THE DIEFENBUNKER By: Capt (N) (Ret’d) M. Braham (21 Aug 2011)
Click on the above link for an excellent mini-history of the ‘bunker’ at Carp, ON.
Extract: “The Central Emergency Government Headquarters, also known as Canadian Forces Station Carp, or more commonly, as the Diefenbunker (named after Prime Minister John Diefenbaker) was built with two purposes in mind. The first was as a receiver station in the Canadian Forces strategic communications system. The second was as the location of the central emergency government for the continuity of constitutional government in the event of a nuclear war”
“The Nuclear Roof” A 23 minute video on the construction of the ‘Diefenbunker’ at Carp, Ont. (with a few shots of the Tx site at Richardson, Ont.)
To view ‘The Nuclear Roof” please link to the above video. This video was transcribed by the museum from a 16mm film made by the Foundation Company of Canada (which later (?) became FENCO and still later AECON). It was originally SECRET but was declassified some years after knowledge of the building itself was made public by PM Trudeau in the early 1980s. It is believed that the film deliberately didn’t mention the real purpose of the facility (as an Emergency Government HQ – in fact the ‘flagship’ building – in the Continuity of Government Program) because the Company was trying to use the film as a sales tool. Instead, for security purposes they continued to promulgate the cover story of the building simply being a high level experimental telecommunication facility – an “E.A.S.E.” site.
A copy of the video is available from the Ottawa Public Library “A recently declassified film, Nuclear Roof depicts the design and construction of Canada’s secret nuclear bunker, engineered to house the federal government in the occurrence of a nuclear attack. Built in secrecy during a 14 month period between 1959 and 1961, the facility became active in 1962 and operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year for over 33 years. This fascinating engineering feat, now a museum, is open to the public. Take a rare look at how it all began…”
Lt.Col. Ed Churchill, Royal Canadian Engineers, E.A.S.E. Project Manager
The April 1967 edition of the Canadian Forces Magazine (The Sentinel) featured a story about the illustrious career of Lt. Colonel Edward Churchill (Royal Canadian Engineers). Noted as a ‘get-the-job-done-on-time’ kind of military engineer, Colonel Churchill built forward airfields in Italy during WW 2, Fort Churchill in the late1940s and bridges on the Alaska Highway in the early and mid 1950s. When next we hear of him, it was as the Project Manager for Canada’s EXPO 67 in Montreal where he was responsible for planning and supervising the complex construction phase of that very successful world exposition.
Because of the secrecy surrounding the construction of the Bunker in the late 1950s and early 1960s there is this ‘gap’ in his career summary. In fact during that time he was the military’s Project Director for the construction of Project EASE (the codeword for the Bunker project). The E.A.S.E. Project was built on-time and on-budget from 1959 to 1961 for about $20 millions (that would be about $170 million in 2020). Fitting it up with the telecommunications equipment (the STRAD, etc.) required to achieve its operational functions appears to have cost a further 15 to 20 million, Its construction so expeditiously was greatly facilitated by the use of the Critical Path Method of project management and control. CPM in such projects had been pioneered during the construction of Trident submarines a few years prior. Later on the 1960s it became the go-to tool for the management of such massive and complicated projects.
Military Information Centre & Federal Warning Centre in the Central Emergency Government Headquarters (CEGHQ) at CFS Carp
- The primary role of the Military Information Centre (MIC) was to provide information to the Cabinet and the departmental officials concerning the military situation. In an attack on North America type situation, Canada would have had troops in many areas of the world involving many different military operations ranging from North American Air Defence (NORAD) to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and briefing cabinet on such matters and the state of the Canadian Forces would have been essential.
- At various times over the thirty years of the facilities existence the Federal Warning Centre (FWC) was collocated with the MIC. (For a considerable period of time the FWC was located in the NORAD Regional Headquarters in North Bay). Its primary function was to provide warning of an impending attack by transmitting the appropriate signals to the Regional Emergency Government Headquarters (which would have triggered the sirens in their respective provinces) and to (directly) sound the sirens in the National Capital Region. The warning would also have been passed to a network of CBC and affiliate stations equipped with special “black boxes”. That action would have resulted in the activation of the Emergency Broadcast System and the subsequent broadcasting of warning messages to radio receivers throughout the country.
- Much of the information that the Emergency Government Situation Centre would have used to maintain its situation plotting boards and to assemble its situation reports would have come from the MIC / FWC. Their sources were primarily NORAD and (to a lesser extent NATO) combined with Canadian Forces Bases across the country. The Minister of National Defence would have, of course been a member of the War Cabinet and his immediate staff would have included the Deputy Minister and very likely the Vice Chief of Defence Staff. The more operationally tasked Deputy Chief of Defence Staff would have likely been located in the NORAD Regional HQ at North Bay, Ontario
The War Cabinet Room in the Central Emergency Government Headquarters (the Diefenbunker)
The War Cabinet would have had ministers responsible for:
-Defence -Science & Technology
-Communications (incl CBC) -Industrial Production
-External Affairs -Agriculture
-Finance -Fisheries & Oceans
-Solicitor General (RCMP/CSIS) -Justice
-Health & Social Services -Energy, Mines & Resources
The Cabinet would have been briefed on the war situation and the impact of the attack of Canada and Canadians by staff of the Military and Civil Situation Centres and by departmental officials at least twice daily (more often if the situation required more up-to-date information).
Policy developed and decisions made would have enabled the federal government to coordinate the national response, specifically with respect to evacuation, relocation, rescue, and reentry operations. Cabinet direction would have been promulgated though a variety of regional departmental offices and the other Emergency Government Headquarters located in the regions/provinces.
An informed and functioning federal cabinet would also have allowed the central government to begin the task of trying to plan and coordinate the national post-attack national recovery effort (as much as this would have been possible in the aftermath of such a horrendous event). It is likely that not all of the cabinet would have been located in the Carp facility. Some members would have been dispersed among six underground Central Relocation Units elsewhere in the Ottawa Valley.
Telecommunications at Canadian Forces Station CARP
The Telecomms unit at Carp has been variously known as the Experimental Army Signal Establishment (E.A.S.E), CFS Carp and 701 Comm Sqn. In its first Canadian Forces Organization Order 1.16, dated 27 May 1968, the Experimental Army Signal Establishment was re-designated as Canadian Forces Station Carp. On 14 September 1970 the stations consisted of a receiver site at Carp and a transmitter site at Richardson, Ontario, reporting to Canadian Forces Communication Command. CFS Carp was to provide the administration, security and housekeeping services needed to maintain a constant state of operational readiness for all sites under its command; most importantly, the communication facilities at Carp, Richardson, Almonte and Dunrobin. It also administered support services to terminal stations at Renfrew, Arnprior, Carleton Place, Smith Falls and Kemptville. The NATO Satellite Ground Terminal and some elements of the Canadian Emergency Measures Organization at Carp also fell under its operational command. On 1 July 1971 CFS Carp was disbanded and reformed by amalgamating 701 Communication Squadron (formed on 1 April 1965) whereby it was given an increased operational emphasis on providing strategic communications for the Canadian Forces. CFS Carp was closed in 1994.
Below is the original primary federal government operations area layout prior to extensive mid-life updates in the mid 1980s. The Federal Warning Centre had by that time already been extensively modified by the complete removal of the tiered seating and the reconfiguration of the telecoms and ICONORAMA projection rooms. The mid-life changes involved a new layout of the Secretariat and modern Steelcase furniture for the Cabinet, FWC, Secretariat and EPC Staff rooms. A completely revised layout for the EmGovSitCen was adopted to take advantage of computer and CCTV technology for information processing and distribution.
- Yellow = War Cabinet Room
- Orange = Federal Warning Centre
- Green = Iconorama Decoding & Projection Room
- Beige = Teletype Communications Room
- Pink = EPC Staff Office
- Blue = Cabinet Secretariat Room
- Lt Brown = Special Secure Telephone Rooms
- Red = Civil Situation/Operations Rooms
Video “The Nuclear Roof” about the Construction of Project E.A.S.E. “the Diefenbunker” in 1959 to 1961 by the Foundation Company of Canada.
This video was taken from a 16mm film which was prepared for the Foundation Company of Canada, the Montreal firm that constructed the facility. Note that it only refers to the telecommunications purposes of the building, NOT its Continuity of Government role. This was a deliberate attempt to hide the real purpose of the building as that was a very serious problem for the government of PM Diefenbaker. The film was considered SECRET (not TOP SECRET). It is believed that the Foundation Company was also hoping to use this film to get more similar business from other nations. It is not known whether they were successful in doing so. During the early days of museum tours of the building the video was shown to all visitors at the beginning of their tour, that is until we realized it was boring for most folks (and putting them to sleep!). It was intended to be replaced by a short introduction-to-the-Cold War/ Bunker video (as in most similar museums) but that never happened.
The above link is my response to a series of good questions asked by Alexander Badzak, the bunker museum’s first professional Executive Director.
CEGHQ In-Briefing for Officials Reenactment
For a 27 minute video re-enactment of the type of briefing that would have been provided to officials having duties in the CEGHQ (The Diefenbunker) once activated see https://vimeo.com/39575404 (click to link or copy and paste in url search bar) and enter the password ‘diefenbunker’. The script was written by myself and video-graphed by my daughter Amber Peters and edited by Bonnie Robinson of YOW Productions, Ottawa. Bunker volunteers and guest actors played the part of federal government officials around the War Cabinet table.
The Role of the “Diefenbunker” (The Central Emergency Government Headquarters) in Canada’s Civil Defence/Continuity of Government Program
1. Constructed in the years 1959-61, the Central Emergency Government Headquarters (CEGHQ) at Canadian Forces Station Carp, popularly known as the Diefenbunker, was the flagship of a hierarchy of a cross-country network of government shelters which were an integral part of Canada’s preparations for a possible nuclear attack on North America. Militarily Canada hoped to gain some protection through participation in such collective defence alliances as the North American Air Defence (NORAD) Agreement and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
2. On the civil side a rudimentary Civil Defence program was in existence although it never really fully reached a state of complete readiness. Arrangements were at varying degrees of preparedness in the following areas:
a. The Continuity of Government Program (the system of shelters for selected government officials),
b. Radiation Defence (monitoring and reporting on nuclear detonations and fallout radiation levels).
c. The Emergency Broadcasting System (mainly CBC radio),
d. The Emergency Public Information System ( government run, to be staffed by public relations specialists and well-known media personalities),
e, Emergency Hospitals and Medical Treatment Arrangements ( 200 stored deployable 200 bed hospitals along with thousands of pre-packaged kits for other medical treatment including blood transfusions, etc.),
f, The Attack Warning System ( a system for triggering the nation-wide system of 1700 sirens and pre-recorded emergency radio broadcasts),
g. Reentry (into damaged areas) and rescue (from collapsed structures) arrangements (in the early 60’s the responsibility of the Army but later given to the provinces).
Continuity of Government (C of G) Facilities
3. Primary control of all of the above programs would have emanated from the CEGHQ at Carp where about 550 people would have been involved in the information acquisition and analysis, decision making and telecommunications operations necessary to attempt to provide for a “thin thread” of continuity of government from before to after a nuclear attack. By this means it was hoped to avoid having the whole country falling into complete anarchy. Of course this would not have been done in complete isolation. Sufficient redundant telecommunications existed to provide contact with areas of the country not so badly hit by fallout and with other headquarters in the network.
4. In the provinces, at a safe distance from their capital cities, were Regional Emergency Government Headquarters (REGHQs) sheltering upwards of 350 people including representatives of provincial governments. A few REGHQs had Regional Relocation Units (RRUs) for overflow and backup purposes. In provinces with large populations there were additional Zone Emergency Government Headquarters (ZEGHQs) that reported to REGHQs and to which Municipal Emergency Government Headquarters (MEGHQs) would have reported.
The Governor-in-Council and Backup
5. As a backup to the CEGHQ there were six other less protected shelters located at furthers distances from Ottawa in equipped spaces in the basements of various federal buildings from Cornwall to Pembrooke. These Central Relocation Units (CRUs), similar in some respects to the RRUs mentioned above, held 90-150 people and could have taken over in case the Carp bunker was destroyed or otherwise out of operation. Sufficient officials, legally empowered to act on behalf of the government were located in the CRUs in order to act as the Governor-in-Council if necessary.
6. To have legal government in Canada in such an extreme emergency (as a nuclear attack on North America would have been), all that was needed was the Governor-in-Council (G in C) consisting of a group of four ministers (one of which would likely have been the Prime Minister) and the Governor General. If the GG was dead or unable to function, The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (or failing that), any justice of that court would have sufficed. These ‘teams’ of ministers and justices would have been located in the CRUs, ready to assume their role as backup if necessary.
7. The Governor-in-Council along with other ministers of the War Cabinet would have been the core officials in the bunker. A small Cabinet Secretariat (composed of officials from the Privy Council Office) would have provided coordination of government operations. They and other decision makers would have been further supported by about 300 officials representing some 20 federal departments and agencies responsible for such functions as national defence, food production and distribution, transportation, communication, public works, housing, security, and many others. A small Military Information Centre would have kept everybody informed as to the military situation in North America, Europe, and the World. Likewise a small Civil Information Centre would have kept officials up-to-date on what was happening in Canada with respect to damage and casualties to the population and the impact of the attack on the nation’s infrastructure (bridges, rail centres, ports, grain and other food supplies, telecommunication systems, energy supplies, and the like). Military personnel would have provided both the telecommunications into and out of the CEGHQ as well as the site administration (feeding, facility maintenance and operation, security, etc.) services.
Some General Comments
8. Backup and alternatives were to be arranged for every person who would have been assigned a responsibility at the CEGHQ to ensure that all positions would have been filled upon the close down and full occupation of the facility. Movement of people, records, equipment and supplies would not have been a last minute rush because advance parties would have moved onto location when strategic warning of a possible threat of attack was received, possibly weeks earlier. Higher level selected and elected officials would have moved to the bunker using the fastest means possible on receipt of tactical warning. At that time an attack would have imminent and the take-cover warning sirens would likely have been sounding across the nation. As an interesting side note no occupant of any of the various emergency government headquarters would have been permitted to bring his or her family to the shelters – they had to make their own family protection arrangements.
9. The Diefenbunker (CEGHQ) at Carp was at the centre of a large network of shelter facilities, plans, arrangements, and other organizations that would have attempted to provide for a level of continuity-of-government during and immediately after a nuclear attack on North America. To what degree it would have successfully done so was, fortunately, never tested and will never be known. From time-to-time the cold war heated up but it never really hit the boiling point and turned into an all out exchange of nuclear weapons.
Agencies Responsible for the Construction of the E.A.S.E. Site “Bunker” at Carp (1959 -1961)
Sixty years ago on August 21, 1958 Prime Minister Diefenbaker announced in the House of Commons the establishment of what became the basis for the Continuity of Government Program (see Hansard of that date for more specifics).
“There is therefore a need, in our opinion, for the development ofadecentralizedfederalsystemofemergency government with central, regional and some zonal elements. We intend to provide for a suitable central authority and to establish provincial, regional and zonal organizations through which a large amount of the work of the federal government could be carried on in time of war by the necessary delegation ofauthority to federalofficers.”
Construction of the Carp facility (then designated by the deliberately misleading title Experimental Army Signals Establishment or Project EASE for security reasons) began in 1959. The Cold War was heating up at the time and there was a great deal of urgency to expedite completion of this project. Thus the usual somewhat ponderous government processes had to be sped up in order to ‘get on with it’.
There were three primary agencies involved in this massive defence construction effort. The Department of National Defence (DND) was the funding and requirements definition authority, On DND’s behalf Defence Construction (1951) Limited (DCL) was the contracting authority and the Foundation Company of Canada was the actual engineering design and construction contractor,
DND’s designated Project Manager was a no-nonsense Royal Canadian Engineer “Works” officer, Lt Col Ed Churchill (who during WWII had constructed forward battlefield airfields up the length of Italy). He went on to be the Project Manager for EXPO 67 after completing the then very hush-hush EASE project. Lt Col Churchill appears having a discussion at a meeting shown in the film produced for Foundation Company about its construction, “The Nuclear Roof”.
The Crown corporation DCL was selected as the contracting agency as it had already done well on a number of government / defence projects. It had been created in 1951 to help build massive defence infrastructure during the Cold War. DCL was notably involved in building the Distant Early Warning Line. It later became Defence Construction Canada (DCC) with essentially the same mandate. Its only client is the Department of National Defence.
The following is an extract from the history section https://www.dcc-cdc.gc.ca/english/history/of the Defence Construction Canada website where they list and describe some of the many projects that they have been responsible for contracting matters (including the bunker).:
“1961 – The Experimental Army Signals Establishment (EASE) Commonly known as the Diefenbunker, EASE is built in Carp, Ontario between 1959 and 1961 to shelter Canada’s leaders in the event of nuclear war. It is designed to resist a 5-megaton nuclear weapon detonating 1.1 miles away, resulting in a 100,000-square-foot, four-storey structure surrounded by a layer of gravel five feet thick. Operated by DND from 1959 to 1994, the Diefenbunker is opened to the public as a museum in 1998.”
In 2012 DCC published a book entitled “ Breaking New Ground” https://www.dcc-cdc.gc.ca/documents/newsletter/Breaking_new_ground.pdf which has as its cover a photo of the EASE site under construction. On page 33 of that document is an article entitled “Going Underground” describing DCL’s role in construction of the ‘EASE bunker’ and the various BRIDGE Sites (regional bunkers) across the country. DCC maintains its’ corporate headquarters on Albert Street in Ottawa.
The Foundation Company of Canada was the primary design and construction agency. Sometime in the late 60s or the 70s (?) the Company became part of Aecon, a large Canadian engineering design and construction firm.
On a history page of its website http://www.aecon.com/About_Us/History Aecon notes some of the various companies that have become part of its organization.
“Aecon’s predecessor companies include some of Canada’s most renowned construction names. Over the years, companies such as The Foundation Company of Canada, Jackson Lewis, Lockerbie and Hole, Banister Pipelines, Nicholls-Radtke, Pitts Engineering Construction, and Armbro Construction have come together to form what we now know as Aecon.”
The bunker is not mentioned specifically as one of the Foundation Company of Canada’s /Aecon’s achievements probably because of the high level of security concerns involved in even admitting to its very existence. As an aside even today some former employees involved in the construction of the bunker refuse to discuss the project, citing security as their reason.
Considering the above information it is evident that both DCC and Aecon are proud of their respective engineering histories including the building of the Carp bunker. Since they both had major roles in its construction, they may be amenable to helping us to maintain a significant component of their legacy re-purposed as a museum for future generations to learn about the Cold War.
Background Information and Events Pertaining to the Closure of CFS CARP and the Central Emergency Government Headquarters (CEGHQ) – Dave Peters 14 Aug 07 –
The following narrative records my understanding of the events the led up to the cancellation in 1992 of most of the arrangements that were in place to support the Civil Defence aspects of Emergency Preparedness in Canada including the Continuity of Government (CoG) Program. The term ‘Civil Defence’ (CD) refers to that portion of civil emergency preparedness activities that (starting in the 1950s) had been put in place by the federal government to respond to a potential nuclear attack on North America. This latter program encompassed the extensive federal system of government shelters, including the Central Emergency Government Headquarters lodged at Canadian Forces Station CARP. This document is being written to respond to queries that the Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum has recently received from federal officials concerning the closure and disposal of the facilities aspects of the CoG, as well as to provide a record for the Diefenbunker museum’s archives.
Because of my long time managing the CoG/CoCG Program and my continuing involvement in the CARP building as a volunteer member of the Board of Directors with the Diefenbunker Museum, I consider myself reasonably qualified to compose this narrative. From 1983 when I retired from a career with the Canadian Army and became the Director of Emergency Operations Coordination (DEOC) with EPC to 1997 when I retired as Acting Director General Operations I was the person primarily responsible for the overall operational readiness and functional coordination of the CoG Program and (until 1992), its successor, the CoCG Program. While the CoG/CoCG Program(s) involved many departments and agencies of the federal, provincial and, indirectly even municipal governments and some elements of the private sector (i.e. telecommunications), its primary ‘champion’ was EPC and within that organisation, a few officials in DEOC.
The information contained in the document is mainly based on my memory of events, prompted by a few relevant documents that I’ve been able to find and conversations with fellow “EPC veterans” who were involved in the Program. There is probably a great deal of other information that is (or was) classified or is buried somewhere in files/archives that could be useful in shedding additional light on the events pertaining the closure and that would add to (or conflict with/contradict) my version as to what happened. If such is the case I apologize in advance. I don’t believe that once DND had decided to go ahead with the closure, EPC officials were kept fully ‘in the picture’.
This narrative should be treated as a draft. I will staff it around to several of the Museum’s volunteers and other persons who may have knowledge of the matter and as updating, supplementary or correction information is provided I will modify the document and redistribute it as required.
LEGAL and LEGISLATIVE BACKGROUND
In its latter years of operation (post Parliamentary passage of the Emergency Preparedness Act (EPA) in 1988), the CoG was in the process of being superseded by a Continuity of Constitutional Government Program (CoCG). In the EPA, CoG had been replaced by CoCG. Post the Act Emergency Preparedness Canada officials began attempting to clarify and respond to the practical implications of the term constitutional insofar as it impacted the practical preparedness and operational readiness of the physical facilities and the operational procedures aspects of the Program. After some consultation with constitutional experts, by about 1990 it had been concluded that (at the least) a quorum of the House of Commons (20), the Senate 15), the Supreme Court (4?) and the Federal Court (4?) would have to be provided for in the CoG protected facilities. (The quorum approach seemed to be the most reasonable and practicable course-of action given the severe physical size limitations of the then existing extensive system of very-expensive-to-construct nuclear hardened ‘bunkers’ located across the country).
ORIGINS of the CoG PROGRAM and the EMERGENCY GOVERNMENT HQs
Many details of the CoG including its origins and ‘evolution’ during the three and a half decades of its existence may be found in documents posted on the Diefenbunker’s web site www.diefenbunker.ca. Copies of many other related background documents have already been provided to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada officials currently responsible for the CoCG Program. In summary the CoG Program (and its nationwide system of hardened shelters) was announced in Parliament in 1958 (reference the appropriate Hansard records) by the Diefenbaker administration. This announcement (and subsequent related statements) in the House of Commons appears to have followed Cabinet level discussions by senior bureaucrats and elected officials in response to the then rapidly growing threat of a potential Soviet nuclear attack on North America. The Central Emergency Government Headquarters (CEGHQ) and other related Regional and Zonal EGHQs were an integral part of those arrangements and an essential component of the panoply of Civil Defense preparations then being put in place across the nation. The bulk of CoG preparation revolved around the system of hardened shelter facilities.
The CARP Facility was constructed in 1959-61 by the Foundation Company of Montreal, supervised by officers from the Canadian Army’s Engineering and Signals Corps. It was fitted up with tele-communications equipment and commissioned by 1962 (or 1963). The existence of this CEGHQ and its real primary purpose as a CoG shelter for federal government officials was a badly kept secret as a result of a infamous newspaper article published during its construction. However military officials continued to refer to it as an Experimental Army Signals Establishment (EASE) site (for security reasons!).
Soon after its commissioning, a series of national “TOCSIN” exercises were held in the early 1960s to trial the CARP facility and test related preparations. It is believed that the CARP facility was operationally ready, both with respect to military telecommunications and civil federal government CoG headquarters aspects, when the Cuban missile crisis occurred in October 1962. However it appears (from interviews with the then Commanding Officer and other sources) very little in the way of actual crisis-related activity actually took place at the CARP facility.
The CEGHQ was the location from which the overall governance functions of the federal government would have been coordinated/directed. There was, however a need for shelter (fallout, not blast resistant) facilities in the regions to enable federal regional officials and provincial governments to also continue functioning. This included coordination of combined federal/provincial coordination of survival operations such as re-entry, rescue, medical and other such direct help-to-the-affected-survivors activities. Thus in 1961 work had begun of a series of Regional Emergency Government Headquarters (REGHQ) ‘bunkers’ for combined federal and provincial officials. These facilities, while ‘reporting’ to the CEGHQ, had a quite different set of functions. Six out of a planned ten of these facilities were completed by 1968 when the Trudeau administration put the entire Civil Defence program on hold (with the provision that arrangements already in-place be maintained at a reasonable level of operational readiness). This decision took place during a period of relative quiet during the Cold War.
PERIOD of CoG/CEGHQ INACTIVITY
It is my understanding that civil CoG activity at the CARP Facility was virtually non-existent during the mid 1960s to late 1970s period. The military continued to maintain the facility and to use it as a major component in its telecommunications capabilities.
The general lack of any CoG related activity by the CD oriented Canada Emergency Measures Organisation (EMO) and its successor EPC was likely due to a number of factors. There was a (puzzling) lack of available CoG ‘doctrine’, directives, and other such documentation that one would expect to accompany such an expensive-to-create program (secrecy may have been one reason for this, the other being ignorance and lack of motivation by the officials responsible). As well for much of this time an uneasy detente/stalemate prevailed between the nuclear powers which may have, in the short-sited view of some officials, led them to conclude that the program was no longer needed. Furthermore an general attitude of malaise toward CD preparations (‘we’re all going to die, life won’t be worth living, better red than dead, etc.’) became wide spread amongst the general populace which may have influenced in the attitudes of federal elected and public service officials. The result appears to have been a virtual total neglect of the program and misunderstanding by the military of their role at the CEGHQ. Offices and other areas that were supposed to be maintained in readiness for civil officials in the event they were needed were allocated and in some cases modified for use by the military.
The increasing tensions and escalating war preparations on both sides (probably resulting in large part from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) in the early 1980s resulted in EPC officials discreetly engaging in various projects aimed at updating and enhancing CoG arrangements with respect to shelter facilities, operational capabilities and organizational (especially activation preparations and procedures). This resurgence of civil CoG activity resulted in the creation of a CEGHQ Activation Committee of senior departmental EM/EP officials. This Committee met regularly every few months from about 1985 to 1990 and had made considerable progress towards enabling effective activation of the CEGHQ had it ever been required prior to its being closed down with the ‘end’ of the Cold War in 1989/90. As EPC began to reassert its leadership in this Program, other federal departments and agencies began to take an increasing interest in actively fulfilling their CoG readiness responsibilities. The result was an ever increasing interest and participation in two-day exercises which were run annually in the latter half of the 1980s.
DECOMMISSIONING and CLOSURE
In the late 1980s, DND policy officials began approaching EPC about possibly closing the central ‘bunker’ at CARP along with the six regional ’bunkers’ and ancillary structures on various bases across the country. Their contention was that it was too expensive ($10 million ? for CFS CARP alone) to operate and maintain these facilities. Telecommunications technology DND had been using for their own communications systems was changing rapidly and they concluded that the “bunkers’ were no longer needed to accommodate/protect such capabilities. This was also a time when DND’s budget was beginning to be severely squeezed by government cutbacks. EPC’s arguments pointing out the original primary purposes of the bunker(s), i.e. protection of essential elected and selected federal and provincial officials in locations from which to provide for a thin thread of government continuity and operational support-of-the-population activities in the event of a nuclear attack, fell on deaf ears and were dismissed as out-of-date. In meetings with EPC staff, DND officials first contended that the bunker sites were too easily capable of being located and destroyed in a nuclear missile attack and so were of no use. Later as events seemed to be signalling the end of the Cold War, it was their position that the capabilities provided by the ‘bunkers’ were obsolete and just not needed for any purpose.
EPC officials maintained that besides even a low possibility of an all-out nuclear war, there were other reasons to maintain the system of bunkers, and most especially, the central facility at CARP. A brief study done by EPC’s DEOC officials at the time indicated that such close-by, already prepared, hardened shelter capabilities could be useful for other essential elected and selected officials protection purposes such as in the event of threats of or actual terrorism situations. Examples included a WMD attack by terrorists, a catastrophic natural disaster or accident such as high intensity earthquakes or a large-scale chemical release impacting the Parliamentary precinct. Consequently EPC did not acquiesce to DND’s pressure, and continued to resist, persisting in its position that Cabinet approval would be required to close down the CoG facilities.
In the early 1990s, the Mulroney administration began a series of studies into ways and means of increasing government efficiency and reducing expenditures. One of the 1992 Neilson Report’s recommendations was that EPC be ‘rolled back into DND’ (EPC had become an independent agency with the passage of the 1988 Emergency Preparedness Act). This was somewhat of a distortion as EPC had not really been a part of DND. It had merely been attached to DND for administrative purposes (pay and travel claims, etc., support). EPC had for many years been ‘tasked’ by PCO. In the early and mid 1980s its executive head (William Snarr) was a member of PCO. In any case EPC now found itself as a part of DND with its Executive Director reporting to the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff. Finally the DND policy staff were to have their way!
The EPC Executive Director was in-effect told that the facilities would be closed down as soon as practicable. Suggestions that the CARP facility be mothballed were rejected by DND staff saying that it would require $1 million a year and 20 (?) full-time maintenance staff. The closure (to my knowledge at the time) was done summarily and without serious consultation with other government departments and agencies, and without informed consultation with the appropriate central agencies and the Cabinet. I also don’t believe that the matter was ever raised or announced in Parliament.
EPC staff immediately ceased all CoG/CoCG activity pending further clarification of the ramifications of the closure of its former mainstay, the system of emergency government facilities, and the implications of the new CoCG responsibilities stipulated in the EA.
In 1991 or 1992 a group of federal departments and agencies was invited to the CARP facility (and given a comprehensive tour of the building by the author) to ascertain if there was any other possible federal use for the building. A well known Heritage Canada historian (David McConnell – the person who was later to write an unpublished history of EP in Canada 1948-1998) even wrote a mini-history of the facility for the occasion. However the overall conclusion of those attending seems to have been that there was not any use their organizations could make of the bunker.
In 1992 EPC removed the operations centre-type equipment it had installed during the previous nine years, relocating most of it to the Canadian Emergency Preparedness College in Arnprior. This was done to provide a back-up to the Jackson Building’s Government Emergency Operation Coordination Centre. This was the end of EPC’s association with DND regarding CoG EGHQs matters.
In 1994 the facility at CFS CARP was decommissioned. Subsequently the ancillary underground shelter radio transmitter facility near PERTH (a small scale version of the CARP bunker) was sealed and the DUNROBIN and BURNT LANDS antennae sites were dismantled and disposed off. Apparently DND intended to seal the CARP bunker ASAP but a group of local citizens successfully appealed the loss of a potentially historic site to high levels in the federal government. The story (unsubstantiated) is that DND was supposed to remove items of military use or importance and leave the rest of the building and its furniture and equipment in place. This did not happen. In fact DND stripped the place of all fittings and furniture, salvaging for their reuse some items of equipment and disposing of others through Crown Assets Corporation. Many items simply disappeared. (The Canadian War Museum was given a couple of days to remove some potentially historically important items prior to the building being closed.)
Eventually (1995?) the Township of West Carleton purchased the entire 80 acres (+/-) of the former CFS CARP, primarily to acquire a large facility maintenance building that DND had built two or three years previously. The Township turned that building into a library using funds generated by volunteers conducting two years of guided public tours of the underground building. Public interest was high and significant funds realized. The Township also converted other outbuildings and spaces for recreational use and as sources of rental revenue. The ‘bunker’ and the land immediately surrounding it was put up for sale in 1997 but had no serious takers and eventually was sold to a group of individuals desiring to turn the building into a Cold War Museum on a not-for-profit basis. It has been operating as such on a full time basis since then. In 1998 it was officially ‘plaqued’ as a National Historic Site by Parks Canada. Currently it averages 25,000 visitors a years and is largely self funding.
As a side bar it should be noted that the current status of the six REGHQ facilities is to my knowledge the following:
- Nanaimo (BC), Shilo (MB), Borden (ON) – sealed (not preserved),
- Penhold (AB) – destroyed,
- Debert (NS) –sold to industrial park, being used (and abused) by local Air Cadets.
- Valcartier – used occasionally for temporary accommodation.
It is my personal opinion that the Federal Government/DND was premature in its closing down and for the most part disposing of the system of Emergency Government Headquarters hardened facilities and ancillary structures. This is particularly true in regard to the CEGHQ at CARP. This short-sighted approached removed a valuable set of special purpose, potentially useful and very expensive/difficult-to-replace capabilities resources from the federal government’s inventory for (in my view) relatively little in actual cost savings.
On the positive side the CARP ‘bunker’ has been preserved virtually intact and is an excellent, most appropriate building in which to house the Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum.
A Mysterious ‘Square Lake and The ‘Lost’ Bunker Site (Cedarhill, Ontario)
- Recently declassified documents reveal that the original planning for protected facilities (from which small numbers of elected and selected government officials could ensure continuity of legitimate federal government) involved 15 potential sites in the area about 30 to 70 kilometers west and southwest of Ottawa.
- Original planning seriously considered two, (or possibly three) of these locations for federal officials and along with another devoted to telecommunications. Of the main sites, all but sites #1, #7 and #8 were eliminated quite early in the selection process. Site #1 (Carp), Site #7 (Almonte-Cedarhill area), and Site #8 (Galetta area) were evaluated as to their suitability for ‘executive’ structures that would have sheltered about 300 people for up to 30 days. Site #15 (location not known) was to be a ‘comms’ facility. It appears the planners then decided to split telecommunications capabilities between two other structures and increase the capacity of each ‘executive’ structure to 410 people. Site #15 was then ‘abandoned’ (for the moment!).
- Work actually began at two of the other sites (Carp and Almonte-Cedarhill). Costs were rising because of lack of experience building such complex structures. Perhaps for that reason or because of a serious excavation flooding problem encountered at the Almonte-Cedarhill Site, that site was also abandoned (after most of the foundation had already been excavated). Remaining efforts (and funds) were then concentrated on the Carp site.
- For reasons unknown, many felt that the Carp Site was not the best choice. Also it appears that the idea of having a separate ‘comms’ transmission facility was resurrected, suggesting that the final location of the constructed mini-bunker (at Richardson just east of Perth) was its originally intended Site #15 location.
- Site #7 (the Almonte-Cedarhill location)? – Well it seems that it has become a permanent topographic feature, a ‘square lake’, sufficiently visible from aerial surveys that it began to appear as a distinct feature on topographic maps as early as 1969!
- Copy and paste the following to see Google Map of the abandoned site. http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&ll=45.251809,-76.324854&spn=0.02568,0.076818&z=14 Or follow this link. It is the diamond-shaped hole with a water path directly south. Switch to satellite view and zoom in twice to get a better view. The path is the excavation ramp. Below that is a pile of tailings which (having visited the site twice) I calculate to have a volume equivalent to the estimated volume of the pit. The pit is almost exactly 200 ft on a side which would be the same excavated size of the Carp site.
- All around the area are bits and pieces of evidence of DND / contractor activity (which is now of course over 60 years old. Barbed wire, truck maintenance pits, warning signs,etc. abound. The straight-sided pit is full of water (and leaches!).
- Various readings suggest it was abandoned because of the discovery the location was in a hanging water table, but the problem may have just been cost over-runs, It is believed that the intention was to have two equivalent sites of about 400+ occupants each and that the Bank of Canada Vault would have been integral to the Cedar Hill facility. When the site was abandoned the BoC vault was relocated to be an annex connected by a tunnel to the Carp facility which doesn’t make any sense from the designed blast integrity of the the Carp facility at all!
Interesting fact about the Diefenbunker. Virtually all military personnel, from cooks to teletype operators were trained in firefighting. Every floor had its firefighting station equipped with the gear necessary to combat a fire. As in a submarine, fire in the closed confinement of the bunker would have been an ever-present danger.