Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace


Posted by strattof on August 9, 2013

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a city of 350,000. The bomb instantly killed a third of the population, most of them civilians. Three days later, it dropped another atomic bomb, this time on Nagasaki. It too killed tens of thousands of people. In both cities, many more would be dead by the year’s end, as a result of injuries and radiation poisoning.


Canada has never produced an atomic bomb itself, despite having the technical ability to do so. However, Canada’s nuclear record is not innocent. Indeed, Canada has been very much involved in the nuclear arms industry from the beginning.

1942–1969: TRADING ATOMS

  • Canada started trading atoms in 1942 when it joined the US nuclear bomb effort known as the Manhattan Project, providing scientific skill and uranium to US weapons laboratories.  
  •  Canada was the primary source of the uranium used in making the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The uranium came from Port Radium, North West Territories, and was refined at Port Hope, Ontario.
  •  Between 1945 and 1969, Canada was the main supplier of uranium for the Cold War atomic arsenals of the US and Britain. According to one estimate, Saskatchewan uranium alone was used to produce 27,000 American nuclear weapons. 
  • In 1970, Canada signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Officially, Canada now exports uranium exclusively for the generation of electricity. However, much of that uranium, whether exported raw or as fuel in a nuclear reactor, ends up being used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.


  • In 1974, India used a Canadian nuclear reactor to produce plutonium for its first atomic bomb. The reactor, a forerunner of the CANDU reactor, was a gift to India from Canada. India now has between 40 and 95 nuclear weapons.
  • India’s nuclear success set off a nuclear arms race with Pakistan. In 1998, Pakistan was able to detonate its first atomic explosion also using plutonium from a Canadian nuclear reactor. The on-going tension between India and Pakistan poses one of the greatest risks of nuclear war in the world today.
  •  Canada has already sold CANDU nuclear reactors to Argentina, China, India, Pakistan, Romania, and South Korea. CANDU produces larger volumes of plutonium than other commercial reactors. Every CANDU reactor that has been sold has been heavily subsidized by Canadian taxpayers.
  •  In 2011, the federal government sold CANDU to SNC-Lavalin.


Saskatchewan is Canada’s only producer of uranium. Our province accounts for 20% of world production.


In April of this year, Canada announced a deal to sell uranium to India. Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Brad Wall praised the deal. India, which already has over 100 nuclear weapons, has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


In 2012, the Harper government made a trade deal with China which allows Cameco, the world’s third largest uranium producer, to sell uranium to China.

United States

Most of Saskatchewan uranium is exported to the United States.

This uranium is the initial source of much, if not all, of the depleted uranium currently being used by the US military for the production of depleted uranium weaponry. A form of low-level nuclear warfare, depleted uranium weapons are classified as weapons of mass destruction under international law. Their demonstrated public health effects include cancer, immune system failings, kidney damage, and birth defects. The US has used depleted uranium weaponry in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, and Kosovo. 


68 years after the nuclear desolation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the proliferation of nuclear weapons continues. This is despite the fact that all but 4 countries (India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea) are parties to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

By exporting uranium and nuclear reactors, Canada, one of the original signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has played a key role in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Here are two other ways in which Canada undermines the logic of the treaty:  

  • Canada is never critical of US use of depleted uranium in wars, not even those wars in which Canada is also involved as an ally.
  • Hypocritically, Canada regularly calls for new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, but it never asks Israel to give up its sizable, undeclared arsenal of nuclear weapons or to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty.


The Strategy

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has initiated a Global Parliamentary Appeal for a Nuclear Weapons Ban. The strategy is brilliant: to collect signatures from parliamentarians all over the world who support the appeal.

Who’s Involved?, a Canadian public policy research and advocacy group, is helping to collect the signatures of Canadian parliamentarians. Regina’s own Making Peace Vigil has joined the campaign.

What You Can Do

  • Sign a petition calling on all national governments to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons and leading to their complete eradication. We have petitions with us at the vigil.
  • Send a letter and a copy of the ICAN Global Parliamentary Appeal for a Nuclear Weapons Ban to both your MLA and MP, asking them to endorse and send it to ICAN. We can supply you with a letter and a copy of the appeal. They are also available at:  

“If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.”  – Albert Einstein, instrumental in facilitating the development of the atomic bomb

“The message I bring is simple, and so is the question I ask. The message is that we cannot live indefinitely with nuclear weapons. The question is, do you agree?” John Polanyi, Canadian chemist who won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry


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