The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage
Government of Canada
How many buildings in Canada have been designed to withstand a direct hit by a nuclear bomb?
Just one, the Underground NORAD Complex. This modern-day fortress was built under 600 feet of solid granite directly below Armed Forces Base North Bay. It is accessed via a three-kilometer tunnel that was designed to deflect a nuclear blast, and is protected by three 19-ton nuclear blast doors. Sadly, these fortifications do not protect it against government indifference. This remarkable heritage building is in danger of being demolished and allowed to flood.
The Complex made North Bay ground zero during the most dangerous military conflict the world has ever seen; the Cold War. Canada was in the unfortunate position of lying directly between the United States and the Soviet Union – the two primary adversaries. If the conflict had turned “hot”, Canadian and American fighter jets would have confronted Soviet bombers over Canadian airspace. For over four decades, air defence personnel worked in the Complex around the clock protecting North America from nuclear war.
With development of the hydrogen bomb and advanced missile technology, NORAD has determined that the Complex no longer serves a viable military purpose. In 2006 it moved its air defence operations above ground. The facility, which would cost over $500 million to build today, is sitting vacant. The Department of National Defence (DND) plans to decommission the facility. Given its enormous historical significance, the Complex should be preserved.
Why is it important to preserve the Complex? Beyond maintaining a remarkable heritage building that represents an important era of Canadian history, it would educate both Canadian and foreign visitors about the continuing dangers of nuclear war. The threat of nuclear war has never gone away. In fact, in recent years, the threat has increased. It is difficult, however, for people to comprehend the dangers of nuclear war. There is no better way to appreciate the magnitude of the threat than by visiting the Complex and seeing the nuclear blast doors in person. It makes it all vividly real.
As Minister of Heritage, you understand the importance of keeping Canadian history alive. The Complex could be repurposed in a way that honours its past. It could become a national historic site or park. It could be developed into a museum, perhaps a Museum of Modern History. As well, it could become a Canadian repository for archival audio and visual material.
Please champion the Underground NORAD Complex. Commission a feasibility study into preserving and redeveloping the Complex – before the DND floods it.
Campaign to Save the Underground NORAD Complex
North Bay, Ontario