365. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, April 9, 19571


  • Canadian Reaction to Norman Case


  • The Acting Secretary
  • Ambassador Arnold Heeney
  • Mr. S. F. Rae, Canadian Minister
  • C. Burke Elbrick, EUR

Ambassador Heeney called on the Acting Secretary at his own request for the purpose of informing the State Department at the highest level of the official Canadian reaction to the activities of the Senate Internal Security Sub-Committee. He said that as a result of the publication of Committee proceedings2 which contained material involving the late Ambassador, E. Herbert Norman, public opinion in Canada had become inflamed and the Government felt it must take some action in response to popular appeal. He said that Parliament would be dissolved on Saturday3 preparatory to general elections in June and the controversy caused by the activities of the Senate Committee will be a popular issue. The Ambassador said he could not over-emphasize the seriousness of the situation. He said that if the Committee continues its “wild attacks” on Canadian officials it will doubtless produce an explosion and relations between the two countries would suffer greatly.

The Ambassador said, as an example of the temper of Canadian Parliamentarians that a prominent member of Parliament (Alistair Stewart) is proposing to ask the Government to withdraw the Canadian Ambassador from Washington. Foreign Minister Pearson hopes to restrain him and avoid any such issue. The Ambassador said that he had learned from a Canadian correspondent last night that he was told by the counsel of the Senate Sub-Committee that the Committee’s [Page 887] next Canadian “victim” would be Robert Bryce, Secretary of the Canadian Cabinet, who is alleged to have been a member of a Communist cell with E.H. Norman may years ago.

As for the story in the New York Journal American regarding events of 1951 when an officer of the State Department went to Ottawa to inform officials of the Canadian Government of certain information regarding Foreign Minister Pearson which had been made available to the Committee, the Ambassador said that he had talked to Pearson by phone last night. Pearson wished to make it very clear to the State Department that the Canadian Government is not requesting that any effort be made to suppress information or stories that may stem from the Committee’s activities. Pearson, according to the Ambassador, said that the Canadian Government does not wish to give the impression that there is anything to hide. Apparently Pearson also informed the Ambassador that anti-Americanism in Canada is at an all-time high as a result of this affair.

The Foreign Minister expected to make a statement in the House of Commons today on this subject, but on Heeney’s suggestion will delay the statement for 24 hours. Heeney will be instructed to present a note to the State Department tomorrow morning.4 [10 lines of source text not declassified]. However, he said that Pearson feels that he must respond in some way to public opinion in Canada and that this is the only avenue open to him. The Ambassador said that cooperation in the field of security is of the greatest importance to both countries and it would be most unfortunate if anything occurred which might reduce the effectiveness of such cooperation.

The Acting Secretary said that Senator Jenner5 of the Committee seems to be acting independently in this case and he is in a very unhappy frame of mind. He is anxious to rebut certain allegations that Pearson made about the Senate Sub-Committee in the Canadian House of Commons and there seems to be little, if anything, that we can do to control him.

The Ambassador wondered whether some public statement could be made and referred particularly to the President’s press conference which usually takes place on Wednesday.6 He said that ever since last week the Canadian press has been alleging that Foreign Minister Pearson himself is the real target of the Internal Security Sub-Committee. He said that in 1953 Secretary Dulles had volunteered to make a statement expressing confidence in Pearson when a similar revelation [Page 888] of information available to the Committee had been made.7 The Ambassador said that he had no specific request to make of the State Department but he reiterated his concern over the critical state of relations between the two countries and the effect of any rift in those relations on the other members of the North Atlantic Alliance.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Secret. Drafted by Elbrick. A marginal note on the source text indicates that the memorandum was approved by Hoover and a copy was sent by him to the White House.
  2. On March 14, the Internal Security Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary released to the press the record of its hearings which made allegations that the Canadian Ambassador in Egypt, E. Herbert Norman, had been a Communist. Heeney presented a note of protest on March 18. (Department of State Bulletin, April 9, 1957, pp. 694–695) Nevertheless, the subcommittee continued to make investigations affecting Norman. (Letter from Senator James O. Eastland to the Acting Secretary of State, March 22; Department of State, Central Files, 711.21/3–2257) Subsequently, Norman committed suicide in Cairo on April 4.
  3. April 13.
  4. Heeney delivered the note the next day, April 10, about 2 hours before Pearson read it to the House of Commons in Ottawa. (Memorandum of conversation by Elbrick, April 10; Department of State, Central Files, 711.21/4–1057) The Canadian note is printed in Department of State Bulletin, September 2, 1957, pp. 385–386.
  5. Senator William E. Jenner of Indiana.
  6. April 10.
  7. The Canadian note of March 18 contains two annexes which refer to similar allegations made by the subcommittee in 1951. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, April 29, 1957, p. 695.