Some Principles of Canadian Foreign Policy: Speech to the Vancouver Branch of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, January 1948

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I feel very definitely [...] that Canadian policy [...] in regard to collective security, is different from, and much more positive than, that which we followed [...] in prewar days. The difference in policy is, I think, explained by changes in circumstances. What are these changes?

  1. The UN is in the United States;
  2. we have had a second world war;
  3. the crusading and subversive power of communism has been harnessed by a cold-blooded, calculating, victoriously powerful Slav empire for its own political purposes.

Let us look at these in turn.

First, the fact that the United States is not only a member of but the leader in the UN, and has been from the beginning, radically alters the position compared with that of the old League of Nations. It will be remembered that the one great nightmare of prewar Canadian governments was a clash, or even a divergence, of policy between the two governments – American and British – with both of which Canada wished to keep in step. [...]

There is no danger of that kind in the United Nations, in which British and American policies now usually march side by side. We can stride along beside them, and even on occasions indulge ourselves by slipping ahead. It is, of course, to our interest to strengthen any organization which brings London and Washington into closer alignment. The UN, in the face of the menace of communism, does that.


The second difference of 1948 over 1928 is that we have had a second world war.

The Second World War has left us, and everybody else, not with the rosy feeling of 1919 that the world has been made safe for democracy and a place fit for heroes to live in, but with a feeling of insecurity amounting almost to panic. This springs in part from the horrible implications of atomic, supersonic, and bacteriological warfare; in part from the depressing and bitter division of the victors over fascism into two hostile camps, a division which is both ideological and political.

This brings up the third difference between the current situation in the United Nations and that formerly in the League of Nations. The chief menace now is subversive, aggressive communism, the servant of power politics. [...] In the face of the menace of aggressive communism, the democracies are brought closer together, all of them, and are willing to make concessions of national rights which they would never have thought of doing ten years ago.


[The] fundamental aim of Soviet policy is to make the Soviet Union strong enough to prevail in the decisive struggle which should result from the next inevitable crisis of monopoly capitalism. Tactics may change, but the fundamental strategy remains the same. The clash with monopoly capitalism, however, is not necessarily imminent, and in the meantime the Soviet Union may at times be prepared to go along with the rest of the world, provided always that this entails no weakening of its fundamental position for the ultimate and inevitable struggle.


Source: Lester Pearson, "Some Principles of Canadian Foreign Policy: Speech to the Vancouver Branch of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs January 1948" in Words and Occasions, (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), 70-74

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