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Canadian Museum of Human Rights Hosts Youth Nuclear Peace Summit

By Glenn Turner, Ottawa

Students viewing the "Everything You Treasure-For a World Free from Nuclear Weapons" exhibitionStudents viewing the "Everything You Treasure-For a World
Free from Nuclear Weapons" exhibition (photographed by Glenn Turner)

From October 9 to 11, close to 100 high school students from Canada and the United States gathered for three days to talk about peace  and nuclear disarmament at the first Youth Nuclear Peace Summit, an event organized by a central committee including SGI Canada representatives.

Held at Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Youth Nuclear Peace Summit featured the SGI/ICAN exhibition “Everything You Treasure—For a World Free From Nuclear Weapons,” presentations from guest speakers, workshops on nuclear issues led by students from participating schools, and the writing of a treaty to be presented to the United Nations. Twenty schools from Manitoba, Alberta, Toronto, Ohio, Oregon and California took part in the Summit. The event was supported by several organizations, including Manitoba Education and Training, Rotary District 5550, World Peace Partners, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation of California, and the Indigenous filmmaking organization Wapikoni. Guest speakers included Paul Chappelle (Nuclear Age Peace Foundation), Masako Toki (James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies), Ashton Janvier (Wapikoni), Anne Frisch (University of Wisconsin), Ryan Brouwer (SGI Canada), Kazuhiro Iguchi (Kansai Soka High School), educator Larry Paetkau, and Canadian Senator Marilou McPhedran. Messages were sent by Senator Douglas Roche, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, and Fred Wright, Governor of Rotary District 5550.

Representing SGI Canada, National Youth Leader Ryan Brouwer spoke of second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda’s declaration against nuclear weapons, the hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings), his personal experience of visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the mission of youth toward nuclear disarmament, and the concrete measures to promote peace and dialogue outlined in SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2019 Peace Proposal.

Kansai Soka High School teacher Kazuhiro Iguchi reinforced Ryan’s comments by explaining the aims of Soka education, and showing examples of his students taking action to advocate for nuclear disarmament and global citizenship.

Kansai Soka High School teacher Kazuhiro Iguchi gives a presentation on Soka educationKansai Soka High School teacher Kazuhiro Iguchi gives
a presentation on Soka education

The presentations struck a chord. Subsequent speakers referred back to Ryan and Kazuhiro’s comments and to the exhibition “Everything You Treasure—For a World Free From Nuclear Weapons” that formed a backdrop to the Summit. For many in the audience, this event was the first time they had heard of Daisaku Ikeda or SGI. During the closing activities, all student participants were given a copy of President Ikeda’s 2019 Peace Proposal.

After three days, the students approved the first draft of a youth treaty for nuclear disarmament, and committed to working in their home communities for world peace. They will continue to work on the revision of the treaty which will be presented to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations in 2020. 

The Summit ended with new bookings for the “Everything You Treasure” exhibition, and new proposals for exchanges between schools. Students and teachers made many new friends, and will be keeping in touch. and expanding their network through social media. In the words of organizer Maureen Brouwer, the Youth Nuclear Peace Summit was a success “because of the value created through relationships—one person to one person."