paper.

In the discussion of Canada’s security, attention was ir :Teasingly directed to the Arctic. In addition to the impact of such weapons as cruise missiles on Canada’s security, the fact that we share with the Soviet Union 80% of the Arctic region, makes the growing threat of militarization of the area a matter of special concern to Canadians. Your President participated in a conference in October 1987 on “Peace and Security in the Arctic”, held by the Consultative Group on Disarmament organized by Ambassador Doug Roche. In addition Science for Peace cosponsored with the “Group of 78”, Operation Dismantle, Project Ploughshares, Veterans Against Nuclear Arms and the World Federalists, the call for the demilitarization of the Arctic which was issued on April 12th, 1988.

The proposal of General-Secretary Gorbachev that the Arctic should become a “zone of peace” where the level of military confrontation is radically lowered, put forward on October 1st, 1987, has not yet received any specific response from the Canadian Government. The convening by Science for Peace, jointly with CIIPS, of a conference of experts to explore possibilities of peaceful cooperation in the region is therefore most timely. The Conference will take place 26-28 October 1988 in Toronto.

The period of my Presidency also coincided with the challenges posed by the “new thinking” about security, emanating in particular from General-Secretary Gorbachev’s new leadership in the USSR. In order to maintain our commitment “to encourage scientific activities directed towards peace”, we should develop regular communication with scientists with similar objectives abroad, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists in the USA and the many organizations in Europe engaged in peace research.

The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs have served for the past thirty years as points of contact for scientists the world over, in pursuit of the “new way of thinking” advocated by Russell and Einstein in their manifesto of 1954 as a necessity for survival in the nuclear age. Ever more leaders are recognizing what the late Olof Palme stressed in his report “Common Security”, that no country can be secure if its potential adversaries are insecure; security must therefore be common, shared, indivisible or it is no security at all. As Canada’s representative on the Pugwash Council, my retirement from the Presidency of Science for Peace will not remove me from the broader network of those working towards a situation where international cooperation and the strengthening of international institutions, rather than US-Soviet competition or the threat of nuclear war, dominate the shape of international affairs. For the first time the Soviet Union shows signs of being willing to recognize laws and international institutions that will restrict its freedom of action, a challenging concept for a totalitarian state. Perhaps Science for Peace is truly at the threshold of the day when the “new way of thinking” begins to take hold.

George Ignatieff

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ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)