The expropriation of Nanoose Bay by the Government of Canada for US weapons testing

Editor's Note: During the summer of 1999, hearings were held in Vancouver BC on the federal government's attempt to expropriate the Nanoose Bay seabed, located in the Georgia Strait off Vancouver Island.

On 14 May 1999 the Minister of National Defence and Public Works announced they would expropriate 225 square kilometres of seabed from the government of British Columbia in order to maintain the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges (CMETR) off Nanoose Bay near Nanaimo on Georgia Strait. The BC government said they would not renew the lease unless they were guaranteed that the US submarines using the range were not armed with nuclear weapons. The US government refuses to say whether their ships carry or don't carry nuclear arms. Since the range opened in 1965, there have been 246 visits by US surface ships, 162 by US submarines, six by Canadian submarines and 254 by Canadian ships (as of December, 1999). A Chilean submarine visited Nanoose in 1994.

This is the first time in Canadian history the Federal Government has made a hostile expropriation of provincial territory. The Expropriation Act (1970) allows citizens to object to any proposed expropriation, but such an inquiry has no power to stop it. Over 22,465 Canadians registered written objections, and 235 spoke their objections in person at a hearing in front of retired Appeals Court Judge D. Michael Goldie. Mr. Goldie was been particularly interventionist, insisting in an arbitrary and arrogant manner what materials will be filed. He refused, for example, to allow the BC government objector to submit numerous documents in evidence for their objections under the legalistic excuse that the Expropriations Act makes no provision for evidential materials.

Commenting on this, Sandra Smith, National Leader of CPC(M-L), pointed out at the time:

"The critical objection concerning the Nanoose Bay expropriation is that the executive authority is acting arbitrarily against the interests of the people of British Columbia and Canada for peace. The expropriation is being done in the name of 'national defence' but its very aim is to facilitate weapons testing for the US Navy -- that is to facilitate an offensive military strategy of a foreign imperialist power, one which is escalating its domination of Canada itself, and which engages in aggressive wars as recently as earlier this year against Yugoslavia. Just as the Federal executive sent the Canadian Armed Forces to participate in NATO's aggression against Yugoslavia in defiance of the norms of international law, the Federal executive is furthering its betrayal of the national interests of Canada expropriating this seabed to facilitate US Navy weapons testing at Nanoose. It is up to the people to organize and mobilize for the nation-building project by resisting the Nanoose expropriation and fighting for the democratic renewal of the political process so that sovereignty resides in the people and not the executive authority."

Despite the widespread opposition, on 17 December 1999, the Government of Canada announced a ten-year extension of its agreement with the United States to allow the US Navy to continue to be the primary user of the Nanoose Bay testing range.

Under Bill C-55, the Public Safety Act 2002 the Minister of Defence was given extraordinary and unlimited powers to declare the naval bases at Nanoose and Esquimalt BC "military security zones" along with the harbour of Halifax as a measure to "fight terrorism". The legislation is specifically aimed at defending US warhips. Subsection 260.1 [2] states that it applies to: "(c) a vessel, aircraft or other property under the control of a visiting force that is legally in Canada by virtue of the Visiting Forces Act or otherwise."

People's Front submission

People's Front representative Charles Boylan submitted a brief on behalf of the national organization on 6 August 1999 (Hiroshima Day). The submission follows. This No Harbour for War Dossier will be adding further reports and photography on the movement to oppose US warships visiting and using the CEMTR Nanoose Bay torpedo testing range.

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The People's Front (1980) was founded in Vancouver, BC by citizens and residents of Canada active in opposing racism and imperialist war, and more recently in advancing the politics of democratic renewal to vest sovereignty in the people as part of a nation-building project.

Our organization objects to the Federal Government expropriation of the seabed off Nanoose Bay for the following reasons:

The territory in question is unceded Aboriginal territory belonging to the sovereign Aboriginal peoples constituting themselves as the Te'mexw Treaty Association. The Crown, either in the Right of Canada or the Right of British Columbia, has never acquired jurisdiction over the said seabed through lawful and constitutional means, and is in contempt of the Canada Act (1982) which validates all Treaty obligations with Aboriginal peoples in the territory of Canada, including the provisions of the Royal Proclamation (1763) which prohibits the transfer of Aboriginal territory save and except through negotiations nation to nation between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown. The knowing violation of this fundamental constitutional law by the Federal authority in the present expropriation puts this authority in contempt of its own law.

The Federal Government's proposed hostile expropriation of land from the Government of British Columbia, should it have been lawfully ceded by its original Aboriginal owners, would still be unlawful. It would be in violation of both the letter and spirit of the 19th century arrangement by which the men of property of British Columbia arranged a union with the Dominion of Canada within the context of the British Empire. While it is true that the 19th century arrangements embodied in the Canada Acts (1867) and (1982) are outdated and no longer meet the modern requirements of present day Canadians, it is not acceptable that the Executive Branch of the Federal Government unilaterally and arbitrarily change arrangements in a piecemeal, self-serving manner without any regard for the existing arrangements, or the necessity to lawfully re-constitute the federation to meet the collective needs of the regions and nations comprising Canada as well as the needs for the polity as a whole. The demands of the populace for new arrangements recognizing the modern rights of citizens to exercise sovereignty as was expressed most ardently in the period from the collapse of the Meech Lake Agreement to the rejection by Canadians of the Charlottetown Accord are being totally disregarded by the Federal Government. Instead, in its pragmatic effort to placate the demands of the United States navy, the Federal Government is rushing through a hostile expropriation of lands declared by the Supreme Court of Canada to be under the jurisdiction of British Columbia. The Federal government is carrying on a heedless wrecking of the country, and this instance of undermining old federal-provincial arrangements can be seen as similar in nature to its decisions to wreck social programs in health care, education, social welfare and environment, and to abandon the old National Policy through its adherence to FTA, NAFTA and other measures leading to the increasing domination of our country by the United States of America.

The Federal Government's purported reasons for expropriation of the seabed is to

"safeguard Canada's defence and security needs, and to ensure that use of the Nanoose test ranges can be sustained." (Arthur Eggleton, Open Letter, 21 June 1999)

Defence is defined as "resistance against attack; protection" (The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd Edition, unabridged, 1987, p 522.), and security is "freedom from danger, risk, etc; safety." (Ibid., p. 1731). The Federal Government does not explain who is attacking Canada, or from whom we need to be protected. The following question has been posed by a wide cross-section of Canadian public opinion: is not the so-called "protection", the nuclear-weapons strategy of the United States Pentagon, itself the greatest danger to the peace, security and well-being of the Canadian people? Even during the Cold War the greatest danger to the peace and security of Canada was the US "nuclear umbrella" of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the North American Air Defence Agreement (NORAD). With the collapse of the bi-polar division of the world, the United States has escalated its aggressive behaviour internationally, first in the Middle East, then in the Balkans and presently in the Far East where the United States seems intent in fermenting a war against North Korea or even China. The torpedo testing station at Nanoose Bay is part of the threat to the security and defence of Canada represented as a whole by the United States nuclear war strategy, of which its Trident and other nuclear submarines are a strategic part.

Members of the present Federal Liberal Government have been formally accused at the International Court in The Hague of violating International Law by waging an undeclared war against a sovereign state, a brother founding member of the United Nations, namely, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Moreover, the state most directly responsible for the unlawful war waged against Yugoslavia, ironically within the very time frame of the present proceedings to expropriate Nanoose Bay, is the United States of America. Therefore, the Federal Government, by expropriating the seabed, can be accused of doing so for unlawful purposes, namely, to prepare for wars of aggression against sovereign states. Canada's membership in NATO, which organized and executed the recent bombing of Yugoslavia, makes it a party to a conspiracy to plan and carry out an illegal, aggressive war. At Nuremberg, the United States and Britain pressed the prosecution of Nazi leaders for planning and initiating aggressive war. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the head of the American prosecution staff, asserted:

"that launching a war of aggression is a crime and that no political or economic situation can justify it." He also declared that "if certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us."

The United Nations Charter views aggression similarly. Articles 2(4) and (7) prohibit interventions in the domestic jurisdiction of any country and threats of force or the use of force by one state against another. The General Assembly of the UN in Resolution 2131, "Declaration on the Inadmissability of Intervention", reinforced the view that a military intervention in any country is aggression and a crime without justification.

Clearly in law, to aid and abet someone to commit serious crimes is itself a crime, and it can justly be alleged that all those party to facilitating the Federal Government's expropriation of the seabed for the continued use by the United States navy in its ongoing preparation for further wars of aggression, are themselves participating in one of the gravest crimes categorized by modern law. To quote from The Nuremberg Principles of 1946 under "Crimes Against Peace" section i:

"Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements on assurances; (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any acts mentioned in (i)."

The use of Nanoose Bay by the United States Navy constitutes such a "planning and preparation" of illegal and aggressive war. Already many submissions have emphasized the particular dangers posed by the nuclear aspect of the war preparations being tested at Nanoose which compounds the crime, as nuclear war and nuclear weapons have been specifically condemned as unlawful.

The United States is the party most directly concerned with procuring the seabed to test its naval armaments. This country has waged over 70 wars of aggression since World War II, and has staged or supported numerous coups d'etat and fascist dictatorships intervening in the internal affairs of other countries with both covert and overt acts of aggression. The United States of America is the only country in the world to drop nuclear bombs on cities killing hundreds of thousands of defenceless Japanese citizens. We should well remember this today, August 6th, Hiroshima Day, the 54th Anniversary of this US nuclear crime against humanity.

The USA. has very recently used nuclear material, depleted uranium, to bomb civilian populations in Iraq and Yugoslavia. The USA. is the most violent, lawless and aggressive state in the world today, practicing the medieval ethic of Might Makes Right to dictate how every people and country should run its affairs. If it disagrees with the regime of a country, for example Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Yugoslavia, it gives itself a right to carry out sanctions and blockades in violation of international law, or to bomb or otherwise interfere in their internal affairs. We can not properly speak to the issue of Nanoose and the perfecting of the naval arm of the US military machine there without setting the matter within the context of the entire world situation. Canada is aiding and abetting a war criminal, a flagrant violator of international law, and the most dangerous aggressive power the world has ever known. The full danger of this state to the achievements of human civilization and societies the world over has yet to be played out, but the foreshadowing of impending tragedies, including the unleashing of nuclear war as the US tries to impose its will over the entire globe is certainly clear for all those who look at reality in a sober and thoughtful manner.

Interestingly the logic of the Federal Government to expropriate the Nanoose Seabed is that it has "no option." The US used a similar logic to justify its dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The "no option" "no alternative" logic was also used to justify the bombing of Yugoslavia. Every criminal aggressor has used such banal self-serving logic. To permit the Federal Government to expropriate the Nanoose Seabed to aid and abet the United States navy perfect weapons of mass destruction is nothing less than a crime against humanity.

The entire sham process of the present hearing itself also calls out for the sharpest criticism by everyone seriously trying to grapple with the problem of ending the political marginalization of the citizens and residents of our country. What the Expropriation Act (1970), and these hearings as a creature of this act emphasize to all, is how people of our country have absolutely no control over our own lives and the vast territory we call our country. What the hearing, with its over 2,000 objectors also underlines, is how strongly the people of Canada feel the absence of this control over their lives, and how much they want to control their lives and the destiny of our country. The proceedings also illustrate how bureaucracy and legalism is used to prevent serious discussion from taking place or any serious legal submission to stop the expropriation from taking place because those who wrote the rules governing this process do not consider themselves accountable to the people, nor subject to the sovereign will of the people. They conceptualize Executive authority as sovereign and the people as subjects. This 19th century liberal unrepresentative democracy is precisely the block obstructing the Canadian people to achieve their security and defend the nation.

Democracy must be renewed to meet the needs of modern society, not the least of which is to establish equal and peaceful relations among all states, large and small. Renewal of democracy at home and internationally is necessary to ensure that war is never used as a means of settling disputes. But it is precisely against renewal that the Liberal Party and other major political parties in our unrepresentative democracy stand as a block. Canadians certainly want peaceful and equal relations with our only land connected neighbour, the United States. But we can not be unmindful that this powerful country has tried to annex our country in the past, and continues to act towards us in a self-serving manner to the detriment of the economic, cultural, political and military independence of our country. Bowing to the dictate of the US Navy to perpetuate its thirty-four year control over Nanoose Bay in order to perfect its weapons of mass destruction is the very opposite of "defence" and "security" of Canada. It is an act of national nihilism putting the military interests of the US navy before the safety of the people of British Columbia and the interests of world peace.

A further consideration regarding the marginalization of the people with regard to this most important matter before us has to do with the ownership and control of the mass media. How can a modern democracy have informed citizens when a handful of very rich men own and control all the modern means of communication. The mass media has become synonymous with disinformation and mass manipulation, with a continuous lowering of the level of political culture and discourse. How is it possible that a forum dedicated to hearing objections from the citizens of BC to the Federal expropriation of the Nanoose Seabed go so unreported in the mass media? Renewal of democracy and international relations require that the people know the truth. Modern media must be accountable to society and open to the views of all the collectives and individuals in society so that a serious and mature discussion on all public affairs can take place, with full and accurate information provided to all, and where all opinions and views are given respectful hearing.

The People's Front is confident that the people of British Columbia are sufficiently intelligent and concerned to find the ways and means of overcoming their marginalization by present political arrangements, and will succeed in overcoming the force of disinformation imposed upon them by the media. During the 1980s our organization participated with hundreds of others, including those who comprised the Peace Flotilla in 1986, in demonstrating against the US warships entering Vancouver Harbour. We also participated in the People's Inquiry into Nanoose Bay held in Nanaimo that year.

Much has changed in the world since then. Clearly, the end of the Cold War has not brought about world peace, increased security or equal relations between states making up the United Nations. On the contrary, the emergence of the United States as the world's sole superpower has led to an escalation of aggression and war. Knowing that the present forum is a sham and useful only for concerned citizens and organizations to mobilize themselves and articulate their views, we call upon all the 2000 and more objectors to step up our collective and co-operative activities to ensure the Nanoose Testing Facility is shut down through the actions of the people. Further, that we work together to get Canada out of NATO and NORAD, and unite in a nation-building project to make Canada free from US domination and dictate, capable of finding its own bearings so as to make a contribution to the material and cultural well-being of its own and the world's peoples within a system of states governed by the rule of law whereby war and weapons of mass destruction are banned forever.

For all the above reasons we oppose the Federal Government expropriation of the Nanoose Seabeds, and call upon all others likewise opposed to work together to find the ways and means of mobilizing the people of British Columbia and the rest of Canada to ensure the testing station is closed and US submarines and all foreign military forces are banned from Canadian territory.

Submitted on Behalf of People's Front by Charles Boylan,
National Representative and Spokesperson (BC),
6 August 1999 (Hiroshima Day)


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