From the Chilliwack Progress Archives: Decision is made to close Chilliwack military base

CFB Chilliwack was part of the fabric of this city for decades before the base was shuttered.

Since first publishing on April 16, 1891 the Chilliwack Progress has been the newspaper of record in Chilliwack.

One hundred and 28 years later the Progress remains the longest continuously published newspaper in British Columbia. With the addition of a thriving digital operation anchored by theprogress.com, the Progress delivers more news to more people than ever before.

‘From the Progress Archives’ is a journey into the past, to see what was making news decades ago.

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Headline: Minimum force: Top military commander vows dismantling of CFB will be done in ‘easiest and best’ way.

Date: February 28, 1996

Reporter: Robert Freeman

The decision to close CFB Chilliwack is final, says Canada’s new top army officer.

And the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry until stationed here won’t remain when the Chilliwack military base closes in 1998, Lieutenant-General Maurice Baril said.

“The decision is to close it,” Baril told reporters during a brief meeting at Chilliwack’s municipal airport Friday.

“It should be very clear … that the decision (to close the base) was taken by the government of Canada,” Baril said. “With the uniform I’ve taken on, I don’t discuss that (politicial decisions) anymore.

“My responsibility is to make sure it’s done in the easiest and best way,” said the new commander of the Land Force Command, and which is “least painful” for civilian and military employees.

While provincial politicians are demanding a “significant force” remain at the base, Baril said what the military will leave behind is “the minimum that we require.”

The 3PPLI unit from Chilliwack will be going to a new light infantry battalion forming at CFB Edmonton, he said.

Meanwhile, 65 Edmonton area merchants and mayors are coming to the Chilliwack base today to show off the accommodations and services waiting for Chilliwack soldiers.

Chilliwack Mayor John Les confessed the idea of Edmonton being solid in his own backyard “does leave a bit of a raw feeling” but would help soldiers moving there.

MLA Bob Chisholm said the Edmonton exhibit indicates the military is “speeding up” the move currently slated for June, 1998.

Chisholm said he will ask B.C. Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh to make a legal challenge to the federal government’s decision to close the base, citing the National Defence Act, the National Earthquake Plan and constitutional guarantees of citizens’ security.

Mission MLA Dennis Streifel, who chaired a provincial task force reviewing the military base’s role in B.C. emergencies, said everyone in Chilliwack should see the “bizarre” exhibit.

“Every nickel that’s spent in Edmonton is a loss to this area,” he said.

The NDP MLA added that’s “an affront” to B.C., the third largest province, to be left without a standing army once the Chilliwack base closes.

“We’ve been absolutely abandoned by the Ottawa Liberals on the base issue, and I don’t understand it,” he said.

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