Canada, better known for its scientific knowledge rather than military prowess, pursued a moderate anti-communist policy during the Cold War while aiding struggling countries and promoting peace in the world arena.
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The cold war which began in the 1940s between America and the then USSR dragged on till the last decade of the 20th century. Canada, being a well-respected country and neighbor of the USA, did play quite a significant role in the war. It lent its troops to aid the allies to fight during the First Great War. During the early phases of the Cold War, Canada gave showed its support to the Western powers that included the United Kingdom and America (Conrad & Finkel). Canadian foreign policy showed no tolerance to Communism, while the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) closely monitored the activities of Labour Unions and the communist party, fearing communist subversion. Even Canada’s businesses were against the labor movement inspired by Bolshevism.
One event that triggered the intensification of the Cold War was the “Gouzenko Affair” exposing Soviet Union’s espionage plans in 1947. Igor Gouzenko, who was working for the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa as a Cipher clerk, let out several documents indicating Soviet Union’s secret plans to steal nuclear secrets from the Allies. This increased mass hysteria over Communism in the western world and revealed USSR’s true potential as an enemy.
This was followed by the enforcement of stricter military policies such as the removal of homosexuals and soldiers with communist ideas from military service. The USA was also pressurizing Canada to destroy the country’s Communist Party and Trade Unions as it was seen as a Communist influence. However, Canada did not give in to pressure as it felt these organizations functioned within constitutional provisions.
As the McCarthy Era mongered communist fear, Herbert Norman, the Canadian Ambassador to Egypt, was suspected of being a traitor. Norman committed suicide in Cairo in 1957 following America’s suspicions over his loyalty. The event marked the beginning of anti-Americanism in Canada, as American Communist paranoia and anti-trust were viewed as the reason for Norman’s death. However, this event did not stop the Canadian Government from providing intelligence information to the United States. But, it did lessen Communist paranoia among citizens and Canada’s involvement in the Cold War.
Canada, despite its moderate anti-communist policies, had diplomatic ties with China and Cuba, even when America cut off political relations. Again during the Korean War, Canadian troops helped civilians by helping to distribute food and essentials. Canada also vehemently announced its opposition to American policies in the Vietnam War. Canadian troops did not go into battle during this war but played the role of peacekeeper. Canada under the Pearson administration was not ready to completely assimilate America’s policy of actively intervening in the politics of other foreign countries to fight communism. Canada’s foreign policy during this time focussed on lessening global aggression inflicted under the name of curbing Communism (Smith
259). One of the noteworthy accomplishments of Canada was its part in the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) initially formed for peace-keeping. It also formed the NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command) along with the USA to maintain the security of the North American border. However, Canada showed its opposition to the dragging Cold War by declining to join the OAS (Organization of American States).
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Conrad, Margaret & Finkel, Alvin. (1998). History of Canadian People 1867-present.
Smith, Denis. (1988). Diplomacy of Fear: Canada and the Cold War, 1941-1948. Toronto Press.