In less than two weeks, the G7 leaders will be meeting in Hiroshima, the first city to be attacked by a nuclear weapon. Because of this history, the G7 leaders cannot dare leave Hiroshima without making concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament. To ensure that concrete action is taken, hundreds of peace and disarmament organizations are ramping up the pressure to show that the world is watching and expecting nuclear disarmament to be a top priority in Hiroshima. As part of this pressure, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and Peaceboat organized a three day youth summit in Hiroshima on April 25-27. The G7 Youth Summit brought 50 young participants from 19 countries together to discuss the path towards nuclear disarmament. Our Project Officer, Gillian Flude, was one of the 50 youth who had the opportunity to participate and we would like to share her thoughts on the summit.
My experience at the G7 Youth Summit was as emotional as it was inspiring. ICAN and Peaceboat organized a busy schedule with educational panels; workshops; and a day dedicated to meeting a nuclear weapon survivor, visiting Peace Park and the Memorial Museum. Hearing about the horrors that nuclear weapons have inflicted, on not just Hiroshima but also on Nagasaki and many Indigenous communities around the world which have been affected by nuclear weapons testing, was deeply emotional. These weapons cause an absolutely unnecessary amount of harm to innocent people, and it is so important that they are never used again. Meeting so many other people from around the world who are dedicated to the same cause of eliminating nuclear weapons was inspiring.
The educational panels featured speakers from diverse backgrounds. We heard from Hiroshima University professors who explained in depth the effects of nuclear weapons; we heard from Pacific Islanders who explained the harm that nuclear weapons testing has inflicted upon them and their land; we heard from ICAN staff who explained the strength of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons; we heard from a former humanitarian lawyer for the International Committee for the Red Cross; and many more. All of these speakers brought personal experience and expertise and were available for questions afterwards. I was grateful to have the opportunity to approach them and make connections with experts who can help me in my advocacy in the future.
The workshops gave the participants an opportunity to speak and learn from each other. I attended the workshop on lobbying leaders, because next week I’ll be attending meetings with Canadian Parliamentarians and I wanted to be as prepared as possible. In that workshop, we shared stories of lobbying activities that worked well and finished the session by writing a cover letter that we could send to Parliamentarians to share our final youth statement. Another workshop I attended was on social media. In that session, we came up with a worldwide social media campaign for ICAN to put pressure on the G7 before they meet on May 19-21. That session was so fun and it was great to come up with a global social media plan in less than two hours!
We also had the chance to attend a film screening of the documentary “8:15”. This is a film produced by Dr. Akiko Mikamo who is the daughter of two Hiroshima survivors, making her existence a miracle. In it, the story of her father and grandfather are told alongside a re-enactment. The film showcased the horrors that just one nuclear weapon, dropped on Hiroshima at 8:15 AM, can inflict upon a city, and a family. After the film, Dr. Akiko Mikamo spoke and gave us the chance to ask her questions. Dr. Akiko Mikamo will be hosting a global screening soon, so I highly recommend you follow the documentary on Instagram (@813documentary) or visit the website (815documentary.com) to watch the film.
I also had the opportunity to speak at a public event that featured a youth representative from each G7 country. I had the chance to share with other youth participants, the Japanese public, and followers on a live stream about my experience in the last two days and what I will be doing when I get back to Canada.
Although this was all incredible, for me, the most valuable experience was the day we met Ms. Keiko Ogura, a Hibakusha (nuclear weapon survivor) who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima when she was eight years old. Ms. Keiko Ogura shared with us her survival story, and how she got where she is today, sharing her traumatic story to people around the world. Ms. Ogura believes that sharing stories and ideas is extremely important because this can help people in all different countries work towards eliminating nuclear weapons. She told us that she not only had physical trauma, but also has “invisible scars.” As she is getting older, and nuclear weapons are still not eliminated, her survivor’s guilt is getting worse. So many Hibakusha have worked tirelessly to ensure nuclear weapons would never be used again. They have come so far, with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) being adopted in 2017, but Ms. Ogura knows that there is still so much to be done. She said that whether there are 10,000 nuclear weapons or one nuclear weapon, she won’t be satisfied until every single one is gone since she knows the harm that just one can inflict. She asked us to continue sharing her story and continue the legacy of the Hibakusha who worked so hard for nuclear disarmament.
After meeting Ms. Keiko Ogura, we had a tour of Peace Park with members of the organization that she founded, Hiroshima Interpreters for Peace. Peace Park is the park that now stands only metres away from the hypocentre. Once a dense neighbourhood filled with life, this entire neighbourhood was destroyed along with almost everyone in it when the bomb was dropped. The park is full of symbolic memorials to remember victims, such as the Pond of Peace which honours those who called out for water with their dying breaths. After the tour of Peace Park, we had time to explore the Memorial Museum. This Museum was filled with stories and items that survived the bombing. As you are going through the museum, you are inside dark rooms with no windows. But as you walk out of the exhibits, there is a great hall with windows from floor to ceiling overlooking the Peace Park. I remember feeling very emotional when I saw all this light after all the darkness. It made me feel like the message of Hiroshima is one of hope. Hope for peace, hope for a world where all human life is protected, and hope for nuclear weapons to never be used again. I know the Hibakusha, the speakers, the ICAN staff, and the 50 youth participants including myself will do everything we can to make sure this becomes a reality and all nuclear weapons are eliminated.
And Canada can play a major role too. Getting nuclear weapons eliminated is going to require world leaders to make a change. We can and will pressure them, but in the end they are the ones who have the power to stop nuclear weapons. We need to make sure that Canada knows that they have this powerful responsibility, and should use it wisely. A nuclear ban is what Canadians want- almost all major cities across Canada, including Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax, have signed the ICAN cities appeal which declares that they are anti-nuclear weapons; 73% of Canadians indicated in a 2021 poll that they want Canada to join the TPNW even if we come under pressure from the US not to do so; and at the G7 Youth Summit Canadian youth demanded that Canada sign the nuclear ban.
Canadians voices are clear- and they are saying no to nukes. Canada needs to reflect the voices of their people at the G7 summit.