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April 23rd Demonstration: ACT against the cruise

Lynn Harrison and Neil Macdonald — April 1983

On April 23 1983 there will be a demonstration at Queen’s Park in Toronto It will he a chance for people to say that they don’t support the testing of the cruise missile in Canada. The outcry of enough Canadians could influence political leaders to block testing of the missile. The demonstration will mark the first anniversary of the Peace Walk held in Vancouver last year, in which more than 30,000 people took part — the largest peace demonstration ever held in Canada.

ACT, a coalition of over 40 peace groups, representing labour, religious, community, and political organizations, has planned the April 23 demonstration in order to make a public statement to the Canadian government. ACT also organized the first major demonstration against the cruise, two days after the signing of the agreement that opened the door to testing various American weaponry in Canada.

Angela Browning, the chairperson of ACT, points Out that the signing of this agreement, the “Canada/U.S (CANUS) Test and Evaluation Program”, was shrouded in secrecy, perhaps because during the months preceding the negotiation, heavy opposition had emerged to ward it. Browning notes that while each specific testing project must be applied for separately, allowing opportunities for Canada to block individual proposals, the agreement states that the Canadian and U.S. governments will together determine the amount of information to be disclosed to the public. There is no guarantee, therefore, that the public will be fully informed of other developments following the signing of the agreement. It is for this reason Browning states, that the public must raise its voice now.

If that voice is not loud enough, government action could be swift, as with the February 10 agreement, which was announced while it was being signed in Washington. By providing for future secrecy. the accord could keep Canadians from being able to respond. And Browning stresses that by demonstrating on April 23, the public can make a strong statement before testing of American nuclear weapons here becomes a reality. Cruise missile testing will define Canada’s role in the Soviet-American arms race, and public reaction to the cruise can forestall that outcome.

As to Canada’s role in the pursuit of world security, Browning feels that here again we must not simply trust the effectiveness of negotiations between political leaders. Many people feel that in international relations Canada should encourage arms control talks between the United States and the Soviet Union. But Browning says that it will be the statement of the people of the world, collectively, rather than a discussion between politicians, that will lead to disarmament. The peace movement is strengthened by the fact, for example, that Canadian protests against the cruise missile are in solidarity with their counterparts in Europe.

The B.C. chapter of Science for Peace says in its paper The Cruise Missile: A Canadian Perspective, “If governments of nations committed to the goal of disarmament were to support the people, very much more could be achieved.” The public opinion may be there, but it must be demonstrated. This is why Angela Browning and ACT are working so hard to bring people together. and why your presence at the April 23 demonstration is so important.