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

OBITUARY: Sherrold Haddad brought giant Canadian flag to Surrey car dealership, built community

‘An amazing man, business person and community leader,’ friend Bruce Hayne posted to Facebook

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock, Delta and beyond

MARCH 28: Delta council passes bylaw to fine people who don’t socially distance

White Rock council members stand by decision to close pier

Minimal push-back over closure to minimize chance of spreading COVID-19 virus

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Blue ribbons popping up along streets in Abbotsford in praise of B.C. healthcare workers

Healthcare worker’s family starts local trend of morale support

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Most Read