Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our Lives: Canada and the World, 1960s and 1970s (9)

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Canada's support for the Vietnam War was complicated by a burgeoning sense of national identity. The federal government publicly supported the American war effort. Canada supplied arms both to the Americans and the South Vietnamese. Guarded 1965 criticisms of the American bombing campaign by Prime Minister Lester Pearson only earned was the wrath of President Lyndon Johnson. They came to a mutual decision not to publicly criticize each other's foreign policies. On the international scene, as a mediator at the International Criminal Court, Canada projected the image of a staunchly partisan anti-communist power.

The domestic situation presents a rather different story. The country embraced somewhere between 70,000 and 125,000 American draft dodgers. Though contrary to Canadian law, the RCMP was sometimes complicit in remanding dodgers back into American custody. This came to an end when the story of a draft dodger, who had been deported back to the United States, but entered Canada a second time, was told by the NDP in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau asserted Canada's independence from American foreign policy in a number of other significant ways. In 1970, the government declared Canada's right to protect the Arctic environment throughout a 100-mile zone north of the sixtieth parallel. American oil tankers often passed through the waters. The Canadian government claimed jurisdiction on behalf of Arctic Native communities. In the same year, the government also recognized the government of mainland China, two years before the Americans.

Though Canada had no desire to become a nuclear power, the Trudeau government continued to support the idea of nuclear deterrence. It also made a policy of selling CANDU nuclear reactors internationally, even though the program was operated at a net loss. Nuclear technology was marketed as a boon for global order. When India exploded a nuclear device in 1974, the hollowness of safeguards the government put in place to prevent further nuclear proliferation was exposed.

The Trudeau government also removed government subsidies from corporations dealing with the apartheid regime in South Africa, though refused to implement a complete boycott. The token gesture did little to affect trade between the two countries. The government even allowed that social disparities triggered revolutionary movements in Third World countries. This did not preclude, however, tacit support for American interventions, which had as their goal to protect, not democracy, but free enterprise capitalism.


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