Is There a Massive, Cold War Era Fallout Shelter Under Queen’s Park in Toronto?
With Putin reliving Russia’s past glories in Eastern Europe and muttering darkly about nukes, the shelter industry may be in for a comeback.
Long-time Torontonians might have heard stories about a secret fallout shelter under the Ontario provincial parliament buildings at Queen’s Park, constructed during the Cold War to save the Ontario government from nuclear annihilation. Was it real — and could it still be operational?
Well, no. But the tale isn’t far from the truth.
Many people today don’t realize how terrifyingly real the threat of nuclear war was in the 1950s and ’60s. It wasn’t ironic-with-a-nervous-giggle like the 2012 Mayan apocalypse, or even a fill-the-tub-with-drinking-water-just-in-case situation like Y2K. The Cold War was a continent-wide panic attack in slow motion that lasted decades.
And while school kids were being taught to duck and cover under their desks — presumably to avoid the trauma of seeing the blast that would incinerate them — sturdy underground shelters were being built for the political leaders who would cheerlead survivors into rebuilding civilization once the radioactive dust had settled.
In Canada, the most well-known of these shelters was the so-called “Diefenbunker” near Ottawa. Nicknamed after Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, the hideout was a poorly kept secret even as it was being built in the late 1950s. Essentially a huge concrete box buried in gravel, it was designed to keep several hundred select federal officials safe from Communist aggression, up to and including a near-miss from a 5 megaton bomb (about 350 times the size of the device that made Hiroshima famous).
This Costco-sized supercrypt was for the elite feds only, of course. Lesser public servants would have been expected to ride out the hostilities in basic fallout shelters or remain on the surface, mutating quietly in preparation for future careers fighting chainsaw death matches at Thunderdome.
The City of Toronto had its own mini-Diefenbunker, located under an old farmhouse outside of Aurora. The Metropolitan Toronto Emergency Preparedness Centre couldn’t withstand a…