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Making the freeze an election issue

Ann Rowan — September 1984

“No serious member of the human race could not be for nuclear peace and a nuclear freeze, because what we’re talking about is the potential annihilation of the whole human race.”
Geills Turner

“The freeze has become an hot topic. It has become an issue in the election… The broader peace movement was not sure it would become an issue and it has – so that’s a success which we can all celebrate. “
Jim Stark
Operation Dismantle

It seems everyone is talking about the ‘freeze.’ Early in the election campaign it appeared that economic realities and normal election rhetoric would obscure peace and disarmament issues. However, during the last few weeks, Canadian support for a nuclear freeze has rapidly become a prominent election issue.

The early August announcements by several key Liberal leaders (notably Lloyd Axworthy, Iona Campagnolo and Jean Chretien) that they support a freeze have further increased popular and media interest in this issue. At roughly the same time, Gallup Polls announced that 850j’o of the Canadians it surveyed supported a verifiable nuclear freeze (90% were against, 70% were undecided).

With all the preparatory and grassroots work the peace movement has done for this election, it seems that the freeze issue has captured the attention of both voters and politicians.

In Canada, most disarmament advocates understand support for the freeze to mean support for the bilateral freeze proposal in the United Nations. The latest version (Mexican – Swedish) of this proposal embraces; (1) a comprehensive test ban of nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles; (2) the complete cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons and of their delivery vehicles; (3) a ban on all further deployment of nuclear weapons and of their delivery vehicles; and (4) the complete cessation of the production of fissionable material for weapons purposes. All these measures would be subject to mutually agreed-upon verification procedures.

In the past, Canada has consistently voted against the U.N. freeze proposal. (Trudeau’s argument was that, as a member of NATO, Canada should not break ranks with the NATO opposition to the freeze.) But hopefully, with enough sympathetic and vocal MPs, Canada’s stand on the freeze could be reversed.

‘Canada for the Freeze,’ a campaign organized by Operation Dismantle, certainly deserves credit for bringing the freeze issue to the forefront in Canada. Using the results of the Gallup Poll, organizers set up a telephone bank to survey all the candidates across Canada to get their stands on the freeze. The results have been and will be published, both to inform voters and to pressure candidates into taking a firm stand in support of the freeze.

In the United States, the peace movement’s mechanism for pushing the freeze is called Freeze Voter ’84 — a national political action committee with 41 state affiliates. The central focus of the FV’84 campaign has been a canvassing effort in over 250 U.S. cities to identify supporters of the freeze in each precinct. Freeze Voter ’84 has endorsed over 200 Congressional candidates but has targetted its efforts on 9 Senate and 42 House races they consider ‘winnable.’ They will also be endorsing Democratic candidate Wailter Mondale in the Presidential race.

Organizers feel this present campaign is a more active political campaign than the freeze referenda held in 9’ states in 1982. This year, the peace movement wants to elect representatives who are peace supporters. Rather than limiting their focus to freeze proposals in the U.S. Congress, the U.S. peace movement has become more active in pressing Congress to cut off or to reduce funding for various nuclear weapons.

Supporters of the freeze in Canada, the U.N., the U.S. and elsewhere seem to share the view that the freeze is only a first step toward creating a safer, peaceful world. Disarmament of dangerous and threatening nuclear stockpiles is the key concern of the Canadian peace movement. Consequently, many activists feel that discussion of the freeze should be supplemented. by the broader issues of peace and disarmament. The freeze has become an important campaign issue and can be used as a building block for increasing the size and strength of the Canadian peace movement.