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First US cruise test prompts quick peace movement response

Jon Spencer — April 1984

On Tuesday, March 6, a US B-52 bomber, with four cruise missiles slung under its wings, flew down from the Beaufort Sea along the Mackenzie Valley to Cold Lake, Alberta, before returning to its North Dakota base.

The exact date of the testing had not been announced until several days prior to the test. Peace groups across the country had previously arranged a number of protests which could be scheduled once the date was made public. Still more activities were. hastily planned at the last minute.

In Ottawa, Operation Dismantle had filed a suit in federal court seeking a temporary injunction against the test, pending the outcome of the appeal currently before the Supreme Court of Canada. On the morning of March 6, a federal court judge decided that there was insufficient evidence that the test violated the Charter of Rights, and allowed the test to take place as scheduled.

Also on Cruise Day, the newly formed Institute for the Peaceful Use of Technology (INPUT) staged a demonstration outside Ottawa’s Congress Centre to protest the government -sponsored high-technology export conference.

At 10 am, Families Against Cruise Testing, a group of mothers, fathers and children, gathered at Parliament Hill; and at noon another 100 people gathered on the Hill for a half-hour demonstration.

In the House of Commons, MP Pauline Jewett, saying it was a “dark day of Canadian history,” called on the government to negotiate an end to the testing.

On Saturday, March 10, about 300 Ottawa residents joined in the national day of protest. The day ended on a sour note for some, however, when a demonstrator spray-painted “No Cruise” on a downtown office building where some offices are owned by Litton Industries. Numerous activists commented later that they were disappointed because the protestor ran from security guards before being arrested.

Cruise Week in Toronto, as in many other cities, was characterized by a wave of protests, both before and after the test. on Monday, March 5; about a hundred disarmament protestors from a variety of organizations gathered to meet Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau at Convocation Hall, on the University of Toronto campus.

Trudeau had come to address an audience composed almost entirely of Young Liberals, who asked only friendly questions and applauded his remarks uncritically. A number of disarmament activists tried to get into the hall, but only two or three succeeded, and the question period was cut off just as a well-known campus peace activist got to the microphone. No question was asked about the next day’s cruise test. Trudeau did maintain his criticism o( the US invasion of Grenada; he also said that most of the goals of his peace initiative had been met, and he claimed that both he and Ronald Reagan sincerely desire disarmament.

Several hours after the next day’s test, members of Toronto’s Against Cruise Testing (ACT) coalition staged a mock funeral procession through the downtown area to a ‘die-in’ in front of the Eaton Centre. That evening, a crowd of seventy protesters attempted to make their feelings known at a sesquicentennial party at City Hall, as Trudeau turned the sod for Toronto’s Peace Garden.

On the evening of Friday, March 9, about. six hundred disarmament activists joined in a spirited rally at Bloor St. United Church to protest the testing of the cruise missile over Canada. The rally, which was sponsored by the Toronto Disarmament Network in support of the Peace Petition Caravan Campaign, featured speeches by David Kraft (TON), Bob White (United Auto Workers), Rosalie Bertell (Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice), and Laurie Bell (Youth Corps), along with music provided by Marie-Lynn Hammond and Bob Bossin, and by Tish McSorley and Matthew Clark. The crowd responded enthusiastically, and many felt it was the most spirited disarmament rally Toronto has yet seen. The energy and determination promise well for the success of the PPCC.

The following afternoon, ACT held a demonstration and a rally as part of the national day of protest. The downtown rally attracted about 1,000 people. The event had to be postponed by one hour so that it could be attended by people who had marched as part of International Women’s Day earlier in the day.

Other protests took place in cities across Canada. In Halifax, a March 10 demonstration drew one hundred people despite adverse weather conditions. The theme of the high-spirited march and rally was “We are still here. We will not be silenced. STOP testing the cruise.”

A quiet protest was also held at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake, attended by some 200 people, some of whom had travelled hundreds of miles.

“This is a sad day for Canada,” said Cold Lake resident Doris Zelinsky. “The government refuses to listen to the people.”

This article was compiled thanks to reports filed by Roy McFarlane, Andrea Currie and Matthew Clark.

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