How safe is Toronto from nuclear weapons?


Within a month, North Korea has test fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) capable of carrying nuclear warheads and striking North America.

The first ICBM, launched on July 4, could reach Alaska. A more powerful missile, launched Friday, July 28, puts Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Boston and New York within striking range, experts say.

The Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s spy wing, has warned the Trump administration that North Korea will be able to deliver a nuclear weapon to targets in the lower 48 states within a year.

North Korea’s ambitions should shake Canadian complacency: the firing trajectory of nuclear missiles aimed at the U.S. would go over Canada. Canadian targets could include not only northern airfields in Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit but also NORAD fighter bases in Cold Lake, Alberta, and Bagotville, Quebec, and Navy wharves in Halifax and Victoria.

As the National Post’s Matthew Fisher reported July 12, “Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe, as well as Montreal and Vancouver, would be prime targets because they are so thoroughly integrated into the American economy. Edmonton would likely be on the list, too, because of its energy industry.”

How safe is Toronto from nuclear weapons?

Peace, faith and environmental groups have issued an emergency appeal to Mayor John Tory asking that he direct the Board of Health to hold public hearings on the threats posed to Toronto and surrounding communities by nuclear weapons. Fourteen groups, including the Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition, Project Ploughshares, Physicians for Global Survival, the Ontario chapter of the Sierra Club and Greenpeace Canada, have joined the call.

“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.

Thurlow has been warning Canadians about the dangers of nuclear war since founding Hiroshima Nagasaki Relived in Toronto in 1975. She was instrumental in the creation of the City Hall Peace Garden in 1984. Thurlow will present the 14 groups’ emergency appeal in writing to Mayor Tory at this year’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemoration at the Peace Garden on August 6 (6:30 pm, Nathan Phillips Square).

Recently, she was one of the moving voices representing the survivors of the two atomic bombings when 122 countries approved the text of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations on July 7. Under pressure from the U.S., Canada did not attend the negotiations.

“This is an urgent issue,” says Phyllis Creighton of the Coalition. Creighton will be MC at the annual commemoration. The keynote speaker will be former Senator and Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Douglas Roche.

Roche has led nearly one thousand Order of Canada recipients to petition the Canadian government to pursue a treaty convention that would ban nuclear weapons. He is a founding chair of the international disarmament coalition Middle Powers Initiative. He serves as the group’s senior advisor to current chair, Ambassador Henrik Salander of Sweden.

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 and held at the University of Toronto, and made a series of recommendations to city council.

These included that city council direct the Board of Health to develop a pamphlet on civil defence and the dangers of nuclear weapons for distribution to every household in Toronto.

The Board recommended that 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.

Council accepted the Board’s recommendations and voted to hold a referendum on worldwide nuclear disarmament in the November 8, 1982 municipal election. Seventy-eight per cent of Torontonians voted yes to support nuclear disarmament and the goal of a world free from nuclear weapons. The following year, city council designated Toronto a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone and approved the building of the Peace Garden at City Hall to commemorate the City’s 150th anniversary.

Thirty-five years after the Board’s recommendations, we now face the greatest risk of a nuclear catastrophe since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

We need to re-examine the current nuclear weapons dangers, says Dr. Vinay Jindal, President of Physicians for Global Survival.

“No municipality is equipped to effectively manage the devastation of a nuclear explosion,” he says. “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. ”

Anton Wagner is a member of the Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition and producer and director of the documentary Our Hiroshima. | @nowtoronto



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