150+ Canadians Day 67: Operation Dismantle

Image: Dan Abdul

Operation Dismantle contributed to peace by advocating for nuclear disarmament. #Canada150

In 1977, James Stark and Peter Brown founded Operation Dismantle, a non-partisan, pacifist, nonprofit organization to bring the pressure of public opinion to bear on governments to end the nuclear arms race.

In 1983 Operation Dismantle brought a Charter challenge before the Canadian Supreme Court to end the government’s sanctioning of US testing of cruise missiles on Canadian soil. Operation Dismantle argued that the use of cruise missiles by the US government increased the risk of nuclear war and that Canada’s participation made Canada a more likely target. Ultimately, the court rejected their section 7 Charter challenge.

To build coalitions the organization pioneered the idea of municipal referenda on disarmament. They created a United Nations sponsored world referendum on disarmament, which the organization believed would be the best way to provide governments with a sufficiently powerful mandate to push for disarmament. Operation Dismantle’s municipal referenda campaign on disarmament led to 195 votes in municipal campaigns, with the results 76.2% in favour. The organization also led a campaign during the 1984 federal election to make a nuclear freeze an election issue.

Dismantle had some 10,000 members and supporters. Though the organization was disbanded in 1989, the experience and inspiration for the many people involved led them to continue efforts for nuclear disarmament with other local, national and international organizations. In turn, they contributed to Megatons to Megawatts, the U.S.-Russia agreement of 1993 which resulted in the dismantling of 15,000 Russian warheads to be turned into electricity (see article).

As of 2010, the U.S. and Russia have each agreed to destroy 34 metric tons of military plutonium this way, enough to make 8,500 nuclear bombs. We can’t help but wonder about the state of that agreement today.

Bonus Editor’s Content: Great article written in 2010 by former member  reflecting on his time with Operation Dismantle.

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