A councillor wants Saanich to re-affirm its status as a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ).
Coun. Fred Haynes said in a notice of motion filed Monday night that it would be “appropriate and meaningful” for Saanich to re-affirms its status, whose origins date back to 1983 when council declared Saanich a NWFZ following a request from Project Ploughshares, a Canadian non-governmental organization formed in 1976.
“I believe our [council] will see value in [re-affirming] the NWFZ status of Saanich,” said Haynes.
Haynes’ notice will come up for debate at its next meeting Aug. 14 after council earlier this month heard and received a presentation from members of the Vancouver Island Peace and Disarmament Network. Formed about a year ago, the group represents a broad coalition of regional organizations. The group works nationally under the umbrella of the Canadian Network for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.
“One of the major roles that [NWFZs] have is fostering public awareness and education,” said Dr. Jonathan Down. “And the humanitarian consequences of just a small nuclear war between two countries using only a hundred of the thousands of nuclear weapons available would be so catastrophic, it is estimated that over two billion people would die from the immediate explosions and long-term effects of a nuclear famine.”
Saanich is among 166 NWFZs across Canada. This status dates back to the final years of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union, when council passed a motion on June 6, 1983 that declared Saanich “a nuclear weapons free zone and that the production, testing, storage, transportation, processing disposal or use of nuclear weapons or their components not to be undertaken in Saanich.” Three members of council at the time opposed the request, according to the minutes of June 6, 1983.
Council heard the re-affirmation request several weeks after 122 members of the United Nations signed a global treaty banning nuclear weapons.
The treaty this a is “game-changer” that de-legitimizes nuclear weapons and strengthens humanitarian international law, said Down. However all states that own nuclear weapons and many others that either host or receive protection from nuclear weapons boycotted negotiations, including Canada, he said.
“As result of pressure from the United States, Canada boycotted these negotiations and it is now perceived as being on the wrong side of history,” said Down, adding that Canada previously led the way in nuclear disarmament.
Saanich can help ensure the treaty’s effectiveness by first re-affirming its NWFZ status, then encouraging other municipalities to declare themselves NWFZs, he said. Saanich can also help by joining Mayors for Peace and marking the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9).
Mayor Richard Atwell said council does not make decisions following presentation. “We receive information, but I very much like to have a conversation as soon as possible with my council colleagues about the best way to move forward based on what you have presented us.”
Council heard the presentation almost 72 years to the day after the first successful test of a nuclear weapon in New Mexico on July 16, 1945 (Operation Trinity) during the final days of the Second World War and growing tensions between nuclear powers, including the United States, and North Korea, which has repeatedly tested nuclear weapons and various delivery devices in contravention of several international agreements.
These developments, coupled with the effects of climate change and the election of U.S. President Donald J. Trump in November 2016, have recently led the editors of the “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” to advance the so-called Doomsday Clock to two-and-a-half minutes before midnight, the second-closest in its history and the closest since 1953.
Manhattan Project scientists founded the academic journal in 1947 and invented the Doomsday Clock as a concept to measure the health and safety of the planet with midnight marking the end of the world.