Ban on nuclear weapons
Aug 14, 2017
They gathered last week celebrating last month’s United Nations treaty banning nuclear weapons, mourning Canada’s refusal to support it, solemnly remembering the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and affirming in unison their commitment to real security. The Dundas councillor brought greetings from “peace mayor” Eisenberger, noting Hamilton is officially a nuclear-free city, all while two presidents rattled their bombs in an international competition for who is most willing to bring an end to life on earth.
The Hamilton Mundialization Committee’s annual reminder of the consequences of nuclear weapons took place in the city’s municipal service centre in the old Dundas town hall. It heard a specific message to Hamilton from Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima attack 72 years ago and a peace activist who was unable to attend in person as planned. Her statement pointed particularly to the UN decision “to prohibit the development, testing, production, manufacturing and possession of nuclear weapons” that was approved by almost two-thirds of the world’s countries on July 7.
“For the first time nuclear weapons have been unconditionally stigmatized as standing outside the international humanitarian law,” she stated. “In no uncertain terms this treaty declares to the world that nuclear weapons are illegitimate, illegal and immoral.”
Canada joined all nine nuclear-armed countries in boycotting the UN vote as well as the three years of conferences leading up to it. Japan and all NATO countries, except the Netherlands, also didn’t participate with the latter casting the only ballot against it. Iran, Sweden and Switzerland voted in favor as did Mexico, Cuba, Ireland, Iraq, Egypt, and most African and Latin American countries.
North American media largely ignored the UN action. The United States, France and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement declaring: “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it. Therefore, there will be no change in the legal obligations on our countries with respect to nuclear weapons.”
In June Prime Minister Trudeau characterized the initiative as “sort of useless” if it doesn’t include countries that actually have nuclear weapons. An NDP motion calling on Canada to participate generated a lengthy House of Commons debate on June 8. The Liberals argued the treaty is “premature” and will be “ineffective”.
The NDP motion only won support of the Bloc Quebecois and Green Party leader Elizabeth May. The Liberals and Conservatives combined to defeat it 245-44. Petition cards urging Canada to ratify the treaty were distributed at last week’s meeting and can also be endorsed on-line.
In the gathering Councillor Vanderbeek spoke on behalf of Mayor Eisenberger, noting that he joined Mayors for Peace in 2006, a group committed “to the total abolition of nuclear weapons and the attainment of lasting world peace, and to the solution of such problems as starvation, poverty, the plight of refugees, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation in cooperation with the United Nations.”
She also recalled that Hamilton “has been declared a nuclear-free zone which means that no nuclear weapons are to be located in Hamilton or to be moved through Hamilton.” The meeting also heard a letter from the mayor of Nagasaki and one from Hiroshima read by a student who had participated in Hamilton’s fifty-year-old exchange program with Japan started by Dundas. The mayors of both cities are urging the Japanese government to ratify the UN treaty.
“We declare that we are at peace with all people of good will. We require no leader to tell us whom to call ‘enemy’ or whom to call ‘friend’ or what to call ‘security’. Instead we affirm that our earth’s security rests not on armaments, but in the fairness of adequate housing, food and water; in the justice of safe and renewable energy; in the legitimacy of meaningful education and work; in the integrity of economic order that gives everyone access to our earth’s abundance; in the honesty of political process to which all people contribute; and in the decency of human relationships nourished by cooperation and love.”