Science for Peace began in the 1980s as a group of scientists concerned about the danger of nuclear war. This focus continues through the nuclear weapons working group, educating the public and decision-makers about the catastrophic humanitarian effects of nuclear warfare and promoting nuclear disarmament.
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While the world rightly focuses on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and protecting vulnerable populations, attention to the danger posed by nuclear weapons must not be ignored. When the current crisis eases in the months ahead we must be ready to press for a dramatic shift in priorities. We have argued the vast investment in nuclear weapons requires irrational trade-offs in exchange for a false sense of security. The evidence is now clear to everyone self-isolating at home, risking their health in the workplace, or mourning a loved one, that our governments’ misplaced priorities have left us dangerously exposed.
On January 22, 2021 The The United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) celebrated its entry into force (EIF). This is a significant step in delegitimizing these horrific weapons and a tremendous achievement in the face of sustained opposition by the nuclear armed states. There have been many actions taken and much written on the EIF in the last few weeks to bring it to the attention of the Canadian government which refuses to acknowledge the value of the TPNW. The following is a partial list of of articles and webinars that will be educational for all and useful to those advocating for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Open Letter in Support of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons signed by 56 former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and defence ministers from 20 NATO member states, as well as Japan and South Korea
Remarks by Ray Acheson, Director of Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF); International Steering Group Representative of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW) commemoration of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 6 August 2020.
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada,
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an immediate and dramatic re-ordering of priorities. Military expenditures and plans for armed conflict, even the drive for global hegemony impelling the US and luring China and Russia, should be set aside. Resources and skills should be committed to life enhancing technologies rather than on weapons of destruction. As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.” Canada should play a significant role in facilitating a new way forward on several fronts.
In this letter we address the urgent need for leadership on nuclear disarmament and our common human security challenges. As devastating as the coronavirus has been, it does not begin to compare to the catastrophic consequences of even a limited nuclear war. If it occurs, we would see the immediate death of hundreds of thousands of people and infrastructure destroyed or severely damaged. The International Red Cross has stated there are no effective ways of delivering medical aid and humanitarian assistance to victims of a nuclear blast. Moreover, radiation would kill millions more over time, and the soot thrust into the atmosphere would plunge the planet into a nuclear winter, creating widespread famine.
Unfortunately, the possibility of a nuclear war has been pushed to the back of public consciousness. But the danger of such a scenario is greater today than it has ever been. For the first time in over 30 years, there are no nuclear disarmament negotiations underway or planned. The US has withdrawn from the deal under which Iran agreed not to develop nuclear weapons, talks with North Korea to disarm have been futile, both the US and Russia have abandoned the hard-won Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is in jeopardy and the outlook for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is tenuous. We are witnessing the demise of nuclear arms control. Earlier this year, the Doomsday Clock maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was moved to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it has been to existential collapse.
A multi-trillion-dollar nuclear arms race is underway, and explicit threats to use nuclear weapons have escalated. States possessing nuclear weapons have outlined the circumstances in which they would be prepared to use them. It is nine countries, and their allies, that threaten the rest of the world by their possession of these heinous weapons. If human civilization is to survive, we need to confront those employing this threat. The doctrine of deterrence — maintaining the capacity to destroy entire cities, annihilate millions of people and threaten the eco-system of the planet, as the basis of peace and security– is a dysfunctional, immoral belief that will destroy human civilization.
These weapons of mass destruction must be eliminated. In 2017, 122 nations at the UN General Assembly negotiated and adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty prohibits nations from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory. It also prohibits them from assisting or encouraging any country to engage in any of these activities. The treaty fills a significant gap in international law and is a remarkable achievement, but is intensely opposed by the nuclear-armed states and is discouraged by NATO. Nevertheless, 36 countries have ratified the treaty. Once ratified by 50 countries, it will become international law.
Thus far, Canada has opposed this important treaty. But we should be an advocate for it. If Canada did so, it could fundamentally impact international discussions on deterrence and influence other countries to take this important step toward a world free of nuclear weapons. We have a compelling opportunity and a moral obligation to do so. The abolition of nuclear weapons is an aspiration that Canadians share with the majority of the international community.
This brings us to a discussion of NATO, a nuclear alliance that maintains a first strike capability. Canada is a member and is involved in NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group. NATO is an exclusive 30-member alliance that is dominated by the United States and requires members to spend 2% of their GDP on defence and to continuously upgrade their weapons systems for interoperability. At the beginning of this year, NATO members including Canada were preparing for the largest war game since the end of the Cold War in Europe, Defender 20. Do we believe that this military exercise on Russia’s borders will not provoke conflict and will achieve peace? Defender 20 risked a nuclear confrontation with Russia and undermined regional security. As well, NATO war games prevented European countries from being prepared for the pandemic. Thus, now is the time for Canada to rethink its abiding servitude to NATO and to prioritize working through the UN system on our common security challenges such as the pandemic and the climate emergency.
Canada is seeking a seat on the UN Security Council. We need to present compelling reasons to the world for us to be there. Canada’s role in the world and its ability to share and promote its feminist foreign policy values are enhanced by multilateralism and international cooperation. To show our commitment to world peace and human security, Canada must sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and promote the UN Agenda for Disarmament. Canada must also show greater action and leadership on the UN Sustainable Development goals and the Paris Agreement to protect people and the planet. COVID-19 has shown us that we must govern differently and cooperatively. Make Canada a leader in this new quest.
Nuclear Weapons Working Group
Science for Peace
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Toronto, ON M5S 3H7
The Day After is an American television film that first aired on November 20, 1983, on the ABC television network. More than 100 million people, in nearly 39 million households, watched the program during its initial broadcast. With a 46 rating and a 62% share of the viewing audience during its initial broadcast, it was the seventh highest rated non-sports show up to that time and set a record as the highest-rated television film in history—a record it still held as recently as a 2009 report. The film was watched by both US President Ronald Regan and the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev and had an impact on nuclear weapon discussions in the 1980s.The film postulates a fictional war between NATO forces and the Warsaw Pact that rapidly escalates into a full-scale nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. The action itself focuses on the residents of Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, as well as several family farms situated near nuclear missile silos.