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Canada Feared Coup by USA Over Nanoose Bay PDF Print E-mail
Peace News
Saturday, 11 November 2006 16:11

Canada Feared Coup by USA Over Nanoose Bay

John Clearwater
  - November 6, 2006 - Declassified documents revealed that the as recently as 1997 the Chretien cabinet feared a possible United States-engineered overthrow of the Canadian government. The information was discovered in documents released by the U.S. Air Force in response to a Canadian access to information act request to the department of national defence. The declassified documents form part of the newly-released book ?Just Dummies: Cruise Missile Testing in Canada? by nuclear weapons specialist John Clearwater. The fears came about during the fight over the Nanoose Bay underwater weapons testing range in British Columbia. United States Navy nuclear and conventionally- powered vessels had been using the range since 12 May 1965 for testing underwater nuclear and conventional weapons systems.

http://web.ncf.ca/da710/index.html

In 1976 the Trudeau government signed a new agreement turning Nanoose from a simple torpedo range into one of the most advanced underwater weapons testing facilities in the world. The most significant aspect of the agreement was that Canada could not end US use of the range without US consent.

While Ottawa could not end US use of the range, British Columbia could. The Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that the province was the rightful owner of the seabed. With this victory, BC issued Ottawa a ten year license for the use of the land under Nanoose Bay in 1989 for only $1.00. The catch was that BC could cancel the lease with only 90 days notice.

It was not the nuclear issue which finally caused BC to act against Nanoose, but rather US over fishing of salmon. The US had refused to negotiate in good faith on the Pacific Salmon Treaty, and BC gave 90 days notice that the lease would be cancelled as of 21 August 1997.

The federal government took the threat and action very seriously. Minister of National Defence Art Eggleton was briefed in June 1997 that "denial of access to CFMETR will be viewed by the US as having a direct impact on their national security interests and may lead to a US response out of proportion to the loss of CFMETR itself." Policy chief Dr. Kenneth Calder warned of a high possibility of crippling trade restrictions for failing to support US nuclear deployments.

The Minister was warned that closure of Nanoose threatened by stability of the current Canadian government. Calder gave New Zealand as the terrifying example. He told Eggleton that "the experience of New Zealand is an example of this type of US response. It has suffered serious sanctions in response for denying US nuclear ships access to their harbours.  In addition to ceasing all defence relations, the US imposed trade restrictions on New Zealand." "The political injury to Canada-US relations and the potential linkage to much larger bilateral issues is far greater than the significance of the loss of CFMETR."

Back in 1984 New Zealand had chosen to close its ports to US Naval vessels which would not certify that they were free from nuclear weapons. The US refused to do so, and all of its ships were banned. Retaliation from Washington was swift. To prevent the spread of the dreaded anti-nuclear "Kiwi disease", the USA promptly ended the decades-old military relationship with New Zealand and imposed covert crippling sanctions.

Ottawa was desperate to ensure that the "Kiwi disease" did not spread to Canada through an action against the US Navy at Nanoose. The Chretien cabinet was determined that this example would not have to be repeated against themselves.

The Chretien cabinet was well aware that in 1963 the White House had put its full backing into ensuring the defeat of Diefenbaker's Conservative government over nuclear issues. Failure to deploy nuclear weapons led to the downfall of Diefenbaker, and was a warning to all future Canadian governments.

Cabinet knew that the political injury to Canada-US relations and the potential linkage to much larger bilateral issues was far greater than the significance of the loss of Nanoose. There was no question of Nanoose being a national security matter for the Canadian government. The Minister was informed that failure to hold Nanoose open "could damage Canadian international opportunities such as the Government initiative to establish a NATO Flying Training Centre".

Eggleton was told that "the US is by far Canada's most important defence partner. Canada has over 80 treaty-level agreements and over 250 MOUs with the US for a broad range of defence activities. US politicians and officials increasingly claim Canada is not bearing a responsible share of North American and NATO defence burden. Loss of access to the US Navy would be seen as one more reason to question Canada's reliability as a defence partner." Ottawa has always seen Nanoose as a way of demonstrating to the Pentagon that it remains compliant and mindful of US military desires.

Although the Chretien cabinet could have simply expropriated the land through an order- in-council, they chose to allow a lengthy public hearing process. Over 2300 people registered to speak at the three weeks of hearing held by Justice D.M.M. Goldie in 1999. Goldie never relayed to former minster of public works Alphonz Gagliano the actual objections, but instead provided a list of objectors and classified them by the level of threat they posed to the government on this issue and others in the field of peace and security. The expropriation was ordered on 13 September 1999.

Canadian politicians and generals have long operated under the assumption that failure to live up to US expectations would result in a loss of more sovereignty, and perhaps even outright destabilization of the government itself.

Nanoose, while administered by the Department of National Defence, remains under US control through the terms of the 1976 agreement preventing Canada from ending the relationship.


BRIEFING NOTE:

12 June 1997, Briefing Note for the Minister of National Defence, "Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges (CFMETR)", Commander JED Byrtus (DC Pol), for: Dr. Kenneth J. Calder (ADM Policy, National Defence), Secret (Cabinet Confidence).

SECRET (CC)  (Cabinet Confidence)
BRIEFING NOTE FOR THE MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
"Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges (CFMETR)" ADM Policy, National Defence. 12 June 1997

Impact of Termination of Access to CFMETR.
- Denial of access to CFMETR will be viewed by the US as having a direct impact on their national security interests and may lead to a US response out of proportion to the loss of CFMETR itself.

- The experience of New Zealand is an example of this type of US response.  It has suffered serious sanctions in response for denying US nuclear ships access to their harbours.  In addition to ceasing all defence relations, the US imposed trade restrictions on New Zealand.   

- The US is by far Canada's most important defence partner. Canada has over 80 treaty-level agreements and over 250 MOUs with the US for a broad range of defence activities.

- US politicians and officials increasingly claim Canada is not bearing a responsible share of North American and NATO defence burden. Loss of access to the US Navy would be seen as one more reason to question Canada's reliability as a defence partner.

- Termination of US access to CFMETR could bring into question Canada's commitment to continued cooperation with our allies and could damage Canadian international  opportunities such as the Government initiative to establish a NATO Flying Training Centre in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

- Canada benefits from a rules-based approach to international relations, including those with the US. Termination of US access to CFMETR would undermine our commitment to this principle.  The political injury to Canada-US relations and the potential linkage to much larger bilateral issues is far greater than the significance of the loss of CFMETR.
SECRET (CC)


?Just Dummies: Cruise Missile Testing in Canada?
By John Clearwater
University of Calgary Press
$34.95 sc
November 2006
ISBN 1-55238-211-7
EAN 978-1-55238-211-0
283 pages
15 x 23 cm
Index, Notes, Bibliography
Political Science / History / Military

Last Updated on Saturday, 11 November 2006 16:11
 

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