Letter to the Editor: August 8th

Dear Editors,

August 2020 marks 75years since two nuclear weapons were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed over 210,000 people by the end of 1945. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual events for peace and nuclear disarmament have been planned across Canada for the anniversary of the atomic bomb tragedies. Yet, 75 years later, nuclear weapons are a continued threat to global peace and security.

Nuclear weapons pose a catastrophic threat to human survival. Ratifying the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), a 2017 international agreement aiming to outright eliminate nuclear weapons, would be a crucial step towards a nuclear-weapon-free world. Given Canada’s current “Feminist Foreign Policy” objectives, ratifying the TPNW would be a key move for Canada to assert itself as a major player in international affairs.

Nuclear war and disarmament are uniquely feminist issues. Female survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings faced almost double the risk of developing and dying from cancer due to ionizing radiation exposure. After the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, girls were considerably more likely to develop thyroid cancer from nuclear fallout than boys.

Although women experience the impact of nuclear weapons disproportionately, they are under-represented at forums where decisions regarding these weapons are made. For example, between the years of 2010 and 2014, a mere quarter of official country delegates at nuclear forums were women.

Canada has recently recognized that sustainable peace can only be possible if women are involved in these resolution efforts. In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Jacqueline O’Neill as Canada’s first Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security to advance Canada’s “Feminist Foreign Policy” goals. However, Canada’s second consecutive loss of a U.N. Security Council seat in June suggests the international community may disagree with Trudeau’s declaration that “Canada is back.”

Often forgotten in history is that Canada played a critical role in developing the nuclear weapons which ultimately destroyed the two Japanese cities. If the Canadian government is serious about shifting its foreign policy objectives to become truly “feminist,” it must rethink its relationship with nuclear weapons—both past and present.

While Canada has ratified a few key treaties limiting countries from acquiring and testing nuclear weapons, they are not enough to fully prevent another nuclear catastrophe. Canada should act as a leader among NATO-allied nations by taking the first steps toward ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as part of its “Feminist Foreign Policy.”

Momentum is building toward a global nuclear disarmament. Four countries ratified the Treaty in July alone, increasing its total number to 40. Fifty nations must ratify the treaty for it to become legally binding. Canada must join these trailblazing nations and commit to a world without nuclear weapons.

Ratifying the TPNW will prove Canada is “back” in terms of international peace and diplomacy.

Sincerely,

Charlotte Akin, MA Global Development Studies

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