The Minister of Embassy in Canada (Bliss) to the Officer in Charge of Dominion Affairs (Haselton)


Dear Norrie: Herewith I am sending you two copies of Canadian draft note1 on extension of the continental radar defense system, of which you have already received a text from the Canadian Embassy in Washington. This note represents a revision of a Canadian draft, worked out at our meetings yesterday between Johnson of the U.S.A.F.2 and officials of Defence Liaison.3

Before we got into the substantive problems, I raised the question of why the Government of Canada objects to the exchange of notes and we got a long grumble from Wershof, who felt that we were inconsistent in our attitude. He felt that in the past we have been able to carry out many PJBD recommendations without exchanging diplomatic notes, and indicated that the Canadians are quite satisfied to have the agreement of the President in this instance; Johnson replied that this particular PJBD recommendation obviously required further action than contemplated in the recommendation itself, and that very few PJBD recommendations can stand by themselves. Wershof also felt that our insistence on registration with the UN is not entirely sound when obviously we cannot tell the whole story and in effect hold back vital information; there was no dispute over the necessity for withholding such information, but I suggested that we would at least be informing the UN that we do have such an agreement in giving a general idea of its nature. Wershof remained unconvinced, but there was no further argument along this line.

However, MacKay indicated his own concern because this exchange of notes must be laid before Parliament, which he is reluctant to do. He feels that it implies another cession of territory by Canada to the United States, the advent of additional U.S. troops on Canadian soil, and all that, and that Canadian public opinion will react adversely to this and other projects now in train. Johnson and I, discussing this after the meeting, felt that the Canadian public is not as sensitive in these matters as MacKay implies. My own feeling is that the Cabinet, which in effect is the Government of Canada, is the sensitive point, and a real problem is to get officials to put through proposals and persuade their Ministers to accept them. After that hump is passed it is fairly easy sailing.

[Page 889]

Without going into detail regarding our redrafting, I can indicate a few of the points which were considered. Generally speaking, our problem was to prepare a note which represented a compromise between opposing Canadian and American objectives. The Canadians wanted no note at all but if they did have to have one they wanted it made clear that Canada is not giving away anything to the United States, remains in full possession of the sites and permanent structures erected on Canadian soil, and has the option of manning the stations with Canadian personnel. In a collateral discussion with Air Vice Marshal James4 it was established by Johnson that the R.C.A.F. does not see its way clear to man any more than a minimum number of stations, but MacKay wants to suggest, for Canadian consumption, that Canadian personnel may be used if too many Americans seem to be intruding on Canadian territory. Johnson, on the other hand, wanted a paper which would make it clear that the United States has an interest in these radar stations, including a property interest sufficient to justify appropriations for their construction and operation on foreign soil. He would be much happier if paragraph 6 did not contain a reference to “structures permanently affixed to the realty”5 but MacKay seemed to feel that this is necessary from the Canadian viewpoint.

An important twist in the revised draft has been a rewording of the phraseology to disassociate the manning of the stations from the operation of the stations.6 By doing this it makes it possible for the Canadians to represent themselves as manning or at least authorized to man, any or all of the stations with Canadian personnel. At the same time it makes it possible for Johnson to maintain that the United States has operating responsibility, thus justifying an appropriation for this purpose, whether for the maintenance of U.S. personnel on the stations or for their manning by R.C.A.F. personnel on a contractual basis. It is only this gimmick which makes it possible, to my mind, for Johnson even to suggest that this draft might be saleable in the Pentagon.

It is my own feeling that the reference in paragraph 6 to permanent structures is a somewhat excessive Canadian requirement, since it makes these structures Canadian property as soon as they are erected. It is difficult for me to understand why Canada could not [Page 890] accept an arrangement whereby these structures would remain U.S. property as long as a station is in operation, on the understanding that they would revert to Canada when operations are discontinued. If we want to fight on any point, this is the one I would pick. On the other hand, if we can overlook it perhaps it would be wiser to do so.

The Canadians also inserted a proviso in paragraph 5 (a) regarding prior approval for construction and installations. This is an analogy of the Goose Bay arrangement.7 Apparently the R.C.A.F. felt that without such a proviso the U.S.A.F. might undertake over-ambitious construction which might involve Canada in excessive operating costs. I doubt that it has great substance, other than as a precaution. In response to my direct question MacKay indicated that he thought the existence of this proviso in the Goose Bay lease had exercised some influence on U.S. planning for that project. Anyway, they seem to attach some importance to it.

As I informed you over the telephone, I have arranged with MacKay that the next action in this case will be taken by the United States after Johnson has endeavored to sell his draft in Washington. We agreed that Johnson has the harder task. MacKay would not commit himself to Canadian acceptance of this draft, but his general attitude was one of confidence that he could persuade his Minister to accept it and that it would go through the Cabinet Defence Committee, However, it will not be presented to the Cabinet until we hear from you.

Sincerely yours,

  1. Not found in the Department of State files, but apparently similar in substance to the note that was sent by the Canadian Ambassador to the Secretary of State, August 1, 1951, in an exchange of notes constituting a formal agreement. For text, see 5 UST (pt. 2), 1721–1724.
  2. John A. Johnson, Associate General Counsel, U.S. Air Force.
  3. R. A. MacKay, Head of the Defence Liaison Division, Canadian Department of External Affairs, and Max H. Wershof.
  4. Air Vice Marshal A. L. James, Royal Canadian Air Force.
  5. Paragraph 6 of the Canadian note cited in footnote 1 above stated that the United States should retain ownership of all property which it placed on the sites, “other than structures permanently affixed to the realty.”
  6. Paragraph 2 of the Canadian note cited in footnote 1 above provided that the United States and Canada should each assume financial responsibility for the operation of those stations allocated to them by agreement between the two governments. Paragraph 7 provided that both countries should initially man certain stations according to arrangements agreed upon by the two governments and that Canada might, by agreement, take over the manning of stations initially manned by the United States.
  7. The proposed agreement for a U.S. lease at Goose Bay provided that “all new major construction in the Leased Areas shall have the prior approval of the Commanding Officer, Royal Canadian Air Force Station Goose Bay” (711.56342/3–1751).