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Toronto Community Roundtable with Doug Roche

__Tuesday September 15, 1998

Organized in Toronto by Science for Peace at the behest of Project Ploughshares.__

(Editors Note.On Sept. 29 Douglas Roche, on behalf of the Middle Powers Initiative, met with Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy to push for a global ban on nuclear weapons among other related issues.

The concerns raised during a handful of roundtable sessions like the one hosted by Science for Peace in Toronto and reported below made up the substance of his report delivered to Mr Axworthy.)

Douglas Roche indicated the many positive developments that favour disarmament. In 1995 for example, 1,000 non-governmental organizations (NG0s) worldwide launched the Abolition 2000 campaign to coordinate work towards nuclear disarmament. The International Court of Justice, in July 1996, declared the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons to be illegal (save in certain exceptional circumstances). The Canberra Commission, a 1996 Australian initiative, called for early action on elimination of nuclear weapons. Subsequent declarations by 61 retired Generals and Admirals, the U.S. National Academy of Science, the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict (12/97), the UN resolution 52/380 towards a Nuclear Weapons Convention (12/97) and a statement by 117 civilian leaders (02/98) all called for nuclear disarmament or definitive steps towards such an agreement.

In Canada, a network of NGOs has formed the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW). Church leaders have called on the Prime Minister to affirm his ‘Red Book’ promise that the elimination of nuclear weapons would be a central goal of Canadian policy. In March 1998, a meeting of diverse experts and activists met to assess Practical Steps for Canadian Policy Development on Nuclear Weapons Issues and agreed to support no first use, de-alerting of nuclear weapons, and steps to nuclear disarmament.

The participants assembled at the Toronto roundtable had these further points to make:

Women at the U.N.:

Women are providing a different kind of leadership at the U.N. (e.g. Gro Harlem Bruntland of the World Health Organization, Louise Frechette, 2nd to Koffi Anan, Secretary General). This trend should be encouraged.

Year 2000 Computer Problem:

Some legitimate questions need to be asked about how the military is handling the Year 2000 computer problem. (One solution is to separate the missiles from the delivery systems). A journalist might be interested in submitting an “access to information” request on this issue. The media are interested in this area, and if handled properly could be a way of bringing attention to the nuclear weapons issue.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT) Report:

Doug Roche is not sure what to expect. He encouraged people to send letters to Committee Chair, Bill Graham, with copies to all other committee members. It was suggested that organizations should also be prepared to comment publicly on the report once it was released (end of October) and exert pressure on the politicians to act on the forward-looking recommendations.

Links between Nuclear Power and Nuclear Arms:

Canada’s credibility on nuclear weapons is compromised because we export nuclear technology that has contributed to a proliferation problem. Many in attendance felt strongly about the links between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, tracing the history back to the uranium used to produce the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was noted that the Energy Working Group of Science for Peace had recently issued a groundbreaking document that calls for the phase-out of nuclear power and states explicitly the link between nuclear power and weapons. This marks a significant movement in thinking for Science for Peace. The report was co-authored by a nuclear physicist and supported by other physicists in the organization.

Non Proliferation Treaty:

If the treaty were to fall apart it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing because of stipulations such as those in Article 4, which open the door to co-operation in the development of peaceful nuclear technologies.

Middle Power Initiative:

Countries within NATO should work together to change NATO policy i.e. first use of nuclear weapons etc. Verification and arms control people in the government are demoralized. They have suffered from the cuts. There is no appetite in the government for creative thinking or new initiatives. A stand-pat attitude prevails.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lloyd Axworthy:

We currently have a good minister in Lloyd Axworthy who seems to want to work with us. Looking at Mr Axworthy’s foreign policy we see that he has focussed on issues like landmines, child soldiers and small arms control, avoiding the big issue of nuclear disarmament.


Media are a problem. A suggestion was made to by-pass the media by using the intemet extensively. There is a need to identify the levers in the media,


Give the issue a human face by profiling whistle blowers like Mordecai Vanunu.

Commitments by Organizations present:

Greenpeace has acted as witness to French nuclear testing in the South Pacific in 1995 and again in China where they unfurled a banner in Tiannamen Square and were imprisoned for a short time. Greenpeace also moved quickly on the tests in India and Pakistan. They have created a powerful visual image of a balloon over the Taj Mahal with the words “Nuclear Disarmament Now – Greenpeace‘°. Currently their Disarmament Campaign is undergoing an internal review. There will be final discussions is the first week of October.

Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) will write letters and also have their Board send a letter. They will write an article for their newsletter, The Catalyst.

Elske Kuiper will put the disarmament issue forward as a campaign for the Anglican Diocese. Most recently they have acted on the issues of child poverty and video lottery terminals (VLTs).

The Centre for Social Justice will circulate a sample letter to their Board members to encourage them to write to Lloyd Axworthy. An e-mail version will be forwarded to others to do the same.

Marilyn Churley will circulate draft letters and petitions to colleagues and others in her network.

The Friends Service Committee plan an article on nuclear disarmament in their next issue of Quaker Concern.

Science for Peace will co-ordinate the drafting and mechanics of getting a resolution before the City of Toronto. Councillors Joe Mihevic and Olivia Chow have already expressed support. SfP is also looking into having author and speaker Jonathan Schell to the U of T campus. He wrote the broadly received Fate of the Earth and most recently A Gift Of Time.

This group could endorse the 4 points made in Roche’s letter to Mr Axworthy. (Roche mentioned that a statement endorsed by organizations could accompany his report to Axworthy at the end of September).

Groups Attending: Science for Peace, Pugwash, Voice of Women, Physicians for Global Survival, VANA, MPP Marilyn Churley, Canadian Institute for International Affairs, Canadian Friends Service Committee, Citizens for Public Justice, Murray Klippenstein, Lawyer for the Dene, Anglican Diocese, Centre for Social justice, Greenpeace Canada, OPIRG-UofT.

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