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Canadians urge Martin to say no to BMD

by TeresaSBottaro 

Posted: 08 February 2006
Word Count: 668
Summary: U.S missile defence plan costly and first step on road to the militarization of space, say critics

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By Teresa Bottaro

Shirley Douglas says she once knew a safer world. But that changed in 1945 when she witnessed an atomic bomb wipe out a city. At the time she was 11 years old. The U.S had dropped the first ever atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

"I remember it exactly," says the 70-year-old actress/activist. "We were at the cottage, listening to the radio. We always had a radio on during the war. All of a sudden, it was over and we were just astounded at this huge vast city that was gone. We asked, who had invented this and how had this happened? And it was quite quickly that people were saying how are we going to stop it?"

Douglas is the daughter of former Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas who co-founded the NDP and is considered the father of Canada's Medicare system. She says that she has been devoted to finding ways to "stop it" ever since that horrific day in 1945. Now, along with about 100 prominent Canadians, she has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin urging him not to sign on to a U.S. missile defence plan arranged by the Bush administration. She says the plan will cost billions of dollars.

"When I see these amounts of money that was being used over the years, I don't want to hear that there's not enough money for things like education, or not enough money for healthcare," she says. "It's obscene."

The pursuit of missile defence is expensive, she says, costing in the range of $8-12 billion (US) per year and climbing.

Musicians Sarah McLachlan and Brian Adams, and activist David Suzuki are among the other Canadians to sign the letter, which arrived on Martin's desk March 18.

Ottawa is in the early stages of negotiating the terms of possible participation in the plan.

The proposed Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, aims to create a global missile detection system in outer space destroying missiles fired at the United States.

The protest letter states that Canada's involvement in BMD would undermine decades of Canadian effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons and that it would symbolize willingness to become participants in the growth of nuclear weapons.

It also states that the system is based on unproven technology and has dangerous implications for strategic stability.

Philip Coyle, who was an assistant defence secretary in the Clinton administration, believes that Canada would be signing on to a missile defence system that's untested, over budget and likely to fuel the global arms race.

He also said that there's no doubt that President Bush's defence system will lead to the militarization of space.

"Once you have those satellites up in space, you can use them to attack other satellites," he said. "You will automatically have war-in-space capability as soon as the space platforms for weapons defence are established."

The U.S. claims the system is necessary to protect North America.

Col. Jose Boluda of the U.S. Air Force says that while some early tests of the system have failed, it will one day be able to protect the U.S. and its allies against incoming missiles.

"We are pushing the envelope. This is a very challenging program. We're learning every day," he said.

Ron Kane, vice-president of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, says it would be beneficial for Canada to join on.

"It's an area where Canadian industry has been very successful in the past, supporting U.S. military programs," he says. "And hopefully if the Canadian government decides to participate in ballistic missile defence that will help lever Canadian industrial participation in the program."

However, letter signatories say that by developing a missile shield, the United States is ignoring the real causes of insecurity, and is likely to aggravate existing grievances. They believe the money involved in the project should be put toward better causes.

"If you take that money and invest it in positive things," Douglas says. "we could have a great world."

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Comments by other Members

Jekyll&Hyde at 10:01 on 09 February 2006  Report this post
Hi TeresaSBottaro,

Great article. Great read. Your style is very readable and clear, and I found the article wasn't as typical as you'd expect from such a frequent subject as this. Very fresh, and a fascinating read.


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