Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins) to the Secretary of State


Subject: Discussion with Canadian Minister for External Affairs Pearson on June 13.

Mr. Pearson is leaving for England at the end of the week. He is to receive an honorary degree at Oxford and also plans to see a number of British and Western European officials while he is on his trip in addition to taking a holiday. In view of the fact that he will be talking to a number of Western Europeans, we think it is likely that he intends to talk with you at dinner Wednesday1 largely on European [Page 891] questions in order to get the benefit of your current thinking on these problems.2

Tab A3 contains a reference to the Far East and the U.N. which we recommend that you raise with Mr. Pearson inasmuch as potential differences in this area constitute, in our opinion, the only important source of disagreement with Canada on foreign affairs.

Under Tab B4 is included a list of some of the questions which Mr. Pearson may well raise concerning our European policy. Since there are few points of actual difference between the two countries with respect to European policy, this list merely contains questions in which the Canadians have shown considerable interest. The annex does not attempt to brief you on these questions as they comprise our major European problems with which you are familiar, and as the talk on both sides will almost certainly be in the nature of an exchange of background views.

Tab C5 contains for your background information certain observations with respect to the present status of U.S.-Canadian relations in general.


Memorandum Prepared in the Department of State


Background Information Concerning Status of United States-Canadian Relations

1. Attitudes in the Department of External Affairs

Since the end of the war, many Canadian officials in the Department of External Affairs have viewed the relative decline in British economic and military power as an opportunity, and even as a compulsion, for Canada to assume a new role of leadership in the Commonwealth and in international organizations generally. These officials, headed by Mr. Pearson himself, and Mr. Arnold Heeney, the Under Secretary, and supported by many junior officers, now stress the independence of Canada’s decisions in international matters and her increasingly important role in multilateral negotiations. On the reverse side of the coin, they have a tendency to play down the effects of Canada’s bilateral ties with the U.S., to insist on the inviolateness of Canadian [Page 892] territory and to become easily irritated over what they consider our lack of appreciation of Canadian interests and views. This attitude, while strongest in External Affairs, is not uncommon in Canadian intellectual circles. It is responsible in some measure for the importance which Canadian External Affairs officials attach to problems with the United States, particularly in regard to cooperation in joint defense projects. The tendency in External Affairs to exaggerate the sensitivity of the Canadian public creates difficulties and delays in the implementation of various defense measures, even though the arrangements have been approved by the Permanent Joint Board on Defense.

2. Pearson’s speech of April 10, 1951

In this speech, Mr. Pearson reflected clearly the attitude mentioned above. He foresaw the end of relatively “easy and automatic political relations” with the United States due to the growing importance of multilateral contacts for both countries. The speech generally emphasized the points of difference between the U.S. and Canada rather than the points of agreement. Mr. Pearson has attempted to explain the speech as a means of preparing Canadian public opinion for feared further public differences with the United States in the UN on the Far East. It has caused some government officials in Canada, both in External Affairs and in other Departments, to view questions with the U.S. not simply as problems to which solutions should be found, but as international incidents involving Canadian prestige. The Department’s policy has been to ignore the speech completely, and, by giving it little publicity, to contain its effects. It is suggested that the Secretary treat the speech with a minimum of comment.

3. Attitude of the Canadian Public Towards the United States

The attitudes prevailing in External Affairs do not appear to be shared to any appreciable extent by other Canadian Government Departments or by the public at large. As has been the case for many years, there does exist in Canada a moderate amount of feeling against the United States compounded of frustration, envy, and fear of absorption. There is little indication that this feeling is much stronger now than previously. However, ill-considered criticisms of United States policy by Canadian Government leaders and unfavorable action by the Congress on the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project,6 which has wide support among the Canadian people, could create in Canada considerable public irritation against this country.

  1. June 13.
  2. No record of this conversation has been found in the Department of State files. On June 14, Acheson and Pearson, along with other Canadian representatives and members of the State Department, discussed various aspects of international affairs. For the record of this conversation, see vol. i, p. 845.
  3. “Far East,” not printed.
  4. “Europe,” not printed.
  5. See Annex, below.
  6. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 903 ff.