CANADA

Testing the cruise decision

John Hay August 1 1983
CANADA

Testing the cruise decision

John Hay August 1 1983

Testing the cruise decision

CANADA

John Hay

From St. John’s to Yellowknife, the anti-cruise missile movement has gathered momentum for a summer of demonstrations and lobbying. Little knots of pickets formed in front of local Liberal party headquarters in several centres within 24 hours of the announcement that the United States Air Force can start the tests in the North next winter. On Saturday large parades were staged in cities across the country. A “ Refuse the cruise” delegation visited the Canadian Embassy in Washington and rallies, pickets and vigils were held at Canadian consulates in 14 U.S. cities. In Ottawa, a coalition of 26 anti-cruise groups asked the Federal Court of Canada for an injunction to stop the tests.

The activity was intended to show that, even though the government has made its decision, the movement is not giving up on an issue that has become the focus for Canadian peace campaigners over the past year. “People are exasperated,” said anti-cruise activist Valerie Osborne of Dartmouth, N.S. “But they are absolutely determined not to let the matter rest here.”

In St. John’s, protesters marched from city hall to Bannerman Park; a Halifax group held a wrecking of a mock cruise missile. In Toronto, where protesters had been camping in front of

Liberal headquarters since the July 15 cruise announcement, 3,500 protesters marched past the U.S. Consulate. In British Columbia, local peace groups are gearing up to collect anti-cruise petitions from every federal riding in the country. Their sponsors include the Canadian Labour Congress, the Greenpeace environmental organization and church groups. And in Yellowknife last week, about 40 demonstrators stood behind the airport fence when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau landed there on his

northern tour. The cause was not helped when a 24-year-old man calling himself an art student threw red paint on one of the two original copies of the Constitution stored in the National Archives in Ottawa. Police charged Peter R. Greyson of Toronto with mischief and said he had claimed to be protesting cruise testing.

In the Federal Court, groups ranging from the huge Canadian Union of Public Employees to the Cranbrook (B.C.) Citizens for Nuclear Disarmament asked for an injunction on grounds that the tests would violate Canadians’ constitutional right to “life, liberty and security of the person” by fuelling the arms race. Associate Chief Justice James Jerome was expected to set a date sometime in August for an initial hearing. The lawyer for the group, Lawrence Greenspon, said he is “quite confident” that he will at least obtain a hearing for arguments for an interim injunction. Government lawyers, however, are planning a motion to quash the application, arguing that it has no legal merit, that it is “frivolous and vexatious” and that it amounts to an abuse of the judicial process.

For his part, Trudeau repeated his argument that the tests are a contribution to NATO’s so-called two-track strategy adopted in 1979. That involves trying to negotiate an arms control treaty with Moscow while preparing to base cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe later this year if no treaty is reached.

In fact, there is no direct link between the tests and the two-track decision. They were requested by the U.S. Air Force and they involve air-launched cruise missiles fired from B-52 bombers based in the United States—a means of extending the strategic bombers’ range deeper into the Soviet interior. NATO, by contrast, is deploying ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe as intermediate-range weapons. U.S. officials have said that they would want the cruise tests in Canada even if European deployment were cancelled by an arms control treaty. In his Inuvik interview, Trudeau implied that he would reconsider cruise tests if a public “consensus” emerged against the tests. Then he linked such a move to a hypothetical withdrawal from NATO— a move most Canadians would oppose.

Anti-cruise spokesmen dispute Trudeau’s claim that testing the unarmed cruise is no different from flighttraining Royal Air Force fighters over Labrador or holding exercises for German tank crews in Manitoba. They argue that because cruise missiles are so small (about 20 feet long), they are easily hidden from an enemy. That makes their existence hard to verify, which makes reaching an arms-control agreement even more difficult.

The air-launched cruise tests have become a durable and potent symbol for Canadians concerned about the arms race—just as the nuclear freeze idea dominates the U.S. peace movement, and NATO missile deployment has galvanized the European movement. With the issue drawn between the government and its critics, both sides are locked in a battle for public support.

With Diane Luckovo in Vancouver, Shona McKay in Toronto and Stephen Kimber in Halifax.