In the darkness of the arctic morning the U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber, with four unarmed cruise missiles slung beneath its wings, flew above the Beaufort Sea last week. At the same time, 4,000 km away in Ottawa, Mr. Justice Francis Muldoon of the Federal Court of Canada decided not to grant an injunction against the controversial first test of a cruise missile over Canadian territory. With that, the pilot of the grey-and-green bomber was free to begin a 2,500-km test run to the Canadian Armed Forces air weapons test range at Primrose Lake, Alta. When it was over, U.S. and Canadian defence officials proclaimed the 4 V2 -hour test mission a “very large success.”
For the anticruise protest movement that mission was a discouraging defeat after months of protest demonstrations, petitions and court action. Said James Stark, president of Operation Dismantle, a coalition of 26 antiwar groups and labor unions opposed to the five-year cruise test program in Canada: “It was a battle lost. It is a black day for Canada.”
On the day of the test there were small demonstrations in Ottawa, where six protesters attempted to stage a sitin inside Parliament’s Centre Block, and at the Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake. Later in the week, three people were arrested in Ottawa after an angry confrontation between police and anticruise protesters. A protest march in Toronto attracted about 500 people, while smaller demonstrations were held in other cities.
Operation Dismantle’s last-minute injunction bid began after a U.S. Air Force colonel in Washington inadvertently disclosed the test date five days before it took place. But Muldoon ruled that there was no evidence to support the argument that the test of an unarmed missile would jeopardize Canadians’ rights to life, liberty and security.
In the end, the low-flying B-52 soared virtually unnoticed along the desolate, roughly 140-km-wide flight path, although a handful of protesters at Primrose Lake and at nearby Grand Centre, Alta., claimed that they spotted the aircraft. Military spokesmen said that the test demonstrated the compatibility of U.S. and Canadian monitoring equipment which is intended to detect flaws in the cruise guidance systems over terrain that resembles that of the Soviet Union. Throughout the nonstop flight from the Grand Forks base in North Dakota, the missiles remained securely attached to the B-52, while the guidance system in one missile directed the aircraft.
The anticruise movement may have only one more chance to force a judicial halt to the cruise testing program. The Supreme Court of Canada will rule later this year on whether Operation Dismantle can sue the government for allowing the test program. The next test in Canada is scheduled for the winter of 1985, but in the meantime defence department officials in Ottawa are considering a new list of weapons that the United States wants to test in Canada. As a result, antiwar activists may eventually be setting their sights on radarevading “stealth” cruise missiles, artillery and other weapons systems.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.