334. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Law of the Sea


  • Canadian Side
    • Paul Martin, Secretary of State for External Affairs
    • A. E. Ritchie, Ambassador to the US
    • Marcel Cadieux, Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
    • George P. Kidd, Minister, Canadian Embassy, Washington
    • Yvon Beaulne, Minister, Canadian Embassy, Washington
    • J. G. Hadwen, Special Assistant to the Foreign Minister
  • US Side
    • The Secretary
    • Governor W. Averell Harriman, Ambassador at Large
    • U. Alexis Johnson, Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs
    • William Bundy, Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs
    • Walter J. Stoessel, Jr., Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
    • Rufus Z. Smith, Director, Office of Canadian Affairs

Mr. Martin took the initiative to raise the subject of the Law of the Sea. He recalled that he had first discussed the matter with Ambassador Johnson two and one-half years ago.2 Since then Canada had established a 12-mile fishing zone, and the Canadian Parliament had passed legislation authorizing the drawing of baselines in a manner which would incorporate certain bodies of water as Canadian territorial waters. The matter had now reached a stage where the Canadian Government would have to move further. He recalled that then-Assistant Secretary Tyler had made a personal suggestion that the US could accept the Canadian action if it involved only fishing, but Canada had not accepted the suggestion.3 Later, Mr. Martin had discussed the matter with then-Deputy Under Secretary Mann.4 He had told Mr. Mann that while Canada would be unhappy that no further progress had been made, the GOC was now proposing to move only with regard [Page 705] to fishing and not to the extent of claiming ownership of the waters, although on this latter point Canada would explicitly reserve its position.

(During this discussion Mr. Stoessel intervened to stress that the Tyler proposal had not been official, and the Secretary remarked with a smile that this had been what the lawyers call “a frolic of his own”.)

Mr. Martin went on to say that he hoped the US would now reconsider the fishing proposal. If the US cannot do so, Canada will have to go back to its original position, i.e. to claim the waters as exclusively Canadian for all purposes. This, he said, is what the Canadian legislation calls for, and he just could not face Parliament when it reconvenes this fall without being able to report progress. (“We have reached dead-end. There is no other course.”) Under such circumstances his plea to the US would be that we limit our action to a protest.

The Secretary responded initially by pointing out that our major concern is the question of general applicability. If Canada can do what it proposes, others can close off the Java Sea and other bodies of water, the free access to which is of vital importance to us. The Secretary also commented that to refer, as Mr. Martin had done, to bodies of water such as the Gulf of St. Lawrence as “internal waters” was begging the question. Surely this very question was what was at issue.

Mr. Martin responded that in his view the Canadian action would not prejudice the US case elsewhere in the world. Surely there were unique circumstances involved in the Canadian case which any court would recognize are not paralleled elsewhere.

There followed a general discussion of possible action by the International Court of Justice. Mr. Martin doubted that Canada would agree that the US could take Canada to court on the matter, although he said he recognized clearly that the US could instigate court action by another party. If Canada were faced with a suit before the Court, he would simply turn the proposal over to the Canadian Department of Justice to be dealt with by the best lawyers they could find, and he thought the US would be wrong to assume that the Canadian case could not prevail.

Commenting that he saw real trouble ahead on this issue, the Secretary pressed Mr. Martin for a clear statement of what the real Canadian interest was. Was it fishing? The flag? Security? Mr. Martin responded emphatically that the interest was fishing.

At another point in the conversation, Mr. Martin recalled that the matter had also been discussed between Prime Minister Pearson and President Kennedy at their Hyannis Port meeting, but Ambassador Johnson pointed out that this was the one issue discussed at Hyannis Port on which President Kennedy had made clear, as indeed was indicated [Page 706] in the communiqué,5 that the US did not accept the Canadian view.

Mr. Martin added that fishing is not a legal matter.

Ambassador Johnson at one point recalled that the US had offered to accept one portion of the Canadian fishing proposal, that which had to do with Hudson Bay. Mr. Martin responded that, of course, this was the least important part of the proposal and therefore the offer was not acceptable to Canada.

At one point in the discussion, Mr. Martin pointed out that the Canadian fishing proposal concerned only the East Coast, and he argued that in preparing its proposal Canada had taken great care not to harm US fishing interests in any way whatsoever.

The Secretary reiterated his concern about the general applicability of a Canadian move to close off the waters in question. We cannot acquiesce in one area and still insist that it cannot be done elsewhere in the world. The Secretary at one point suggested that perhaps we ought to appoint people on either side to take a hard look at the matter, but nothing specific was agreed upon and this part of the conversation ended inconclusively.6

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 33-8 CAN-US. Confidential. Drafted by Smith and approved in S/AH on August 4 and in S and G on August 8. The memorandum is Part 2 of 8. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s Dining Room.
  2. See Document 317.
  3. Apparent reference to the June 7, 1964, meeting of Tyler and Cadieux; see Document 321.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 332.
  5. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 371-374.
  6. On August 15 Ambassador Ritchie presented Johnson with a letter from Martin to Rusk restating the decision to declare the St. Lawrence Gulf an “internal waterway” and requesting U.S. acquiescence. A memorandum of conversation with attached copy of Martin’s letter are in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 33-8 CAN-US.