Setting Up a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone

By Donald Craig

There are two ways to set up a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in your area: Hold a referendum during a municipal or provincial election, or introduce a motion at a City or Town Council meeting.

In Lunenburg County we used the second approach successfully. In early fall we went to four town councils with proposals stating why each community should declare itself a NWFZ. Our appeal included information on NWFZ communities elsewhere in Canada and other countries; an illustration of the proposed sign and its possible locations, and the cost of materials and construction. We also included an estimate of the money and work our group was prepared to contribute and the wording of the motion we wanted each council to pass.

Next, we familiarized ourselves with the municipal process. We submitted a typed motion to the municipal clerk so it could be included on the council agenda and copies could be distributed to all council members. (The members do not receive their agenda and meeting papers well in advance, it's a good idea to mail individual copies of the motion yourself.)

At the council meeting we kept our presentation from the floor short. Town council meetings take forever and are exhausting so it's best to assign speaking roles in advance to people who really know the issue and can answer questions from council.

The questions we faced dealt with legality and costs. The legal issue centred on the claim that towns don't have the authority to declare themselves NWFZs -- that only the federal government has this right. In response, your group could have a supporter (ideally a lawyer) cite the numerous communities in Canada that are NWFZs and point out that the laws haven't interfered. (You might add that Canada has an official NWFZ policy.)

Council may argue: "If the town puts up signs for one group, we'll have to do it for everybody." In reply, point out that the town will be declaring itself a NWFZ, thus affirming and publicizing its own decision, not that of your organization.

Finally, the larger centres may fear losing defence contracts and the jobs that go with them. This form of opposition must be anticipated and countered with an effective, well-researched argument. Get help from experts in your community and the resource organizations below.

Encourage the media to attend the council meeting especially if you have friends among reporters and friends on council who can be counted on to make strong arguments in your favor. Prepared news releases can be sent to weekly and community papers and to the local radio station if they do not cover the meeting.

Finally, follow-up details must be worked out. Cost sharing must be arranged -- it's advisable to consult with the town engineer or supervisor of public works well in advance of your council presentation. Signs, posts, and exact locations must meet town criteria. Those put outside the town or city limits may need to be approved by the provincial Department of Highways or Transportation while signs within town limits are subject to town authority, but may need approval or a permit from a county planning commission.

Good luck in declaring your community a NWFZ!

References:

THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS FREE ZONE CLEARING HOUSE, 25 Dundana Ave., Dundas, Ontario L9H 4E5. Specializes in NWFZ ideas, materials and networking across Canada and puts out periodic bulletins.

PROJECT PLOUGHSHARES, Conrad Grebel College, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G6. Has NWFZ resources and materials -- write for flyer.

Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1987

Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1987, page 15. Some rights reserved.

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