The golden age: A Canadian foreign policy paradox

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					Adam Chapnick


The golden age
A Canadian foreign policy paradox




          We have under-rated Canada’s quality in the past…. I believe that
          the strength and wisdom of her contribution in international
          discussions and actions after the war will likewise surprise us. The
          fact is that Canada has ‘grown up’ in the last few years, despite all her
          internal difficulties; she has found herself. Some of her Ministers
          have marked ability. There is also in Ottawa a group of high officials
          who are still comparatively young—mostly in their early or mid
          forties—and whose influence over Canadian policy is and will
          continue to be at least as important as that of Ministers, whose
          tenure of office is more precarious. They are the heads of
          Government Departments and other official bodies. They are able,
          enlightened and forceful. If we do not discourage them, but on the
          contrary encourage them as well as their Ministers to be our
          colleagues in affairs, we shall find them good allies.1


Adam Chapnick teaches defence studies at the Canadian Forces College. He would like to
thank Véronique La Rue-Constantineau and Kaitlin Bardswich for their research assistance,
Norman Hillmer and Hector Mackenzie for their counsel, and the journal’s anonymous
reviewers for their helpful feedback.
1 Memorandum by Malcolm MacDonald containing “some thoughts on the post-war
position of the British Commonwealth of Nations,” British war cabinet, 22 March 1943,
in the National Archives of the United Kingdom, Dominion Office papers, DO35 1838.



                                       | International Journal | Winter 2008-09 | 205 |
| Adam Chapnick |



In 2003’s While Canada Slept: How We Lost Our Place in the World, author
Andrew Cohen bemoaned the decline of a once-great nation. During what he
described as the golden age of foreign policy (the 1940s and 1950s), Canada
punched above its weight in global affairs and received remarkable
international recognition for doing so. Having entered the 21st century,
Ottawa had lost its focus, and commitment, to the world around it.
     The deliberately provocative book—which included a series of policy
prescriptions aimed at reinvigorating Canada’s global presence—was largely
well received, making the one prominent critical review all the more notable.
Political scientist Don Munton disputed the extent of Canada’s supposed
decline vigorously, noting that the golden age was, in relative and quantifiable
terms, not as lustrous as While Canada S
				
DOCUMENT INFO
Description: Over the next io years, the theme of decline continued to be a focus of public and official commentary. For the most part, however, the emphasis shifted from [Trevor Lloyd]'s rather detached, global perspective that emphasized the inevitability of the shift in dynamics to one more apt to call for a significant domestic response to the deterioration of Canada's Department of External Affairs. Journalist Christina McCaIl Newman wrote regretfully of the diminishing influence of a "remarkable group of intellectually sophisticated, like-minded men who came to Ottawa before World War II." Colleague Walter Stewart noted that "the glamour department of the government since the end of World War 1 1" had become racked by, in the words of one official, "a general malaise, a feeling that we don't know what the hell we're doing or where we're going." Gilles Lalande's third volume of the "Studies of the royal commission on bilingualism and biculturalism" chronicled the persistence of the department's "general distrust of outsiders," which had contributed to its isolation within the Canadian government and broader society.7Their thinking was corroborated by former practitioners. The later 1980s and 1990s witnessed the publication of a series of memoirs and commentaries, the vast majority of which looked back wistfully on a better time. The former long-serving diplomat George I gnatieff called the chapter in his memoirs that marked Prime Minister Mackenzie King's retirement in 1948 "The golden age of Canadian diplomacy," noting that "there was a sense of mission in our foreign policy, a conviction that, as a middle-sized power with a good deal of economic clout and international prestige, Canada had both an obligation and the ability to act as an architect of peaceful solutions to intractable problems." In an interview with Ottawa Magazine in 1991, his colleague Charles Ritchie first denied the existence of such an exceptional period, but then conceded that the same years to which
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