McCarthy Era and The Cold War

Gouzenko Affair and Herbert Norman’s suicide are the brightest events that mark the relationships between the United States of America and Canada in the mid of the twentieth century. They symbolize the policy of witch-hunt that the government of Joseph McCarthy pursued.

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The McCarthy Era is the period in the United States history that embraces the late 1940’s up to the mid-1950s. The period is marked by the U.S. Senator, Joe McCarthy’s policy of a witch-hunt for anyone sharing sympathies for the Communist Party.

When the Cold War between the USA and the Soviet Union broke out fear of the spread of communist ideas was also common for Canada which played an important role in the war. At the beginning of the American-Soviet confrontation, Canada supported the Western powers and showed no tolerance to communism.

On September 5, 1945, cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko who was working for the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa reported to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police about the Soviet Union’s plans to steal nuclear secrets from the Allies. Gouzenko Affair enhanced the change in western perceptions of the Soviet Union from an ally to an enemy. It is often considered a triggering event of the Cold War. The affair led to the arrest of a total of 39 suspects in Canada of which 18 were convicted. The convicted included Fred Rose who was the only Communist Member of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons and Sam Carr, the Communist Party’s national organizer.

What forced Gouzenko to reveal the secret plans of the USSR was his dissatisfaction with the quality of life and the politics of the Soviet Union where he was expected to come back. After the defection, Gouzenko and his family were given another identity by the Canadian government. He died of a heart attack in 1982 and his grave was not initially marked somehow. Later, in April 2004, the Soviet defector was commemorated by the Canadian federal government that put up memorial plaques in Dundonald Park.

Another demonstration of McCarthy Era communism fear is Herbert Norman’s suicide. He served as the Canadian Ambassador to Egypt and was suspected of being a traitor. The tragic event took place on the morning of April 4, 1957, in Cairo. Norman climbed to the roof of one of the Cairo buildings and jumped eight stories to his death. The suicide is often called murder by slander by Canadian politicians as what led to the suicide were the claims that Norman was a communist sympathizer and a risk to North American security.

The event led to the meltdown of relations between Canada and the United States. On April 6 1957 the US senator Richard Neuberger of Oregon encouraged a special bipartisan committee to probe the matter. The senator declared that

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The ties of friendship between Canada and the United States, in war and peace, have been so close and unquestioned that nothing should be allowed to strain them (Raafat).

Herbert Norman’s suicide marks the beginning of anti-Americanism in Canada because American communist paranoia and anti-trust were the main reasons for the Ambassador’s suicide. Though the event did not stop the Canadian Government that continued to provide information to the United States, it significantly lessened communist paranoia among citizens and Canada’s involvement in the Cold War as well.

Works Cited

Finkel, A. & Conrad, M. History of the Canadian Peoples:1867 to the Present. Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman, 1993.

Raafat, Samir. “Death in Dokki.” The Egyptian Mail 1997: Feature Article People. Web.

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