The Bo­marc mis­sile was our dirty lit­tle se­cret

Calgary Sun - - NEWS - ROBERT SMOL

Dur­ing the 1960s and ’70s, the pros­per­ous bed­room com­mu­nity north of Mon­treal where I lived a care­free child­hood had a dirty lit­tle se­cret.

One that, thank­fully, never came to haunt me.

Fifty-five years ago — on Dec. 31, 1963 — the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment of Lester Pear­son for­mally ac­quired Amer­i­can-con­trolled nu­clear weapons for use by the Cana­dian mil­i­tary.

Among the RCAF Squadrons stood up specif­i­cally for this pur­pose was RCAF 447 Sur­face to Air (SAM) Squadron at La­Macaza near Mont Trem­blant, a mere hour and change drive from my child­hood home.

This and its sis­ter squadron, 446 SAM at North Bay, Ont., com­bined housed 56 Cana­dian Bo­marc mis­siles — each car­ry­ing a 10-kilo­ton nu­clear war­head main­tained, armed and jeal­ously guarded by in-house Amer­i­can ser­vice­men.

Their mis­sion, in lay­man terms, was to get the Bo­marc war­head to det­o­nate in the air close enough to the in­com­ing So­viet bombers so as to de­stroy, avert or at least de­lay their fur­ther progress on their tar­gets.

But the Cana­dian and Amer­i­can of­fi­cers and NCOs who guarded, ser­viced and stood by ready to launch these U.S man­u­fac­tured and nu­clear-tipped Cana­dian Bo­marcs were by no means alone. RCAF and Army bases, across Canada and into Europe, served as multi-faceted pur­vey­ors of U.S. nu­clear weapons.

The Bo­marcs’ Cana­dian “de­liv­ery-boy” sys­tems for these Amer­i­can nu­clear weapons in­cluded RCAF Voodoo and Starfighter squadrons in the air and MGR-1 Hon­est John Tac­ti­cal Nu­clear weapons manned by the Royal Cana­dian Ar­tillery.

How­ever, a most delectably fright­en­ing sce­nario for Lib­eral-led Canada in the 1960s and ’70s would have been the fact that, had the Avro Ar­row pro­ceeded to full pro­duc­tion, it could well have be­come the sin­gle most ac­cu­rate al­lied fighter in­ter­cep­tor for the de­liv­ery of nu­clear mis­siles against So­viet bombers. Imag­ine that.

Though ac­tual de­liv­ery sys­tems were to change and con­sol­i­date over time, the Cana­dian Armed Forces con­tin­ued to use tac­ti­cal nu­clear weapons un­til 1984, which, iron­i­cally, hap­pened to be the same year Pierre Trudeau fi­nally left of­fice. To put it an­other way, only when Con­ser­va­tive Brian Mul­roney took of­fice did the Cana­dian Armed Forces of­fi­cially be­come “nuke-free” again.

Upon re­flec­tion, our gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary’s shrewdly dual-minded, 20-year in-house nu­clear af­fair with the U.S. had all the clas­sic hall­marks of Lib­eral de­fence: Dilly-dal­ly­ing that sym­bol­ized the dawn of this coun­try’s slow de­cline into quasi-colo­nial U.S. de­fence de­pen­dency.

Po­lit­i­cally, I must ad­mit that Lib­eral gov­ern­ments of the ’60s and ’70s were shrewd!

Know­ing that full mem­ber­ship in the “nu­clear club” would alien­ate and anger much of their base, the Pear­son-Trudeau po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty opted in­stead for car­rier sta­tus, of­fi­cially leav­ing ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity for the det­o­na­tion of Cana­dian-car­ried nu­clear weapons to the ap­pro­pri­ate U.S. author­ity.

Of course, for what it was worth, nu­clear re­lease of Cana­dian-car­ried U.S. nu­clear war­heads had to be con­curred by Canada, as well. But just how se­ri­ous would a pos­si­ble Pear­son/Trudeau gov­ern­ment “No” have been?

If the U.S. chose to act alone, over Canada, against the Sovi­ets would we have had the chutz­pah to stand up to both?

So by de­fault, the true ge­nius of Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s nu­clear “af­fair” with the U.S. was that, depend­ing on the per­ceived out­come, the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment could po­lit­i­cally as­so­ciate, or dis­as­so­ci­ate it­self from the fall­out (po­lit­i­cally and ra­dioac­tively) of any Cana­dian mil­i­tary pur­veyance of U.S. nu­clear tipped war­heads over Canada.

As much as it suited us, we could say that we were an ac­tive part of it. Like­wise, as much as it suited us, we could say that it was ul­ti­mately not our fault.

Mean­while, what might have be­come of any Cana­dian in­hab­i­tants or ter­ri­tory di­rectly un­der­neath the nu­clear ex­change was to be the prob­lem of the Cana­dian Mili­tia, which, in­ci­den­tally, was brought kick­ing and scream­ing into the civil de­fence and evac­u­a­tion busi­ness.

Thank­fully, all the ar­range­ments that gen­er­ated the Cana­dian in-house af­fair with U.S. nu­clear weapons are long over. Dare in­stead to imag­ine a “Don­ald Trump” nu­clear head at­tached to an outdated Justin Trudeau “shaft” fight­ing for Canada and you can rest as­sured that the end of the world as we know it has ar­rived!




Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.