As an introduction, Satoko Norimatsu, the founder of Peace Philosophy Centre, talked about how she felt a real urge to do something about the issue when she saw the photographs of sick children in Iraq at the workshop on the DU(Depleted Uranium) issue during the 2006 World Peace Forum in Vancouver.
Before my presentation, the participants watched the DVD "Unknown Terror of DU - Iraqi Children Now - " (NO DU Hiroshima, 2005), in which Naomi Toyoda, a Japanese photo journalist, reported what happened in Iraq, where DU weapons had been used. His video report showed many children with cancers crying in the hospitals, one of the Gulf War veterans claiming his health problems and his daughter’s deformed hand being caused by his exposure to DU dust, and a Geiger counter reacting to the high level radiation from destroyed and abandoned tanks and buildings in Iraq. After the video, I showed some pictures of the conference in New York and some drawings made by Iraqi children displayed by JIM-NET, a Japan-based organization that provides medical support to children in Iraq.
I started my presentation with some scientific aspects of DU and how people were contaminated by the toxic materials. First, depleted uranium is radioactive and uranium itself is a toxic heavy metal that can damage DNA. Second, the high temperature of DU fire can turn not only DU penetrators but also other metals used for tanks or buildings into something more like gas, which would be easily inhaled by the people in the battlefields. Third, researchers found that workers and nearby residents of facilities manufacturing uranium weapons or nuclear products, such as the National Lead Industry in Colony, New York and Nuclear Metals Inc. in Massachusetts, were also contaminated by DU that were incinerated or dumped at the sites under the poor control of their facilities.
Next, I reported the current situation of the international campaign for banning uranium weapons. For example, activists in Belgium held events on DU weapons in many places and launched a letter-writing campaign to raise awareness of the issue among politicians and the public. Thanks to the campaign, Belgium became the first country to ban uranium weapons. In the US, some veterans devoted their energy to get the veteran-testing-bills passed, being supported by police or fire department unions. Now, eight states have passed the laws. In addition, some activists actually bought shares of Alliant Techsystems in Minneapolis, Minnesota that produced uranium weapons, and tried to attend its annual general meeting in order to stop them from making those weapons. From Costa Rica, Damacio Lopez, the director and founder of the International DU Study Team, spoke at the conference and brought the fact that DU weapons were used during the US invasion of Panama in 1989. Now the movement to ban uranium weapons has spread across Latin America.
Finally, I explained the reason why Canada had to care about the uranium issues and what we can do. According to Jim Harding, the author of a book “Canada’s Deadly Secret,” Saskatchewan is a leading region to produce and export uranium in the world. The environments around the mining sites have been contaminated, violating the rights of the First Nations and exploiting their lands. Donna Dillman, a member of the Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU), began her hunger strike on October 8 outside of the uranium mining site near Sharbot Lake in the Eastern Ontario, and the strike still continues. At the end I suggested four examples of what we could do to stop making and using uranium weapons, and mining uranium : join the Global Disinvestment Campaign, sign and collect petitions, send an e-mail and a letter to governments, and tell people about the issue.
After the presentation, some participants said that uranium weapons and uranium mining issues should become widely known in Canada. I hope that their voices would reach the Canadian government to vote in favor of the DU resolution in the next UN plenary assembly.
I would like to say big thanks to Satoko because my original interest in the DU weapon issue was inspired by a workshop that she held a year ago and I could not have given this presentation without a big support from her. I really appreciate of her. Moreover, for those who participated in the event, thank you so much for coming. For those who answered my questions to make details in my presentation accurate, I deeply appreciate them. I hope this event would be another big step for the movement to ban uranium weapons and to stop uranium mining in Canada. Leave uranium under the ground!