COMPLIANT CANADA’S WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION: “Incineration without representation”

Published August 28, 2013 by goyodelarosa

“Incineration without representation”[edit source]

Nuclear weapon test Apache, 1956

For the Canadian public, “incineration without representation” led to a popular belief that the doctrine of mutual assured destruction(MAD) was in Canada’s best interest. MAD was the Cold War doctrine which held that as long as both the US and USSR possessed significant nuclear arsenals, any nuclear war would assuredly destroy both nations, thereby discouraging either state from launching any nuclear offensive. For Canadians, MAD was appealing in this light, as Canada was unlikely to emerge from any nuclear exchange unscathed given its position between the two countries, as any missiles shot down before reaching either side would likely fall on Canadian soil.

In Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s 1971 Defence White Paper, this dynamic was noted:

“One of the most important changes in international affairs in recent years had been the increase in stability of nuclear deterrence, and the emergence of what is, in effect, nuclear parity between the United States and the Soviet Union. Each side now has sufficient nuclear strength to assure devastating retaliation in the event of a surprise attack by the other, and thus neither could rationally consider launching a deliberate attack.”[26]

Even as late as 1987, Prime Minister Mulroney’s Defence White Paper acknowledged that, “each superpower now has the capacity to obliterate the other,…the structure of mutual deterrence today is effective and stable. The Government believes that it must remain so.”[27] Given the prospect of “incineration without representation”, Canadians seemed to feel that the doctrine which most encouraged restraint was the strategically soundest one to support.

Canadians were still nervous about US foreign policy, however. In 1950, when U.S. President Harry S. Truman announced that Washington had not entirely ruled out the use of nuclear weapons in Korea, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson recalled the remarks caused Ottawa to collectively “shudder”.[28] One Cold War contemporary observer even remarked that,

“Canadians often think that their neighbour to the south exhibits wild swings of emotional attachments…with other countries; that it is impatient, is prone to making sweeping judgments, and generally lacks sophistication and subtlety in its approach to the Soviet bloc and the cold war.”[29]

However, if Canadian leadership was nervous about US foreign policy, they did not voice their discontent through actions. Canada was consistently and significantly cooperative with the United States when it came to nuclear weapons doctrine and deployments through the Cold War.

Continued cooperation with the US to present[edit source]

NORAD blast doors

The Government of Canada formally agreed to every major North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) strategic document, including those that implied a US strike-first policy.[30] This may suggest that successive Canadian governments were willing to follow US and NATO doctrine even if said doctrine was counter to the publicly favoured (and politically supported) doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction. Professors J.T. Jockel and J.J. Sokolsky explore this assertion in-depth in their article “Canada’s Cold War Nuclear Experience”. Furthermore, Canada allowed for forward deployment of US bombers and participated actively and extensively in theNORAD program; as well, Canada cooperated with the US when it came to research, early warning, surveillance and communications.[31] Canada was second only to West Germany in hosting nuclear related facilities.[32] In short, the Canadian Government was thoroughly committed to supporting US nuclear doctrine and deployments through the Cold War, in spite of any popular reservations concerning this dynamic.

While it has no more permanently stationed nuclear weapons as of 1984, Canada continues to cooperate with the United States and its nuclear weapons program. Canada allows testing of nuclear weapon delivery systems; nuclear weapon carrying vessels are permitted to visit Canadian ports; and aircraft carrying nuclear warheads are permitted to fly in Canadian airspace with the permission of the Canadian government.[33] There is, however, popular objection to this federal policy. Over 60% of Canadians live in cities or areas designated “Nuclear Weapons Free”, reflecting a contemporary disinclination towards nuclear weapons in Canada.[33] Canada also continues to remain under the NATO ‘nuclear umbrella’; even after disarming itself in 1984, Canada has maintained support for nuclear armed nations as doing otherwise would be counter to Canadian NATO commitments.[34]

Chemical weapons[edit source]

During both World War I and World War II, Canada was a major producer and developer of chemical weapons for the Allied war effort. These were used in combat in World War I, but not in World War II. Human experimentation was carried out during World War II, with CFB Suffield becoming the leading research facility. Thousands of Canadian soldiers were exposed to mustard gasblister gastear gas, and other agents, and some were permanently injured as a result.[35] Following both world wars, Canadian military forces returning home were directed to dump millions of tons of unexploded ordnance (UXOs) into the Atlantic Ocean off ports in Nova Scotia; an undetermined amount of these UXOs are known to be chemical weapons.[36] The 1972 London Convention prohibited further marine dumping of UXOs, however the chemical weapons existing off the shores of Nova Scotia for over 60 years continue to bring concern to local communities and the fishing industry.

Human testing of chemical weapons such as sarin and VX gas continued in Canada well into the 1960s, and dangerous defoliation agents were tested at CFB Gagetown from 1956 to 1967. Tests at CFB Gagetown of Agent Orange and the more toxic Agent Purple in 1966 and 1967 caused a variety of acute and chronic illnesses among soldiers and civilians working there.[37] These tests left Canada with large stockpiles of chemical weapons. Canada eventually abandoned the use of lethal chemical weapons, and had to devote a great deal of effort to safely destroying them. Canada ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention on September 26, 1995. Canada still employs Riot control agents which are classified as non-lethal weapons.

Biological weapons[edit source]

Canada had a biological warfare research program in the early to middle part of the 20th century. Canadian research involved developing protections against biowarfare attacks and for offensive purposes, often with the help of the UK and the US.[38] Canada has thus experimented with such things as weaponized anthraxbotulinum toxinricinrinderpestvirus, Rocky Mountain spotted feverplagueBrucellosis and tularemiaCFB Suffield is the leading research centre. Canada says it has destroyed all military stockpiles and no longer conducts toxin warfare research. Canada ratified the Biological Weapons Convention on September 18, 1972.


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