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Faith groups hold nuclear hearings

David Orfald — October 1984

TORONTO – Three weeks of hearings will be held this fall to examine the ethical and moral aspects of Canada’s nuclear policies.

Sponsored by the Interfaith Program for Public Awareness of Nuclear Issues, the hearings are being organized through a cooperative effort by five major religious communities in Toronto: Anglican, Baha’i, Jewish, Roman Catholic and United.

Though several of these religious groups have already been involved in nuclear power and nuclear weapons issues, there has never been a comprehensive public hearing of nuclear policies from a moral point of view. Several of the faith groups involved have joined with energy activists over the years in calling for a federal inquiry into the nuclear industry, but so far without success. For some of the participants in the Interfaith Program, this fall’s hearings will be an attempt to make up for the lack of public participation in the past.

Bruce McLeod, minister of Richmond Hill United Church and media spokesperson for the planning committee, says that “Decisions were being made on nuclear policies that had implications for ordinary people, but ordinary people had little chance to participate in their formulation.

“The hearings reflect the need to know and be a part of the discussion process,” said McLeod.

In an attempt to include a wide variety of viewpoints, the planning committee (15 people, with three representatives from each faith group) has built a strong element of balance into the process. Each hearing will be conducted by panels of five to seven people, including such prominent figures as Doris Anderson, Chaviva Hosek, James Ham and David Strangway. As criteria, panel members are to have never made public statements about the issue, and must have “demonstrated their commitment to matters of public and social responsibility. “

Because the hearings are specifically designed to look at the moral and ethical issues, all groups wishing to appear before the hearing panels will be given equal consideration. “It is the intention of these hearings to use the concepts of responsible stewardship, justice, sustainability and participation as measures of the moral acceptability of Canada’s nuclear policies and activities,” says the programme brief.

Each faith group is also developing an awareness programme to follow up on the hearings, to include both special forums and sermons.

The hearings are being divided into three areas of policy: Domestic Nuclear Issues (October 29 to November 2), Canada’s International Nuclear Trade (November 12-16), and Canada’s Involvement in Nuclear Arms (November 26-30).

A report is expected to be completed by the panelists within five months of the hearings.

Although the deadline has now passed to submit briefs for which oral presentation time is requested (September 28), briefs for which oral time is not requested will be accepted up until October 30.

Those interested in receiving a kit explaining the programme may write to Judy Langstaff, Executive Secretary, Interfaith Program for Public Awareness of Nuclear Issues, Room 321, 85 St. Clair Ave. East, Toronto On. M4T I L8. Phone 416/xxx-xxxx.

_This article was reprinted with permission from the Nuclear Free Press, Fall 1984.

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