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Weapons-free zones: Taking a stand

Michael Galler — July 1984

At least fifty-three communities across Canada have declared themselves Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZs) as a result of referenda co-sponsored by Project Ploughshares and Operation Dismantle.

The citizens of these municipalities, which include Toronto, Vancouver and Regina, have declared that their cities will not be the sites of production, transit, testing or deployment of nuclear weapons. This is part of a g10bal strategy to progressively increase the area of the world that is free of these weapons, while at the same time promoting grassroots awareness of the peace issue.

According to David Cleary of Project Ploughshares, the declaration that a city is an NWFZ is the first step in the range of possible anti-nuclear activities that can be undertaken at the municipal level. A resolution is drafted for vote in the city or town council, in which the community avows itself to be an official Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone. (If some councillors prove intransigent, citizen support can be raised in order to make local Wards or districts NWFZs.) After that a committee can be set up to examine what legislative measures can be taken to give teeth to the declaration.

The best known example of effective bylaws in support of such resolutions are those enacted by the City Council of Vancouver, where, as a result of fire and building code bylaws, it is now illegal to make or transport nuclear weapons. These bylaws could be subject to constitutional challenge on the grounds that navigation, shipping and international relations are federal powers. However, until successfully challenged, these laws exist and effectively prohibit nuclear war industries from doing business in Vancouver.

Legal considerations aside, Project Ploughshares would like to see people bring the nuclear issue home by declaring their churches, classrooms and workplaces to be Nuclear WeaponsFree Zones, in this way making their concern. visible and spreading the peace message through their communities. More information can be obtained by writing to Project Ploughshares at 450 Rideau St., Ottawa, ON, KIN 5ZA or at xxx-xxxx West 4th Ave., Vancouver, BC, V6J IM7.

The New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone Committee has enjoyed great success with their campaign in New Zealand. They attribute this success to the rapid and thorough dissemination of information and as such, favour increased communication internationally. They welcome exchanges of information. Their address is P.O. Box 18 – 541 Christchurch, New Zealand.

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