Lantern ceremony in Winnipeg calls attention to threat of nuclear weapons

Winnipeggers lit lanterns and set them afloat on the fountain outside the Manitoba Legislature on Saturday evening to call attention to the threat of nuclear war.

The lantern ceremony marks the 77th anniversary of the United States dropping an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.

This year, organizers of the event in Winnipeg hope to put pressure on the Canadian government to sign the 2017 United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

“We’ve seen in recent years that more and more the danger of nuclear confrontation is growing,” said Glenn Michalchuk, chair of Peace Alliance Winnipeg, in an interview with Keisha Paul on CBC Manitoba’s Weekend Morning Show.

Events such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have increased the risk that nuclear war could occur, Michalchuk said.

Observers of the war in Ukraine have worried that Russia could use nuclear weapons.

Many countries belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) have nuclear weapons and most members, including Canada, have not signed the UN treaty.

Last year, Winnipeg city council voted to declare its support for the treaty — one of 14 Canadian cities to do so.

“The question of nuclear weapons … and the danger of nuclear war has really come into the forefront in people’s minds, in a way that I haven’t seen since the early 1980s,” said Michalchuk.

On Saturday, a few dozen people gathered around by the fountain in Memorial Park to write messages of peace on the lanterns, make origami and hear from speakers about the importance of pushing for nuclear disarmament. 

Those speakers included Luca Kennedy, 15, who shared the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who survived the bombing of Nagasaki, three days after Hiroshima.

Sasaki developed leukemia due to radiation poisoning from the bombing, and during her stay in hospital, set herself the goal of folding 1,000 paper cranes.

She died in 1955 at the age of 12 due to leukemia. A novelized version of her story appeared in the book, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.

Two teenage girls are standing side by side, wearing traditional Japanese clothing. They are standing in a park at night, with street lights behind them. On the left in the background, folding tables have been set up and people can be seen standing around them.
Caitlin Busch, left, and Luca Kennedy said Saturday’s event provides an opportunity to reflect on the past. (Cameron MacLean/CBC)

Kennedy and Kaitlyn Busch, 12, attended the event in Winnipeg dressed in traditional Japanese attire. The day marking the anniversary of Hiroshima bombing is an important time to reflect on the past, they said.

“I think it’s important that they’re acknowledging what is done in the past so it doesn’t happen in the future,” Kennedy said in an interview with CBC News after the event.

“It’s important to remember to be responsible,” said Busch. “Knowing what happened and making sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

The event was sponsored by Peace Alliance Winnipeg, Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba, Council of Canadians Winnipeg chapter and the Winnipeg Quakers.

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