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Peace News
Written by Joan Russow
Friday, 13 June 2014 09:26

By Joan Russow 

Global Compliance Research Project



Photograph  US Navy                         


The Nimitz is scheduled to arrive in Victoria on June 13, 2014.  The USS Nimitz participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom, a war that Canada did not participate in. While Harper in Opposition supported the invasion, the then Liberal government did not embroil Canada in the so-called Coalition of the Willing. This visit is a not only a flaunting of militarism, but also a reckless intruding into the Greater Victoria area.


The government of Canada is potentially criminally negligent for allowing the USS Nimitz in Canadian waters and in Urban harbour


At a time when at the UN there is a call for the abolition of nuclear weapons there is no justification for the USS Nimitz  nuclear powered and nuclear arms capable vessel to circulate anywhere let alone in Canadian waters and  in Canadian  harbours.  

Misplaced Onus of proof – actions that are inherently dangerous

In a case where there is a dangerous intrusion into the environment and society, the onus of proof has to shift from those who argue that the action would be harmful to those who claim that the action would be harmless. In the case of war games including with nuclear powered and nuclear arms capable vessels, which are inherently dangerous, there is no way to prove safety. The precautionary principle, - an international principle adopted by the global community, even by the United States, must be invoked: where there is an irreversible threat to the environment the lack of full scientific certainty should/shall not be used as a reason to postpone measures to prevent the threat, and the war games must be prohibited..

Skewed notion of "informed consent"

Skewed notion of "informed consent" when there are inherently dangerous actions with potentially serious consequences. The whole notion of informed consent to be harmed is absurd. After governments adopted, at Rio, the principle to prevent the transfer to other states of activities and practices that are harmful to human health and the environment, governments then proceeded to draft a document related to "informed consent" - i.e. if we can persuade countries to accept inherently dangerous practices or events then we can be absolved from responsibility. Even if the community was properly notified, consulted and the government carried out yet another sham environmental assessment review [note the environmental impact study on the Northwest Training Range Complex, where they argue that they are respecting the environment, and not emitting greenhouse gases, by using nuclear powered vessels, and not fossil fuel], a question still remains about whether the project or action should proceed.

Benefit for humanity ignored

There was a UNESCO Declaration once which was entitled "Declaration on the Use of Scientific and Technological Progress in the Interests of Peace and for the Benefit of Mankind Humanity", and in the Preamble was the following statement of concern:

Noting also with concern that scientific and technological achievements can entail dangers for the civil and political rights of the individual or the groups and for human dignity. (Declaration on the Use of Scientific and Technological Progress in the Interests of Peace and for the Benefit of Mankind [Humanity] 1975)

Cycle of errors

It has been said that "scientists and universities and governments should not be sued unless they have broken existing laws. This provision reflects the cycle of error, and what could be referred to as the "oops factor" - golly gee, we didn’t really know that this would happen. Sorry. This happens all the time with weapons systems and Weapons are used, the dire consequences materialize, and then new kinder and gentler ones are produced and used until they are found to be harmful.

Criminal negligence

There comes a point where engaging in an action is blatantly criminally negligent regardless of whether there is public consultation, an environmental assessment or public notification done.


Everyone is criminally negligent who (a) in doing anything, or (b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons” (where ‘duty’ means a duty imposed by law). (Section 216, Canadian Criminal Code)

Personal criminal responsibility

In 1993, at the International Environmental Law and Public Policy Conference in Eugene, Oregon, there was a panel on personal criminal liability. The panellists were a Navy Commander, and a representative from the Air Force. The issue was a controversial recent court decision where individuals in the Air Force were held criminally responsible for proceeding with a project. In this case, the Air Force was planning on engaging in an action which could have serious environmental consequences. The head of the project was warned about the potential consequences; he ignored the warning and when the serious consequences occurred, he was held to be criminally liable. Individual government representatives must be duly warned of the potentially dire consequences. And know that they will be held criminally responsible for whatever human or environmental consequences result from their dangerous intrusion into the environment and society.

Injunction to prevent harm misapplied

In 1976, there was an important case which prevented the pesticide 24D from being dumped in Okanagan Lake. An injunction was granted to prevent the BC Government from using 24 D against Mille foil in Okanagan Lake. At that time the opponents who were arguing against the use of 24D in the lake were successful in obtaining an injunction to prevent irreparable harm. Subsequently, in British Columbia, injunctions have usually been granted to prevent those who wish to prevent irreparable harm from preventing the harm. [Numerous cases related to forestry, such as Clayoquot Sound]. The courts granting of injunctions to corporations that are causing irreversible harm has ignored the decision of Justice Norris in the Conduct of Civil Litigation in B.C the following fundamental principle related to injunctions is put forth:

"The remedy [of injunction] of course, is an equitable one. The exercise of the equitable jurisdiction is not to be restricted by the straitjacket of rigid rules but is to be based on broad principles of equity regarding the substance and not merely the facade or the shadow. It moves with time and circumstances. (Norris, J.A.) Equity is not to be presumed to be of an age past childbearing.' (Harman, J.)" (Conduct of Civil Litigation in B.C., Chapter 42, August, 1991).




The VIP society launched a court case in 1991 calling for an environmental assessment review under the EARP guidelines of nuclear powered and nuclear capable vessels in the urban port of Greater Victoria s of affidavits from experts, and citizens.It was argued that in 1991 the Federal Conservative government had issued an Order in Council to bypass the government requirement to carry out an environmental assessment review.

The Liberal government was in power when the case was finally heard and the judge decided in favour of Cabinet Royal Prerogative.

In 1993, the NDP was in power provincially, there was a 50 to 1 vote in support of the court case, and 8 out of 10 of the municipalities- seven unanimously supported the case including all Greater Victoria Members of Parliament and many local peace and environmental organizations.

The judgment of the Federal Court was made over a year later. The Court held that the bypassing of the Environmental Assessment Review Process program was legitimate because of the principle of Royal Prerogative of cabinet.

Through Access to information, the full documentation of the court case has been obtained, and new legal means for preventing further circulating and berthing of nuclear vessels will be eventually pursued.Throughout the documeents, 
there were concerns about whether the VIP siciety had used article 7 of the Charter (the right to Security)

The current Canadian Conservative government has increased the number of Exercises with these nuclear powered vessels, and nuclear arms capable vessels.




Last Updated on Saturday, 14 June 2014 19:07

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