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Test Flights

CFB Cold Lake was an ideal weapons range for testing of new ordinances that required great distances to fly. This was an important factor when the decision was made by the federal government to allow testing of the American Cruise Missile at Cold Lake on 15 July 1983. The tests included Air Launched Cruise Missiles, which were long-range missiles that had been developed for ranges over 2,500 kilometre. They could carry nuclear warheads and were undetectable by conventional radar, making them unstoppable.

The announcement by the federal government sparked massive protests, as many argued that Canada should not participate in the development of nuclear weapons and systems to deliver them. Many worried that the new cruise missiles created an imbalance in the world military structure that would bring with it international instability and the risk of war.

The protests against testing of the cruise missile included mass marches and, in one case, an act of political vandalism. Art student Peter Greyson went to the National Archives in Ottawa, approached the Constitution of Canada and poured red paint on it. He stated that the test of the cruise missile violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which allowed for the basic right to be alive. In October 1984, Greyson was convicted of public mischief and received a sentence of 89 days in jail.

In 1985, Operation Dismantle, an anti-nuclear organization, presented arguments to the Canadian federal court that indicated testing of cruise missiles was against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because such a weapon denied the right to life. The court rejected the arguments because they were based on assumptions and not real evidence.

Aboriginal peoples continued to oppose testing of cruise missiles since such action was seen as a violation of their territories and the treaties they had signed. These protests were not effective as tests were carried out and continue to be carried out over Canadian territory.
 

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