Seventy years ago on August 6, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9, a second bomb fell on Nagasaki. Since then, no atomic bomb has been fired at an enemy target, but nine countries, including the U.S., together possess more than 15,000 nuclear weapons.
Members of the Kootenay Region Branch of the United Nations Associations in Canada (KRUNA) marked the anniversary of Hiroshima with a memorial at the Mir Centre for Peace on Thursday, and called for nuclear disarmament.
Billie-Jo Brey, a member of the Sinixt Nation, attended with her family and said a prayer for peace and unity.
Brey is from the U.S. and part of her heritage is directly tied to the Downwinders who were exposed to radiation through nuclear testing. Her grandmother died from thyroid disease, and she and her mother also have thyroid disease.
“I still today suffer from the different effects caused by that,” Brey said.
A study released by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in October 1997 found that Iodine-131 (I-131), which is released when an atomic bomb detonates, was deposited everywhere in the U.S. as a result of nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site.
The NCI study also looked at the correlation between I-131 and thyroid cancer, and though it was unable to draw any concrete conclusions, it noted that “thyroid cancer increased in those populations of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia most affected by the Chernobyl accident.”
Though the last known nuclear test took place in 1992, as of March 2, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice had awarded over $2 billion under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. The act offers compensation to “individuals who contracted certain illnesses following exposure to radiation as a result of the United States’ atmospheric nuclear testing program and uranium ore processing operations during the Cold War.”
Alex Atamanenko, MP for B.C. Southern Interior, also attended the event, and called on the Canadian government to step up and push for nuclear disarmament.
“Canada certainly needs to step up to the plate,” he said. “You know, we’ve either been abstaining from important votes, or blocking other votes, and I think it’s time to call on this country to step up and start this attack … on the abolition of nuclear weapons.”
Canada voted against a United Nations resolution calling for urgent negotiations regarding nuclear weapons “to prohibit their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer and use or threat of use, and to provide for their destruction” in December 2013, but voted for a resolution to have nuclear countries speed up disarmament efforts in October 2014.
But Canada also voted against two other resolutions in October 2014.
Canada was one of four countries—including the United States, Micronesia, and Israel—to vote against a resolution asking Israel “not to develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, to renounce possession of nuclear weapons and to place all its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities under fullscope Agency safeguards.”
And Canada voted against a resolution calling for “negotiations in order to reach agreement on an international convention prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.”
Canada’s official policy is to support the non-proliferation, reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons.
Attendees at the memorial sang songs of peace in both English and Russian, and everyone who spoke was adamant that Canadians take a stand against the continued use of nuclear weapons.