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1984: Missile protester sentenced for defacing Constitution

The Story


Over a year ago, Peter Greyson entered Ottawa's National Archives and poured red paint over the Constitution. Today, the art student is sentenced to 89 days in jail. Displeased with the federal government's decision to allow U.S. cruise missile testing in Canada, Greyson had wanted to "graphically illustrate to Canadians" how wrong the government was. After sentencing him, the presiding judge concedes that Greyson is "an excellent student, with a possibly brilliant artistic future."

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Oct. 9, 1984
Reporter: Mike Pietrus
Duration: 1:10

Did You know?


• During the trial, Greyson said, "the most important part of the Constitution is the Charter of Rights. One of the most basic rights is to be alive. The Trudeau Government has violated that right."

• Greyson was charged with public mischief. He was sentenced to 89 days in jail (to be served on weekends), 100 hours of community work, and two years of probation.

• Police initially thought that Greyson was acting on behalf of an anti-cruise protest group called Against Cruise Testing and were planning to serve summonses on two members of the group until the group publicly denied any connection to the event, or Greyson. "He's not associated with any anti-nuclear group," said Angela Browning, a spokesperson for the group. "We understand and sympathize with the motivation for the action. We just don't feel that kind of thing accomplishes anything."

• On July 15, 1983, the federal government confirmed American cruise missile testing would be performed in remote areas of Canada.

• In 1985, the anti-nuclear organization Operation Dismantle argued that the Canadian government was violating section seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person. The Federal Court of Appeal rejected this argument because it said the claim was based upon assumptions and hypotheses instead of actual fact.


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