Northern Approaches Canada and the Search for Peace

By James Eayrs | Go to book overview

7 THE NOSTRUM OF NEUTRALISM

This Chapter is based in part on an address to the Annual Seminar on Canadian-American relations held at assumption University, November 1960.

An American in charge of the Canadian desk at the State Depart- ment, or in the Office of International security affairs in the Pentagon, trying t understand something of the contemporary Canadian condition, must be puzzled by the extent to which Cana- dians, unlike Americans, appear to be attracted by what they losely call "neutralism". It would help him to understand us- and help us to understand ourselves - if it were eralized that neutalist sentiment in Canada has a rather special quality. It is not an hotel-keeper's neutralism, like Switzerland's. It is not to become a centre for international conferences, or to aid the tourist industry (much as it needs aiding), or to take over the business of running other people's embassies when their governments become non grata, or to perform any of the indispensable national services the Swiss perform so well, that Canadian neutralists argue the need for neutralism. Nor is it neutrality on the Swedish model - that is to say, an armed neutrality, shielded by the world's fourth largest air force and the world's best shelters against atomic attack and soon, perhaps, by nuclear weapons. The Ca- nadian neutralist is indifferent or hostile to air defence and civil defence, and with nuclear weapons (save those which may one day fall on him) he will have absolutely nothing to do. Above all, it is not a Tibet-type neutrality - for all the good neutrality did the Tibetans. It is not a nneutrality of isolation, a neutrality of withdrawal from the world. It is rather the opposite: a neutral- ity of engagement, a neutrality of commitment. The neitralist appeal in Canada is precisely an appeal to get out of certain

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