Pugwash continues to dream of a nuclear-free world
Conference celebrates 60th anniversary of organization’s legacy to peace
Douglas Roche could feel Joseph Rotblat’s presence as he walked through the grounds of historic Thinker’s Lodge on Wednesday.
The former parliamentarian and senator returned to Pugwash as part of the Canadian Pugwash Group’s commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the first Pugwash Conference in 1957.
Rotblat was influential in organizing the first Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the conferences in 1995.
“When I was walking on the lawn earlier I had a friend walking with me and that friend was Joseph Rotblat. Some would say that Joseph Rotblat was no longer with us, but I’m here to tell you I felt his presence here this morning,” said Roche.
Most of the conference was at Dalhousie University in Halifax, but participants took a break Wednesday to travel to the village that got the Pugwash disarmament movement started and Thinker’s Lodge.
While a lot of time has passed since that first meeting at the summer home of Pugwashborn U.S. industrialist Cyrus Eaton, Roche said there is still so much work to be done before a nuclear weapons-free work is realized.
“When Hiroshima occurred I was 16 years old and I remember my mom and dad smiling because it meant that I wouldn’t have to go to war, but years went by and I got the opportunity to travel to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a shattering moment to go through the museum and see the artifacts and talk to survivors and try to grasp the massive inhumanity of nuclear weapons raining down on innocent people. It was a profound experience that changed my life. Now I’m an old man and I want to see the elimination of nuclear weapons.”
Roche said there are fewer nuclear weapons than there were 60 years ago when the first conference was held, but the remaining 16,500 weapons are very worrisome and could have catastrophic results.
“It’s very easy sometimes to look at the past and where we’ve come from, but most of the time we should look ahead and build on what we’ve done,” he said. “I come here in this long struggle to rid the world of the ultimate evil in nuclear weapons. I come here and find renewed energy.”
The conference saw the passing of several resolutions, one of which calls on Canada to sign the recent treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons and to lobby NATO to change its stance on nuclear weapons as the only way to deter nuclear war.
The treaty, which will be signed at the United Nations in September, prohibits states from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons and other explosive nuclear devices.
None of the countries that have nuclear weapons took part in the negotiations and Canada has indicated it won’t sign the treaty on advice from the United States and its NATO allies.
Other speakers included Ernie Regehr, a senior fellow of the Simons Foundation, who called on Canada to take a more active stance in creating a nuclear weapons-free arctic, and Walter Dorn of the Canadian Forces College, who spoke about the importance of peacekeeping missions in supporting a developing world and preventing small conflicts from becoming larger ones.
Sen. Douglas Roche speaks during a town hall meeting and panel discussion at Thinker’s Lodge in Pugwash on Wednesday. The Canadian Pugwash Group celebrated the 60th anniversary of the first Pugwash Conference in 1957 by returning to the community as part of a three-day conference on Canada’s contribution to global security.