Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Nanoose Base Makes Waves

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

Nanoose Base Makes Waves

Article excerpt

A Vancouver Island military in stallation used by the US Navy is once again in the national spotlight. And peace activists in BC and beyond are redoubling their efforts to beat swords into ploughshares with a call to convert the facility to nonmilitary uses.

For more than 30 years the US Navy has quietly brought its nuclear-powered submarines and other warships to the Nanoose underwater weapons testing range 20 kilometres north of Nanaimo to test undersea weapons and perform military maneuvers. Since 1984, a regional peace group called the Nanoose Conversion Campaign has sought to convert the base to "peaceful, productive uses" that would generate an equal or greater number o f jobs while also safeguarding the environment. But Nanoose didn't receive much national public attention until 1996 when BC Premier Glen Clark, in his re-election bid, challenged Ottawa to cancel the binational agreement allowing the US Navy to use Nanoose if the US wouldn't comply with the Pacific Salmon Treaty. BC peace activists welcomed the long-awaited publicity for Nanoose but were dismayed by the reason. Turfing the US Navy out of Nanoose had been a policy of the BC NDP ever since the party's 1990 convention. It wasn't supposed to be a negotiable item used as a bargaining chip in some separate political fracas.

Ottawa balked at Clark's demand, and the following year a re-elected Clark, still vigourously engaged in the salmon war, made an end-run around Ottawa with the Nanoose football. Although Ottawa has jurisdiction over the military test range, BC owns the seabed beneath the range.

So Clark served notice on Ottawa cancelling the federal government's right to use (or let others use) the seabed, thereby rendering testing impossible. Ottawa countered with a legal challenge against the province that is still before BC Supreme Court, and so testing continues. …

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