Photographs of bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and victims’ art in City Hall rotunda, with posters, paper cranes, and peace tables in Nathan Phillips Square, signalled the Toronto commemoration on August 6 of the 1945 atomic bombing. Yakudo Drummers and the men’s Northern Lights Chorus drew some 300 people into the evening’s program on NPS, organized by the Hiroshima Day Coalition (HDC) to focus on hope. Music returned later, with a children’s peace choir and the Raging Grannies both feisty and haunting songs.
Mayor David Miller himself brought encouragement, born of his experience in Britain in World War II, and read his Proclamation of Hiroshima Day. Noting threat of use remains all too real, it declared that Toronto joins cities and mayors all around the world in supporting the Mayors for Peace (MfP) 2020 Vision Campaign and the commitment to peace and a world free of nuclear weapons.
As MC, I called people to think about the NPS Peace Garden, its flame from Hiroshima, water from Nagasaki, its unfinished shelter symbolic of the need to build peace, inviting them to remember the horror of nuclear attack and the message “Never again!” that we must give governments and help people understand. Toronto has an anti-nuclear history of the city, I noted, and we are in great peril: the Doomsday Clock stands at five minutes to midnight. Ours is the most multi-cultural city on Earth. So we should urge our friends around the world to help build the political momentum to achieve the nuclear-free world that US President Obama says is his goal. Drawing attention to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s five-point disarmament plan (Guardian, August 3), I said the HDC brings us together to tell the politicians “Yes, we can!”
After Joe Ohori spoke of his experience in the Hiroshima bombing, hibakusha Setsuko Thurlow, CM, read Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba’s proclamation. Akiba had told the 40,000 gathered in that city’s Peace Park: “We refer to ourselves, the great global majority, as the ‘Obamajority’, and we call on the rest of the world to join forces with us to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020.We have the power….Together, we can abolish nuclear weapons. Yes, we can.” Setsuko led us into a minute’s silence.
In his keynote address, Bruce Cox, the executive director of Greenpeace (Canada), speaking about nuclear power and weapons, underlined that “its greatest drawback is simply us – human beings.” As examples of human fallibility, he cited nuclear weapons lost, fuel rods missing, and forgotten, lost nuclear waste sites. Al Gore, during his eight years as US vice-president, had, Cox said, noted that every nuclear weapons proliferation issue the US dealt with was connected to a nuclear energy program. Greenpeace, with the European Renewable Energy Council and the German Aerospace Agency, has developed a global energy blueprint by which climate change targets and growing energy demands can be met from now to 2050. “If we believe it is human to err, then why would we pursue a nuclear agenda?” We should shake off the nuclear cult, with its cost overruns and unwinnable arms race. “A nuclear free future … is possible, practical and economical. Time to redouble our work for it, to build a society that is free from nuclear threat,” he urged. In thanking him, I noted global attempts at nuclear energy renaissance and the potential for every nuclear power plant to be an atomic bomb factory.
Speaking for Veterans Against Nuclear Arms (VANA), Mac Makarchuk, who was an Ontario MPP, told us we need to reach our members of parliament, find out their views, and make sure they know our abolition commitment. Dr Vinay Jindal, who represents Physicians for Global Survival (affiliated with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) on HDC, set out action initiatives we can engage in:
- the MfP campaign Cities Are Not Targets (CANT) and recruiting Ontario mayors to join MfP;
- IPPNW’s International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), with a petition on line for signing (see www.pgs.ca), plus a model abolition treaty, Securing Our Survival, to support;
- Building public pressure to ensure that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (up for review in May 2010) achieves the abolition it was meant to
- Pressing our mayors to fully represent us as MfPs
- Signing the Global Zero Declaration www.globalzero.org
“We are the hope,” he said – “one global voice to push the world harder than ever towards nuclear disarmament.”
After the Yakudo Drummers awed us again, Roberto Verdecchia told us about the coming nine-month World Peace March whose torch was lit from Hiroshima’s flame on August 5, and invited us to find our inner flame and be the peace we seek. Asking people to move with their lanterns through the Peace Garden, forming wishes and prayers to send off with them, I called on a flutist to lead us out. His haunting melodies on Japanese wooden flutes inspired us. The magic of colours floating across the pond in the square mirrored the lanterns drifting past the famed Atomic Dome in Hiroshima with grief and wishes that we must honour by bringing to fulfilment the hope of abolition.