"CANADA'S INTERNATIONAL COMMITMENTS"
An Address by THE HONOURABLE G. R. PEARKES, V.C., Minister of National Defence
Thursday, February 27th, 1958
CHAIRMAN: The President, Lt.-Col. W. H. Montague.
LT.-COL. W. H. MONTAGUE: It is a great honour and a rare privilege to have as our guest speaker today The Honourable George Randolph Pearkes, V.C., C.B., D.S.O., M.C.-Minister of National Defence and Member of Parliament for Esquimalt-Saanich. Had he visited us yesterday it would have been in order to wish him many happy returns of the day! I do so now, on behalf of all present, on the basis that a day late is preferable to not at all.
When he last addressed us during our 1945-46 season, he was best known as one of Canada's most distinguished and truly beloved regular soldiers who, only in June 1945, had entered the political field after thirty years of wearing the King's coat in war and peace and in all ranks from private soldier to Major-General.
His first uniform was that of the Royal North West Mounted Police which he wore for two and a half years in the Yukon.
Wounded five times during World War I, his Sovereign awarded him the Military Cross for "conspicuous gallantry in action" when "he led a bombing party with great courage and determination, clearing 600 yards of trench and capturing eighteen prisoners. Later, although wounded, he remained at duty until the battalion was relieved"; then the cherished Victoria Cross for, as a Major, "most conspicuous bravery and skilful handling of the troops under his command" at Passchendaele after he had been wounded in the left thigh, and when "regardless of his wound he continued to lead his men with the utmost gallantry" showing "throughout a supreme contempt of danger and wonderful powers of control and leadership"; and then the Distinguished Service Order for, as a Lieutenant-Colonel at Amiens, handling "his battalion in a masterly manner" and for going "into the attack himself and by his splendid and fearless example putting new life into the whole attack which went forward with a rush and captured sixteen guns of all calibres up to eight inches". France awarded him the Croix de Guerre.
World War II found him a General Officer and he was created a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath because, the citation says, "in every appointment which he has held he has given outstanding service. His unflagging devotion to duty and his great ability in the training and handling of troops have contributed greatly to the war effort of the Canadian Army at home and abroad".
The President of the United States of America awarded him the U.S. Legion of Merit in the Degree of Commander "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service" as Commander in Chief, Pacific Command, Canadian Army.
Such is the calibre of the man who, 42 years after he enlisted as a private soldier in the Canadian Mounted Rifles and twelve years after he had been first elected to the House of Commons, was on 21st June, 1957, sworn of Her Majesty's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of National Defence.
He has chosen for his subject today, "Canada's International Commitments".
Gentlemen: The Honourable G. R. Pearkes, V.C., C.B., D.S.O., M.C., M.P.
THE HONOURABLE G. R. PEARKES: V.C., C.B., D.S.O., M.C., M.P.: Mr. President, General Gunn and, from force of habit, Mr. Speaker: I sometimes think it would be easier to go over the top again rather than to listen to some of the introductions which have been so kindly bestowed on me. I thank you, Mr. President, very much indeed, for your very full and complete introduction.
I chose as my subject today, "Canada's International Commitments". I thought perhaps a general review of what our international commitments are, and the reason for them and how they have grown up to be of such importance might be of general interest.
As has been already mentioned it was twelve years ago when I had the privilege of addressing your membership. At that time we were just emerging from the Second World War and we had just signed the United Nations Charter. Everyone was full of hope that we were about to enter a period of peace and economic reconstruction and development.
Events during these past twelve years have told a different story and once again we are faced with a serious threat to our way of life.
It can be said that, with the advent of these devastating nuclear weapons, we are confronted today with the alternative of total peace or total war.
Although the Western Nations and the Soviet Union have repeatedly avowed that they would never initiate war, the fact remains that each side continues to show distrust of the intentions of the other and continues to build up their war potential including nuclear stockpiles.
We have now reached a nuclear stalemate with the fear of mutual annihilation serving as a somewhat doubtful assurance for continuing peace.
The recent Russian technological developments--Sputnik and so forth--are indeed startling, but they do not automatically ensure military superiority. Rather, with the development of medium range ballistic missiles based in Europe and elsewhere, the overall superiority of the West, in my opinion, is likely to increase in the days ahead. However, this stalemate can continue indefinitely, but such an outlook with the consequent strain on our economy is not readily to be contemplated.
Our aim, therefore, must be international disarmament but this is no easy aim to achieve. As you know, Canada, together with the United Kingdom, France and the United States recently presented to the United Nations a plan which called for the suspension of nuclear tests; the stopping of the production of fissile material for warlike purposes as soon as an effective control system is operating; the progressive reduction of conventional armaments and military manpower; and the institution of an effective system of inspection to verify that these agreements are being observed.
The United Nations adopted these proposals by an overwhelming majority by fifty-six votes to nine, but the opposition was from the Soviet Bloc who not only voted against it but later announced that they would destroy all further proceedings of the United Nations Disarmament Commission.
Despite these setbacks, we must increase our efforts to reach agreement on disarmament and we are, with our partners in NATO, ready to discuss any and all proposals that might lead to this end. This statement was reaffirmed at the December meeting of the heads of governments in Paris last December.
But the dangers ahead are not only military. In the not too distant past it was understood that the subjugation of one country by another was carried out by military force, but today a country can be overcome without a shot being fired through subversion and political infiltration originating often under the guise of economic aid with the resultant host of so-called technical advisors. We must, therefore, be on guard, and not only in a military sense but in these other fields as well.
The threat to our freedom is not regional but is global in nature. At the present time, in the world as a whole there are two main camps--the supporters of Communism and those who choose the democratic way of life. It has been suggested that co-existence is possible, and I think that it is imperative, if we are not to be plunged into a disastrous nuclear conflict, but it is obvious that if such is to be the case there must be some form of balance of power. In other words, we cannot allow any further expansion of Communism anywhere in the world.
We must not only make sure that those countries already on our side remain, but also by assistance and guidance influence those who are uncommitted and indicate to them that they have more to benefit by following our way of life rather than by turning to Communism.
In reply to a note from Mr. Bulganin, our Prime Minister on January 18, 1958, wrote: "You speak of coexistence, but if this concept means recognition of the existence side by side of capitalist and communist countries, it must also imply non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries......
As Canada has grown she has undertaken obligations in the international field and as she continues to grow so will her influence be increasingly felt in the conduct of world affairs. We realize that the political and economic happenings in other parts of the world are of vital concern to us. Our membership in the Commonwealth of Nations, the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is indicative of the maturity of our country today. The Commonwealth of Nations is essentially a family affair, the United Nations, an association of states which have endorsed a charter and pledged themselves to maintain international peace and security and to co-operate in establishing political, economic and social conditions conducive to peace, and NATO, a defensive military alliance, with provision for economic and political co-operation and collaboration.
Your President, when he originally invited me to address you, pointed out that one of the objectives of your Club is the advancement of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth stands today as the most successful union of free people in a world which must have union between nations or perish. An empire which was founded for purposes of settlement and trade has evolved by the middle of this century into a living and, in many ways, a dynamic union held together by a symbol--the Crown. The member nations cover roughly one-quarter of the world's land surface and contain a quarter of its population. They are a group of sovereign independent states linked in free association through a common inheritance of liberal political principles of
Anglo-Saxon origin; through the use of the Common Law; and through the practice of tolerance, mutual respect and of a pragmatic, rather than a theoretical, approach to political and administrative problems. Partners in the Commonwealth are active in the military field against communistic aggression but, I think that it is perhaps in the political area that there is the greatest influence for good. Based on democratic principles of government and ready to assist each other in economic matters the Commonwealth is indeed a force working for the betterment of mankind.
I had the privilege to attend, along with our Prime Minister, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in London at the end of June and the beginning of July 1957. It was a rewarding experience for me and I was struck by the scope of discussion and the general agreement reached on the course of action we should take in the future. Naturally, as the communique pointed out, in an association of free and independent nations it is unavoidable that there should be some differences of viewpoint and opinion; despite these differences the meeting revealed a broad similarity of approach and purpose.
May I quote a paragraph of the final statement issued: "The primary objective of all Commonwealth governments is world peace and security. They believe that this objective can only be assured by increased co-operation between nations. They themselves accept the principle and practice of co-operation; it is the foundation of their association. They will continue to work for its wider adoption." The nations of the Commonwealth realize that there are fertile fields for Communism wherever poverty and under-development exist. For this reason the United Kingdom continues to play a leading role in furthering economic development in countries of the Commonwealth and important contributions are also being made by other Commonwealth countries in this direction.
Early in 1950 a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministers in Colombo, Ceylon was convened to find ways and means of assisting the economic development of the countries of South and South East Asia. From this meeting came the Colombo Plan. Originally, it consisted only of Commonwealth countries but other countries in that area, as well as the United States, were later invited to participate. Canada from the start has supported this Plan and to date has contributed some $200 million for capital and technical assistance. It will be recalled that on October 22 of last year, our Secretary of State for External Affairs announced that we would make available $35 million this year, an increase of $8 million over previous years. Nobody has been more active in this direction than the Honourable Roland Michener, who for so long was Chairman of our Conservative External Affairs Committee.
India has been granted a loan of $25 million in this regard for the purchase of some 400,000 tons of wheat and the generous terms of the loan call for repayment over a ten year period with no payment required for the first three years. This agreement was only reached a few weeks ago. In addition to our contribution under the Colombo Plan and in the light of severe shortages existing in these countries, the Canadian Government announced on January 8 that an outright grant of $15 million would be made available to India, Pakistan and Ceylon. Of this amount $3 million has so far been allocated to Ceylon for the purchase of wheat and $2 million to Pakistan for wheat. Much remains to be done in economic assistance but the fact that all members of the Commonwealth realize the importance of economic aid ensures that continued progress will be made in the years ahead.
In the military field, the importance of unity in defence is apparent in various parts of the world and the Commonwealth countries have led the way in strengthening their defences by uniting in various regional alliances. As you know, in the Atlantic area, Canada and the United Kingdom are members of NATO. In the Far East, New Zealand, Pakistan, Australia and the United Kingdom belong to SEATO--the South East Asia Treaty Organization; in the Middle East, Pakistan and the United Kingdom are staunch members of the Baghdad Pact.
These regionally defensive alliances were all formed in the face of Communist aggression. It has been realized that in this day and age no country, with the possible exception of the United States and the U.S.S.R., can afford all the weapons necessary for a complete defence; but by banding together, collective defence can be achieved along the most economic lines by the partners contributing the kind of forces they can best supply and equip. Where no such alliance exists, there we have the greatest danger. India, which maintains a non-committal attitude, is being wooed by offers of economic aid from Russia and, as you know, the economic assistance given to Egypt and Syria has been followed by increasingly strong political infiltration.
I believe that it is important to the free world that the strength of the Commonwealth should increase in the years ahead. By setting an example of democracy at work and seeing to the economic development of those countries less fortunate than our own, we are ensuring that the influence of the tenets of Communistic doctrines diminishes rather than increases.
The second world organization in which Canada is a member is the United Nations. We, together with fifty other nations, signed the Charter in San Francisco in 1945, and since then we have given our unstinting support to the aims and purposes set out in that document. An additional thirty-one countries have since been admitted--the latest being Malaya--so it is now truly representative of the peoples of the world. Despite the fact that the United Nations has not proved a perfect instrument--largely because of the Soviet attitude--it still remains a strong influence for peace in our world and, as such, deserves our whole-hearted support.
The United Nations cannot order any nation or nations to take or not to take some particular action, but by being a forum for discussion it can influence decisions taken by the nations of the world; and here I am thinking of the joint endeavour to halt aggression in Korea in 1950 and the formation of the United Nations Emergency Force in the Middle East at the end of 1956. Admittedly, it failed in Hungary; but by focussing attention on the actions of the Russians in that country, it a least turned world-wide attention on those tragic events and reminded people on both sides of the Iron Curtain of the ever present intransigence of the Communist regime.
If it has partly failed in its purpose of preserving peace, the United Nations has done extremely well in alleviating want and suffering in many parts of the world. We realize the importance of this work and, apart from paying our share of the administrative budget, we have made voluntary contributions to such programmes as the Expanded Technical Assistance Programme (ETAP); the Children's Fund (UNICEF); the Refugee Fund (UNREF), and the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). In connection with the latter agency, it was announced on January 23rd of this year that Canada was increasing her contribution for this year by making available 20,000 tons of flour or approximately one million bushels of Canadian wheat worth $1.5 million.
The Prime Minister addressed the Assembly on September 23rd of last year and had this to say about our attitude towards the United Nations: "So far as Canada is concerned support of the United Nations is the corner stone of its foreign policy. We believe that the United Nations will grow stronger because it represents the inevitable struggle of countries to find order in their relationships of the deep longing of mankind to strike for and attain peace and justice."
As I said, with the formation of the United Nations Organization there were high hopes after World War II that ways and means would be found to bring about permanent peace and disarmament, but it was not long before such hopes were rudely shattered. As one after another of the eastern countries of Europe fell under Soviet domination, we slowly realized that something more than words were needed to ensure our freedom.
As a result of such realization, Canada together with the United States joined other like-minded European nations in 1949, to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization--the third group I referred to earlier in which Canada is a member. Originally consisting of twelve nations, the Organization has now grown to fifteen with the admission of Greece and Turkey in 1952, and the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955. Our partnership in NATO is the foundation of our defence policy and is of particular concern to me in my present capacity of Minister of National Defence. The effectiveness of NATO as a defensive organization is illustrated not only in the fact that since its inception there has been no further expansion of communism within the NATO area, but also from the reaction of the Soviets. By vilification and by threats to individual members the Russians have attempted to destroy the Organization. But today it is stronger than ever and more determined than ever to continue that way. That was my impression from having attended the meeting in Paris last December. Having failed in Europe, the Russians now seek to undermine the West in other parts of the world, no doubt working on Lenin's principles that the road to Paris lies through Peking and Calcutta.
The NATO concept is basically deterrent--we do not seek war, but rather by being prepared, we aim to stop a war starting. The deterrent forces can be considered in two parts--the sword and the shield. The sword consists of the retaliatory powers of the alliance which include the United States Strategic Air Command, supplemented by the United Kingdom V-Bomber Force. The shield is made up of, first, the air defence forces which protect these bomber forces and allow them to operate continuously from their bases and, secondly, the ground and tactical air forces which cover those areas where contact is made with the Soviet and satellite forces, particularly in Western Europe. Each part of the deterrent, both the sword and the shield, is of equal importance and is complementary one to the other.
In Europe, Canada is providing eight squadrons of F-86 Sabre Fighters and four squadrons of CF-100's, manned and maintained by some 5,000 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force. We also have stationed in Europe one half-supporting Infantry Brigade Group, augmented last fall by an armoured regiment, while our Navy has earmarked for the NATO naval forces in the Atlantic area some forty-seven ships.
At home we have constructed an elaborate system of radar warning lines ... may I interject, not designed to detect the intercontinental missile when that is in operational use by the Russians--and have nine squadrons of CF-100 interceptor aircraft for the alerting and defence of the retaliatory forces on this continent and of our cities and industrial plants.
Last August, in a further progressive step to increase the effectiveness of our defences, the North American Air Defence Command or NORAD was set up on an interim basis. It had been recognized for some years that the air defence of Canada and the United States must be considered as a single problem, but until NORAD there was no provision for the authoritative control of all of our air defence weapons which must be employed against the attacker.
The threat of an attack on the North American continent with little or no warning, made it essential to have in existence an organization and command structure which could in accordance with plans to be approved in advance by the proper authorities of both countries. The establishment of NORAD implements the strategic objectives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It is in line with the other integrated commands in NATO and in no way affects the autonomy of the air defence forces concerned. However, it ensures adequate advance planning and control of the over-all air defence of the continent in the event of an emergency. Our participation in the joint Headquarters enhances Canada's position in this partnership.
No one will deny that our defence commitments constitute a heavy burden on our economy, but as Lord Ismay, the former Secretary-General of NATO pointed out: "the North Atlantic Treaty is not only a solemn obligation but also an assurance against measureless--catastrophe ... nations who economize in the premiums which they pay for their security and thereafter become the victims of overwhelming aggression recover nothing."
In view of what I said earlier about the threat being not only of a military nature, it is well to recall that the activities of NATO are not limited to purely military fields. NATO also forms a community of nations with a growing interest in political, economic and cultural cooperation--not only between NATO nations, but also between all other countries of the free world. At the NATO meeting of heads of States in December last year it was emphasized that we would co-operate amongst ourselves and with other free governments to further the achievement of economic stability, a steady rate of economic growth and the expansion of international trade through further reduction of exchange and trade barriers.
I have touched but lightly on some of the activities of the three international groups to which we belong, but I hope that from what I have said you will realize the importance of the work they are doing towards the establishment of world peace. The objective is the same, but the methods to achieve this objective may vary. In view of Canada's growing stature in the world, the Government realizes the importance of these organizations and will continue to take an active interest in their endeavours. Canada is forced to accept heavy commitments but on balance she benefits by her associations in these organizations.
I feel that my last words to a group such as yours should be of the Commonwealth. Today, as perhaps never before, Canada has a very important part to play in this great organization. Developed from a paternal Empire, it has now become a co-operative family--a Commonwealth of Nations. As the oldest of the former dominions, we have a great store of experience to offer to the younger members. Our government is determined that we shall play a full part in the work of this enlightened organization--one of the most potent forces for peace in the world today.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Colonel N. D. Hogg, a member of the Executive Committee of The Empire Club.