Canadian Complicity in Preparations for Nuclear War
By Dr. John M. Clearwater, Author of two recent books:
Weapons: The Untold Story of Canada's Cold War Arsenal" and "U.S. Nuclear
Weapons in Canada"
For decades, the Canadian Government has made empty statements about
non-proliferation and the desire to see the end of nuclear weapons.
However, the activities in which Canada has engaged, and the policies with
which we agreed through both NATO and NORAD, show that the public stance
was a facade. It is time to change this by adopting policies and
undertaking activities which demonstrate a clear support for the 1996
International Court of Justice decision, the Canberra Commission process,
and general proposals for diminishing reliance on nuclear weapons and the
means necessary for producing nuclear weapons.
Canada should immediately:
(1) Terminate support for the testing of nuclear-weapons systems in Canada;
(2) Restrict Canadian participation in NORAD to a strictly air sovereignty
(3) The move to a strictly non-nuclear weapon policy of Canada within NATO,
in line with current and projected weapons deployments;
(4) Terminate overflights involving nuclear materials or nuclear
deployments and war plans;
(5) Terminate port visits involving nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed
(6) Give firm and unequivocal support for the ABM Treaty and reject any
activity that could be seen to impede that treaty;
(7) End the sale and transfer of fissile materials outside of Canada.
Canada must end all nuclear weapons system testing inside Canada, on land,
in the air, and at sea. The CANUS [Canada-U.S.] Test and Evaluation
Agreement of 1983 must be altered to explicitly forbid the testing of
weapons systems which can utilize nuclear weapons or which have been part
of nuclear weapons systems in the past. No hardware or software should be
designed, tested, built or deployed in Canada which are nuclear or which
are a component of nuclear weapons systems, or which support nuclear
weapons systems, or which would be part of an ABM system. In addition,
Canada must renounce and dismantle, or call for the removal of any system
meant to support nuclear war-fighting on the part of other NATO members in
There are no plans to re-equip NORAD forces with nuclear weapons.
However, NORAD is very closely integrated with US Space Command and is
therefore increasingly involved with the US Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)
program. In the long term this might bring nuclear weapons or systems used
against strategic nuclear weapons back into the NORAD arsenal.
Canada, by virtue of being the other partner in NORAD, is becoming
intimately involved in the US ballistic missile defense program. Some 30
of the 110 Canadians at NORAD HQ in Colorado are now serving with US Space
Command, a group engaged in ballistic missile defense activities.
There are those who would promote such activities as a way of having
Canadian staff involved in the US military process and thus of having a
Canadian voice in such activities. However, there is no evidence that
there is such a Canadian voice. Instead, we have seen a steady stream of
Canadian staff with no opinions contrary to the US partner. It is clear
that the Canadian military is not an opposition force in NORAD or Space
Command. It is therefore time for the Canadian Government to take up that
opposition position and withdraw Canadians from activities which are part
of a nuclear war-fighting process, or which contribute to a deterioration
of the ABM Treaty.
With the very real end of the fully operational and multi-faceted nuclear
commitment to NATO Europe, there is hardly a need for the Canadian
government to hold up the fig leaf of alliance cohesion as the rationale
for continued adherence to a dying NATO nuclear policy.
Since there are fewer and fewer nuclear weapons in NATO, and since this
trend appears to be a continuing process begun in 1991 by US President
George Bush, Canada can safely move to declare that it will no longer
participate in the nuclear affairs of NATO. With less than 150 gravity
bombs left in the NATO arsenal, the nuclear policies of NATO have been made
hollow by the actions of the US Government. Canada would not be striking
out on a bold new path, but rather re-aligning policies with a new reality.
Canada must now pledge not to undertake nuclear or nuclear-related
military activities within the NATO context. Canada gave up nuclear
weapons in NATO over 25 years ago; now it is time to give up the pretension
Overflights of Canada by nuclear-armed aircraft began in 1949-50 with the
deployment of continental-based US strategic bomber to the UK, Alaska, and
Goose Bay. Since that time a Cabinet process has been in place for
allowing nuclear overflights of Canada. In addition to the armed
overflights, there are also regular training flights by US Air Force
bombers in various air corridors inside Canada. In the past, this has
included the B-47, B-52 and B-1B bombers. These aircraft are not armed,
but are an integral part of the nuclear war-fighting capability of the
United States. It is time for this to be terminated. Canada no longer has
a compelling rationale for continued participation in the US nuclear
infrastructure. Canada hosts no ICBMs or SLBMs, and there is no reason
that Canadian airspace should continue to host intercontinental bombers
training for nuclear war or deploying for that purpose.
Another aspect of the overflight problem with which the Canadian
government must deal is overflights of non-medical nuclear materials.
Examples include the use of Canadian airspace for the transport of nuclear
cores for British and French atomic testing in the Pacific. This went on
as recently as the last French nuclear test in the Pacific. Although it is
not a great danger to general health, the Canadian government can make a
positive impact on non-proliferation by banning the transportation across
Canada of radioactive items. There is no need for Canada to make it easier
for bomb-builders and proliferants.
Each year the Canadian government allows a great number of ships into our
ports and waterways. The first 135 days of 1997 saw 7 visits from
nuclear-powered vessels. In November 1996 there were six port visits made
by US Navy nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines (SSN).
With the change in US nuclear weapons deployment policy, the only naval
vessels now carrying nuclear weapons are the ballistic missile submarines,
and visits of these ships are fairly rare. There are basically no
nuclear-armed ships visiting Canadian ports. However, there are still a
significant number of nuclear-powered vessels visiting Canada. As long as
the US Navy continues to field an exclusively nuclear-powered submarine
fleet, any submarine visit to Canada will by definition be a nuclear visit.
Given that the US Navy is generally a conventionally-powered fleet, a
change in Canadian policy to disallow nuclear vessels would only affect the
US submarine force and a few aircraft carriers. There is no reason that
ballistic missile submarines should be in Canadian ports, as their task is
to be hidden for up to 90 days on long-range patrols. The nuclear-powered
hunter-killer submarines, although they do not currently carry nuclear
weapons, are still an environmental hazard, and unnecessary to Canadian
defence. US submarines are a greater threat to Canadian sovereignty than
they are an aid to Canadian defence.
Canada can no longer allow nuclear-armed or powered vessels to visit the
ports of Vancouver, Esquimalt, Nanoose Bay, or
Halifax/Dartmouth/Shearwater. It is time to take a strong position by
disallowing both nuclear-armed ships, of which there are an ever-decreasing
number, and nuclear-powered ships, of which there are fairly steady
numbers, from entering Canadian harbours. A firm policy supporting the
ends of the non-proliferation regime, and ensuring the continued health of
local populations must be implemented.
Although signed by the USSR and USA in May 1972, the ABM Treaty retains its
significance in a denuclearizing and increasingly multi-polar, post-Cold
Canada cannot afford to participate in any venture that would call into
question the status of the ABM Treaty or which would directly or indirectly
threaten its very existence. This means that Canada should not participate
in any activity that would in any way contribute to the weakening of the
The ABM Treaty is a significant part of the nuclear relationship, even in
the post-Cold War world. The original importance of the Treaty was that it
codified the place of the USSR in the nuclear balance vis-a-vis the
technologically more advanced USA.
Today, the regime is even more important as arsenals are reduced and
increased reliance placed on fewer and fewer strategic weapons systems and
total deployments. A limited system in either the USA or Russia would do
nothing to actually impede the ability of either to inflict substantial
damage on the other society in case of global thermonuclear war. However,
should the USA move down the road to terminating the ABM Treaty, the
Russians, as they have in the past, would surely follow with an expanded
limited system of their own. This shield would in fact be aimed towards
not the USA, but towards the Chinese with their very limited arsenal. The
Chinese would then see the threat to their strategic forces, and would
probably choose to increase their arsenal by building additional ICBMs and
SLBMs. This in turn would trigger greatly increased military spending and
weapons acquisition throughout Asia as most other countries reacted to the
increased Chinese weapons deployment.
The Canadian people have no interest in promoting more of an arms race in
Asia than already exists. In addition to not participating in any ABM
projects, the Canadian Government must actively lobby the US Government to
terminate any projects that would threaten the ABM Treaty.
It is time for the Canadian Government to take firm hold of the nuclear
industry in this country and completely end the sale and movement of
fissile materials outside of Canada. A complete ban on the outward
movement of fissile materials of every kind must be promptly enacted.
The basis for this new policy is twofold. Firstly, Canadian fissile
products shipped outside of the country can and do directly contribute to
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Even small amounts of
fissile material are important in the research phase of the building of
atomic weapons. Canada cannot afford to be party to proliferating
activities, especially in a time of decreased nuclear arsenals. It is time
to take hold of the strict interpretation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty
and ensure that no fissile material leaves this country. Secondly, Canada
must embrace the principle that activities that produce long-term garbage
for which there is no safe and adequate method of disposal should not be
pursued. Canadian industry continued to produce massive amounts of
radioactive waste that cannot be dealt with, stored, or safely kept. If
you cannot clean up your garbage, don't engage in the activity!
The only exception to this complete ban would be for fissile products used
for medical treatment and medical experimental purposes.
Source: Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign
Affairs, February 8, 1998.
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