THERE'S NO lack of ideas for the conversion of military sites in Canada. The underwater weapons testing facility in Nanoose Bay, B.C. is ideal for marine biology and mariculture. Oysters and clams are already being farmed nearby. The grounds of the Defence Research Establishment at Suffield, in Alberta, could be made a prairie grassland park. Its chemical and biological weapons research centre could easily be turned into a toxicological research centre. Sites like Camp Borden in Ontario could become forestry training centres to replant our own depleted forests and to reforest completely denuded countries such as Haiti. CFB Kingston has a pretty nice site right on the lake that could be used for all sorts of leisure purposes. In the Maritimes it has been suggested that our forces concentrate on surveillance and search and rescue operations.
In their presentation to the Citizens' Inquiry, Peter Langille and Erika Simpson outline a plan to transform CFB Cornwall is in Nova Scotia into a training centre for peacekeeping troops. As peacekeeping forces are more frequently used there is a need for a centre to train not only foreign troops but also U.N. observers, diplomats, and civilians in peacekeeping techniques-which are quite different from war strategies.
Canadian Physicians for the Prevention of War also proposes a redefined role for Canada's armed forces with more emphasis on medical and humanitarian assistance in natural and other disasters. Our forces have already airlifted food to places such as Ethiopia; as environmental and human emergencies increase, so may this vital work increase. There is a debate on this issue, however: some, like Ursula Franklin, fear that the hierarchical nature of the military make it inappropriate to help with the environment.
There are also numerous examples of successfully accomplished conversion. The DEW Line sites have been converted into a retirement home, a jail, a tribal counselling centre, a residential school, a juvenile drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, and in Penhold Alt, a hail research facility. In the U.K. a missile silo became a cheese factory. In Nicaragua weapons turned in by the contras became, appropriately enough, artificial limbs for children mutilated in the war.
Shirley Farlinger is an editor of PEACE.