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

Secret [scratched out] and Personal

January 8th, 1961

Memorandum for the Prime Minister:

Re: Nuclear weapons; policy statement

I have been thinking of the substance and tactics on this subject before getting down to wording and would like your direction on several points.

On substance, I believe you have now reached the conclusion that we should make the necessary arrangements with the United States to have nuclear weapons available for the Canadian forces, under joint control, and in accordance with the basic policies outline in your statement of February 20th, 1959. I hope this is the case, for I feel these defensive weapons are needed now in Canada for anti-bomber and anti-submarine defence. I think the real need for our forces in Europe having them is less urgent, but we have made clear-cut commitments to NATO on the matter and there would be serious trouble here and in Europe in cancelling or frustrating the huge F104 programme to re-equip our air division there. Moreover, I think there is another type of danger in serious delay; should you decide after an election to have these weapons available for the defence of Canada, many people would say or think that you had knowingly risked the security of Canada and the Alliance for election purposes.

Therefore I assume that what you want is a statement announcing that we are negotiating now with the United States the arrangements by which


nuclear warheads can be kept available in Canada under joint control for the use of Canadian and U.S. forces if and when they are required in defensive anti-aircraft and anti-submarine weapons. The statement would recognize the arguments for not having such weapons, disarmament and the desire not to enlarge the nuclear club, and would justify our delays on those grounds, but say why we feel the defence arguments now outweigh these considerations.

On tactics, I would suggest you consider asking the House of Commons to approve by suitable resolution the Government taking these necessary steps to be ready to protect the country and the Alliance. There has been so much said and written outside of Parliament by well meaning but ill-informed people on this subject, that I feel the air should be cleared and the Government given a chance to explain the real situation so far as security permits (which is pretty far) by a proper debate in the House early in the session. Moreover, it will I think strengthen your position on balance to have such a debate and make it necessary for the Liberals to declare themselves in a responsible way in advance of the campaign. The CCF (NDP) will no doubt oppose, but will have more difficulty in doing so in debate than on the hustings. I think most of those who will oppose you on this issue, after a good debate, will likely be voting NDP anyway, or for Pearson as winner of the Nobel peace prize.

The chief difficulty is, of course, Mr. Green and this causes me serious concern for I have much respect and affection for him, even when I cannot agree with him. I should be glad to help in any way I can in preparing memoranda for you to give him or in talking to those of his officials, chiefly Norman Robertson, who encourage him


in this last ditch opposition to our having these warheads available.

Perhaps I should add that I do not think we need to be in this nuclear business indefinitely. Our role in Europe should be, within a few years, as part of the non-nuclear force there on which the United States now puts such emphasis, if indeed we need to remain in Europe at all for more than five years or so. In North America, the importance of the ICBM and Polaris-type missiles will grow so rapidly in the next five years that defensive nuclear weapons of the nature we are planning to have within Canada will become much less important than now, and we could leave them to the United States and perhaps turn our efforts to special non-nuclear forces to use in some sort of international set up. But it is clearly far too early for that now and we should have ready as soon as possible the defensive weapons that would be important during the next five years or so.




John Diefenbaker talking to fighter pilots at Canadian Forces base, Soest, Germany
John Diefenbaker speaking with fighter pilots
Media and Document Gallery


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


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


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


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



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