Pugwash and Hiroshima

Elizabeth May

I’ve spent much of the last few days in Pugwash, Nova Scotia. This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of an historic process that began here at the home of Canadian industrialist Cyrus Eaton. Eaton had been inspired by a joint statement by Albert Einstein and Lord Bertrand Russell focusing on the threat of nuclear war. The 1955 Russell-Einstein Manifesto was directed at world political leaders and ended with the words: “We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity and forget the rest…if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”

This weekend’s gathering divided between an extraordinary workshop on “Revitalizing Nuclear Disarmament,” which involved experts from around the world, and public sessions in the local high school. Leading roles were played by one former and one current Canadian Senator -- current Senator, former General, Romeo Dallaire and retired Senator, former Ambassador for Disarmament, the Hon. Douglas Roche. On the opening evening, Doug Roche reminded us that there are still approximately 26,000 nuclear weapons around the world, of which 12,000 remain in silos, ready for launch within minutes. The Cold War is over, but 95% of the world’s nuclear bombs are in the US and former USSR and they remain a terrible threat.

There was a packed auditorium tonight of over 400 people for the closing banquet. As a political event it was notable as the first time local MP Bill Casey had been in a public venue since his expulsion from the Conservative caucus. Also present and a speaker was Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay. When Bill Casey was recognized by the chair for his role on the Pugwash Advisory Council, the polite applause changed to wild approval, growing louder and louder, until the audience rose in a boisterous standing ovation. Visitors from other countries were busy asking their table mates why this one MP was greeted as a hero.

Peter MacKay’s speech was charming when he talked about his wonderful mother, who is a very active and important peace activist. It became predictably dreadful as he outlined concerns about terrorism, Iran and North Korea, without referencing the central issue – the need to abolish nuclear weapons. In one odd bit, he praised Japan for pledging never again to use nuclear weapons. Of course, Japan never had nor used nuclear weapons. The US had them and used them to annihilate Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The highlight was the speech from the Mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba. He expressed what I had been feeling. In the mood of celebration of 50 years was a terrible sense of frustration that we should still meet to discuss the threat of nuclear proliferation after half a century of knowing nuclear weapons, the ultimate weapons of mass destruction, should be entirely eliminated.

His Vision 2020 effort has enlisted nearly 1700 Mayors from around the world, including of Moscow, London, Paris, and Jerusalem, in a call for the abolition of nuclear weapons. The most chilling thing in his speech, which I had somehow never known, is that when asked directly, every single candidate for the White House, Republican and Democrat, had said they would be prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

The Green Party of Canada fully intends to ensure that the urgent imperative to abolish nuclear weapons will be a critical election issue. Canada could play a constructive role. Right now, our government is not.

The Pugwash process started with the words of Einstein and Russell. Bertrand Russell’s satirical “History of the World for Martian Infant Schools” kept coming back to me as I sat in that auditorium:

“Ever since Adam ate the apple, Man has refrained from no folly of which he was capable. The End”

Remember your humanity and forget the rest.