430. Telegram From the Embassy in Canada to the Department of State0

823. Embassy telegram 814.1 Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s remarks on nuclear weapons reported reference telegram are nothing short of dismaying since they represent irresponsible treatment of subject of vital importance to both Canada and US. They probably stem from compound [Page 1168]of ignorance of complex subject, profound reluctance face up to disagreeable subject, unfortunate propensity point to US as immovable stumbling block, and heat of moment in lively parliamentary exchange with Pearson for whom he feels positive personal dislike.

Inconsistencies in Diefenbaker position which so obvious to US are unfortunately somewhat less so to most Canadian observers. Nevertheless prospect is that liberal opposition, despite its own less than forthright stand on nuclear weapons, will not let matter lie and will seek daily to probe this soft spot in Government’s defense policy.

Press reaction limited thus far. (Embassy replying with “no comment” to press inquiries. Would appreciate Department’s guidance.)

Whatever else may eventually result fact is that at moment Diefenbaker is farther than ever from position we would like see his government take on nuclear weapons.

Merchant
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 742.5611/2–2762. Confidential; Priority.
  2. Telegram 814, February 27, reported an exchange in the House of Commons among Pearson, Diefenbaker, and Martin on Canadian policy on nuclear weapons. For the full text, see House of Commons Debates, Official Report, 1962, vol. II, pp. 1250–1251. For Rusk’s reaction to this exchange, see Department of State Bulletin, March 19, 1962, pp. 457–458. In telegram 819, February 27, Merchant suggested that in view of this exchange, any action on the proposed letter to Diefenbaker (see Document 429) should be suspended. (Department of State, Central Files, 700.5611/2–2762)