Canada needs to embrace peace and sign nuclear ban treaty via The Star

A survivor of the Hiroshima bombing feels betrayed by Canada and Japan for not joining 122 other countries that voted to adopt the text of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.


I am still rejoicing. After more than half a century of warning the world of the horrors that nuclear weapons would rain down on cities and people, I and other survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki finally have concrete hope.

Against the will of the nine nuclear weapon states that boycotted the United Nations negotiations, 122 countries voted to adopt the text of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It will enter into force after 50 countries sign and ratify it, beginning Sept. 20.


But I felt betrayed by my birth country Japan, and by Canada, my adopted country, when both refused to participate in the ban treaty negotiations.

I am deeply disturbed that Canada did so under pressure from the U.S. I am appalled that the Canadian government remains under the nuclear umbrella, and under nuclear deterrence supports threatening people with nuclear annihilation. Canada, in the name of “security,” relies on the weapon of mass destruction identified as immoral and grossly inhumane in the Humanitarian Pledge, which the Canadian government refused to endorse.

Canada’s refusal to participate in the UN ban treaty negotiations is a crime against humanity, given Canada’s direct involvement in development of the atom bomb.

Uranium for the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki came from Canada. Dene hunters and trappers from Deline on the western shore of Great Bear Lake were paid $3 a day by their white employers to carry sacks of radioactive uranium ore on their backs to barges along a 2,100 km “Highway of the Atom” of rivers, rapids and portages. Many subsequently died of cancers, leaving Deline a “village of widows.” The community in the Northwest Territories still struggles with the 1.7 million tons of uranium waste dumped into Great Bear Lake.

Through the Eldorado Mining and Refining Company, a Crown corporation, the Canadian government sold more than 900 tons of uranium ore to the American Manhattan Project, which developed the atom bomb. The Canadian uranium ore and 1,200 tons of uranium concentrate from the Belgian Congo were refined by Eldorado in Port Hope.

Graduates from Canadian universities, such as Arthur Dempster (University of Toronto), Clarence Johnson (University of Alberta), Walter Zinn (Queen’s University), and Louis Slotin (University of Manitoba), made significant contributions to the Manhattan project. Slotin’s body was shipped back to Winnipeg in a lead coffin after he suffered massive exposure to radiation in one of the first nuclear accidents.


If Canada wants to be “back” as a peacemaker, the Trudeau government cannot oppose the majority of the world’s nations seeking to abolish the scourge of nuclear weapons. We must become a signatory to the UN ban treaty.

On Aug. 6 at the Toronto City Hall Peace Garden, I will read from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki peace declarations, as part of the annual commemoration of the bombing. I will remember those who died and express the hope of those who survived that no human being should ever have to experience the inhumanity and unspeakable suffering of nuclear weapons.

Setsuko Thurlow and other survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.

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