Sunday, December 14, 2014

Our Lives: Canada on the International Scene (6)

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Canada had been the junior partner in the American-British-Canadian partnership to develop a nuclear bomb during WWII. Canadian uranium and its heavy water pile at Chalk River, Ontario, which converted uranium and plutonium, contributed significantly to the overall war effort. The Mackenzie King government decided that Canada itself would not join the nuclear club, but its contributory role earned it a place at the table at the Atomic Energy Commission.

Canada was also a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was originally the brain-child of the British. The hope for the organization was, at least in part, to force the Americans to consult their allies. Since it was the United States that was the major provider of staffing and funding, this was hopeful at best. Canada supported NATO's decision to make nuclear armament a key component of Western defense against the Soviet Union, per the plan outlined by the American secretary of state, John Foster Dulles. Canadian air defenses were integrated in a Continental system. Three Arctic monitoring lines were constructed from 1951-5 to screen incoming Soviet bombers. Canada joined North American Air Defense Treaty in 1957, following the American lead in most, if not all, things. The appearance of deference to foreign directions created a great deal of controversy during the Conservative government of John Diefenbaker.

Canada joined a UN commission on Korea in 1947, which was supposed to work for the unification of North and South--communist and democratic capitalist--Korea. By 1950, the Americans appeared to have lost interest in Korea. The North Korean leader Kim Il Sung took the appearance of indifference to mean there would be little objection to an invasion of the South. The United States supplied 88% of the troops to the defense of the South. Canada participated in the Korean War (1950-3) by sending a total 22000 troops. Wartime spending again boosted the Canadian economy.

The extent of Canada's involvement in the Vietnam War (1955-1975) was restricted to its endorsement that it co-signed with India in 1962. The report outlined North Vietnamese violations of the Geneva Accords, but failed to make mention of South Vietnamese and American violations of the same. The American pointed to the report by two apparent neutrals to justify their continuing action in the region.

The proliferation of nuclear arms during the Cold War put Canada in a difficult situation. It had initially supported both NATO's Cold War policies and objectives and NORAD's program for continental defense. Canada's international commitments required that it invest in military hardware, including fighter interceptors in 1959. It became a serious question whether Canada would arm its new weapon systems with nuclear warheads, without which they would be largely useless. In 1963, after a resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker outlined the government's commitment to the abolition of nuclear weapons. Canada's further contribution would be efforts towards nuclear deterrence. Diefenbaker found himself on the wrong side of public sentiment. Canadians had rallied behind the young American president, John F. Kennedy.

Britain had emerged from WWII deeply in debt to Canada and the United States. Unable to maintain its overseas interests, most of its former colonies attained independence by 1950. The former colonies continued to meet informally as members of the British Commonwealth: the 'white' dominions, including South Africa, out of a sentimental attachments economic interests and newly independent 'third-world' countries for trade and an investments. For Canada specifically, Britain's importance as a trading partner declined rapidly after the war. The monarchy retained its popularity.

Canada's relationship with Britain strained over the issue of the partition of Palestine. A poll taken in 1947 indicated that the population did not want to see more Jewish immigration to Canada, though there was widespread support for unlimited Jewish immigration to Palestine. The Americans quickly took up the cause of Jewish immigration. while Britain tried to limit the number of new refugees landing in Palestine. Canada largely kept silent, but threw their support behind the American position at the UN when the time came. When the State of Israel was declared in 1948, it was immediately recognized the United States. In an apparent change of heart, Canada joined Britain in withholding recognition, at least until after Israel had won the Arab-Israeli War of the same year.


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