Tolerant Allies

Article excerpt

CANADA

Canada and the United States 1963-1968

Greg Donaghy

Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002, x, 235pp, $75.00, ISBN 0-7735-2431-2

Tolerant Allies does a fine job of keeping in focus the often-overlooked truism that any significant relationship is never problem-free. If ever the 'golden age' perspective on the study of Canada's international relations seems tempting to students of the mid-century scene, Donaghy's work provides a salutary historiographical corrective.

The period Donaghy addresses is the five years during which Lester B. Pearson was prime minister (1963-1968). In those five short but tumultuous years Canada moved from the declamatory John Diefenbaker era to a more cerebral New Age under Pierre Trudeau. A wave of euphoria marked the Centennial in 1967 and it can be seen as a lasting leitmotiv for the Pearson years. The flag, the bi-and-bi Commission, and, at a somewhat different level, the angry nationwide response to de Gaulle's incredible Centennial insult in Montreal all served as optimistic symptoms of national self-confidence and faith in the future of the country.

Euphoria notwithstanding, this was no golden age; it was a time of questioning, great unrest and excitement, both positive and negative, rather than halcyon calm. Challenges were everywhere - the Middle East, Commonwealth relations, France's withdrawal from NATO's military command and NATO's relocation to Brussels, the emergence of francophone Africa as an international reality with important diplomatic implications for Canada. But it was within the complex relationship with the United States that Canada's interests achieved a much more jagged profile, especially in a North American perspective; nuclear policy and Vietnam come to mind immediately.

The genius of Donaghy's work, which is obviously based on wideranging research in documents and on extensive personal interviews, is to be found not so much in a host of dramatic new insights as in its organization into broad subject areas that emerged over time from a complex flow of events where many problems played themselves out contemporaneously rather than in neat chronological order - economic continentalism, nuclear policy and North American defence, a rambunctious new Canadian nationalism, and Vietnam. For younger readers who cannot remember or even imagine what the concerns of a government and people might have looked and felt like before 'free trade,' Donaghy does a remarkable job of highlighting one of the absolutely inescapable and perennial themes of Canadian history - the search for easy access to US markets and capital against the background of gut-twisting concerns that the political price of these undoubted economic advantages might be too painfully high. …