102. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Impending Canadian Action on the Arctic—Phone Call This Afternoon from Prime Minister Trudeau

On March 17 you called Prime Minister Trudeau and told him of your deep concern over Canadian intentions to take unilateral actions relating to the Arctic and law of the sea issues.2 You advised him that the contemplated Canadian legislation (as outlined for us by the Canadian Ambassador on March 11) would present us with serious security and economic problems. In an effort to head off this unilateral action, you offered to send a delegation headed by Alex Johnson to Ottawa (you decided against sending Dave Packard since it would put too much emphasis on the military). Trudeau agreed to suspend any Canadian action until he heard the presentation by Alex’s team.

[Page 405]

Alex Johnson presented the US case on March 20 and offered some constructive proposals.3 He felt that we caused the Canadians to re-think their position, but in general Alex was not sanguine that they would find it possible to eliminate all objectionable features. Subsequently, the Canadians informed us that they would not introduce legislation until after the Easter parliamentary recess, which ended on Monday of this week.

This morning, the Canadian Ambassador called Alex Johnson4 to inform him that, after careful consideration of the points we had made, the Canadian Government still felt it must proceed tomorrow with the introduction into Parliament of legislation providing for the establishment of:

—a 100 mile anti-pollution zone in the Arctic;

—a 12 mile territorial sea; and

—fishing closing lines beyond the territorial sea.

This is essentially the same legislation as they considered in mid-March, except for a partial concession to our representations relating to an exemption from the pollution legislation for naval and other public vessels under certain conditions. Also, the Canadians are not going to take formal action at this time to declare the Arctic waters as internal Canadian waters.

The Canadian Ambassador said that Trudeau would be glad to discuss this matter further with you today. Trudeau will be calling you this afternoon after 4:30.5

Your Talking Points

1. You had hoped that following your last conversation, there was a strong possibility that an accommodation of our respective interests could be arranged through consultations;

2. After Alex Johnson visited Ottawa and presented the details of our position and offered constructive proposals, you still entertained the hope that Canada would not take unilateral action in this field;

3. Now however, you are deeply disappointed to learn that the Canadian Government has not found it possible to meet our concerns;

[Page 406]

4. It is, of course, for the Canadian Government to decide what legislation it wishes to propose to Parliament, but you wish to make it very clear that if this legislation is introduced, the US will publicly oppose it; our worldwide interests in freedom of navigation for our naval and merchant ships leave us no choice;

5. You recognize that the full public expression of the US position on this issue may cause discomfort to Canadian Government, but it is necessary for the US to take lawful and appropriate steps to protect the integrity of its position.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 670, Country Files—Europe, Canada, Vol. II. Confidential. Sent for action.
  2. See Document 100 and footnote 4 thereto.
  3. A March 21 memorandum by Johnson describing the meetings in Ottawa is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–1, Documents on Global Issues, 1969–1972, Document 369.
  4. Johnson’s April 7 memorandum describing this discussion is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 670, Country Files—Europe, Canada, Vol. II.
  5. No record of this conversation was found. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Trudeau called Nixon at 4:40 p.m., however, “The call was not completed.” (Ibid., White House Central Files)