This has not been a good year for peace. It began with India and Pakistan testing the nuclear bomb, and ended with the war in Yugoslavia and India and Pakistan testing missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs. There was a moment of hope as the Canadian government showed a willingness to take an initiative on nuclear weapons use to NATO but there is now reason to fear that a progressive Canadian foreign policy is in tatters.
The testing of the bomb in the Indian sub continent put the issue of nuclear disarmament back on the political stage. The Science for Peace executive held a special meeting on 5 June to plan a response. Some members had already attended a meeting called by Project Ploughshares with invited speakers Professor Arthur Rubinov of the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, and Douglas (now Senator) Roche. I attended a special meeting of the Canadian Network for Abolition of Nuclear weapons as a representative of Science for Peace. I filed a Supplementary Brief with the Parliamentary Committee, updating the main brief presented earlier by then president Terry Gardner. We organized a roundtable in mid-September where representatives of various organizations were briefed by Douglas Roche on Canada’s role in the abolition of nuclear weapons.
November and December began a period of real hope. The Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, after hearings in response to a request by Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, issued a landmark report. It called for the nuclear weapons states to enter negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons and meanwhile to take their nuclear weapons off alert, but stopped short of a no-first-use commitment.
In a United Nations nuclear disarmament vote in November that called for a demonstrable commitment to abolition, the Canadian government did not vote negatively with the United States, France and Britain. On December 9 at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Mr. Axworthy, supported by the foreign ministers of Germany and Belgium, called for a rethinking of NATO’s nuclear strategy that would lead to nuclear disarmament. It looked as if Mr. Axworthy was shifting Canadian foreign policy in a direction long advocated by the peace movement.
On November 26 Science for Peace representatives participated in a day-long seminar on nuclear weapons in Ottawa called by CNANW and attended by representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense.
We assisted in arranging for Professor Stephen Clarkson of the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, to present a paper on what degree of autonomy Canada realistically had in pursuing an independent foreign policy vis-à-vis the United States. He argued that Canada did indeed have some real room to manoeuvre.
In late February we invited Professor Clarkson to speak with us along with Professor Joseph Jockel of St. Lawrence University in the United States. He is also a political scientist and a specialist in Canadian-American relations. He is not sympathetic to our views on nuclear weapons but he agreed with Clarkson’s conclusions about Canada’s room to manoeuvre and the manageable economic risks in doing that.
As part of the campaign in support of the abolition of nuclear weapons we brought writer and peace activist Jonathan Schell to Toronto for two days in March. His most recent publication is entitled The Gift of Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Now. He spoke at the St. Lawrence Forum, along with Joy Warner of the Voice of Women, arguing powerfully that the growing threat on nuclear proliferation could only be stopped by a crusade for the speedy and total abolition of all nuclear weapons.
The next day Jonathan, again along with Joy, led off a full day of workshops organized under the joint auspices of Science for Peace and Voice of Women on the themes around which the Hague Appeal for Peace 11-15 May was to be organized.
At the same time Terry Gardner represented Science for Peace at meetings in Ottawa with former U.S. Defence Secretary Robert McNamara and retired U.S. General Lee Butler. Transcripts and a video are available of the presentations of these former warriors, both now advocates of the abolition of nuclear weapons.
As the Government of Canada prepared the official response to the Report of the Parliamentary Committee we participated in two meetings on the 15 recommendations of the Committee. The first was of our own members. The second was held jointly with Canadian Pugwash, where we greatly benefited from an opening presentation by Ernie Regehr of Project Ploughshares. Following this meeting Doug Roche and I, with the help of rapporteur Walter Dorn, sent a detailed report to Ottawa on behalf of the two organizations.
In mid-April the Canadian Government released its official response to the Parliamentary Report. It endorsed the key thrust of the of the report, the call for the elimination, eventually, of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately on account of the war in Yugoslavia the review of nuclear weapons strategy that Canada was pushing to have begin at the April summit of NATO was put off until December.
At the same time, ignoring a recommendation of the Parliamentary Committee supported by Science for Peace and Canadian Pugwash, the Canadian Government said it will test-burn plutonium for U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads with the possibility of using it for fuel in Canadian power reactors.
And so to the war in the Balkans. Would that we lived in a world where those of us who want peace had nothing to do!
These terrible events, as well as being the saddest of stories in their own right, are further germane to those nuclear issues that we have been mostly preoccupied with in recent months. One of the points that Ernie Regehr made very strongly to us with respect to nuclear weapons is the radical disjuncture between this megatechnology that literally falls from the sky and the building and maintenance of peace on the ground. Is this not what we are witnessing too with respect to the bombing, albeit with non-nuclear weapons, by NATO? Doesn’t the talk of deterring Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo sound as vacuous and wrong headed and counter-productive as the notion of nuclear weapons as a deterrent? And if nuclear weapon proliferation is not stopped, mightn’t some Milosevic of the future have his own bomb? We devoted two hours of our last Board Meeting to a discussion of these events.
I must note other things our members have been doing, knowing that I will have missed something important: Eric Fawcett organized a seminar in Iraq in January, and he and Kelly Gotlieb organized a seminar on impacts of technologies; a number of members, notably John Valleau, have been active in People Against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (PAMAI); Metta Spencer arranged a visit by Sergei Rogov, Director of the USA/Canada Institute in Moscow, and a meeting with Mohammed Filipovoc, a logician in Philosophy from Sarajevo; Derek Paul and Shirley Farlinger hosted some of our Board Meetings; Bob Baxter put out the Bulletin with help of Joe Vise; Chandler Davis headed the Nomination Committee; Anatole Rapaport, Hanna Newcombe, Alan Phillips, Phyllis Creighton and Eric Fawcett made their great wisdom available whenever they were asked.
I want to thank the other members of this year’s executive: Vice-President Joe Vise; Tom Davis who began as our secretary but had to step down for personal reasons; Patience~ Abah who joined our executive and took over as secretary; Treasurer Stephen Dankowich; and Terry Gardner, immediate Past President.
Finally, the day-to-day work of Science for Peace only gets done because Carolyn Langdon either does it herself or makes others of us do it.
ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)