On August 6th, 1945, 13-year old Setsuko Thurlow gathered with 30 classmates near the centre of Hiroshima, where she had been drafted into the student Mobilization Program. She recalls: “At 8:15 a.m., I saw a bluish-white flash like a magnesium flare outside the window. I remember the sensation of floating in the air. As I regained consciousness in the total silence and darkness, I realized I was pinned in the ruins of the collapsed building... Gradually I began to hear my classmates’ faint cries for help, ‘Mother, help me!’ ‘God, help me!’ Then suddenly, I felt hands touching me and loosening the timbers that pinned me. A man’s voice said, ‘Don’t give up! I’m trying to free you! Keep moving! See the light coming through that opening. Crawl toward it and try to get out!’”
Toronto, August 2021: On August 6 at 7:00pm, the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Day Coalition invites the public to participate in the 76th Anniversary Commemoration of the Atomic bombings of Japan. Peace activists and dynamic artists will highlight the importance of Canadian support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This event will include noted presenters, musical performances, Mayoral proclamations, and a lantern ceremony.
Setsuko Nakamura Thurlow, who jointly accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) with Beatrice Fihn in 2017 will speak of the celebrations that took place around the world this year, especially among youth, with the passage into law of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (Ban Treaty) on January 22, 2021.
Erin Hunt, Program Manager at Mines Action Canada, and Civil Society member of the negotiating team for the Ban Treaty, will share her experiences as a contributor to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and the reasons why our government in Canada should heed the majority of Canadian citizens and support the Treaty.
Kehkashan Basu, UN Human Rights Champion, and iconic youth leader, will highlight the connection between nuclear disarmament, climate action, and human rights. Messages from City of Toronto Mayor John Tory and Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, will emphasize the importance of Canadian support for the Ban Treaty. The event will include music by Grammy-nominated flautist Ron Korb.
On January 22nd of this year, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into international law. Thus far, Canada is not a signatory. The time is now for Canada to join the growing number of nations signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
August 2020: Hiroshima-Nagasaki Day 75th Anniversary Commemoration
with Setsuko Thurlow & Friends
Thursday, August 6, 2020 at 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM EDT
“This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.” ― Setsuko Thurlow
TORONTO: On August 6th at 7pm the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Day Coalition invites the public to participate in the 75th Anniversary Commemoration of the Atomic bombings of Japan. Held annually in the Peace Garden on Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, this is the first time it will take place online. The commemoration will focus on 75 years of living with the threat of nuclear war and the wisdom gained from its survivors, whose refrain “Never again!” has been repeated as a warning to the world. A particular focus of the 75th commemoration will be the role that Canada played in the Manhattan project. The first keynote speaker will be A-bomb survivor Setsuko Nakamura Thurlow, who inaugurated the annual commemorations in Toronto in 1975 when David Crombie was the Mayor. Setsuko Thurlow has been engaged throughout her life in public education and advocacy for nuclear disarmament. Her efforts around the world have been recognized by membership in the Order of Canada, commendation from the Japanese Government, and other honours. She jointly accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons with Beatrice Fihn in 2017.
The second keynote will be delivered by peace activist and historian Phyllis Creighton. She will sketch Canada’s role in creating the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, its nuclear industry’s reckless endangering of Dene workers, severely impacting the Indigenous community, Canada’s continued sale of uranium and nuclear reactors enabling more countries to become nuclear armed, and its full commitment to NORAD and NATO, both nuclear alliances relying on nuclear weapons. Ms. Creighton visited Hiroshima in the 2001 and 2005. She speaks eloquently about the meaning of Hiroshima today.
The event will include music by Grammy-nominated flautist Ron Korb and Ogichidaa Kwe, a group of young Indigenous female drummers living in Tkaronto. Speakers will be complimented by photos, animation and brief excerpts from documentaries showing major highlights of the 75-yearlong effort to abolish nuclear weapons. Giving us hope for their eventual elimination is the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, now with 40 of the 50 nations needed to sign and ratify it before coming into international law. Thus far, Canada is not a signatory. The co-hosts for the commemoration are Katy McCormick, an artist and professor at Ryerson University and Steven Staples, Chairperson of PeaceQuest.
|Atomic Bomb Dome, formerly Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall||50th Anniversary Commemorative Monument, Nagasaki|
On the morning of August 6th, 1945, 13-year old Setsuko Nakamura gathered with about 30 classmates near the centre of Hiroshima, where she had been drafted into the student Mobilization Program to decode secret messages. She recalls:
“At 8:15 a.m., I saw a bluish-white flash like a magnesium flare outside the window. I remember the sensation of floating in the air. As I regained consciousness in the total silence and darkness, I realized I was pinned in the ruins of the collapsed building... Gradually I began to hear my classmates’ faint cries for help, 'Mother, help me!', 'God, help me!' Then suddenly, I felt hands touching me and loosening the timbers that pinned me. A man’s voice said, 'Don’t give up! I’m trying to free you! Keep moving! See the light coming through that opening. Crawl toward it and try to get out!'”
Setsuko would discover that she was one of only three survivors from that roomful of girls. She spent the rest of the day tending to horrifically burned individuals. That night she sat on a hillside and watched the city burn after one Atomic bomb, code-named Little Boy, demolished the city of Hiroshima, instantly killing 70,000 people, and causing the deaths of 70,000 more by the end of 1945. In the film Our Hiroshima, by Anton Wagner, Setsuko describes the explosion. She discusses the way in which the atomic bomb survivors were used by the American scientists as guinea pigs. Working tirelessly to abolish nuclear weapons, she continues to work to get the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons ratified by speaking as a witness to the catastrophic human effects of nuclear weapons at the UN. Mrs. Thurlow may be contacted by the media here.
On August 9th, 1945, Fat Man, a plutonium bomb, devastated Nagasaki’s Urakami Valley, exploding 600 meters from the largest Catholic cathedral in Asia, obliterating churches, schools and neighborhoods, and killing 70,000 non-combatants. Due to the censorship imposed by the U.S. Occupation Press Code, which forbade any materials to be published in Japan, few understood the human impacts of these bombs, or the consequences of their radioactive by-products, bringing on cancers in the months and years to follow.
Little known to many Canadians, Prime Minister Mackenzie King entered into a significant partnership with the US and Great Britain in the Manhattan Project’s development of the atomic bombs, including mining, refining, and exporting the uranium used in Little Boy and Fat Man. Even more disturbing is that Dene workers from the Great Bear Lake area were hired to transport the radioactive uranium in cloth sacks from the mine to barges, which moved the uranium downriver to be processed. The Dene men were never warned about radioactivity and were not given any protective equipment. Peter Blow’s documentary Village of Widows chronicles how the atomic bomb impacted an indigenous community.
|A sign with a jar of “fused sand from first atomic bomb; Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 16, 1945; Eldorado, Great Bear Lake, December 13, 1945” on display in Port Radium, no date., courtesy NWT Archives/Henry Busse fonds/N-1979-052: 4877.||Sacks of pitchblende Concentrate awaiting shipment at Port Radium, Great Bear Lake, 1939, NWT Archives/Richard Finnie fonds/N-1979-063: 0081. http://nwtarchives.ca/index.asp|
The Dene workers talked about the fact that the ore always leaked from the sacks while they would load and unload them from the mine to barges and trucks as the ore made its way to Port Hope to be refined. More disturbing still, the Eldorado mining company knew that the ore caused lung cancer. After conducting blood tests on the mine workers in the 1930s they had proof that the blood counts of the men were adversely affected. In 1999 the Deline First Nation secured agreement with the federal government to undertake a study to address the human health concerns. Titled The Canada-Déline Uranium Table (CDUT), it concluded that it was impossible to positively link cancers to the mining activities despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. At the bottom of Great Bear Lake is over a million tons of tailings that will remain radioactive for the next 800,000 years. For an excellent overview, see Village of Widows, directed by Peter Blow, especially: 03:00 – 4:11, 6:12 – 11:24.Photographs copyright Katy McCormick, except archival images above.
Setsuko Thurlow writes:
“Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:
“As a Hiroshima survivor, I was honoured to jointly accept the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. With the approaching 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th, I have written to all the heads of state across the world, asking them to ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and I ask the same of our government...”
Please write a response to Prime Minister Trudeau supporting Setsuko Thurlow's appeal. His mailing address is shown below (no postage necessary):
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
A research paper by Anton Wagner. Click here to download (pdf, 21 pages).
Anton Wagner is a Canadian cultural historian and director of the documentary Our Hiroshima widely broadcast in Canada and by NHK Educational in 1995. (The film can be viewed on YouTube at youtube.com/watch?v=MnLk8eczE34.)
The Hiroshima/ Nagasaki Day Coalition is a non-partisan coalition of peace, faith and community groups in the GTA that annually hosts Toronto’s Hiroshima & Nagasaki commemoration ceremony. The HNDC has been standing against nuclear weapons proliferation for over 35 years with a mandate to educate citizens and government on the dangers of nuclear weapons and the need for the total abolition of nuclear weapons. Through efforts of the HNDC, on 24 April 2018, the City of Toronto reaffirmed its 1982 position of Toronto as a nuclear weapons-free zone and sent a letter to the Canadian government requesting it sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The Toronto board of health held a public hearing on the dangers of nuclear weapons on 16 April 2018.
The Hiroshima and Nagasaki Day Coalition will be tabling the Local Board of Health's1 1982 document, "Public Health Consequences of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War," which made recommendations, subsequently adopted by Toronto City Council, for a detailed civic policy on the nuclear threat.
Download a PDF scan (4.2Mb) of the 1982 Board of Health document below:
The 1982 Board of Health report was based on the 1981 Symposium on the Medical Consequences of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War organized by Physicians for Social Responsibility.
The pamphlet "You Decide: What one nuclear bomb would do to Toronto" was prepared by Physicians for Social Responsibility for the November 8, 1982 referendum on nuclear weapons authorized by Toronto City Council for that civic election.
In 1983 Mayor Art Eggleton moved that the ballot results of the November 1982 referendum be sent to the House of Commons and that City Council's decision to declare Toronto as a nuclear weapons free zone be sent to the Prime Minister of Canada.
The Toronto Board of Health has compiled all the above documents into a single file, which can be downloaded at: https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2018/hl/comm/communicationfile-79516.pdf
1. The Local Board of Health, which covered the pre-amalgamation City of Toronto, is the immediate predecessor of the post-1998 Toronto board of health.
Douglas Roche's op-ed "Why Canada should sign the treaty banning nuclear arms" was published in The Globe and Mail on July 29, 2017. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/why-canada-should-sign-the-treaty-banning-nuclear-arms/article35827028/
The Globe and Mail published Elizabeth Renzetti's two-page profile of Setsuko Thurlow, "Folio: Hiroshima--An August morning, dark as night, that she can never forget" on August 5, 2017. The on-line article, with additional photographs, is entitled "In Hiroshima, one August morning in 1945 was dark as night--and this woman can't forget it," https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/hiroshima/article35881700/
Ellen Brait, "Commemoration of Hiroshima Bombing Held in Toronto," Toronto Star, August 7, 2017 https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/08/06/commemoration-of-hiroshima-bombing-held-in-toronto.html
Anton Wagner, "UN Votes to Abolish Nuclear Weapons," Nikkei Voice, Summer 2017 wp.me/p4pH38-2M2
Setsuko Thurlow, "Canada needs to embrace peace and sign nuclear ban treaty," Toronto Star, July 26, 2017. www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/07/26/canada-needs-embrace-peace-and-sign-nuclear-ban-treaty.html
Anton Wagner, "How Safe is Toronto from Nuclear Weapons?," Now Magazine, 1 August 2017 nowtoronto.com/news/how-safe-is-toronto-from-nuclear-weapons/
A Canadian Pugwash conference [July 24] urged the Government of Canada to sign the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and “persist in its efforts to bring NATO into conformity with the Treaty.”
Canada, a NATO country, opposed the Treaty in a debate in Parliament, but the conference said the government should “change its own policies and practices” to put it in a stronger position to influence NATO to change its doctrine that nuclear weapons are the “supreme guarantee” of security.
Addressing the conference held in Halifax, N.S., former Canadian Senator Douglas Roche said, “Canada once tried to get NATO to change its nuclear weapons policies; it should try again.”
The conference agreed there is no legal barrier to a NATO state adhering to the Treaty and now is the moment to take advantage of the new political space opened up by the Treaty to revivify nuclear disarmament activity in Canada. Canadian Pugwash is a branch of the international Pugwash movement, which has welcomed the Prohibition Treaty as a “categorial rejection of nuclear arms.”
Nuclear Tipping Point is a conversation with four senior statesmen intimately involved in U.S. diplomacy and security over the last four decades. Former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and former Senator Sam Nunn share the personal experiences that led them to write two Wall Street Journal op-eds in support of working toward a world without nuclear weapons and the steps needed to get there.
In Toronto, individuals and organizations involved in peacebuilding have worked with Toronto City Council on peace measures since World War II.
Selected highlights from a timeline of City of Toronto Peace Actions & Proclamations, Click here for entire timeline document (pdf)
According to the Federation of American Scientists website: fas.org there are over 12,000 nuclear weapons in existence held by nine nuclear weapon states.
by Phyllis Creighton (2009)
Nuclear power and nuclear weapons are Siamese twins. A nuclear reactor designed for electricity production or for use in research is fuelled by uranium. Its operation leaves spent fuel containing plutonium. This plutonium by-product can be recovered and used to make nuclear weapons.
The link between the Siamese twins was hailed from the beginning. The UK Maud Committee on the uranium bomb in 1941 stated: “There must always be a very close relation between exploitation of nuclear energy for military explosive power and for power production in peace and war.” The 1946 Acheson-Lillienthal report on atomic energy control in 1946 echoed it, asserting that “the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes and the development of atomic energy for bombs are in much of their course interchangeable and interdependent.”