28 May 2015
For decades, B.C. peace activists have been raising an alarm about nuclear-weapons-carrying submarines travelling through Georgia Strait.
When Jean Chrétien was prime minister, Nanoose Conversion Campaign worker Norm Abbey alleged that the Nanoose Bay naval base near Nanaimo had become a "branch plant" of the U.S. Navy's undersea-warfare operations.
Abbey noted that at least three Trident vessels fitted with "targeted nuclear warheads" had visited the base.
"U.S. submarines have been using Nanoose Bay since 1965, when they moved north from the more densely populated waters of Puget Sound," wrote Abbey in Peace Magazine. "Residents of urban centers like Seattle didn't want the nuclear safety hazards, and Ottawa obliged by signing the 'Canada-U.S. Nanoose Agreement' in 1965."
Trident nuclear-weapon-armed submarines are back in the news after a British whistleblower wrote an alarming 18-page report citing many safety risks.
"We are so close to a nuclear disaster it is shocking, and yet everybody is accepting the risk to the public," wrote seaman William McNeilly, who is now in custody.
This week, his brother Aaron told STV News that his family supports McNeilly's efforts to alert the public. "I'm very proud of my brother for what he has done."
He also insisted that his brother is not a liar.
In 1995, the Straight reported that under a series of 10-year agreements, the U.S. pays to operate a torpedo test range on Winchelsea Island in Nanoose Bay. Canada covers the salaries of Canadian civilian staff.
In 1999, Ottawa expropriated the nearby provincially owned seabed so that testing could continue. This came after an NDP government had threatened to cancel the lease if ships carrying nuclear weapons entered the area.
The expropriation was challenged in court by the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation. It won the first round in the Federal Court of Canada but in 2003, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the expropriation.
Since then, no B.C. premier or Canadian prime minister has publicly questioned the wisdom of U.S. submarines entering B.C. waters carrying nuclear weapons.