Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Eastern European Affairs (Yost)

Participants: Mr. George Ignatieff, Counselor, Canadian Embassy
Mr. B. A. Wallis, Second Secretary, Canadian Embassy
Charles W. Yost, EE
John C. Campbell,1 EE

Mr. Ignatieff called today at his request in order to obtain information the way in which the US Government had handled the problem of Eastern European political émigrés. He said that such information might be helpful to the Canadian Government in deciding how to deal with requests made by émigré groups in Canada to be permitted to organize and to obtain official support. He asked specifically concerning the various National Councils and Committees and the National Committee for Free Europe in New York. Mr. Campbell sketched briefly the circumstances which had led to the, formation in this country of these various national groups and to the establishment last year of the National Committee. He emphasized, that the latter was a private corporation with no official status but indicated also that its activities were in line with this Government’s objectives and had the Department’s moral support.

Mr. Ignatieff stated that the Canadian Government had been cautious in its approach to this problem in Canada. Behind this attitude were two basic reasons. First, Canada was not attempting to play the [Page 352] role of the great power and therefore did not wish to become involved in the politics of these Eastern European nations; second, Canada’s tradition in dealing with immigrants was one of assimilation rather than of treating these people as members of foreign national groups. However, he continued, the Canadian Government was now faced with the specific problem of whether and how to encourage émigré leaders now in Canada to form organizations and engage in political activity. He asked whether the émigré committees in the US had been useful to the US Government. Mr. Yost said that these groups had been useful for American policy since they symbolized for the peoples of Eastern Europe the promise of a freedom which they had lost and might eventually regain. Furthermore, they were sometimes helpful in providing information and advice, particularly in connection with propaganda to those countries. Mr. Campbell pointed out that, while there was still a good deal of internal wrangling within the national committees, nevertheless, their formation had been useful to the Department in lessening the centrifugal forces within the various émigré groups. Also, the National Committee for Free Europe had taken the burden of day-to-day dealing with the exiles off the Department’s shoulders. Mr. Yost said that we hoped that the help given to these exiles by the National Committee for Free Europe would enable them to make some contribution to the future of their countries and thus to the achievement of our own foreign policy objectives.

Mr. Ignatieff did not indicate what the Canadian Government intended to do on this question. He thought that consideration might be given to the establishment of an organization similar to the NCFE and possibly collaborating with it.

Charles W. Yost
  1. Officer in Charge of Balkan Affairs, Office of Eastern European Affairs.