CF-18 monument to be installed in Ottawa, one already in place where air force base displaced Dene peoples in Alberta
Photo: A CF-18 monument was installed at Heritage Park at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake in 2004 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the base that displaced Dene Su’lene’ peoples from their ancestral lands.
In September 2020, Ottawa Citizen reporter David Pugliese reported on monuments to be installed at the new headquarters of National Defence on Carling Avenue in Ottawa.
His article noted: “The Royal Canadian Air Force will provide a CF-18 fighter jet for display at the headquarters. ‘The installation date of the CF-18 is still being determined,’ Canadian Forces spokesman Maj. Scott Spurr noted in an email.”
In 2015, the plan was for a CF-5 fighter jet to be one of the monuments.
Pugliese adds: “The CF-5 jet was dumped in exchange for a more modern CF-18, which will be installed on a concrete pedestal.”
Dene displaced for air force base
Dene Su’lene’ land defenders have stated: “In 1952, we were forcibly evicted from our homelands [so that the base could be constructed]. In Suckerville [on the shores of Primrose Lake], our people had a 7-day sit-in, refusing to leave. Reluctantly, after heavy coercion from the government, a deal was made.”
They add: “Our people left peacefully under the understanding that this was to be a short-term lease purely for military use, and that the 4,490 square miles of land was to be returned or re-negotiated after 20 years.”
On June 3, 2001, Dene Su’lene’ Warriors established a Peace Camp blockade 300 metres from the gate to the military base that also includes the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) where live fire training exercises are conducted.
In April 2013, they began making trips into the northeastern part of the CLAWR and began preparations to build cabins, openly engaging in traditional land use activities and actively asserting their rights to their territory.
Burial grounds bombed
Also known as the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range, it includes “an instrumented aerospace testing and evaluation range, a manned air-to-ground range (including a high explosive range), and an air-to-air gunnery range.”
Land defender Brian Grandbois was one of the opponents of the military base at that time. In an interview, he told The Dominion: “My great-great-great-grandfather is buried there on a point on that lake where they bomb.”
“Denesuline are cleaning toilets for executives”
By October 2001, the Band Council of the Cold Lake First Nation signed a $25.5 million that would allow the military base and weapons range to continue. This amounted to $35 for each acre of the weapons range and $2,500 for each band member.
In November 2012, Sandra Cuffe wrote: “Aside from a land claim settlement concerning the military base, the Cold Lake First Nation band council has also signed agreements with hydrocarbon corporations and owns a number of contracting companies serving the military and oil and gas industries.”
Grandbois commented: “They’re extracting huge amounts of resources, both in gas and oil. …If you look in the Air Weapons Range today in 2012, you’ll find the Denesuline are cleaning toilets for executives.”
New fighter jets, upgraded base
The Canadian government now plans to spend up to $19 billion on the purchase of new fighter jets. This study suggests the life-cycle costs of those fighter jets could be $76.8 billion.
In August 2020, the Canadian Armed Forces announced a $9.2 million contract for the design of a new fighter jet facility at 4 Wing Cold Lake to house these new fighter jets.
Ottawa West-Nepean Member of Parliament Anita Vandenbeld, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, has indicated that the selection of the successful bidder is anticipated in early 2022 and that the contract for the new fighter jet is expected to be awarded in late 2022.
We continue to follow this.