Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Remembering Knowlton Nash

The gifted Canadian journalist and author Cyril Knowlton Nash died May 24, 2014 in Ontario at the age of 86.

Many Canadians remember him as 'a cool' news anchor for many years on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's flagship television program The National. Before that, he was a dedicated newspaper and radio journalist, and author of several books. He was known for getting the facts, being fair, and producing a good story.

Few people remember that Mr. Nash wrote an expose article published March 1960 in Maclean's Magazine about the diabolical chemical and biological research that was going on in Suffield, Alberta. Since WWII, the British worked with the Canadian government to set up a bioweapons test range at Suffield, Alberta. The area was empty and isolated, and experiments could be performed with greater safety than in the U. K.

Noted Doukhobor lawyer and peace activist Peter G. Makaroff brought the article to the attention of the Doukhobors and Quakers. As a result, on July 5, 1964, some 350 people (most of them Doukhobors) held a peaceful rally at the gates of this Alberta testing centre at the Defence Research Board experimental stationSuffield Experimental Station220 km southeast of Calgary, 50 km northwest of Medicine Hat.

This article by Nash revitalized activism among peace groups in Canada. In the 1960's, a series of peace demonstrations were held by Doukhobors, Quakers, Mennonites, and others.

'In the early 1960s, I was one of the core organizers with Peter G. Makaroff (1894-1970) of three peace demonstrations which we called: "A Manifestation for Peace." Peacemaker A.J. Muste from New York spoke at one of these gatherings in Suffield, Alberta, urging governments to cease research and production of chemical, biological and radiological weapons.' (Q52: Tell me about your 1960s experience, 3 December 2012)

'Suffield, Alberta. July 5, 1964. International peacemaker from New York, A. J. Muste, spoke as 350 people protested at the gates of an Alberta centre testing gas, germ and radiological warfare known as the Defence Research Board experimental station at Suffield (Tarasoff, 1969: 267-268).' (Koozma as ‘Human Library’ on Peace at Canadian War Museum, February 27, 2013.)

From my Pictorial History of the Doukhobors (1969), page 267:

'It all started with a national magazine article by C. Knowlton Nash titled "Have Germs Already Made the H-Bomb Obsolete?" [Maclean's Magazine, 26 March 1960.] This article was translated into Russian by the Doukhobor Society of Canada (formerly the Union of Doukhobors of Canada) and concern began to brew among the USCC and the Independent Doukhobors. A planning committee was established and six months later culminated in the "manifestation".

'Suffield has been used as a centre for "special weapons research" by the Defence Departmemt since World War II. Special weapons is the generic term for chemical, biological and atomic weapons. The Suffield works, of course, is of a classified nature. The following comments, however, [come]…from Knowlton Nash: "The annual expenditure of Canada's Defence Research Board for research and Development is $32,000,000. This covers the cost of maintaining a huge research and testing station at Suffield, Alberta, on which stand 112 miles of fence. In a hangar-like building, according to one visitor, cages of experimental animals line the walls from floor to ceiling and airplane motors circulate experimental gases. Both nerve gases and germs — and possible antidotes — are tested at Suffield."

'Included in the gathering were a group of nine Quakers from the community at Argenta, B.C.; a small delegation from the Edmonton Canadian Universities Committee for Nuclear Disarmament group; a handful of University of British Columbia students; one hitchhiking University of Saskatchewan student; and the rest were Doukhobors from the three western provinces. Their witness at the Suffield gates was that of a fast for ten hours, spent in half hour periods of silent meditations, with acappella singing and speeches in between. Mr. A. J. Muste, internationally known pacifist from New York was featured speaker.

'Rain came down for a large part of the day, but all stayed. Late in the afternoon, as the welcome sun began to shine, a lengthy address was made by Peter G. Makaroff, a prominent international lawyer and Independent Doukhobor. The following are a few of his comments:

'All through history men have served the cause of peace with fighting. Yet it is a law of nature and of God that you cannot do the right thing by wrong means.

'Modern war is terrible beyond any comparison or any imagining. We look across this fence and ask ourselves, and still in the interests of peace?"

'The atomic deterrent is bad enough — yet, to make doubly sure of world peace, we develop chemical, biological and radiological weapons which are said to be superior because they don't harm property.'

Thank you, Knowlton Nash, for making us aware about the dangers of chemical, biological, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. As concerned citizens of any country yesterday and today, we need to stand up and be counted. We need to call out: 'War is a crime against humanity. Let's stop humanity's greatest scourge — that of war!'

The media, our family, and the military industrial complex are good places to start. Are our leaders listening?

As an old Doukhobor hymn states:
'Wake up new spirits.
The time has long come...
To work for peace and goodness.'



  1. Thank you for another beautifully written article! Indeed, Noultan Nash deserves our gratitude for bringing to attention the dangers of chemical, biological, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The work of the Doukhobors is equally impressive - tireless champions of peace and reconciliation! Thank you also for all you do and continue to do to bring an end to the futile era of wars...it is true that you cannot do the right thing by wrong means, peace is the answer.

  2. Lawrence Klippenstein30 May 2014 at 17:30

    Thank you again for sending the Knowlton Nash story helping the peace cause. I have passed it down half a dozen folks who are doing a project of erecting a peacemakers memorial here in Steinbach. We are hoping to get it well underway this year. No one really knew of the concern of Nash for a world threatened by destruction by nuclear power. I will send a few other pieces connected to the project here.

    I hope we can stay in touch. All the best in further nonkilling solutions to conflict worldwide!