Whig Standard: Group sees urgency in nuclear weapons treaty

The local chapter of Peace Quest, a national grassroots organization that works towards peace-building initiatives across Canada, is seen Wednesday on the corner of University and Union streets in the heart of the Queen’s University district, looking for people to sign the International Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons. (Julia McKay/The Whig-Standard)

By Julia McKay, Kingston Whig-Standard (see original here)

Turns out fear of a nuclear war is not just a memory from the 1960s.

Working in association with ceasefire.ca and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the local members of Peace Quest set up a booth on the corner of University and Union streets between 11 a.m. and noon on Wednesday to get signatures on an international nuclear weapons ban treaty.

“With all the sabre-rattling by the North Koreans and the United States and Donald Trump, we figured as Peace Quest that it would be a good idea to make an appearance in the public square to show our opposition to nuclear weapons,” Jamie Swift, Peace Quest member, said. “This is part of a national effort as a citizens treaty-signing initiative to get as many Canadians as possible to sign on to the treaty.”

According to organizers, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is just a first step and is a “key step towards eliminating weapons of mass destruction that would vaporize millions.”

The treaty opened for signatures on Sept. 20 at the United Nations General Assembly and around the world.

As of press time, the Canadian government has not signed the treaty.

The event in Kingston was just one of many organized across the country from Halifax to Ottawa, and Toronto to Victoria — groups like Peace Quest organized Sept. 20 “Citizen Signing Ceremonies” using giant copies of the treaty for anyone to sign.

“The world has changed so much and now we see more civilians killed in war than soldiers, and this is going to be particularly true should there be a nuclear war,” Judy Wyatt, Peace Quest member, said. “Many people have been complacent about it, saying that since the Cold War ended, that there is no chance of a nuclear war and yet yesterday we had [U.S. President] Donald Trump threatening nuclear war in the room of the United Nations. That is absolutely shocking.”

In Trump’s address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Tuesday, he spoke about North Korea and Iran as “the scourge of our planet” and “a group of rogue regimes.”

Trump went on to say that “the United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

“People have to wake up and make it clear to their politicians that this is totally unacceptable,” Wyatt said. “I want [these students] to be aware that there is a nuclear ban treaty and that Canada has not signed on.”

“I’m certainly more anxious now about a possible nuclear exchange, as they call it delicately, than I was during the Cold War.”

While many students passed by the booth, stating that they had to get to class, a number of them did stop and ask questions and sign the treaty.

When asked to sign the treaty, Berkeley Wilson, a first-year engineering student at Queen’s University, was quick to say yes and put her name down.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that it hasn’t been [put in place],” Wilson said. “You hear about it in the news. How is this even happening in 2017? Why is it not banned? This was a threat in the sixties and its still a threat in 2017.”

Many people, including “970 Order of Canada recipients” have signed on to a campaign urging Canada to take the lead in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention proposed by the United Nations secretary general.

“If nearly a thousand Order of Canada holders think we need to start talking about abolishing nuclear weapons, it’s up to us to get on board with their efforts,” said Peace Quest’s Beth Pater, a local veteran peace activist and former city councillor.

For more information, go online to ceasefire.ca or peacequest.ca/sign-the-nuclear-weapons-ban-treaty-on-sept-20th.