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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


  • 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


  • 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.



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Nuclear Weapons for Canadian Forces

Telegram to the Prime Minister

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