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Cruise Missile Testing-Update

Phillip Abrahams — March 1983

Nearly one year ago it became widely known that the Canadian and U.S. governments were negotiating the testing of cruise missiles on Canadian soil. In the intervening months popular opposition to the project intensified, and the peace movement expanded rapidly. Gallup polls in both January and February indicate that the majority of Canadians are NOT in favour of cruise missile testing in Canada. Nevertheless on February 10th, a secret ceremony in Washington, D.C., witnessed the signing of the “Canada/U.S. (Canus) Test and Evaluation Program”. This document ratified in principle the testing of a wide range of U.S. military equipment.

Minister for External Affairs, Allan MacEachen, was quick to point out the agreement does not constitute approval for cruise missile testing. in fact, the pact requires the U.S. to lodge a specific application for each “Test and Evaluation Project”, and Section Three states that Canada may refuse any project the U.S. proposes.

While some interpret CANUS as a victory for the anti-nuclear lobby, others argue the accord has paved the way for future weapon testing in Canada. Generally however, optimism has been generated around the fact that all weapon testing projects require approval on an individual basis.

Such optimism is unfounded, unfortunately, as it ignores the implicit danger of the CANUS agreement; which, if not recognized and acted upon, could prove damaging to the anti-cruise movement. With the stroke of an ambassador’s pen, cruise testing was removed from the political agenda and redefined as an administrative issue. The implications of this are immense.

Consider the manner in which CANUS came into being and the provisions for its implementation. In the ten months following the announcement of the cruise testing negotiations various anti-cruise lobbies, public pressure groups and politicians from all parties demanded the cruise issue be brought up for debate in parliament. Public sentiment was strongly against U.S. military testing on Canadian soil, yet Allan MacEachen was unmoved. Without advance notice, on February 10th, 1983, he announced to MP’s that the CANUS agreement was more or less simultaneously being signed in Washington. Because of the manner in which the pact was presented, as “Noted No.84” from Canada to the U.S., it did not have to be approved by the Canadian parliament or the American Congress. Similarly, when the U.S. makes its request for permission to test cruise missiles on Canadian soil, neither parliament nor Congress will have the rights to vote. In fact, such projects need only be mutually agreed upon by the Minister of National Defense on behalf of Canada and the Secretary of Defense on behalf of the U.S., or by their designated representatives, in effect, a rubber seal is all that is needed.

Moreover, we may not be informed about government approval of a cruise testing project. Section 17 of the agreement notes that “the release of information to the public concerning any project under this Agreement shall require prior consultation and coordination between appropriate Canadian and U.S. authorities”.

One cannot help interpreting this as a sign that the Canadian government is committed to cruise missile testing, as well as to stifling debate over the issue. By relegating the decision to a backroom of the Ministry of National Defense, they are giving tacit approval and in effect trying to squelch the anti-cruise campaign.

Now, more than ever, the voice of the anti-cruise lobby and all other peace groups must rise up and keep the issue alive and hopeful.