The Canadian Way of War: Serving the National Interest

By Colonel Bernd Horn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
The Road from Innocence:
Canada and the Cold War, 1945 to 1963

by Ronald G. Haycock and Michael Hennessy

Less than a month after the explosions of the atomic bomb had brought a brutally shocking but abrupt end to the Second World War, Canadians were horrified to learn that their wartime ally, the Soviet Union had a well-developed spy ring working out of Canada’s capital city aimed at gathering information on Canada, as well as Washington and London. These surprises came in early September when Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk in the Soviet embassy in Ottawa walked into the offices of the Ministry of Justice with all the evidence. What it revealed would later stun usually complacent Canadians.1 It was a loss of innocence, and it pushed the country onto a completely different road than it had ever travelled before.

For decades before, Canadians were “an unmilitary people” sheltered by their colonial past and their particular historical and geographical circumstances. After the post–American Civil War settlements had ended antagonisms with the Americans in the 1870s, there was little real threat to Canada. All the country needed for its protection was a rag-tag part-time militia. When Canada did go to war, it raised volunteer citizen soldiers, and only after the crisis had started.

Such was Canada’s military posture in 1914. However, by war’s end Canada had sent 620,000 personnel overseas in the Great War. But after 1918, that caustic experience with its approximately 60,000 deaths on the European killing fields confirmed much about getting too heavily involved in a dangerous world, and the country and its politicians took on an uneasy isolationist stance all through the 1920s and 1930s.

Moreover, Canada had always been a very junior partner in a large alliance system. Seldom was it ever asked, or expected, to take part in the great strategic questions. As a former prime minister put it in 1919, it was made safe from “the vortex of European Militarism” by time and distance.2 In the minds of most citizens, questions of domestic development

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