Volume #12 - 1015.|
RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Prime Minister
February 14th, 1946|
POSSIBLE REVISION OF THE RUSH-BAGOT AGREEMENT OF 1817|
Naval Services wish to send four or five small training vessels to the Great Lakes this summer and have inquired whether the Department would be prepared to seek the approval of the United States Government. Such a step would, like many others that have been taken, involve a breach of the Rush-Bagot Agreement and would require still another interpretation of the spirit of that arrangement. This raises the question which has been under consideration in the Department for some time of whether it would not be in the general interest to replace the Rush-Bagot Agreement with something more suited to present conditions.1
Both Governments have agreed during the war to disregard the limitations on naval armaments on the Great Lakes contained in this Agreement and its prohibition of naval construction. It appears questionable, however, whether it is wise to retain an Agreement which is so unrelated to present conditions that its main provisions must be constantly violated. Even with the war ended, it can be expected that both countries will wish to have naval vessels in these waters and there seems no reason why they should not. It therefore appears appropriate to consider whether the time has not come to suggest to the United States that the Rush-Bagot Agreement be replaced by a new Agreement which would take account of present day relations between Canada and the United States.
Such an Agreement might cover-the following points:
Permit each country to maintain such vessels as it requires for naval training purposes and for police work.
Permit the construction of such vessels as each country requires for purposes mentioned in (a) above, as well as for ocean use, subject to what-ever agreements on naval limitations may be binding on each party.
Provide for complete exchange of information on all activities under (a) and (b) above perhaps through the Permanent Joint Board on Defence.
The principal argument against a new Agreement is the great sentimental value that attaches to this historic document. It is a landmark of nearly one hundred and thirty years' standing and a monument to the excellent relations between Canada and the United States.
On the other hand, there are two arguments in favour of a new Agreement which may have even greater weight:
A new Agreement might possess even more sentimental value if appropriately conceived and properly launched. The old Agreement was, despite its undoubted value, based on mutual suspicion and the need to keep a watchful eye on naval armaments. A new Agreement could be based on the complete confidence that exists between the two countries. It would be based on mutual trust, not on mutual suspicion. Indeed, a naval limitation Agreement seems inconsistent with joint defence and the responsibilities entrusted to the Permanent Joint Board on Defence under the Ogdensburg Agreement. A new understanding based on these considerations would be a landmark in the history of both countries.
The existing Agreement is so unrelated to modern conditions that scarcely one of its provisions is in force. If international agreements are to command general respect, it does not appear to be sound policy to retain agreements which have become out of date and which are continually violated.
On balance, it is suggested that a new Agreement, far from destroying something of historical interest and moral value, would be a document commanding great interest and respect in its own right. If you agree with these considerations, I would suggest that an informal approach be made to the United States either through diplomatic channels or through the Permanent Joint Board on Defence.2
N. A. R[OBERTSON]
1 Note marginale:
2 Note marginale: