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This article was published 25/2/2021 (493 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
Rooj Ali and Avinashpall Singh, two students at River East Collegiate, have been doing just that.
In 2019, the two students, who had been involved with the Manitoba Ethics Bowl, were invited to attend the Nuclear Peace Summit at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
At the summit, students from across North America came together for three days to attend workshops and list to speakers.
"What we’ve learned through this is that Canada, although we don’t possess nuclear weapons of our own, we do contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and we do have nuclear power plants here," Ali said.
In the end, the group drafted a treaty which would have been presented at the international non-proliferation conference, which was cancelled last year owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Following that, things started to take off," said Ali, a Grade 11 student at REC. "We started to get in touch with more people and it took on a life of its own."
"We were able to establish a big network of youth who were engaged on the topic," said Singh, who is in Grade 12.
Ali and Singh decided to try to build off the momentum the Nuclear Peace Summit had built. Working with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Ali and Singh have been working to launch Reverse the Trend, an initiative to engage youth on the frontlines of the fight for nuclear disarmament.
"It focuses on amplifying the voices of these youth and bringing about awareness of the topic and the dangers it holds," Ali explained. "Through our work in this we’ve got to create school curriculums covering a variety of topics on nuclear weapons and power and activism work."
A website for the project (www.rttreversingthetrend.com) was launched digitally on Jan. 21, with more than 130 attendees on the call. The website includes an active forum.
"It’s a great place for young people to make connections and learn about what’s going on," Ali said.
In tandem with their work with Reverse the Trend, Ali and Singh have been involved with the ICAN cities appeal, a global call for cities and towns to support of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
"Cities will bear the brunt of damage in light of a nuclear strike," Singh said.
Some municipalities, such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Victoria, have already signed on, Singh noted. The group hopes to put pressure on the City of Winnipeg to follow suit.
"Municipalities, when they band together, can apply upwards pressure to provincial and national levels, where we can have discussions take place that include youth perspectives," Singh said.
While nuclear proliferation may be heady subject matter, both Singh and Ali believe youth need to learn about the issue.
"Our message is that anyone can really get involved," Ali said. "A lot of youth don’t feel encouraged to get involved. It’s intimidating, it’s a complex topic. But it’s manageable and there are resources in place focused on youth engagement and involvement."
"It’s such a big topic, that it sometimes feels as though you’re helpless," Singh added. "Because we have so many problems that we’ll have to deal with growing up. But a great way to start is awareness and taking initiative to educate ourselves on the topic."
Visit rttreversingthetrend.com for more information.
Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at email@example.com Call him at 204-697-7112