This activity will introduce students to the workings of the Cabinet and its Ministers, as well as the historical debate over nuclear weapons in Canada.  A follow-up activity encourages the students to analyze the changing stance of Canada on nuclear armament and develop personal responses to the issue. Consult the online primary documents and website text as resources.

Additional Materials

Introduction

  • Begin by explaining the function of the Cabinet and the Executive branch of the government.
  • Give students the opportunity to study the primary documents and familiarize themselves with the nuclear issue in Canada.
  • Encourage students to conduct background research to enhance this activity.

Refer to the following links:

  • Eugene Forsey, How Canadians Govern Themselves, 6th Ed.
  • Senate of Canada, Canada: A Constitutional Monarchy
  • Canadian Heritage, Canadians and Their Government
  • The Canadian Encyclopedia: Bomarc Missile Crisis

Activity

  • The debate is set in 1963, as Diefenbaker's government confronts the issue of nuclear weapons.
  • Explain the rules and process of a debate
  •  The debate should conclude with a vote on the issue and a decision by the Prime Minister.
  •  Work through the discussion questions which will help students to analyze the issue, their own views, and the role the Cabinet plays in decision-making.

Optional Activities

  • Additional resources available upon request from the Diefenbaker Canada Centre for extended learning opportunities.

John Diefenbaker talking to fighter pilots at Canadian Forces base, Soest, Germany
John Diefenbaker speaking with fighter pilots

Media and Document Gallery

Images

John Diefenbaker with John F. Kennedy
John Diefenbaker, Dwight Eisenhower, and their aides at table
John Diefenbaker with George Pearkes and General Lauris Norstad
John Diefenbaker speaking with fighter pilots

Audio

Speech by John Diefenbaker to the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Association, Halifax

Creator: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

Subject: Canada – Leader of the Official Opposition | Canada – Nuclear Weapons

Description: John Diefenbaker chastises the Liberal Party of Canada for what he claims was their unfounded criticism that his Government had made a commitment to United States to acquire nuclear weapons

Date Created: 16 November1963

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T200-PAC150a

Speech by John Diefenbaker at a meeting of the Canadian Club, Ottawa Creator: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

Creator: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Nuclear Weapons

Description: John Diefenbaker addresses the threat of nuclear war, indicating that Canada will not consider the use of nuclear weapons unless it has full joint control of the weapons

Date Created: 24 November1960

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T213-PAC57a

Speech by John Diefenbaker at the 46th Annual Kiwanis International Convention, Toronto

Creator: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – National Defence

Description: John Diefenbaker advocates for a strong defence for Canada, brushing aside the wishes of those who want Canada to remove itself from defence commitments and embrace neutrality

Date Created: 3 July1961

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T209a-c-PAC54

Documents

Letter from from F.E. Boaten, General Secretary, Accra Assembly, Ghana, to John Diefenbaker

Creator: F.E. Boaten

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Ghana – Personalities | Canada – Nuclear Weapons

Description: Boaten introduces the Accra Assembly, an organization of non-aligned, non-governmental organizations that seeks world peace and requests financial support for the organization

Date Created: 18 December1962

Identifier:MG01/XII/F/342 Volume 104 (080859 – 080861)

Letter from the Defence Liaison Commission to H.B. Robinson

Creator: Defence Liaison Commission

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Cabinet Ministers | Canada – Nuclear Weapons

Description: Covering letter and enclosed document entitled “Chronology of Government Statements Regarding Negotiations on Acquisition and Storage of Nuclear Weapons

Date Created: 4 November1960

Identifier:MG01/XII/B/236 Volume 37 (025648 – 025668)

Draft Statement Regarding the Acquisition and Control of Nuclear Weapons for Possible use in the House of Commons

Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – National Defence | Canada – Nuclear Weapons

Description: Presents material to be used by Government officials when answering questions in the House of Commons regarding acquisition and control of nuclear weapons

Date Created: 16 February1959

Identifier:MG01/XII/F/100 Volume 104 (071558 – 071561)

Memorandum for the Prime Minister: Re: Nuclear weapons; Policy Statement

Creator: R.B. Bryce

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – National Defence | Canada – Nuclear Weapons

Description: Bryce, Clerk of the Privy Council, advises Diefenbaker on tactics for formal policy on nuclear issues, urging him to make the issues public to clear up rumors, and to bring the issue to a House of Commons debate

Date Created: 8 February1961

Identifier:MG01/XII/F/100 Volume 104 (071585 – 071587)

Nuclear Weapons for Canadian Forces

Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – National Defence | Canada – Nuclear Weapons

Description: Draft statement prepared for Diefenbaker regarding nuclear weapons for Canadian forces, in which Diefenbaker declares that the Government desired to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, yet was considering storing such weapons on Canadian bases

Date Created: 14 January1960

Identifier:MG01/XII/F/100 Volume 104 (071575 – 071576)

Telegram to the Prime Minister

Creator: Charles Ritchie

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Cabinet Ministers | Canada – Nuclear Weapons

Description: Briefing for Prime Minister on forthcoming US State Department press announcement regarding negotiations on Canadian acquisition of nuclear weapons

Date Created: 31 January1960

Identifier:MG01/XII/D/151 Volume 86 (060563 – 060564)