preventing anarchy after a Soviet nuclear attack

by Leslie Hossack

Departmental Office, Level 300, The Diefenbunker, Ottawa 2010

© Leslie Hossack

In December 1961, Canada’s Central Emergency Government Headquarters, aka the Diefenbunker, became operational. During the Cold War, in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack, designated government officials would report to Canada’s flagship bunker in Carp. It contained over 300 rooms and was designed to shelter 535 individuals. Built secretly between 1959 and 1961 just outside of Ottawa, the Diefenbunker was nicknamed after Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker.

The image above shows one of the 18 federal government departmental offices in the bunker. Pictured here is the office of Energy Mines and Resources, outfitted with furniture and equipment from the 1980s and 1990s. (To see more details, please click on the photograph.)

Located on Level 300, near the War Cabinet Room, were offices for the departments of Agriculture, Canadian Mortgage and Housing, Public Works, and so on. Approximately 20 to 30 officials would work in each department. During a nuclear attack, these individuals would provide support to their Ministers who would brief government representatives assembled in the massive underground bunker. The Secretariat would coordinate the flow of information between the War Cabinet and the various government departments.

The Diefenbunker was shut down in 1994, after 33 years of operation. It is now Canada’s Cold War Museum and a National Historic Site. For more information, please visit Canada’s Cold War Museum and Parks Canada.

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