Former Amnesty International head takes on nuclear weapons
The Canadian movement to abolish nuclear weapons got a big boost this month with former Amnesty International Canadian head Alex Neve taking the helm of a prominent peace group.
In a statement, Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention (CNWC) announced that the well-known human rights activist had been elected as the group’s Chair.
Alex Neve served as Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada’s English Branch from 2000 – 2020, and I have known Alex for about 20 years, personally.
Alex told me that nuclear disarmament is consistent with his career fighting for human rights.
“Taking up the issue of nuclear weapons is not a new or different path for me, because at its core the pressing need to eliminate nuclear weapons is a crucial human rights imperative, and I have devoted my advocacy, research and campaigning efforts to human rights for several decades,” he said. “Nuclear weapons are a terrifying, cataclysmic threat to human rights. One cannot be a human rights advocate and stand on the sidelines of this important struggle.”
He had many important accomplishments while at Amnesty International, including securing the release of Canadian Maher Arar from the clutches of the United States which had detained him wrongfully in a Syrian prison. He also pressured the Harper government for an inquiry into the treatment of Afghan detainees by the Canadian Forces, and Harper responded with the prorogation of Parliament to avoid further scandal, as many charged.
Canadians for Nuclear Weapons Convention was founded in 2010 and is comprised of more than 1000 recipients of the Order of Canada. In United Nations’ parlance, a convention is akin to a treaty, and the group calls on Canada to join like-minded countries in working for comprehensive negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Alex is a recipient of the Order of Canada, and hopes that the group’s high-profile membership will push the government to renew its work for disarmament.
“The CNWC is a tremendous initiative that brings together a remarkable group of Canadians, from all corners of the country and from a wide variety of professional, academic and personal backgrounds, all united in our desire to see more principled and concerted commitment from our government to pursue a multilateral end to the nuclear weapons,” he said.
Many anti-nuclear advocates have been very disappointed with the Liberal government and its dismissive attitude to efforts such as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which Prime Minister Trudeau labeled, “sort of useless.”
Alex remains optimistic. “It is my hope that we will be able to redouble our efforts, through direct engagement with the government and through public advocacy, making it clear that the only acceptable position for Canada to take, domestically and globally, is that nuclear weapons be eliminated, now and for all time.”
Alex Neve is joined by two other prominent Canadians on the CNANW’s steering committee; Paul Meyer and Firdaus Kharas.
- Read “Leading Nuclear Disarmament Group welcomes three eminent Canadians to its Steering Committee,” published on nuclearweaponsconvention.ca on September 18, 2023