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Foreign Policy of Canada


John Diefenbaker
John Diefenbaker

Following the war, Canada took an active role in international relations. Canada joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance founded in 1949 to defend Europe against Communist attack. The North American Air (later Aerospace) Defense Agreement, signed in 1958, confirmed American involvement in defending North American airspace over Canada. Canada contributed forces to the United Nations campaign to defend South Korea in the Korean War (1950-1953).

In 1950 Canada began foreign aid programs for underdeveloped nations as part of the Colombo Plan, launched by the Commonwealth of Nations to attack the poverty that was thought to breed support for communism. Canadian diplomat and politician Lester Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1956 for organizing a peacekeeping force to defuse the Suez Crisis. Peacekeeping became a frequent assignment for Canadian forces as Canada sought status in world affairs as a so-called middle power: too small to be a great power, but large enough and strong enough to act as an intermediary in world affairs.

Diefenbaker and Pearson


After running the national government continuously since 1935, the Liberal Party was defeated by the Progressive Conservatives (the new name for the Conservatives) in 1957. The new prime minister, John Diefenbaker, was a crusading country lawyer from Saskatchewan who built his campaign on growing resentment over the long dominance of the Liberal Party and the arrogant Canadian establishment. He also urged economic development of the far northern regions.

An orator and a fighter for social justice and the ordinary citizen, Diefenbaker appealed to Canadian national pride. His disorganized administration, however, alienated potential allies and faced frequent crises. His government fell in a 1963 election contest with the Liberals under Pearson. The chief issues were Canada’s role in NATO and Diefenbaker’s opposition to the building of nuclear weapons bases in Canada.

Pearson’s achievements as prime minister included new and expanded social programs and a new, distinctive Canadian flag, the red maple leaf. Pearson’s Liberals never had a majority in the House of Commons but survived because opposition was divided. Among the new opposition parties was the New Democratic Party (NDP), formed in 1961 by a merger of the socialist CCF and Canadian labor organizations. The NDP campaigned for public ownership of key industries, wider social programs to promote economic equality, and controls on foreign (particularly American) investment. First led by former Saskatchewan premier Thomas Douglas, the NDP became a long-lasting third party competing with the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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