"Punching Above Its Weight": 1939-68

The outbreak of the Second World War, in September 1939, transformed the Department of External Affairs. From six missions abroad in 1939, the Department expanded across the globe, encompassing 26 foreign missions by 1946 and more than 93 by 1967. War brought the Department additional responsibilities, opened up opportunities for women within the Department, and prompted Canada to take on new international roles. By war's end, in 1945, the Department had embraced an active internationalism that would define Canadian foreign policy for a generation.

Canada House in London, surrounded by the rubble from a recent bombing raid. 11) The war had an immediate impact on Canadian diplomats and their families in Europe, where the German blitzkrieg of May 1940 forced many to flee under harrowing circumstances. Shown here, circa 1941, is Canada House in London, surrounded by the rubble from a recent bombing raid.
(Source: Library and Archives Canada, e008319469)

Agnes McCloskey (foreground). 12) The war led to a national labour shortage, forcing the Department to hire qualified women to do the work of junior officers. The women, however, remained ineligible to become foreign-service officers until 1947. Shown here, in the early 1940s, is Agnes McCloskey (foreground).
(Source: Yousuf Karsh/Library and Archives Canada, PA-187411)

Prime Minister and Secretary of State for External Affairs W.L. Mackenzie King (right) in 1944. 13) Norman Robertson became under-secretary in 1941. Shown here is Prime Minister and Secretary of State for External Affairs W.L. Mackenzie King (right) in 1944, he reorganized the wartime Department, turning it into an arm of modern government for the first time.
(Source: Library and Archives Canada, C-015134)

General A.G.L. McNaughton (left) became Canada's first permanent representative to the UN. 14) The UN was at the heart of Canada's post-war diplomacy. General A.G.L. McNaughton (left) became Canada's first permanent representative to the UN in 1948. He is shown here (left to right) with Transport Minister Lionel Chevrier and diplomats Charles Ritchie and John Holmes.
(Source: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada/Maurice Zalewski/Library and Archives Canada, PA-187127)

Hume Wrong, Canadian ambassador to the United States, signed the treaty for Canada in April 1949. 15) The UN proved an insufficient guardian of international security in the face of Communist aggression in the 1940s. One of the first Western democracies to seek a regional security pact, Canada played a leading role in negotiating the North Atlantic Treaty. Hume Wrong, Canadian ambassador to the United States, signed the treaty for Canada in April 1949.
(Source: Harris-Ewing/Library and Archives Canada, PA-124427)

Elizabeth MacCallum became Canada's first woman head of mission. 16) During the 1950s, changing social attitudes and the Department's expansion made it possible for women to move up the Department's ranks. Elizabeth MacCallum became Canada's first woman head of mission when she was appointed chargé d'affaires in Beirut in 1954.
(Source: Richard Harrington/National Film Board of Canada/Library and Archives Canada, PA-112766)

Pearson, secretary of state for external affairs, holds a press conference during the Suez Crisis. 17) The growth of the Department in the 1950s created an influential foreign ministry capable of "punching above [its] weight," in the words of Lester B. Pearson. In this photo, Pearson, secretary of state for external affairs, holds a press conference during the Suez Crisis of 1956. Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his role in resolving the crisis.
(Source: Duncan Cameron/Library and Archives Canada, PA 155557)

Jules Léger (left) with Sidney Smith, secretary of state for external affairs. 18) Jules Léger (left), who became the Department's first francophone under-secretary in 1954, with Sidney Smith, secretary of state for external affairs from 1957 to 1959.
(Source: Library and Archives Canada, PA-214179)


Howard Green, in November 1959, addressing the UN on the effects of atomic radiation. 19) Howard Green, secretary of state for external affairs from 1959 until 1963, became a passionate advocate of nuclear disarmament. He is shown here in November 1959 addressing the UN on the effects of atomic radiation.
(Source: UN Photo)


Diplomat Blair Seaborn raises the flag at Canada's mission to the ICSC in Vietnam. 20) Diplomat Blair Seaborn raises the flag at Canada's mission to the International Commission for Supervision and Control (ICSC) in Vietnam, February 15, 1965. Between 1954, when Canada joined the peace commissions in Indochina, and 1973, when the final mission withdrew, almost a third of the Department's diplomats served in this war-torn region.
(Source: Seaborn Collection)

Paul Martin greeting probationary foreign-service recruits in 1967. 21) Paul Martin, Sr., who served as secretary of state for external affairs from 1963 until 1968, is shown here greeting probationary foreign-service recruits in 1967.
(Source: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada)