The Price of Peace

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Long after “duck and cover” films taught children how to hide from holocausts

Long after the government stopped measuring strontium in baby teeth

Long after talk of cold wars and bomb shelters had ended

They came to our small town in Canada’s north.

They promised us prosperity

Gave us pamphlets that read “nuclear energy is your friend”

Told us we would have jobs, a university,

A golf course, if we would just let them dump on our land.

Citizens joked that we could have night golf, because the balls would glow in the dark.

The town was hungry, so the council let the feds in

They let them survey the land, infiltrate us with misinformation

Because they didn’t want us to know:

That pregnant women should stay clear of a nuclear dump.

That the machines that would bury the waste would have to be entombed with it

That the concrete that would seal the tomb would last a mere 100 years

That it would take several millennia to make the waste half as dangerous

That the arsenic it contained would kill our children once it entered the groundwater

They had not counted on me:

to give two years of my life to the fight

to insist their meetings be public

to walk the streets with petitions

to force a plebiscite at the next election

I had not counted on:

two years of harassment and trumped-up charges by a corrupt town council

two years of panic, wondering how I would protect my four young children

two years before the feds relented and left

For my letter to Mulroney saying to contain the danger at its source,

put it above ground so leaks can be monitored

don’t move 800,000 cubic tonnes of radiation across the country

there was no reply.

Still it sits in the towns of Port Hope, Wellcome, and Port Granby

Contamination – a parting gift from the Manhattan Project

Cluster cancers thrive there, and vegetables are grown in suspect soil

When we make waste to stop war, such is the price of peace.

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