In 1956, Lester B. Pearson, Canada's Secretary of State for External Affairs, was at the height of his international influence. He had served continuously as foreign minister from 1948, charting a Canadian course through the Cold War's first, most dangerous, phase. He was a principal architect of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the new multi-racial Commonwealth, and had helped shape the norms and procedures that defined the United Nations (UN) in the 1950s. By the middle of that decade, this popular Canadian had developed an unrivalled network of friends and contacts that spanned Western Europe and the North Atlantic, and encircled the newly independent countries of Africa and Asia. His affability and liberal idealism, however, often hid his keen grasp of the hard realities of international politics. Though well aware of diplomacy's limits, Pearson shied away from confrontation, almost intuitively responding to conflict by seeking common ground and compromise. Negotiation was his genius, and in the words of one friendly reporter, he excelled in "finding out how one side felt, then playing it back to the other, and vice versa."1
As this volume clearly demonstrates, Pearson's advice on international developments was sought and heeded. The Israeli foreign minister passed along copies of his correspondence with the American Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, determined to keep Pearson in the loop. (Document 1) Similarly, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden visited Ottawa in February 1956 anxious for Pearson's views on the situation in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. (Document 696) And in the spring of 1956, as NATO drifted aimlessly in the face of the receding Soviet threat, Dulles turned to Pearson to stop the rot. (Document 519) It was perhaps inevitable then that when Israeli troops invaded Egypt on October 29, 1956, "Mike" Pearson was immediately at the heart of the crisis.
The unsettled Middle East and the Suez Crisis naturally dominate Volume 22. Ottawa maintained a lively interest in Arab-Israeli relations in early 1956, though its attention waxed and waned with each passing emergency. Consequently, the documentary record is fragmentary and the opening section of the first chapter contains material that offers only incomplete snapshots of Canadian policy and attitudes. Some reflect Canada's traditional interest in confidence-building measures like the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) (Document 5) or American efforts to encourage Arab-Israeli cooperation in the development of the region's waterways. (Document 8) Others reveal a practical and realist appreciation of the evolving balance of power in the Middle East. John W. Holmes, an Assistant Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs, argued cogently that the West should invite the Soviet Union into the region, prophetically warning that "the alternative to non-cooperation with the Russians is proving bankrupt and just possibly leading to disaster." (Document 3) Pearson agreed, but Dulles did not (Document 38), and when the Suez Crisis finally erupted, the Under-Secretary, Jules Léger, could not refrain from privately expressing his department's sense of vindication. (Document 87)
Canada's direct interest in the Middle East during the first part of 1956 was largely confined to the export of Canadian arms to this volatile region. As the documentation in the first chapter suggests, Canada worked hard to keep its military exports to Israel and the Arab countries in approximate balance, unwilling to assume a leading role as a regional arms supplier. This became much harder in April 1956, when Dulles asked Pearson to supply Israel with jet fighters in order to offset increased Soviet aid to Egypt. (Document 33) Pearson was sympathetic, but unwilling to act except as part of a collective Western decision to provide Israel with defensive weapons. (Documents 47-48) Working out this policy with the Western allies proved exceptionally complicated, and became even more so when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser abruptly nationalized the Suez Canal in July 1956.
This volume does not attempt to cover the detailed international negotiations in London, Cairo and New York that followed Nasser's action. Distressed by the apparent Anglo-French determination to seek a confrontation with Egypt, Ottawa was happy to adopt a slightly detached posture. Pearson was relieved that Canada was not invited to attend the London Conference in early August (Document 82), and later declined an Indian invitation to join New Delhi in seeking a solution. (Documents 101-04) Yet Canadian reservations about the use of force to decide the Canal's future were clearly and repeatedly expressed in Whitehall. Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent's formal (and informal) messages to Eden were blunt, verging on the undiplomatic: "I am sure that you appreciate that the use of force in present circumstances - even as a last resort - will be surrounded by risks and difficulties, one of which might be the submission of the matter to the United Nations by the wrong party." (Document 78) Though France and Britain eventually asked the Security Council to rule on their dispute with Nasser, Canadian misgivings persisted. "Far from seeking a solution," observed R.A. MacKay, Canada's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, "France and the U.K., but particularly the latter, seem bent on humiliating Nasser." (Document 99)
MacKay was right. Shortly after the Israeli assault on Egypt, Britain and France demanded a cease-fire; when the fighting continued, they started to bomb Egyptian airfields, ostensibly to protect the Suez Canal. Like Dulles, who turned to Pearson for help deciphering British intentions (Document 106), Canadian officials were "given no inkling" of London's plans and "not the slightest intimation that anything extraordinary was planned." (Document 107) Surprise and the rapid pace of subsequent developments explain why documentation on the first few days of the crisis is relatively sparse. Ottawa's "bewilderment and dismay" at Britain's behaviour (Document 108) are fully documented in the Cabinet records reprinted here (Documents 112 and 117) and in St. Laurent's angry exchanges with Eden. (Documents 110 and 113) Pearson's diplomacy in New York, where he arrived on November 1 to attend the special session of the UN General Assembly on the crisis, is often less completely documented. Reports were sometimes intended to supplement newspaper accounts (Document 119) or were sent several days after the events described. (Document 130) In one instance, a record of several important discussions on November 2-6 between Pearson and Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General, was not actually prepared until early December. (Document 192)
Despite these peculiarities in the documentary record, careful readers will be able to follow Pearson's efforts at the United Nations, where the dramatic debate on an American motion calling for a cease-fire and an immediate withdrawal opened in the afternoon of November 1. Before leaving Ottawa that morning, Pearson had asked Canada's experienced High Commissioner in London, Norman Robertson, to seek Britain's reaction to his plan to call upon the General Assembly to create an "adequate UN military force to separate the Egyptians from the Israelis." On his arrival in New York, Pearson learned that Britain was ready to "hand over" the Suez Canal "to a UN force strong enough to prevent the renewed outbreak of hostilities between Egypt and Israel." (Documents 119 and 118). This slight concession was enough, and during the debate on the American motion, Pearson sat quietly until the small hours of the morning. Rising at 3 a.m. to explain Canada's abstention, he argued that a resolution calling for a return to the status quo was not enough; what was needed was a "UN force large enough to keep these borders at peace while a political settlement is being worked out." (Documents 119 and 120)
After lunch with Hammarskjold, who was doubtful that Pearson's idea would work, the Secretary of State for External Affairs returned to Ottawa for a Saturday morning Cabinet meeting, where ministers endorsed his proposal for an international peacekeeping force. By now it was clear that the Soviet Union had decided to re-occupy Hungary while the world's attention was diverted, making British and French behaviour "all the more deplorable in that it prevented the free world from taking a united stand, which would probably have had much Asian-Arab support, against this naked aggression." (Document 126)
Following the Cabinet discussion, Léger asked Canada's Ambassador to the United States, Arnold Heeney, to sound out the State Department. Ottawa and Washington soon agreed on a draft UN resolution appointing a five-member committee to "plan for the setting up in the Middle East of an emergency international United Nations force recruited from national military forces immediately available." (Document 127)
Pearson returned to New York late in the afternoon of November 3, bringing the draft with him. There he learned that British reaction to the proposed resolution had been encouraging. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary, Selwyn Lloyd, had even given Robertson the impression "that the resolution was welcome and that ... they might even be able to vote for it." (Document 128) Hopeful that the resolution might stop French and British troops from landing in Egypt, Pearson pressed ahead. After lobbying other UN members for support, he met with the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Henry Cabot Lodge, and decided to base his resolution on a simpler U.S. draft that asked the Secretary-General alone to develop plans for a UN emergency force. Another late-night session followed before the UN General Assembly adopted the Canadian resolution early in the morning of November 4. (Document 130) Supported by an informal advisory committee, whose work organizing and deploying the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) is documented throughout this chapter, the Secretary-General submitted a plan for a force headed by a Canadian, Major General E.L.M. (Tommy) Burns, to the General Assembly on November 6. It was immediately approved.
Much of the subsequent material in chapter one on the creation of the UNEF deals with the problems created by the slow pace of the French, British and Israeli withdrawal from Egypt, the deployment of the force, and the broader international implications of the Suez Crisis. From the middle of November on, for instance, Pearson was deeply involved in resolving the impasse that resulted when Nasser refused to accept Canadian ground troops as part of the UN force. The Egyptian decision was a personal blow, as the account of Pearson's interview with the Egyptian representative at the UN makes clear. (Document 152) Though a compromise was eventually reached permitting Canadian logistic units to participate in the force, Pearson was angry that Nasser had been allowed to dictate the composition of the force, a decision he justly feared had lasting implications for UN peacekeeping operations in the region. (Document 168) The section also includes frank Canadian assessments of the impact of the crisis on the UN and the Western alliance. With the easing of the crisis in late November and early December, Pearson and his senior advisors became especially disturbed at Washington's continued willingness to pander to African and Asian opinion in New York at Britain's expense, evidence of what they called "the U.S. double standard of diplomatic conduct." (Document 184)
The chapter on the Suez Crisis traces Canadian diplomacy into 1957, when the international debate on the Middle East was renewed at the 11th General Assembly. An acute sense of crisis persisted during the winter and spring, prompting Pearson to travel frequently to New York, where the General Assembly wrestled with Israel's refusal to withdraw from the Sinai and the Gaza Strip without adequate guarantees for its security. The Minister sympathized with Tel Aviv's demands, and actively resisted efforts to have the General Assembly apply sanctions to Israel. Instead, Pearson sought to ease Israel's fears by expanding the UNEF's role in the region, but his influence was limited in this debate. In the end, American might forced Israel to retreat, leaving an expanded UNEF role still imperfectly defined.
The sections on the Suez Crisis justifiably focus on the diplomatic effort to create and deploy the UNEF, but many of the documents scattered throughout the opening chapter pursue secondary themes of considerable importance. Among them are Canada's views on a Middle East peace settlement, the UN relief effort in the region (Documents 142, 150 and 151), instructions for the commander of the Canadian contingent (Documents 156, 204 and 293), and the legal status of the UNEF. (Documents 186 and 207) In addition, the chapter documents Canada's contribution to clearing the Suez Canal (Documents 211, 213 and 228), and its attitude toward Jewish refugees in Egypt. (Document 205) The chapter concludes with a brief selection of documents on financing the UNEF's operations, an issue that would vex the UN for almost a decade.
The Middle East and the Suez Crisis figure prominently in all four chapters in this volume. Chapter three on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), for instance, contains considerable material on the aftermath of the Suez Crisis, including records on the December 1956 ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council. The gathering was supposed to repair the breach in the Alliance, but Pearson was doubtful: "A distrust has arisen ... which is going to persist for a long time. The Council may have - though I am not sure of this - lessened that personal mutual mistrust. It certainly has not removed it." (Document 582)
The Suez Crisis underlined Britain's decline as a Great Power, with clear consequences for the Alliance. This decline, however, had been a long time coming and its effects had already been felt earlier in the year. In June 1956, Pearson had been confronted with British plans to withdraw some forces from Europe. His account of his effort to deflect Eden's government from its course emphasizes the startling ease with which he glided through the top levels of British society. (Document 544) Pearson's success eventually resulted in a review of NATO's military strategy (Documents 544 to 571), part of the "great debate" on the Alliance's future that was kicked off in the spring of 1956, when the North Atlantic Council appointed three ministers to study and report on how to strengthen non-military cooperation within the Alliance. (Documents 520 to 543) In the wake of Suez, however, Canada enjoyed less influence in London, and watched from the sidelines as Britain unilaterally reduced the number of its troops stationed in Europe in February 1957. (Documents 585 to 600)
Chapter three explores some of the more routine matters associated with Canada's membership in the North Atlantic Alliance, such as Ottawa's important mutual aid contributions. In contrast to earlier volumes in this series, the focus is increasingly on the politics of disengagement as Europe's postwar recovery and the declining Soviet threat made military assistance less necessary. In the spring of 1956, Cabinet cancelled the largest single item on Canada's mutual aid account, the Royal Canadian Air Force's extensive air training plan. (Documents 443 to 450) At the same time, as the sections on the export of Canadian-built fighters to Belgium and Germany demonstrate, Ottawa remained ready to use its military aid budget to subsidize exports by Canada's defence industry.
Chapter four, which covers relations with the Commonwealth, also devotes substantial space to Middle Eastern questions. The region was discussed in some detail during Eden's visit to Ottawa in February 1956 (Document 696) and at the Commonwealth prime ministers' meeting the following June. (Document 646) In this final moment of international calm before the proverbial storm, Pearson, who accompanied St. Laurent to London, was wryly amused to find "most of the visitors preoccupied with Wimbledon, Lords and the Canada Cup." (Document 643)
The Suez Crisis and its repercussions cast a long shadow and the chapter includes extensive documentation on Britain's request for a waiver on interest payments on the large loan extended to London in 1946. This section traces Canada's specific efforts to renegotiate the loan, as well as Ottawa's attitude to the general problem of Britain's financial collapse and its search for relief from the International Monetary Fund. (Document 704) The chapter also reprints material on Nehru's December 1956 visit to Ottawa, and Pearson's unsuccessful efforts to enlist the wily Indian prime minister into the Middle East peace process. (Document 692) Finally, the Commonwealth chapter includes a lengthy report on St. Laurent's meeting in Bermuda with Eden's successor, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, in March 1957. The meetings allowed the Canadian delegation, which included Pearson, C.D. Howe, the Minister of Trade and Commerce, and Robert Bryce, the Secretary to the Cabinet, their first real look at the new British prime minister, and gave the two countries the chance to exchange views on a number of issues, including the Middle East. (Document 735)
Canadian policy-makers were well aware that Arab-Israeli tensions merely mirrored the strains associated with decolonization in general. Tensions between the colonial and anti-colonial powers, argued Deputy Under-Secretary R.M. Macdonnell in May 1956 "may well be the most vital issue in international politics today." (Document 41) For this reason, colonialism and its legacy are also principal themes in the Commonwealth chapter. In addition to the usual documentation on Canada's contribution to the Colombo Plan, Ottawa's main point of contact with the newly independent nations of Asia and Africa, there are several broad assessments of Canadian aid policy. The first, by Canada's High Commissioner to India, Escott Reid, neatly summarizes the Canadian contribution to Indian development since 1950. (Document 665) It is balanced by a more impassioned defence of Canadian aid to Pakistan, whose severely impoverished colonial inheritance made bilateral cooperation extremely difficult. (Document 685) In addition, the chapter documents a full-scale inter-departmental review of Canadian aid, which complacently concluded that "the assistance which has been provided has been directed towards the right type of project and that its form and content have been generally appropriate." (Document 658)
The Department of External Affairs confronted the political and economic challenges of decolonization more directly with the advent of Ghana's independence in 1956. A memorandum entitled "An Awakening Africa" forced officials to consider "how high should Africa rank on our list of priorities?" (Document 737) Canada's interest in the new federation that was about to unite the British West Indies was even more direct. The British connection had traditionally protected Canada's long-standing stake in the Caribbean, which remained an important market for Canadian banks and salt fish from the Maritimes. Independence threatened this tie, and Léger knew it: "In due course U.K. influence is bound to disappear; is it in our interest that it be replaced more or less in toto by the U.S.?" (Document 745) The answer was clear, and reluctant officials were told to devise an aid package for the new federation that would underline Canada's continuing interest in the region.
Decolonization was at the heart of Ottawa's preparations for the UN's 11th General Assembly too. It was not enough, Léger argued, for Canada to maintain its "policy of general non-alignment concerning colonial problems." It was time to pursue a "more active and positive" role, mediating between "'the good colonials' and the more 'sophisticated' anti-colonials." (Document 303) Pearson agreed, but cautioned that this would not be easy. The challenges confronting Canadian diplomacy are apparent in the material on the Special United Nations Fund for Economic Development (SUNFED), the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), disarmament and Algeria. There was no ready solution to the growing divergence between North and South at the UN, but Canada firmly rejected the idea of abandoning the international organization. In a compelling paper reflecting on the UN's future, Holmes argued in March 1957 that there was no alternative, and that Canada should continue to "show a friendly interest in its workings, maintain the closest bilateral relations with all its members and make sure it remains pretty much what it is." (Document 366)
Tired and easily irritated by the burdens of government, Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent played a diminished role in the elaboration of foreign policy during the period covered in this volume. He was particularly active only during the initial stages of the Suez Crisis, when he was involved in responding to a series of communications from the British prime minister, Anthony Eden. For much of the Crisis, at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meetings, and at the Bermuda encounter with Eden's successor, Harold Macmillan, St. Laurent left most of the talking and detailed diplomacy to Pearson.
When Pearson was unavailable, his department was normally represented at the Cabinet table by Paul Martin, the Minister of National Health and Welfare. Martin maintained his interest in arms control and headed Canada's delegation to the UN Disarmament Commission in the spring of 1956. In the fall of that year, he led the Canadian delegation to the annual meeting of the Commonwealth Consultative Committee for South-East Asia, an experience that would profoundly shape his attitude toward Asian Communism. Other Cabinet ministers with significant foreign policy responsibilities included Ralph Campney, the Minister of National Defence, Walter Harris, the Minister of Finance, and C.D. Howe, the powerful Minister of Trade and Commerce.
Throughout his final 18 months as Secretary of State for External Affairs, Pearson was able to draw on the advice of the remarkably stable group of senior officials with whom he had worked closely for years. Jules Léger remained Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs, assisted by his deputy, R.M. Macdonnell. Léger could also rely on his three seasoned Assistant Under-Secretaries: John Holmes, who accompanied Pearson to New York in November 1956, Jean Chapdelaine, and Max Wershof, who also continued to serve as the Department's Legal Advisor.
There was no change in representation at Canada's major posts abroad until late in the spring of 1957. Dana Wilgress remained Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council and Representative to the Organization for European Economic Co-operation. Norman A. Robertson stayed in London as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom until May 1957, when he replaced Arnold Heeney in Washington as Ambassador to the United States. Heeney returned to Ottawa as Chairman of the Civil Service Commission. Georges Vanier continued as Ambassador to France.
This is only the first of two projected volumes covering the period January 1, 1956 to June 10, 1957, when St. Laurent's Liberal government was defeated in a general election by John G. Diefenbaker's Progressive Conservative Party. Although it is clearly impossible to divide the period into two completely self-contained volumes, the editor and general editor have tried to keep as much associated material as possible together, without departing too much from the thematic organization that has characterized earlier volumes in this series. At the same time, practical and budgetary considerations dictated that the two volumes be roughly similar in size. As a result, this volume, with its focus on the Suez Crisis, contains material on the Middle East, the United Nations, NATO and the Commonwealth. The subsequent volume will document Canada's response to the Hungarian Revolution and related developments in Eastern Europe. It will also cover Canada's relations with Western Europe, the United States, the Far East and Latin America. Two chapters will look at atomic energy and international economic institutions.
Like other recent volumes in this series, Volume 22 is based primarily on the records of the Department of External Affairs and the Privy Council Office. These were supplemented where necessary by the private papers of Cabinet ministers and senior officials, and the files of the Departments of National Defence, Finance, and Trade and Commerce. In preparing this volume, I was given complete access to the files of the Department of External Affairs and generous access to other collections. A complete list of the archival sources consulted in the preparation of this volume may be found on page xxix.
The selection of documents is guided by the general principles outlined in the Introduction to Volume 7 (pp. ix-xi), as amended in the Introduction to Volume 20 (p. xxiii). In short, the series tries to provide a "self-contained record of the major foreign policy decisions taken by the Government of Canada," by concentrating on Canada's most important bilateral and multilateral relationships and on the major international issues that directly involved Cabinet members in substantive policy decisions.
The editorial devices used in this volume remain those described in the Introduction to Volume 9 (p. xix). A dagger (†) indicates a Canadian document that has not been printed. Editorial excisions are shown by an ellipse (...). The phrase "group corrupt" indicates decryption problems in the transmission of the original telegram. Words and passages that were struck out by the author, marginal notes and distribution lists are reproduced as footnotes only when important. Unless otherwise indicated, it is assumed that documents have been read by the addressee. Proper and place names are standardized. The editor has silently corrected spelling, punctuation and capitalization, as well as transcription errors whose meaning is clear from their context. All other editorial additions to the documents are indicated by the use of square brackets. Documents are reprinted in either English or French, depending on their language of origin.
The preparation of this volume was a collective effort. The Historical Section continues to depend on the expertise of the National Archives of Canada for help in locating relevant records. Paulette Dozois, David Smith and Robert McIntosh of the Government Archives Division responded quickly and cheerfully to requests for help. Maureen Hoogenraad of the Manuscript Division was equally helpful. Ciuineas Boyle, Access to Information Co-ordinator at the Privy Council Office, and her colleague, Herb Barrett, facilitated access to classified Cabinet records for the period. Corrinne Miller, archivist at the Bank of Canada, was indispensable in dealing with that collection. Geoffrey Pearson steered me toward an important document on the Suez Crisis, and generously granted me access to the closed portions of his father's papers. Mark Hayes of the Naval Historical Center in Washington helped identify some of the American figures in this volume.
Ted Kelly helped research parts of this volume, and guided it through production with diligence. Christopher Cook, whose knowledge of the archival collections reflected in this volume is unrivalled, remained my main research assistant. He was ably assisted at times by Joseph McHattie, Nelson Joannette, Tina McLauchlan and Michael Stevenson. Boris Stipernitz extensively researched several sections in this volume, and compiled the index in trying circumstances. It continued to be a pleasure to work with this team of fine historians.
Don Barry, Hector Mackenzie and Norman Hillmer, former editors of this series, offered advice and encouragement. My colleague, Mary Halloran, joined them in encouraging my progress. John English, the author of an award-winning biography of Pearson, was always willing to discuss Canadian diplomacy in the 1950s. The general editor of this series, John Hilliker, carefully reviewed the whole manuscript, and played a major role in helping to define the scope of this volume as well as its successor. The series would not be possible without the active support of the director of the Communications Programs and Outreach Division, Gaston Barban. I remain solely responsible for the final selection of documents in this volume.
The Historical Section provided the supplementary text and coordinated the technical preparation of the volume. The manuscript was typed and formatted by Aline Gélineau. The Translation Bureau supplied the French for most of the footnotes, the captions and ancillary texts. My colleague in the Communications Services Division, Francine Fournier, generously shared her knowledge of the finer points of French grammar. Gail Kirkpatrick Devlin proofread the entire manuscript, and helped compose the list of persons.
My wife, Mary, and my children, Katherine and Michael, cheerfully (and vocally) encouraged my work on this volume. I thank them.
1 Cited in Norman Hillmer, "Pearson and the Sense of Paradox," in his edited collection, Pearson: The Unlikely Gladiator (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999), p. 5.