IN May of this year, 5,500 additional Canadian troops arrived in Korea to join the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry which were already there as part of the United Nations forces. At Valcartier, near Quebec City, another brigade group is now in training and is scheduled to become part of the North Atlantic force commanded by General Eisenhower in Western Europe before the end of the year. The presence of these Canadian forces in areas so far distant from Canadian shores, and in a period of at least nominal peace, will provide perhaps the best indication of the development that has been occurring in Canadian foreign policy.

In some ways this change is as remarkable as the parallel and vastly more important one that has transformed the foreign policy of the United States. The break made by the United States with the policy of isolation--which has already produced so many acts of imaginative statesmanship--is one of the most important facts in the history of our time. Nevertheless, in spite of the abruptness of the transition, there are some aspects of American experience which have helped American people to adjust themselves to the tremendous responsibilities they now shoulder. The United States has been a Great Power for at least half a century. During that period it has held a number of overseas possessions; and in many areas of the world its political influence has been of great importance. The effects of its economic and commercial policies have long been apparent everywhere. Furthermore, its power now matches its responsibilities. It is the unquestioned leader of the coalition of free states.

Canada, on the other hand, is neither a great nor an overseas Power; and only occasionally can her voice be influential in deciding the policies of the free world. The key to Canada's present position in international affairs and to the special problems of Canadian diplomacy may be found in the fact that, notwithstanding these limitations on its power and influence, it has accepted heavy international responsibilities.

Before the Second World War the activity of Canadian governments in external affairs was to a considerable extent concerned with the development of Canada's national position in the international community. But the period ushered in by this successful effort (during which it was theoretically possible for Canada to remain neutral in a general war) was of short duration; lasting, indeed, only from the early 'thirties until September 10, 1939, when Canada declared war on Germany. After that date, Canada for six years committed her resources without reserve to the prosecution of a world-wide war; later became increasingly involved in world problems; and recently has accepted far-reaching collective security obligations. In this process, questions of national status have been subordinated to the necessity of thinking in terms of national security, and to attempts to realize this security through international collective action. Our experience in this regard has been shared by other states which have had far longer participation in international affairs.

The main reason for this growing emphasis on national security through collective action has been, of course, the threat to the free world which is presented by Soviet imperialism. The gravity of the danger has been unveiled in successive stages, so that now it is impossible for any country which values freedom to be unaware of it or to overlook its implications. The danger is complicated and multifold. It is complicated because international Communism is now used as a weapon of Soviet imperialism. It is multifold because the conspiracy with which we are confronted works sometimes through plausible propaganda, sometimes through espionage and subversion, sometimes through the threat of force, and sometimes, as in the case of Korea, through naked military aggression. The response to such a challenge, it is clear, must show not only strength, but wisdom and versatility. But the need for proper tactics cannot obscure the brute fact that military aggression is included in the armory of Cominform weapons and that, if the expansive force of Soviet imperialism issues in armed attack against other countries, it must be met by collective and armed resistance. The armed forces of the free world must, therefore, be increased in the face of the much greater forces which are now at the disposal of the Soviet Union and its satellites. Even more important, however, is the justified conclusion that the creation of adequate military strength, under collective control and for collective use, is now our best hope of deterring the Soviet Union from attempting further acts of aggression. As clearly as any other people, Canadians realize the jeopardy in which their own freedom, and indeed the cause of freedom throughout the world, has been placed by the imperialist ambitions of the Kremlin. It is for this reason that no substantial body of opinion in Canada has advocated a policy of isolation or "neutralism." All parties have been united in support of Canada's efforts, in coöperation with other countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in the United Nations, to preserve peace by building collective strength as a deterrent to aggression.


The part that Canada is playing in this concerted international effort would not be possible were it not for the remarkable industrial growth which has been taking place during the last ten years. During the Second World War, the base of Canadian production was greatly widened by the establishment of new industries. Since 1945, our economy has shown exceptional resilience. The commercial dislocations produced by the war inevitably created difficulties for a country so heavily dependent on foreign trade. Nevertheless, though many of Canada's traditional markets have, unhappily, been curtailed, we have been able to find new markets in the United States and elsewhere. At the same time, great new natural resources, such as the oil fields of Alberta and the iron ore deposits of Labrador, are being opened up. Perhaps the most comprehensive index of Canada's increasing industrial maturity is provided by her progress in the field of atomic energy. The country's natural resources and its scientific and technical competence have been such as to permit the construction of an atomic energy plant at Chalk River in Ontario to house what is perhaps the most advanced atomic reactor in the world today.

Even before the worsening international situation had led Canada into wider defense commitments, the growth and soundness of the Canadian economy had made possible a vigorous foreign economic policy. Between 1946 and 1951, for example, Canadian contributions for relief and development in other countries totalled 2 billion dollars. The bulk of this took the form of loans to the United Kingdom and other countries of Western Europe. In part, these loans were designed to finance Canada's export surplus during the years immediately after the war and to prevent the domestic dislocation which would have occurred if traditional customers had been forced by exchange difficulties to reduce drastically their imports from Canada. The loans were also, however, regarded in Canada as a contribution toward the reestablishment of a multilateral world economy based on liberal, nondiscriminatory trade policies and stabilized exchange rates, which would make possible a steady expansion of trade and the maintenance of high levels of employment in all countries.

Although Canada's foreign lending after the war was largely concentrated in Western Europe, some of it was directed to the Far East. Loans, for example, were made both to China and to Indonesia. And previously, during the course of the war, the Chinese Nationalist Government had been the recipient of some Canadian Mutual Aid.

In making the detailed arrangements for these transactions, the Canadian Government for the first time was involved in some of the general problems of the Far East. During the last three years that involvement has increased at a very rapid rate. Far Eastern questions now absorb much of the attention of the Canadian Parliament and Government. The increase in interest in Asian matters among the public and the press has also been remarkable. In our Far Eastern relations we have not so much been opening a new chapter as opening a whole new volume; for, until recently, Asia to most Canadians was a closed book. One of our provinces is on the Pacific and through its ports for many years missionaries, businessmen and travellers had passed on their way to and from the Far East. There had been a Canadian Legation in Tokyo before the war and substantial Canadian economic interests in Japan. The Canadian Government had participated in a number of negotiations on particular questions dealing with commerce, with the position of Canadian missionaries and with Asian immigration. But none of these concerns made it necessary for Canada to have what could conceivably be called a Far Eastern policy.

The extent of the recent change may be illustrated by Canada's active participation in the Colombo Plan for economic development in South and Southeast Asia. Unlike previous Canadian financial assistance, it is not expected that this participation will be of direct economic benefit to Canada, since our export surplus has now dried up and any grants or loans must inevitably compete with the demands of our own economic development. The purpose of the Canadian contribution to the Colombo Plan is, simply, to assist in raising the standard of living of friendly peoples on the other side of the globe whose well-being and stability are of importance to the whole of the free world--ourselves included.

As the area covered by the Colombo Plan would suggest, the main avenue of approach for Canada to the problems of Asia has been by way of the Indian sub-continent. India, Pakistan and Ceylon are all members of the Commonwealth, and Canadians have watched with close and sympathetic attention their achievement of independence. Precedents from Canadian constitutional history were not without value in arranging for the transfer of sovereignty to India and Pakistan which occurred in 1947; and the Canadian Government was able at a Commonwealth conference in April 1949 to offer some suggestions which made it easier to find a formula which would permit India to remain within the Commonwealth even after it had become a republic. The meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers which was held in Colombo in January 1950--the first Commonwealth conference to be held in Asia and the first to consider chiefly Asian issues--not only witnessed to the success of the constitutional evolution which had been taking place but also provided a further opportunity for Canada and other Commonwealth countries to become better acquainted with Far Eastern problems.

It will be noticed how significant a rôle the Commonwealth of Nations has played in this reorientation of Canada's interest toward the Far East. Of late years, Canada's attitude toward the Commonwealth has entered, I think, on a new phase. During the period when Canadian political leaders were achieving and consolidating autonomy for Canada in her external relations, it was perhaps natural that appreciation of the value of the Commonwealth association should not exclude, in many quarters, some considerable grain of wariness. This diffidence was kept alive by repeated proposals for centralized machinery which would have given institutional form to the very close and continuous, but often informal, coöperation already existing between members of the Commonwealth; proposals which were primarily designed, in the eyes of many who favored them, to enable all Commonwealth countries to have a single foreign policy. Canada consistently opposed these proposals, partly because, to many Canadians, collective action in those days seemed likely to be overly influenced by imperial interests; partly because such Commonwealth arrangements might have appeared to be an obstacle to closer coöperation with the United States. Canadian opinion is, I think, as strongly opposed as ever to a centralized commonwealth; though for different reasons which arise out of the different circumstances of today. The problem, however, is no longer a serious one, because the new Commonwealth, with three Asian members, lends itself even less to centralizing proposals than the old one.

The nature of the present-day Commonwealth is now well understood, I think, in all of the member countries; and, for that reason, the reservations and even suspicions that have sometimes marked Canada's attitude in the past have largely died away. At the same time Canadians have been discovering new and positive advantages in their membership in this family of free nations. The lifeblood of the modern Commonwealth is constant exchange of information and constant consultation. This process brings Canada into close and friendly touch, not only with the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries which share with us the heritage of Western civilization, but also with some of the most important countries of Asia. In a world so plagued by divisions and misunderstandings as ours, it is no small advantage, I think, that Asian and Western leaders should be able to sit down together in Commonwealth meetings in an atmosphere of intimacy and complete equality. There are other links which connect the countries of Asia to the West--and in the course of time I hope there will be many more. Of those which exist at present, the Commonwealth of Nations provides, in my opinion, the most important. It is essential that it should be maintained, in the interest not only of its members but of all free states.


The Commonwealth, then, has helped to make Canada more conscious of Asia. We recognize that the growth of freedom in Asia is primarily the responsibility of Asian peoples themselves. There is much, however, which the countries of the West can do either to help or hinder this process; and it is clearly vital that their policies should be so designed as to promote development of free political institutions on a sound basis of social and economic well-being. If, through aggression or folly or inertia, the whole of Asia were to be allowed to fall under Communist domination, the free world would be tragically maimed and would be exposed to even greater dangers than it faces today. The problem of what Western countries, including Canada, should do is difficult, since the Asian panorama is so broad and, to Western eyes at least, so confused. Nevertheless, there are a number of landmarks which stand out through the mist and which have been taken by the Canadian Government as guides for policy. In the first place, in some Asian countries as elsewhere social changes are required. It is essential that nothing done by Western countries should impede in any way changes which are thought necessary and desirable by Asian opinion. Secondly, the standard of living throughout most of Asia is pitifully low. If ordinary men and women in the free countries of Asia are to feel attached to the new political institutions which they have established, they must be given hope of receiving some tangible benefits for themselves in the form of more food, more clothing, better housing and better protection from disease. This can be done only if the wealthier and more highly industrialized countries of the West are willing to assist. In honesty it must also be added, however, that economic help from abroad will have little effect if political animosities between Asian countries prevent them from making the best use of their own resources in the work of economic development. Third, the countries of Asia must be encouraged to take a large share in settling the many vexing political issues which cry out for solution. There is a complex network of racial, religious and cultural affiliations among the countries of Asia which cannot safely be ignored and which can be of great use in the search for a stable and acceptable settlement of Asian problems. Fourth, the forces of nationalism are probably the most powerful influences on Asian opinion today. The achievement of national independence by these countries was to them an essential prerequisite for further progress. Any action by the West which could be interpreted as showing a desire for their retrogression to subordinate or colonial status would be bitterly resented. Absolute equality is now the only possible foundation for friendly relations between the countries of East and West. We must not let Communism become the accepted champion of nationalism and racial equality in Asia.

We in Canada have built a nation based on equality between two different cultures. I think that in working out a satisfactory and fruitful relationship between Asia and the West, this principle may prove as valuable as the doctrine of universal human rights. Certainly, we must remember that the civilization of the West has now to be regarded as only one of the independent civilizations to be found throughout the world. After a sleep of many centuries, the civilizations in the Far East, which had long lain quiescent or subdued, are stirring. They have had glorious achievements. They still have their own values; and they are demanding the right to develop them in their own way. The reemergence in a modern political form of these ancient civilizations, with their own individual traditions, should enrich the life of all men throughout the world.

If the Western world is successful in convincing the peoples of Asia that its policies are not dictated by considerations of pride or power, but are intended to create a world in which Far Eastern civilizations can develop freely; if we can show them that collective action against aggression does not mean support for reaction, or resistance to necessary change, then I think we may be confident of retaining the friendship of those Asian countries which are still free. We may also be bold enough to hope, I think, that the people of China will not indefinitely be willing to have their national interests subordinated to the imperial interests of Russia, and that the present unnatural alliance between Chinese nationalism and Soviet imperialism may be broken. In our determination, however, to meet the menace of Communist aggression in Asia or elsewhere, we should not be led, or misled, into policies which harness us to reactionary forces or blind us to the sincere gropings of millions of Asians for more bread and more freedom.


Canada's North Atlantic policy comes closer home, because that area includes the three countries that are nearest to us historically, politically, and even geographically: the United Kingdom, the United States and France. Our policy here is to help build up a cohesive group of states, closely coöperating in all fields of activity. That objective will not be achieved quickly or easily. It will never be achieved if we do not succeed in renewing and maintaining the vigor and progressive character of our common Western civilization and if we do not strengthen its unifying forces.

The restless intellectual energy of the West has created cathedrals, philosophic systems and turbo-jet engines. It has greatly extended the frontiers of knowledge and has spread Western science and trade throughout the world. The national states which have been formed during this process have sometimes through their own rivalries come close to destroying the civilization of which they were all a part. Yet, in spite of the wars in which they have been engaged, they have always recognized that they had much in common. They all acknowledge, for instance, their debt to Greek speculation, to Hebrew prophecy, to Roman law and to the Christian faith. The countries of the new world all share in these traditions and form a part of the same civilization. Canadians are never likely to forget the fact, since we have two mother countries in Europe. With one of them we have maintained, by our own deliberate choice, a political connection. With the other, we have kept close cultural relations. The bells in the steeples along the St. Lawrence round which the villages cluster still ring out to remind us that Paris and Chartres are as much a part of our heritage as Canterbury and London.

The wealth of this common civilization--material, intellectual and moral--carelessly dissipated though some of it has been, is, nevertheless, immense. To work toward the establishment of a North Atlantic community of nations, all sharing in this great legacy from the past, all with their own special contributions to make in the future, all pledged to be of mutual assistance to one another, is surely a task worthy of our finest effort and of our greatest zeal. The goal of such a society, strong, varied and secure but not self-centered or exclusive, and anxious to profit by contact with other civilizations, is an ideal, it seems to me, which can support and encourage us through all the difficulties of the present time.

No country has a greater stake in the success or failure of this great movement than Canada. For we are both North American and European. Before the last war, the spectre haunting Canadian policy-makers was that the United States would remain aloof from British and French efforts to protect the peace against Nazi and Fascist aggression. Today the spectre is that the United States may feel it necessary to pursue policies inside our coalition which the other members cannot wholeheartedly follow; or that inadequate coöperation from the other members may discourage American effort and leadership to the point where Washington may decide to "go it alone." Any Canadian government is bound to do what it can to exorcise these dangers; and this may mean at times expressing its own views forthrightly in London or Paris or, above all, in Washington, where the center of power now lies. This is the first principle of Canadian diplomacy. It is founded on the inescapable fact that no country in the world has less chance of isolating itself from the effect of American policies and decisions than Canada. If Washington "went it alone," where would Ottawa go?

We recognize, however, that a diplomacy of this kind, depending as it does on the influence Canada can exert with greater Powers, can be carried out successfully only if our interventions are restrained, responsible and constructive; and if we act, in discharging our own obligations, in a way which receives and deserves the respect of our friends in the coalition. For us the very essence of the North Atlantic coalition, and of its developing sense of community, is that the coöperation which it makes possible bridges the ocean.

Though it has deep roots and is a natural creation, the North Atlantic community is still in its infancy as an association commanding loyalty and support. It is, as yet, only an incipient entity, and, so far as I am aware, has made only one appearance in an international instrument--in Article II of the North Atlantic Treaty. The Canadian Government sets great store by that Article as an earnest of future coöperation in the North Atlantic area in other than military fields.

It may be that, while the North Atlantic community is gradually developing, an even more tightly-knit grouping in Western Europe may emerge. The arguments for closer coöperation among the countries of Western Europe as a method both of muting old antagonisms and of increasing economic efficiency by providing a larger market are strong. It is for European countries themselves to decide whether they think that integration of this kind would be in their own best interests.

The Canadian Government has followed with great interest and sympathy these moves toward European unity. We hope, however, that they will be made within the framework of that wider movement toward a North Atlantic community. It would be premature at this stage, I think, to attempt to decide whether such a community could grow more rapidly if the countries of Western Europe were first to form a closer association among themselves, or were to move toward membership in the North Atlantic community as national entities, retaining as high a degree of national sovereignty as the United States and Canada. However, even now it seems clear to us that the creation of an exclusive and probably high-cost trading bloc in Western Europe would be unwise and unfruitful. It is equally clear that an attempt to form a solid neutral political grouping in Western Europe which would weaken or even break the defense links which now bind North America to Western Europe would in the long run be disastrous both to Europe and to the cause of freedom itself. It would also be highly dangerous for North America since, in the view of the Canadian Government, Western Europe is of greater strategic importance than any other area in the world. Indeed, it was that strategic appreciation of our own security interest which above all else led us to accept the military obligations contained in the North Atlantic Treaty.

Canada regards its NATO commitments as a particular means for implementing the general doctrine of collective security embodied in the United Nations Charter. The first Article of the Charter enunciates a universal obligation which rests on all members of the United Nations alike "to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace." That obligation must be honored if the morale of countries in exposed positions is to be maintained, and if the melancholy story of the 'thirties, when one victim after another was picked off by the aggressor, is not to be repeated. On the other hand, under present circumstances when the military strength of the free world, although increasing, is much less in many important categories than the military might of its adversaries, and when we are living through a period which is neither peace nor war, the general obligation stated in the forefront of the Charter cannot always be automatically interpreted as a cast-iron commitment to resist aggression anywhere it may occur with unlimited military force. If that reasoning were accepted, the theory of unlimited collective action everywhere might mean in practice no real security anywhere. While recognizing aggression always for what it is, and while taking appropriate action against it, we will yet need to exercise judgment in any particular case to determine how the obligation of collective security can most effectively be implemented so that aggressors may not exploit the provisions of the Charter to dissipate more than would be advisable the presently limited military forces of the free world. In certain regions aggression must obviously be countered with every military resource that can be mustered. To ensure the protection of these areas, the general obligation of the Charter must be put in more precise and automatic form. This, I believe, can best be done by the negotiation of security pacts for particular areas; indeed that is the immediate purpose of the North Atlantic Treaty.

The need to exercise judgment in deciding how the security obligations of the Charter can be discharged to the best effect does not mean that we can ever afford to turn a blind eye to any act of aggression, or can pick and choose among possible victims, helping some and leaving others entirely to their fate. Nor does it mean that there is one law to be applied to the strong and another to the weak. It does mean, however, that the responsibility of defending the free world in the present circumstances is so grave that those who share it will require the highest qualities of intelligence as well as the most sensitive consciences in deciding where the limited forces at their disposal should be applied. For the time being this principle may seem of not much more than academic importance since any armed attack on a large scale, no matter where it occurred, might easily precipitate a general war, and since one of the most pressing tasks of diplomacy is to convince would-be aggressors that they cannot count on immunity from instant retaliation if they move against their neighbors. But there have been situations, even within the present year, when the necessity for careful judgment has been highly relevant; and it is quite possible that similar situations may recur.


Let no one think, however, that this attitude indicates that the Canadian Government is, or has been, under any temptation to abandon the principle of collective security. The facts speak for themselves. The contingent which we have contributed to the United Nations forces in Korea is the third largest of all those which have been provided by members of the United Nations. Our troops, our ships and our planes have been sent to Korea to maintain the principle of collective security. That will also be the purpose of the brigade group and the 11 squadrons of aircraft which we have undertaken to station in Western Europe.

Let no one think, either, that we have lost faith in the United Nations. We believe that the United Nations has still a central rôle to play in security matters, and we welcome the inquiry now being made in accordance with the "Uniting for Peace" resolution of last November to see how the organization can be put in a position where it can carry out this rôle more swiftly and effectively than in the past. The United Nations has, of course, other important functions to perform. But it is probably true that unless it can prove itself as a security organization its vitality will be sapped. Under the strong and resolute leadership of the United States it has met the challenge in Korea and has shown its value as a means of organizing collective resistance to aggression. It should not be expected, however, that the theory of collective security can be translated into practice without encountering complexities and special problems. One of these problems, to my mind, is how to make the best use of the free world's growing, but still limited, military resources for the maintenance of worldwide security.

Another problem which has been revealed by this first attempt to organize collective security on a large scale is how to devise a mode of association which will allow for effective leadership and yet give a strong sense of participation to all those countries which are contributing military forces. The same problem has also risen within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Canada shares with her allies a real concern in finding a solution to this problem. The field of our foreign interests and the extent of our military commitments have in recent months been almost visibly stretched; and such a process can never be accomplished without discomfort. This will be eased and Canada's participation made most effective only if Canadians can be made to feel that their share in the vital decisions which must be made is proportionate to their contribution. But that is a necessity for many other countries besides Canada. Indeed, it is a requirement to which great importance is attached by all countries which, like my own, have voluntarily and wholeheartedly accepted the leadership of the United States.

There is, I think, no task more difficult of accomplishment than the leadership of a coalition of friendly but free nations, agreed on objectives but not always agreed on how they should be reached. The operation of a coalition in wartime, as all history teaches, is difficult enough. It is more difficult in peacetime when the absence of external danger accentuates the importance of smaller conflicts of interest and advantage between the various allies. It is most difficult of all in a time such as the present of "partial peace"--or, if you like, "phony peace"--when the threat to security is present but when the willingness to strive and sacrifice which accompanies an all-out armed struggle for survival can be maintained only with great effort. The problem is complicated by the necessity of basing our association on a theory of sovereign equality of states, which is sometimes hard to square with the fact that the states concerned are unequal in power and in responsibility. The reconciliation of fact and theory will require among all of us qualities of restraint, understanding and tolerance; a vision wider than our own national boundaries.

Mr. Acheson put the point wisely and succinctly when he said on June 29 in Washington that "the pattern of responsibility within which we operate is a responsibility to interests which are broader than our own. . . ." We in Canada are confident that such a pattern of responsibility and such a mode of freely accepted association can increasingly be realized. In that confidence, we will continue to make our contribution to the creation of a peaceful world in which freedom can be secure.

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  • LESTER B. PEARSON, Secretary of State for External Affairs of Canada; Ambassador in Washington, 1944-45; Canadian representative at many international conferences, including the San Francisco Conference of 1945
  • More By Lester B. Pearson