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Cold War memo predicted fallout of Soviet attack on Canada

Nuclear explosion (SunMediaArchive)
Nuclear explosion (SunMediaArchive)

In a declassified 1982 Cold War memo, the Privy Council Office predicted that all-out nuclear attacks from Soviet Russia would annihilate much of the major populaces in Canada, sparing only Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.

The declassified document was first obtained and reported by Ottawa-based news outlet Blacklock’s Reporter via an access to information request with Library and Archives Canada.

The “Discussion Paper On Public Protection” guesstimated the number of mass casualties for major cities would be:

• 40,900 killed in Halifax area;

• 62,600 killed in Winnipeg;

• 79,300 killed in Edmonton and Calgary;

• 125,000 killed in Fredericton and Moncton;

• 237,800 killed in Vancouver, Victoria and B.C.’s Lower Mainland;

• 468,100 killed in Montreal and Quebec City;

• 1,033,700 killed in Ottawa, Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton and southern Ontario.

Bureaucrats also predicted southern Saskatchewan would have 400 casualties from radioactive fallout of nuclear attacks on Winnipeg and U.S. missile bases in neighbouring states, and Charlottetown would incur 3,600 deaths as a result of a nuclear strike in Halifax.

The civil servants’ total body count for a Soviet nuclear barrage of Canada was 6,923,700 people, over a quarter of the country’s then population of 24.3 million.

The government memo said it could potentially save millions of Canadians by building bomb shelters, estimating the cost at $2.1 billion or $5.2 billion in today’s money to protect all citizens. The government surveyed Canadians at the time and found that only 48% had adequate shelter to protect them from nuclear attack.

Despite protection from the initial blasts, the government study found survivors likely would die anyway.

“As the potential target areas are all subject to fallout from attack on the U.S., it seems probable that most of the survivors of the initial effects would die from fallout radiation,” the civil servants wrote.

“Society would not exist as we know it now. Everything would be dreadfully changed. This does not mean the living would envy the dead, or that national recovery would be impossible. With realistic civil protection arrangements and proper recovery planning, it could mean the difference between eventual national recovery and perhaps no real recovery at all.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019


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