11/11/2011

1960 Protest

I have been sorting through old things of my mother's these last few days and found, folded  and tucked between pages of  her brother's old bible, this old photograph.

In the late 1950's the Progressive Conservative government of John Diefenbaker, acting in accordance with a clause in the NORAD agreement, deployed 56 American-made Bomarc missiles in Ontario and Quebec. Initially, the government did not see fit to tell the Canadian public that the intention was to fit the missiles  with nuclear warheads. This fact became known in 1960 causing quite a controversy.  

My friend, Ivor Bigalow's parents were quite active in the Canadian Universities Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. We were encouraged by them to get involved and we did. It was 1960 and I was 15.

I spent quite a bit of time getting signatures on a petition demanding that the Government refuse to allow these nuclear warheads onto Canadian soil. I went door to door and stood outside churches on Sunday morning asking people to sign our sheets. We gathered quite a lot signatures but in the process we got chased off a few church properties by priests

My mother's younger brother and favourite sibling was killed when his bomber crashed in Scotland while on a training mission in 1944. It was right after I was born. Mum was pretty much a pacifist after that so she was pretty cool with my involvement.

On the other hand, my father was a sergeant in the Canadian Army. He wasn't very encouraging.

That spring my buddy and I marched with other anti-nuc protesters in downtown Montreal and we managed to get our pictures in the newspaper. Even though my face was obscured by the guy in the balaclava, My Dad wasn't very pleased and it made for interesting supper time conversations.

Interesting to note that we won the day, if only temporarily. Under pressure from Canadians, Diefenbaker reneged on the deal with the Americans and blocked the installation of the warheads causing no end of tension between Canada and the USA. By 1963 the Liberal government under Mike Pearson bowed to pressure from the Americans and agreed to let the nuclear warheads in.    

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