"The government feared people who disagreed with it during a time of a national emergency."
War historian John Clearwater uncovered this while researching his new book “Just Dummies: Cruise Missile Testing in Canada.”
Ottawa was shaken by the widespread opposition to cruise missile testing. Tthe RCMP and the CSIS were known to keep close tabs on peace groups during the “Cold War” period, but, the extensiveness of Ottawa’s plans to round up Canadians startled Clearwater.
Between 700 to 2,500 people (babies included), would have been held in internment camps, including one in Gatineau Park, before being shipped off to permanent detention facilities.
Internment plans of 2500 people were first discussed by the cabinet's defence committee on Dec 15/48. The RCMP was to be in charge of rounding up political prisoners and organizing the program, with the military transporting the prisoners to camps.
At one point, it was decided that children of internees would be placed in foster homes or with relatives if the RCMP decided the relatives were not a political threat. Only a baby still breastfeeding would be allowed to stay with its mother.
In 1969, it ordered the immediate arrest of 611 men & 189 women in the event of a national emergency, with 279 others on a secondary interim list. Most were in Ontario and BC.
In 1970, 588 men and 174 women were scheduled for immediate jailing in camps before being sent to federal jails. The RCMP in Quebec had even begun contracting with a bus company for this transportation.
The RCMP allowed for a seven- to 10-day period to round up potential subversives.
To cope with the new prisoners, the government planned to "release all inmates in medium and minimum security with less than one year of sentence to serve."
The RCMP warned Ottawa that once in custody the prisoners would be of little trouble, but warned that could change "if the basis for internment is broadened," the documents reveal.
Some of the plans extensively oultined life in the camps:
- detainees would have two suitcases,
- all money would be confiscated by the camp administrator.
- internees would not be able to talk with each other
- violations punished by up to 20 days solitary confinement or a diet of water and bread.
The Liberal government spent much of its time, during Cruise Missile Testing, misleading the public over the extent of the country's involvement.
Clearwater said that Canada could not have refused to test the cruise missile, " We simply couldn't refuse. The U.S. saw this as a test of our resolve to be its defence partner.”
He also reveals that the Canadian government allowed the U.S. to test the cold-weather function of its neutron bomb at the Nicolet military proving ground in Quebec (no explosions were conducted).
The BC threat to close the Nanoose training range on Vancouver Island (because of American refusal to negotiate over Pacific salmon fishing) caused a nearly paranoid reaction in Ottawa. They feared US sanctions similar to what New Zealand faced in the 1980s for similar defiance. Nanoose is considered the best ocean weapons-testing region in the world
Then Premier, Clark accused the Liberal government of "treason," saying it was bizarre that British Columbia had to defend the rights of all Canadians against the federal government.
Clearwater says the fears were justified, especially in light of former prime minister John Diefenbaker's claim that the White House lent covert support to his overthrow by the Liberals in the 1963 general election.
"We never say 'no' to any testing. Sometimes we try to hold it off for as long as we can. I think the trend here is, no matter what the U.S. asks for, eventually we say 'yes.' "
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