More than a dozen Islanders rallied in Charlottetown Saturday as part of larger effort supporting United Nations (UN) negotiations to adopt a treaty that would ban nuclear weapons.
Last fall, 113 UN countries passed a resolution stating they would negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons. This round of negotiations began on Thursday and will end on July 7.
Leo Broderick, of the Island Peace Committee and Council of Canadians, said there were rallies held across the world Saturday pressuring governments to support the treaty.
“If the terms of the treaty are strong enough, it will give it legal standing in international law,” he said. “The unfortunate situation is that some countries like Canada are refusing to participate.”
Signs reading “Shame on Canada” and “Ban the Bomb” were prominently displayed in front of province house during Saturday’s rally, which was organized by the Island Peace Committee.
A women’s march was also held outside the UN in New York City on Saturday to support the possible treaty.
Island Peace Committee member Phil Callaghan said the rally was to encourage those gathered in New York and others around the world.
It was also to put pressure on the Canadian government to support the treaty.
“It’s a shame that our country has opted out and put itself on the same side as the United States and other governments who are aggressively, continually putting more of the incredible gifts that belong to all people in all of creation into this madness we call the nuclear arms race,” said Callaghan. “We say no to that bomb, to that obscenity we call a nuclear bomb, and we say yes to that life of peace and justice we all long for and work for.”
Ann Sherman, a founding member of the Island Peace Committee, said the group formed in the 1980s amidst fear about the possibility of nuclear war.
“And (we were) angry Canada was preparing to test the cruise missile,” she said, noting that the group’s march from North Cape to East Point was covered in the U.K. Guardian newspaper. “We felt we were in a position to actually influence people and it was very empowering for all of us.
She noted that although the group has “doggedly maintained its work” throughout the years, there is still fear of the power of the military industrial complex.
“Throughout the Island Peace Committee’s existence, things have looked dark. But maybe not darker than now,” she said. “(There is also fear) because of the actual incapacity of a couple of powerful men in this world who have access to what we call the red button and who do not seem to understand the responsibility this power gives them.”
P.E.I.'s poet laureate Deirdre Kessler also spoke and told a story of how her mother was arrested in 1948 while collecting signatures for a UN peace treaty.
She said that by 1950, there were 500 million signatures on the treaty.
“This morning I was thinking ‘(that was) 1948 and here we are again’,” said Kessler. “It’s unbelievable that in 2017 we have to do this.”