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Peace Groups Issue an Emergency Appeal to Mayor John Tory to Examine the Dangers of Nuclear Weapons

July 19, 2017

Peace Groups Issue an Emergency Appeal to Mayor John Tory to Examine the Dangers of Nuclear Weapons
July 19, 2017 (Toronto) Two weeks after the UN ratified a treaty banning nuclear weapons that was boycotted by Canada, thirteen peace, faith and environmental groups have issued an emergency appeal to Mayor John Tory warning that the world is at the greatest risk of a nuclear catastrophe since the Cuban missile crisis. The organizations have appealed to Mayor Tory that he ask the Toronto Board of Health to hold public hearings on the ongoing threats to Toronto and its communities posed by nuclear weapons.
122 countries approved the text of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the UN on July 7. Only Netherlands, a member of NATO like Canada, voted against and Singapore abstained. Under pressure from the US, Canada boycotted the negotiations and vote on the treaty, which will enter into force after it has been signed by 50 countries.

The groups participating in the emergency appeal to Mayor Tory include the Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition, the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, Physicians for Global Survival, Science for Peace, Project Ploughshares, Peace Magazine, Toronto Article 9, the Toronto Area Interfaith Council, Soka Gakkai International Canada, Pax Christi, the Quaker Social Action Committee, the Ontario Chapter Sierra Club and Greenpeace.

With North Korea making rapid advances in its nuclear weapons and missile technology and an erratic American president in control of the US nuclear button, the groups say the Doomsday Clock stands at 2 ½ minutes to midnight.
Russia and the US are modernizing their arsenals which hold the bulk of today’s 15,000 nuclear war heads and plan to retain nuclear deterrence and first strike policies indefinitely. Tensions and risk of military confrontation in Eastern Europe between the US and Russia are high. North Korea’s missile tests and threats, and the US installing of missile defences in South Korea and making military manoeuvres are destabilizing. Eighteen hundred missiles, Russian and US, are on launch-on- warning, threatening North American and Russian cities. The disarmament promised by the nuclear weapon states is at a standstill as all the nuclear weapon states are modernizing their arsenals. By accident, miscalculation, or design, nuclear annihilation looms.

"In the event of a nuclear blast, the first response and responsibility will lie with the municipal government and the Mayor's office," says Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow. "Torontonians will be looking to you for guidance and leadership in the most challenging situation that any government could face, greater than any Canadian Mayor has faced before. Thus it is imperative that you address this issue as the Mayor of Toronto."
Toronto maintains its Peace Garden on Nathan Phillips Square. "But what are City Council and Mayor Tory actually doing in the face of the increased nuclear weapons dangers? With humanity in peril, and cities long a target for nuclear bombing, this is an urgent issue," says Anton Wagner of the Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition.
"It is unconscionable and in defiance of humanitarian law, according to the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (1996), to use these weapons," says Janis Alton, Co-chair of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. "Even to threaten their use violates the spirit of the UN Charter which is to resolve inter-state conflict non-violently."
In 1982 the Toronto Board of Health accepted the findings of an international conference of experts entitled “The Medical Consequences of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War” held at the University of Toronto and made a series of recommendations to City Council. These recommendations included that City Council direct the Department of Public Health to develop a pamphlet on civil defence and the dangers of nuclear weapons for distribution to every household in Toronto. The Board also recommended that City Council accept its ongoing responsibility with respect to this danger to public health and that it develop a mechanism to ensure that the issue of nuclear weapons and nuclear war continued to be dealt with by the City of Toronto.

Toronto City Council accepted Toronto Board of Health recommendations at its meeting on 1 April 1982 and voted to hold a referendum on worldwide nuclear disarmament in the November 8 Municipal election. 78% of Torontonians voted yes to support nuclear disarmament by all nations to the ultimate goal of a world free from nuclear weapons. In 1983, City Council designated Toronto a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone and approved the building of the Peace Garden on Nathan Phillips Square at a cost of $480,000 [over $1 million in 2017 dollars] to commemorate the City’s 150th anniversary.

Thirty-five years after its 1982 recommendations to City Council, the peace, faith and environmental groups are calling on the Board of Health to re-examine the current nuclear weapons dangers and to advise Council what the City can do to protect its citizens.

"No municipality is equipped to effectively manage the devastation of a nuclear explosion," says Dr. Vinay Jindal, President of Physicians for Global Survival. "Municipalities must stand together and effectively represent their citizens for a world free of nuclear weapons."

According to Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director of Project Ploughshares, "Tired arguments over the purported value of nuclear weapons possession have been replaced by a renewed emphasis on the humanitarian imperative for nuclear disarmament. The catastrophic humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use outweighs any and all alleged benefits. Hiroshima and Nagasaki could happen again."

The groups are waiting to hear Mayor Tory response to their emergency appeal to have the Toronto Board of Health hold public hearings on the dangers of nuclear weapons.

Setsuko Thurlow will read excerpts from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki declarations.

For more information contact:
Anton Wagner
Media Spokesperson
Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition
Phone: 416-863-1209

Setsuko Thurlow
Media Spokesperson
Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition
Phone: 416-221-9669

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