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Pain For The World
by Gideon Forman

A COLLECTION of papers given at an inquiry into Canadian defence policy and nuclear arms, The True North Strong and Free? is an eclectic work, both in terms of subject matter and point of view. Peace activists, a member of the armed forces, and government officials are the authors of its 15 essays, and while they agree on the priority of nuclear war's prevention they differ as to what means will secure it.

Dr. Dorothy Goresky, founding president of the B.C. chap.ter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, suggests that in order to act for peace we must develop a visceral understanding of atomic warfare. We must imagine its effects and allow ourselves to experience "pain for the world." If Goresky is correct ? and I believe she is ? the implication for peace movements is clear: to mobilize the public they must make the issue tangible, they must help us become emotional. "This experience of pain for the world is something new and strange for most of us. But I believe the survival of our earth depends on our experiencing such pain."

Laurie MacBride and Douglas Urner, activists who are working to convert a Vancouver Island weapons facility into a non?military institution, stress that peace work must be done at both the national and the grass?roots level. Law?makers must be lobbied in Ottawa and, perhaps more important, citizens must be reached locally. Within the community, the peace movement should be, among other, things, a catalyst for dialogue, a source of ideas. MacBride and Urner's group suggests that islanders consider several alternatives for their military base, among them conversion into a marine research station or a pulp?mill waste recycling plant.

Both MacBride and Wendy Wright, the Toronto Disarma ment Network coordinator, emphasize that effective peace making depends upon individuals overcoming their isolation. "People in this society," explains Wright, "are not raised to believe they can cause change. Rather, they are raised to feel isolated, cut off and fragmented..." Although generally vague on what measures would eliminate this solitude, Wright is helpful in suggesting we participate in activities of the Canadian Peace Alliance.

Ralph Lysyshyn, director of the Disarmament and Arms Control Division of External Affairs and Brigadier?General Don Macnamara argue that Canada serves the cause of peace by contributing to NATO. Our presence in the organization helps maintain "the balance of forces that will deter aggression by the Warsaw Pact" and gains us a seat at arms control discussions. Gwynne Dyer, on the other hand, argues for Canadian non?alignment. By withdrawing from NATO we would be helping to dismantle "the alliances that confirm in everybody's mind on the other side ... that we are ganging up on them. . ." If the Warsaw Pact feels less threatened, the world is safer.

I am sympathetic to Dyer's proposal and as such feel a particular dissatisfaction with the fact he does not discuss its implementation. Unfortunately, several of the essayists are deficient in this respect. They outline useful goals but do not suggest ways in which readers could help achieve them. As one who is passionately concerned about the possibility of global destruction, I am increasingly frustrated ? and trust many others at& ? by vague exhortations to "think about the future in terms of a more just international order. . ." or to "stimulate a new ethic based on global cooperation and the reconciliation of people." If these words of Geoffrey Pearson and Douglas Roche invite concern they offer nothing in the way of a detailed peacemaking strategy. Political analysis is not to be belittled; but when its author fags to extract from it specific plans for change he does a disservice to the situation's urgency.

Lawyers and the Nuclear Debate, the proceedings of the Canadian Conference on Nuclear Weapons and the Law, deals with several issues, of which the most interesting are the legal status of nuclear weapons and the responsibility of lawyers. On the first question ? which has two parts: is it legal to possess the weapons and is it legal to use them the conference reached no consensus. Some experts argued that, for example, in the case of certain 'military targets use is permitted, while others maintained that under international humanitarian law it is never permitted. Of course, as a number of the lawyers pointed out, a simple declaration of illegality would hardly prevent nuclear weapon states from employing their arsenals if they so desired. Such a declaration would be valuable only as an organizing tool.

Most exciting to me were the, papers given by Professors Burns Weston and John Dugard. These lawyers outlined concrete ways in which members of the legal profession could work for peace. Weston suggested lawyers use their negotiating skills to seek "common ground for arms control and arms reduction agreements with the Soviet Union." Dugard argued the lawyer has a role to play in legal challenges to nuclear weapons. If successful they would "serve to deprive nuclear weapons of legitimacy, and thereby help to mobilise public opinion against them."

Had the authors in these books followed the lead of Weston and Dugard, they might have written better papers, and readers would have been given a clearer idea of how to proceed.


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