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Are Genie missiles to be removed?

Mary Cox — August 1984

In the Comox Valley, the struggle has continued intermittently since 1963 to loosen Canada’s bondage to US militarism.

During the Pearson administration, an undisclosed number of US Genie nuclear warheads were stockpiled at several Canadian bases, including CFB Comox on Vancouver Island. For 20 years, strict US control of these weapons has not ceased. A fleet of aircraft known as CF-IOI Voodoos, equipped for their use, has remained ready to take the weapons into the air whenever an occasion may arise — as it did, in one instance, when a flock of geese was mistaken, on a radar screen, for Soviet planes approaching the continent.

From 1963 onward the implications of this situation have prompted local protest, both spontaneous and organized. Rallies, parades and public education programs have repeatedly signified strong local objection to involvement in US military planning.

In 1975 a summer Peace Camp was maintained in the Comox area following a Peace Walk from Victoria to Comox. In 1974, a member of B.c“s Legislative Assembly, Karen Sanford of Courtenay, gave encouragement to a renewed concern that the country’s independent role as peace-maker, as well as the expressed will of the Canadian people, were still being violated. A large rally assembled just outside the entrance to CFB Comox, motivated by the growing realization that nuclear weapons could never be used without suicidal results, and by acknowledgement that war itself under current circumstances had become inconsistent with planetary survival.

Further demonstrations, during the 1980s, were organized by the Comox Valley Nuclear Responsibility Society. The most recent occasion was a die-in before the CFB Comox entrance gate which took place at the end of Disarmament Week in 1983.

Meanwhile, correspondence with the Defence Ministry has elicited assurance that, with the retirement of the Voodoo fleet during the summer of 1984, the Genie missiles will also be removed from the Comox Valley.

However, while various officials, including the Prime Minister, have for some years projected the imminent removal of nuclear weaponry from Canada, the inconsistcncies in perforrnance of these same officials with respect to Canada’s role as a peace-maker inevitably leave many Canadians questioning the validity of such promises.

As we move into the summer months, here in the Comox Valley, we are aware of changes taking place in the community outside the base. More than 400 families of the base personnel are being shifted to other locations. (Cold Lake, Alberta, is said to have become the centre for Canadian ‘defence’ operations in the west.)

But, since the presence of nuclear weaponry has never been officially “either confirmed or denied,” we are uncertain what is ahead in that department. If, however, the projected removal is not soon reported, there will be a strong reaction.