Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at a rally at the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Dave Chidley)

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at a rally at the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Dave Chidley)

Anti-nuke activists seek their own Greta, as Canada urged to push NATO on bombs

International Committee of the Red Cross tries to build support for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons

Ask Hugo Slim about teenaged climate change activist Greta Thunberg, and one thought comes to mind: if only there were a young person like her who was that worried about nuclear weapons.

Slim is the Geneva-based head of policy and humanitarian diplomacy for the International Committee of the Red Cross, and was in Ottawa recently to meet Canadian anti-nuclear weapons activists.

Those activists are toiling, largely out of the public eye, to persuade Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to treat the possibility of nuclear annihilation as seriously as he does the threat posed by climate change.

They are urging Trudeau to push Canada’s NATO allies, who are meeting Tuesday in London, to start talking with non-NATO nuclear states about laying down their atomic arms one day.

Canada doesn’t have nuclear weapons but its membership in NATO means it adheres to the 29-country military alliance’s nuclear-deterrent policy — that it supports having nuclear weapons in its arsenal essentially because its adversaries have them.

Slim works for an organization that opposes nuclear weapons, and is known for its scrupulous neutrality, so he says he doesn’t expect the Trudeau government to suddenly swear off nuclear weapons any time soon. But he wishes someone like 16-year-old Thunberg would come along to get under his skin and tweak the consciences of other leaders who possess or support nuclear weapons.

“There are two big existential issues around the human species at the moment — climate change and nuclear weapons. Climate change has really mobilized young people across the world. Nuclear weapons is still seen as a slightly older persons 1960s, ’70s issue. It’s hard to galvanize younger people to recognize the risk,” Slim said in a recent interview.

“If you look demographically, through history, you’ll notice one thing about political change: that it’s always young people that drive political change,” Slim added. “It’s about them seeing things and playing roles as political change-makers, as they always have in human civilization.”

VIDEO: “How dare you?” Greta Thunberg addresses UN climate summit

The ICRC is trying to build support for the new Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, which was negotiated in 2017. More than 120 countries support the treaty, and Slim is hopeful 50 countries will ratify it by next year to bring it into force. But it has no support among the countries that possess nuclear weapons — including the United States and its allies, including Canada.

Canada has a credible track record in “weapons diplomacy” in part because it helped lead the international effort in the 1990s that led to a treaty that bans the use of anti-personnel landmines, Slim said.

Slim pointed to what many see as a troubling backslide in international agreements aimed at curbing nuclear proliferation: the Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal that now includes Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany; and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the U.S. and Russia is no more.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

Cheryl Dill visits the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: Talking jobs, tourism and business with Cheryl Dill in Parksville

Podcast: COVID-19 has far-reaching impacts on Vancouver Island

(File photo)
PQB crime report: Vandals strike in Parksville, prowler lurks in Nanoose Bay

Oceanside RCMP receive 276 complaints in one-week period

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Ladysmith-area Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Most Read