John Taylor Collegiate alumni Scott Cairns returned to his old stomping grounds on Nov. 27 to discuss his experiences dismantling weapons in Syria.
As part of the high school’s 50th anniversary celebrations, alumni have been invited back to talk to current students about where they are now. Cairns, a John Taylor grad from 1989, was the first former student to speak at the school.
Cairns is part of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.
Cairns attended the University of Manitoba to study chemistry. After graduating, he learned to become a chemical weapons expert at a chemical research and development centre in Alberta.
"It was a fantastic time," Cairns recalled.
Speaking in front of about 200 students in the school’s theatre, Cairns said he’d like the lecture to be informal, welcoming as many questions as possible.
"I’d rather interact with you," Cairns told the audience.
During the talk, Cairns also showed the students photos and video footage, but told them that they were not to be recorded.
Cairns’ job is to destroy chemical weapons. One of the students at the talk asked him how he does that.
Cairns explained the most common way to destroy weapons is through chemical neutralization: to react the chemical with another chemical to turn it into something non-toxic.
Cairns also mentioned during his talk that, as the head of the team, he had to make many difficult decisions which made him unpopular.
"It wasn’t just my life that I was playing with," Cairns said. He added that he endured plenty of sleepless nights trying to make the right decisions for his team.
For more information about John Taylor Collegiate’s 50th anniversary, visit jt50.ca or call 204-888-8930.