THE DEPARTMENT OF
EXTERNAL AFFAIRS AND
THE UNITED NATIONS
In 1965, while the United Nations was celebrating its twentieth anniversary, Canada’s Department of External Affairs drafted a short book, We the Peoples: Canada and the United Nations, 1945–1965. According to its authors, the text presented “in compact form, an accurate and balanced survey of Canada’s participation in United Nations activities.” It explained “something of the philosophical basis of Canadian policy, or in other words, the Canadian ‘approach’ to issues coming before the United Nations.”1 More realistically, the tone of the publication was faithful to the department’s understood duty to reflect the sentiment of the time: Confident and optimistic, We the Peoples celebrated Canada’s early United Nations experience.
Neither the tone nor the sentiment lasted. In 1967, Egypt brashly dismissed the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in Sinai, shocking and disillusioning Canadians who saw the peacekeeping force and their participation as a symbol of their county’s worldly effectiveness. The following year, Canada’s new prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, promised to recalibrate Canada’s approach to world affairs. As historian Robert