CANADA'S place in the world has been utterly transformed within less than a generation. Indeed, there is hardly any exaggeration in saying that in thought and feeling the transformation has been going on for barely a decade.
The new era, in which Canada's place is quite different from any she previously occupied, was brought into being in 1939. But through the war and the first postwar years no one could tell with confidence what were temporary conditions and what were fundamental changes. We all took time to adjust, mentally and emotionally. It was as late as 1950 that a distinguished historian and diplomat, George P. de T. Glazebrook, concluded an essay on the historic factors in Canada's external relations with these words: "National maturity brought no fundamental change in the interests of Canada in world affairs or in the principles on which her policy had been based. The change consisted rather in a growing appreciation of the necessity of assuming responsibility for the pursuit and maintenance of interests and principles already deeply embedded in the country's historical development."
The continuity emphasized in those words is real enough. But recent years have made Canadians more conscious also of great changes in the environment in which their embedded interests and principles must be pursued. The changes are too obvious to need listing here. Our problem is to assess how exactly they have produced the new place Canada is coming to occupy in the world.
We can best define that place, and at the same time indicate the problem it creates in Canadian politics, by starting with a proposition that is plainly true but to the truth of which many Canadians are emotionally resistant. It is this: the first, essential interest of Canada in the world today is the security of the United States; that takes overwhelming priority over everything else in Canada's external relations.
This is a revolutionary statement. One does not have to go far back in Canadian history to a time when the
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