PeaceQuest joins in on Nobel Peace Prize Celebrations

PeaceQuest present as Parliamentarians recognize Nobel Peace Prize recipients

By Joe Gunn

It is rare for a Canadian to be presented

with the Nobel Peace Prize. It is also rare for

women to be the recipient of such an honour.

Yet, such was the case on December 10th, 2017 when Toronto resident Setsuko Thurlow traveled to Oslo, Norway, to accept this prestigious award along with Beatrice Fihn, the Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The Geneva-based ICAN was founded in 2007, and is a coalition of 468 groups in 101 countries. The award was received due to ICAN’s work of drawing attention to the potential of nuclear destruction, and for advocating the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted in July by 122 countries.

Setsuko was a 13-year-old schoolgirl 72 years ago in Hiroshima when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on her hometown. She has recounted how some 30 girls with her in a classroom were all practically burned alive that day. Struggling to get outside, she saw people with limbs missing and carrying their body parts. Now a member of the United Church, Setsuko refuses to believe that God saved her so that she might go on with the fight to eliminate nuclear weapons. As she told the Anglican Journal: “God does not play that kind of a game. I feel I was simply lucky.”

PeaceQuest members Sr. Pauline Lally and Elizabeth Pater traveled from Kingston on December 7th to attend a reception on Parliament Hill to celebrate the granting of the Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN. Organized on by Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, speakers included Assistant Deputy Speaker Carol Hughes (NDP MP), Linda Duncan (NDP MP) and Blaine Calkins (CPC MP). Green Party MP Elizabeth May, and several other MPs and Senators were in attendance, although Liberals were harder to find. Prime Minister Trudeau has yet to congratulate Thurlow or ICAN, and has declined to sign the treaty.

According to the National Post, Canada’s Prime Minister

has opined that, “There can be all sorts of people talking

about nuclear disarmament, but if they do not actually have

nuclear arms, it is sort of useless to have them around, talking.”

Photo: Assistant Deputy Speaker Carol Hughes addresses the reception in the Parliamentary Speaker’s Lounge on December 7th. Click to see full size.

Unfortunately, Canada, along with every member of NATO except the Netherlands, boycotted the treaty negotiations, as did all nine countries possessing nuclear weapons. Their continued adherence to the doctrine of nuclear deterrence renders it almost unthinkable that they will support this international measure.

None of the 80 guests at the reception

on Parliament Hill, however, felt that

their work for peace was “useless.”

Rather, speakers seemed to think that their work was absolutely necessary in order to convince Canada to play its rightful global role.

For example, an announcement from 95-year-old Murray Thompson, co-organizer of Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, highlighted the fact that peace activists are demanding to be heard. Thompson contacted no less than 1,000 recipients of the Order of Canada, and all signed a public statement calling on members of the UN – including Canada, “to endorse, and begin negotiations for, a nuclear weapons convention as proposed by the UN Secretary-General.” (Both the Parliament and Senate have passed similar motions since 2010.)

Beth Pater, Sr. Pauline Lally SP and Murray Thompson at the Parliament Hill reception. Click to view full size.

In a message released in conjunction with the Nobel awards ceremony, Fihn said ICAN has two priorities in the coming years. The first is getting all states to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which opened for signature on 20 September. The second is ensuring the treaty has an impact on the states that won’t immediately sign the treaty, which needs 50 signatures to enter into force.

This month, Canadian politicians were invited to celebrate the granting of the Nobel Peace prize. In the months and years ahead, they will be pushed to bring Canada into global action for nuclear disarmament. Groups like PeaceQuest remain essential if this task is to be completed.

Gunn is the Ottawa-based executive director of Citizens for Public Justice,, a member-driven, faith-based public policy organization in Ottawa focused on ecological justice, refugee rights and poverty elimination.

Also by Joe Gun on the PeaceQuest blog: “Reflections on Hiroshima Day in Kingston.”