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Just Dummies: Cruise Missile Testing in Canada

by John Clearwater

Not one to buy into the idea that Canada is a peaceful sanctuary and honest broker in world affairs, the former military and strategic analyst John Clearwater has, with Just Dummies, completed a trilogy that explores both the long history of nuclear weapons testing and deployment in Canada and the Canadian government’s role in impeding disarmament efforts.

By focusing on the years of cruise missile testing and construction (roughly 1978 through 1995), Clearwater provides a valuable story of government secrecy, malfeasance, and dishonesty that will no doubt prick the bubble of hagiography surrounding the late Pierre Trudeau.

Weaving together a raft of previously classified documents with copious amounts of archival material, Clearwater ably recreates an era marked by some of the most intensive, widespread protests in Canadian history.

Clearwater is nothing if not thorough – almost to a fault. At times, the text gets weighted down with technical details about each cruise missile test, as well as minutiae about testing treaties. And while the story is a compelling one, it does tend toward the dry, relying on textual sources. The book would have benefitted both from some careful reorganization of content as well as from interviews with some of the key surviving players from all sides of the fiery debate.

Among the more frustrating moments for the reader is a reference in the sources section to a figurative bombshell not mentioned in the main text: the author thanks the RCMP Access to Information Office for files on secret government plans to intern thousands of Canadian “dissidents” in the event of a third world war.

These criticisms aside, Canadians concerned about this country’s military participation in Iraq, Afghanistan, or space would do well to prime themselves for the years ahead with this look back at the way democracy has been eroded in the name of pleasing both U.S. military planners and Ottawa’s military elite.


Reviewer: Matthew Behrens

Publisher: University of Calgary Press


Price: $34.95

Page Count: 284 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 978-1-55238-211-0

Released: Dec.

Issue Date: 2007-1

Categories: Politics & Current Affairs