April 1956 - Canada and India formally sign Canada-India Reactor (CIR) Agreement. Canada agrees to provide India with a nuclear reactor (CIRUS) which is to be employed exclusively for 'peaceful uses.' However, over subsequent years, ample evidence is uncovered that India is using the reactor to enrich plutonium for its nuclear weapons program.

November 1956 - Canada and the Suez Canal Crisis - A watershed moment in Canadian foreign policy occurred with Canada's role in the de-escalation of the Suez Canal Crisis of July-November 1956. During the crisis, the Liberal government of Louis St. Laurent had, much to the chagrin of many Canadians, refused to unilaterally support the United Kingdom's position. Instead, St. Laurent called upon his External Affairs Minister, Lester B. Pearson, to assist in devising a solution. What followed has widely been termed as the Pearson Peace Plan. On November 4, Pearson suggested to the United Nations that a "United Nations Emergency Force" be deployed. This force, under Canadian command and comprised of neutral states not directly involved in the conflict, was accepted by the General Assembly as a means to "keep the borders at peace until a political settlement can be worked out". Shortly thereafter, the force, under the command of Canadian General E.L.M. Burns, deployed to secure the cessation of hostilities in the Suez Canal. This action is widely considered to be the genesis of UN and global peacekeeping operations, and as a result, Canada has forever been identified with peacekeeping activities. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Canadian forces took lead roles in peacekeeping operations in Lebanon, New Guinea, Yemen, the Arab/Israeli border, and Cyprus.

June 1957 - The Progressive Conservatives are elected to a minority government and, John Diefenbaker becomes Prime Minister.

1957-63 John Diefenbaker Recurrent Speech Themes:

1. Continuity will prevail

2. Priorities will remain the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the Commonwealth

3. The scope and institutionalization of the priority organizations will be strengthened

4. Canadian interests will be placed first with the United States

5. Relations will be diversified away from the United States

July 1957 - The IAEA -- International Atomic Energy Agency -- is created by the United Nations, with substantial Canadian input. One of two "Regional Safeguard Offices", the most important centres other than IAEA headquarters in Vienna, is established in Toronto, where it presently remains.

July 1957 - First Pugwash Conference on Sciences and World Affairs is held in Pugwah, Nova Scotia. Funded by Canadian-born philanthropist Cyrus Eaton, the Conference brings together, as individuals rather than government representatives, influential scholars and public figures concerned with reducing the danger of armed conflict and seeking cooperative solutions for global problems. Significant not only for what was discussed, such as the danger of nuclear war, but also for the co-operation amongst the global scientific community, this conference has spawned over 275 similar gatherings since.

December 1957 - Lester B. Pearson receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the establishment of the United Nations Emergency Force to cease hostilities in the Suez Canal Crisis.

April 1958 - First Conference on the Law of the Sea in Geneva. With the longest coastline in the world, Canada played a leading role in the negotiations and in the shaping of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which would finally come into force on November 16, 1994.

May 1958 - In partnership with the United States, Canada jointly establishes NORAD: The North American Air Defence Command, as a response to the threat of Soviet long-range nuclear bombers. Presided over by Canadian and American officers, NORAD was established to provide aerial defense of the continent in the case of a nuclear attack.

1958 - Canada, through the Commonwealth Caribbean Aid Program, establishes the principle of bilateral economic aid (similar to the Colombo Plan) to be focused on Caribbean bodies.

January 1959 - Following the victory of the communist revolution in Cuba, Canada maintains cordial diplomatic and economic relations with Havana in spite of considerable pressure from the USA for Ottawa to have no contact with the Castro regime. This represents a major step in the independence of Canadian foreign policy vis-à-vis the USA towards a continental state.

February 1959 - Prime Minister John Diefenbaker announces that Canada will cancel the Avro Arrow Project (an advanced interceptor aircraft). The Arrow, designed and manufactured by Malton, Ontario-based Avro Aircraft Ltd., was considered to be a significant technological and aerodynamic achievement which would have propelled Canada's aviation industry to amongst the global leaders.

June 1959 - The St. Lawrence Seaway, a joint Canada-United States engineering project linking the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean via several locks and canals, opens for ocean-going vessels. As a result and for the first time, resources and goods produced in the Great Lakes Basin are able to be transported directly by water to international destinations.

July 1959 - The Canadian government announces the purchase of US-manufactured F-104 fighter aircraft to fulfill its nuclear "strike-reconnaissance" role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).


December 1960 - Despite a lack of formal diplomatic links, the Canadian government approves sales of wheat to the People's Republic of China and to expand export markets.

1960-1961 - Canada continues to expand its principle of bilateral economic aid with the inclusion of two Africa Aid Programs: Commonwealth Africa (1960) and francophone Africa (1961).

March 1961
- Repulsed by South Africa's racist policies against its black majority, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker sides with African and Asian members at the Commonwealth Conference in India, and was the only leader of a predominantly white country to oppose that South Africa's application for renewed Commonwealth membership. Consequently, South Africa withdraws its application.

July 1961 - The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) is established and Canada is a founding member.  DAC serves as a forum through which the member states address issues concerning relations with developing countries. 

1961 - The province of Quebec, independent of Canada opened an official office in Paris. In 1960, Jean Lesage's provincial Liberal Party defeated the more conservative Union Nationale, unleashing a wave of modernization in Quebec. The "Quiet Revolution" that followed marked the determination of Quebecers to control their own affairs, and even, for some, to seek independence from Canada. This had implications on the international stage, particularly after French President Charles de Gaulle began to take an active interest in Quebec.

1962 - Canada endorses the principle of black majority rule in Rhodesia (currently Zimbabwe) and supports the imposition of economic sanctions against the white minority regime of Ian Smith. This is amongst several foreign policy decisions in the early 1960s where Canada is out of step with the United States. For example, Canada was prepared to provide humanitarian aid to socialist-governed states such as Tanzania.

October 1962 - Following a period of indecision, John Diefenbaker declares that missiles in Cuba are a threat to Canada and offers support for U.S. actions by aligning Canada's military alert status with that of the United States.

April 1963 - The Liberal Party is elected with a minority government, Lester Pearson becomes Prime Minister of Canada.

1963 - Lester Pearson priorities (expressed by Paul Martin Sr.)

1. Ensuring Western democracies and collective security through NORAD and NATO

2. Fostering arms control at the UN

3. Responding peacefully to limited wars through UN peacekeeping and mediation

4. Reducing economic disparities abroad and instability through multilateral aid

5. Developing international peacekeeping as envisioned in the UN Charter

1963 - Canada accepts nuclear weapons for the Canadian Armed Forces. Nuclear weapons for U.S. storage are later approved.

April 1964 - Canadian peacekeepers in Cyprus to help restore stability and security amongst the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. To this day, there is a Canadian peacekeeping presence on the island.

September 1964 - The Columbia River Treaty is ratified in Canada. This Treaty, jointly developed and implemented by the USA and Canada, outlines the development and operation of the upper Columbia river basin in BC and Washington state for hydro-electric projects and water levels.

1964 - Canada officially chooses not to participate in the Vietnam War.

1964 - Ottawa negotiated an umbrella agreement with Paris that would allow Quebec City and Paris to sign co-operative agreements. In 1965, Quebec and France signed an agreement on cultural co-operation.

April 1965 - Prime Minister Pearson gave a speech in Philadelphia critical of U.S. policy in Vietnam and calling for a suspension of the bombing campaign. President Johnson responded by attacking Pearson for interfering in U.S. domestic affairs. In 1972, Canada would again criticize the bombing in Vietnam.

However, Canadian manufacturers and the Canadian government are involved in filling American defence contracts for shipment to Vietnam. In 1958 Canada and the United States signed a Defence Production Sharing Agreement. Between 1965 and 1973, industry in Canada supplied $2.47 billion worth of war material to the United States. It is also estimated that 30,000- 40,000 Canadians signed up as volunteers with the US armed forces in Vietnam.

February 1965 - The present Canadian flag is adopted, replacing the Canadian Red Ensign, which had included a Union Jack and was considered to be not representative of the Canadian population as a whole.

April - October 1967 - International and Universal Exposition (Expo 67) held in Montreal, Quebec. It was considered to be the most successful World's Fair of the 20th century, with over 50 million visitors and 62 nations participating.

It coincides with the 100th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. French President Charles de Gaulle visits and declares "Vive le Quebec libre" a clear signal of support for Quebec separatism. The speech caused outrage in most of Canada and it led to a serious diplomatic rift between the two countries.

1967 - Lester Pearson's priorities (expressed by Paul Martin Sr.) --

  1. National Security
  2. National unity
  3. Political liberty and social justice
  4. The rule of law in national and international affairs
  5. The values of Christian civilizations
  6. Acceptance of international responsibility in accordance with Canada's interest and ability to contribute to international peacebuilding

March 1968 - The Canadian government suspends diplomatic relations with the Republic of Gabon after it invites the province of Quebec, and not Canada, to attend a francophone education conference. Canada threatens to break off diplomatic relations with France at time as the Gabon invitation is seen to be at the behest of France.

April 20th 1968 - Pierre Trudeau takes office as the fifteenth Prime Minister of Canada. He claims "our paramount interest is to ensure the political survival of Canada as a federal and bilingual sovereign state". Federal policy of bilingualism established in 1969.

July 1968 - Canada signs the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty

1968 - The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is established to manage Canada's growing aid program.

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