The Nuclear Question in Canada: Educational Activity

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.

Download

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
Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | United States – Head of State | White House

Description: John Diefenbaker and US John F. Kennedy seated and chatting in the Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C.

Date Created: 20 February 1961

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD1377

John Diefenbaker, Dwight Eisenhower, and their aides at table
Creator: White House

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | United States – Head of State | Columbia River Treaty

Description: John Diefenbaker, US President Dwight Eisenhower and their aides at signing of Columbia River Treaty.

Date Created: [1961]

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD6879

John Diefenbaker with George Pearkes and General Lauris Norstad
Creator: Capital Press Service

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Minister of Defence | NATO – Supreme Allied Commander Europe

Description: John Diefenbaker, George Pearkes, and General Lauris Norstad, NATO Supreme Commander, talking in Prime Minister’s Office

Date Created: 19 May 1959

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD1191

John Diefenbaker speaking with fighter pilots
Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Canadian Forces | Military Aircraft

Description: John Diefenbaker talking to fighter pilots at Canadian Forces base, Soest, Germany

Date Created: November 1958

Date Ended: Day Month John Diefenbaker en conversation avec des pilotes de chasse

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD828


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:16November1963

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:24November1960

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:3July1961

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T209a-c-PAC54


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