Zero Nuclear Weapons: A Forum

Four major Canadian peace organizations were joint sponsors of this two-day forum: the Canadian Pugwash Group, Science for Peace, Physicians for Global Survival, and Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. More than 200 people came to one or more sessions, and initial comments for the event (which featured interactive videoconferencing links to Hiroshima, Geneva, and London) have been enthusiastic.

There are links to audio recordings of the entire event further down this page. In addition, you can watch video recordings of the main plenary speeches and discussions at

The January 2010 issue of The Bulletin has a report on the event, which is reproduced below.

Toronto Wants Zero Nuclear Weapons

Metta Spencer

Mayor David Miller hosted a gathering of Torontonians in the council chamber of Toronto’s City Hall on November 13 and 14. He greeted us warmly and then settled back to watch a live, interactive streaming video on a giant screen of his counterpart in Hiroshima, Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, the president of Mayors for Peace — an organization to which Miller himself belongs. As Mayor Akiba noted in his speech, the great tragedies of history take their names from cities— from Guernica to Detroit, Stalingrad, Auschwitz, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His organization is making nuclear weapons into a municipal issue, and by now 3240 cities worldwide have joined.

Mayor Akiba was followed in the initial session of the Zero Nuclear Weapons Forum by the British High Commissioner, Anthony Cary, and finally by the leading historian of nuclear weapons, Jonathan Schell. Then the moderator, Alexa McDonough, fielded questions from the audience. It was a splendid beginning.

The following day was full, with two lengthy forum sessions and a workshop. We began with another hook-up from overseas. Pavel Podvig spoke to us on the big screen from Geneva, then answered questions from the other panelists and the audience, moderated by Toronto Star journalist Olivia Ward. Podvig is a Stanford University scholar specializing in Russian and American nuclear weaponry, and the ongoing negotiations to replace the START treaty with one yielding even deeper cuts in the two arsenals. Podvig was followed by Professor Trevor Findlay of Carleton University, who spoke about the challenges of monitoring compliance with nuclear treaties, and by Project Ploughshare’s founder, Ernie Regehr, who paid special attention to NATO’s strategic policies, which still rely on nuclear weapons.

After a hasty lunch, the Canadian Pugwash group presented a discussion of their proposal to organize a nuclear weapon free zone in the Arctic. With Steven Stapes moderating, the panelists consisted of Adele Buckley, Michael Wallace and Michael Byers, who has just published a new book, “Who Owns the Arctic?”

The final forum was focused on the challenge of arousing political will in a population that would definitely prefer to see the abolition of nuclear weapons but, too often, has given up hope. We were invigorated by the streaming video presence of Rebecca Johnson from London. In Toronto the other panelists were two former Canadian ambassadors for disarmament, Christopher Westdal and Douglas Roche. Westdal reminded us that what we need is not more promises in the form of new treaties, but rather to have old promises kept. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was promised long ago and has never yet entered into effect. He would have us promote that as the primary order of business. For his part, Roche pursues a harder goal: a nuclear weapons convention leading to complete abolition of nuclear weapons. He asked the co-sponsors of the forum (Canadian Pugwash Group, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, Physicians for Global Survival, and Science for Peace ) to launch a campaign for 5,000 individual letters to reach Prime Minister Harper, calling for Canada to pro-actively promote nuclear disarmament, beginning in May at the Non-Proliferations Review Conference.

Agenda and audio links

Each session’s title provides a hyperlink to the mp3 audio file for that session. On many browsers, this will open automatically in an internal audio player. On others, you may choose either to download or to play the file using an external player.

Friday, November 13, 2009

7:00 pm – 9:30 pm. We Are at a Turning Point

Welcoming address by David Miller, Mayor of Toronto

Presentations, followed by question and answer session:

  • Anthony Cary, British High Commissioner to Canada
  • Jonathan Schell, Author and analyst of nuclear arms
  • Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima and president of Mayors for Peace (by interactive video-conferencing from Japan.)

Moderator: Alexa McDonough; formerly federal leader of the New Democratic Party; President, Mount St. Vincent University

Saturday, November 14, 2009

10:00 am – 12:30 pm. Surmounting the Obstacles

  • Pavel Podvig, Stanford University, Center for International and Strategic Studies (by videoconferencing from Geneva)
  • Ernie Regehr, Senior Policy Adviser, Project Ploughshares
  • Trevor Findlay, Director, Canadian Centre for Treaty Compliance

Moderator: Olivia Ward, Toronto-based journalist

1:30 pm – 2:50 pm. Workshop on Arctic Nuclear Weapon Free Zone

  • Michael Wallace, University of British Columbia
  • Michael Byers, University of British Columbia
  • Adele Buckley, Canadian Pugwash

Moderator: Steven Staples, President, Rideau Institute

3:00 pm – 5:30 pm. Arousing and Sustaining Political Will

  • Rebecca Johnson, The Acronym Institute, London (by videoconferencing)
  • Christopher Westdal, Former Canadian Ambassador to Russia
  • Douglas Roche, O.C., Former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament; Former Canadian Senator.

Moderator: Sergei Plekhanov, Professor of Political Science, York University