- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 22 Mar 1973, p. 334-352
- Sharp, The Honourable Mitchell W., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- An historical review of the years of involvement in Indo-China, back to the International Conference held in Geneva in 1954 when the International Commission for Supervision and Control was set up with Canada as a member. Early successes of the Commission not repeated. Reasons for Canada's stay in Vietnam leading up to hostilities. A review of current events regarding the situation in Vietnam over the last three months. Conditions for Canada's participation in a possible new Commission. A Canadian evaluation of the effectiveness of the Commission in terms of its specific tasks and as a stabilizing presence. Differences between the 1954 and 1973 agreement. The importance of the Commission to political settlement. Canadian approach to involvement both cautious and responsible.
- Date of Original
- 22 Mar 1973
- Language of Item
- Copyright Statement
- The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
- Empire Club of CanadaEmail
Agency street/mail address
Fairmont Royal York Hotel
100 Front Street West, Floor H
Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3
- Full Text
- MARCH 22, 1973
AN ADDRESS BY The Honourable Mitchell W. Sharp, P.C., M.P., SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
CHAIRMAN The President, Joseph H. Potts
The Precarious President-such is how I describe my role and that of my predecessors. One can never really rest assured that the guest speaker will in fact arrive. Moreover, history has a tendency to repeat itself. On Nov. 24, 1964, Mr. Sharp was scheduled to speak to the Club but unfavourable weather conditions prevented him from doing so, and the then President, Robert Hilborn, delivered his address in his stead. Mr. Sharp accepted a return engagement during the following April at which time he remarked that "The advice I received from some of my friends who were here on that occasion was to have Col. Hilborn deliver all my speeches." In the result, Mr. Sharp has established a record for the Club as being the only person who has delivered two speeches-albeit one by proxy-during the same season.
Some might be inclined to say that I am just a little more lucky than Bob Hilborn but I would prefer to attribute our guest's presence here today to the fact that I have a slightly closer rapport-with the angelsthan he had. The weather was with me.
In any event, let me say to you Sir, that we are all very much in your debt for being with us today. We fully appreciate the extremely heavy pressures to which you have been subjected in the past few days and to which you are still subjected and we are very grateful to you.
I should also add that our guest had every excuse to leave me in the lurch because I have treated him in a rather shabby and a cavalier fashion. Last July, I wrote to Mr. Sharp and confirmed his engagement to us on January 18 . In September I asked him if he would agree to a different date since it appeared that January 18 was the only date when Prime Minister Bourassa could speak to us and I felt it was extremely important that Prime Minister Bourassa's voice should be heard in the Province of Ontario. Mr. Sharp was good enough to accede to my request and we settled on March 8.
Well, in January, I was in contact with officials in Mr. Sharp's Department with respect to the possibility of Robert McNamara speaking to the Club. They ultimately asked me whether or not March 8 was available because that was the only date when Mr. McNamara could do so. You can imagine my consternation and my dilemma. I was particularly anxious that Robert McNamara should address the Club but I was equally anxious that Mitchell Sharp should do likewise and I simply didn't have the unmitigated gall to ask him to switch a second time.
I solved my dilemma by advising them that the date was not available in that their boss, Mitchell Sharp, was scheduled to speak on that day, but I did indicate that it was conceivable that he might be prepared to accept an alternative date in view of the fact that his Department was endeavouring to facilitate Mr. McNamara's visit to Canada but that I was not willing to discuss such a possibility with him. Well, curiously enough, in the result someone else did and he graciously obliged once again.
When I had occasion to meet him shortly thereafter, as you can imagine, I thanked him profusely for his kindness but he replied with complete equanimity-"Think nothing of it Joe-just refer to me as 'Mitch the Switch'."
We are all the beneficiaries of his kindness since we have the privilege to hear him today, fresh from his visit to Viet Nam.
Mitchell Sharp was born in Winnipeg in 1911. He studied at the University of Manitoba and at the London School of Economics, later becoming an economist with James Richardson and Sons Limited. In 1942 he was recruited by the Finance Department of the Federal Government where, in 1947, he took part in the negotiations which led to Newfoundland's entry into confederation. He moved to the Department of Trade and Commerce in 1951 as Associate Deputy Minister. In this capacity he attended many international commodity conferences and led the Canadian negotiating teams for several International Trade agreements.
In 1958, Mr. Sharp left the government to become a VicePresident of Brazilian Traction Light & Power Company, a position he resigned in 1962 to enter federal politics as a Liberal candidate. He was narrowly defeated in the 1962 election, was elected in 1963 and was named Minister of Trade and Commerce.
As minister, Mr. Sharp had ample opportunity to utilize his long experience in international negotiations. In 1963, he led the Canadian delegation to the GATT meeting in Geneva which launched the "Kennedy Round" of Tariff negotiations.
He subsequently became Minister of Finance in December 1965 and Secretary of State for External Affairs in April of 1968.
While this brief biography sets out the salient facts of Mr. Sharp's career as the public knows it, it does not do justice to the man as he is. Mitchell Sharp left school at 14 to help in the support of the family, he continued his education at night until his matriculation, later working his way through university and, finally, through sheer dedication and hard work, managed post-graduate studies and a year at the London School of Economics with only such funds, during that time, as he could earn while studying. Fortunate above many of his colleagues, he was assistant to one of Canada's greatest civil servants, the Deputy Finance Minister, Clifford Clark, and later moved from the Finance department to the Department of Trade and Commerce at the invitation of C.D. Howe. Blessed with a first-class mind and a capacity for hard work, equipped with a sound, formal education and privileged to understudy two such brilliant men, it is not surprising Mitchell Sharp has discharged his demanding duties without apparent stress or strain in a most professional manner.
Permit me now to quote from the lead Editorial which appeared in The Globe and Mail two days ago.
"External Affairs Minister Mitchell Sharp's personal mission to Vietnam was the most useful thing he could conceivably have been doing in the past few days, though it may not make any easier the Government's decision on whether to stay or give up as a peacekeeper . . . . Apart from being able to assess the Viet Nam problem in a way that is not possible from even the best diplomatic reports, Mr. Sharp has made contact at governmental level in Saigon and Hanoi and has presumably impressed leaders in the South and North with Canada's doubts about the International Commission of Control and Supervision. If there is a serious will to peace on both sides, that should influence their efforts to control the continuing fighting."
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my great pleasure to present to you, a pianist of renown, a dedicated public servant and a distinguished Canadian, the indefatigable Mitchell Sharp, Secretary of State for External Affairs.
THE HONOURABLE MITCHELL W. SHARP:
After listening to Joe Potts organize a meeting of The Empire Club of Canada, I've decided that I am going to send him to Saigon to organize the International Control Commission or, alternatively, after the way he was able to persuade me, notwithstanding all these rebuffs, finally to appear here, I thought he might be suitable on the Council of Reconciliation and Concord that is now meeting in Paris.
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen-
I am delighted to be your guest today. Your President's timely invitation has given me the opportunity to speak to you on the subject that happens to be the most in my mind at the present time.
When I first was asked by Mr. Potts to come and address you, I had no intention or any expectation that I would be talking about Viet Nam. At that time I thought I might follow Mr. Connolly and set the record straight on Canadian-American relations but with my tropical suits not yet back from the cleaners, I thought that you might like me to speak today on Viet Nam.
However, I do not think that it is really possible to appreciate the difficulties of Canada's role in the new Commission and the dilemmas about continued participation without some background on the long years of involvement in Indo-China. This involvement reaches back almost 19 years-to the International Conference held in Geneva in 1954 by Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, France and China. You may recall that this Conference followed the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. This was the culmination of eight years of hostilities against the French Colonial Power by Vietnamese Nationalists-under the Communist leadership of Ho Chi Minh and the military leadership of General Giap whose reputation continues. The task of that Geneva Conference of 1954 was to establish a peace settlement which might prepare the way for free elections and the eventual reunification of North and South Viet Nam-objectives which, I think you will agree, have a familiar ring.
The Conference set up an international supervisory group known as the International Commission for Supervision and Control. Poland, India and Canada were invited to be its members. This body was despatched to Indo-China with the responsibility to report-and in this way it was hoped to deter -violations of the cease fire. And it was also intended that the Commission would play a role in the supervision of free elections.
In its first year of operation, the old ICC established a good record with some notable achievements. And particularly the supervision of the movements of refugees of which there were many hundreds of thousands, probably a million from North to South Viet Nam.
By the end of 1954, there were some 200 Canadians in the old ICC-about two-thirds of the number now serving with the revived or the new ICCS. These were located in both North and South Viet Nam. The task of the old ICC, at least from the beginning, was made easier by the fact that the ceasefire line was a more meaningful division. The Viet Minh, that is the Communist troops, in the South largely withdrew to the North. Not in leopard spots, which bedevils the present situation but North of what is now called the de-militarized zone. But of more importance at that stage, the principal parties wanted the agreement to work.
Unfortunately, the early successes of the ICC were not repeated. Commitments to the agreement gradually eroded and the International Commission slid into irrelevance. This was not because Canada had failed its responsibilities as a member of the Commission but largely because the adversaries in Viet Nam repeatedly and violently broke the terms of the International Agreement and from watching over a peace the ICC found itself watching a war.
You are familiar with the tragic escalation of the Viet Nam war-hundreds of thousands of soldiers and innocent persons killed and maimed, the damage wrought on people in every sense-socially, morally, economically and psychologically, and if I may add, not only in Viet Nam.
As the Commission could do nothing to halt hostilities you may ask, "Why did we stay on with Canadians exposed to the hazards of war in both Hanoi and Saigon?" Some Canadians did lose their lives in IndoChina. What possible Canadian or Vietnamese or humanitarian interest could we serve? Many have asked that question and when I assumed the responsibility of Minister of External Affairs, I asked that question.
I can assure you that successive Canadian Governments had serious misgivings about staying on. We did so because we knew that ultimately the war must come to an end-that it was unlikely one side or the other would obtain a clear victory, and that in these circumstances any peace supervisory machinery, however rusty, might be needed and needed quickly. If in this small way we could help to facilitate a settlement of the war, we were prepared to swallow our frustrations and keep on a skeleton staff which could spring to life, perhaps in a revised form, when a ceasefire was reached. But once over that road has been enough. There were other reasons too. Although sometimes wrongly impugned as an American stooge, Canada and Canadian honesty in its work in Viet Nam was generally respected by all sides. Some of the parties to the war as did a number of Asian countries, indeed even while I have been Minister of External Affairs I have had these representatives from Asian countries, indicated that they wanted us to stay on. They also wanted an international presence, symbolic of the old settlement to remain intact. Which brings us almost up to date. Let us look now at what has happened over the past three months: it's now three months since Hanoi and Haiphong were being bombed. That has now ceased; negotiations for a ceasefire went on in Paris; and on January 28th a ceasefire agreement was signed by the four parties-The four parties to that ceasefire agreement are the Republic of Viet Nam which is South Viet Nam, the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam which is North Viet Nam, the United States and the Viet Cong, they have various names, the legal term is the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Viet Nam; Canada was formally invited to participate in the new peace supervisory commission along with Hungary, Poland and Indonesia; and only a very short time ago an International Conference of 13 participants, including. the Secretary General of the United Nations, was convened in Paris to consider and endorse the ceasefire agreement; I attended as the leader of the Canadian delegation. We were there because we were a member of the International Control Commission and I unexpectedly found myself a cochairman of the Conference.
I recall the circumstances-there had been a great dispute as to who was going to be Chairman. The only International Conference I ever attended where they hadn't decided who was going to Chair it before it was called. But at any rate, we arrived in Paris, no decision, seemingly no agreement. There was some talk about the members of the International Control Commission of the countries represented providing the Chairmanship in rotation with i.e. four co-Chairmen. Well overnight they decided that that was too much and at 8:30 in the morning I was called and told I was going to Chair, so my first task, which was easy, was to call the Foreign Minister of France to give some words of greeting but as soon as the press had departed and the television cameras had gotten out of the way, I had to Chair the meeting so I began by saying that my election reminds me of the election of the Speaker in the Canadian Parliament. I said that the tradition is that the Speaker is named and then he is carried kicking and screaming under protest to his chair. I said "I am a Canadian, I am a man of peace, so I will just have to accept my responsibilities."
And most recently in the events of the last three months we had the talks between the Republic of Viet Nam and the other South Vietnamese Party and PRG-the Provisional Revolutionary Government which have now opened in Paris.
Now I have spoken briefly of the frustrations of the old commission and if you have a sinking feeling that history-insofar as the utility of the commission is concerned-may be repeating itself, I may tell you that I share this anxiety.
Because of this concern and because of our experience on the old commission, as soon as the possibility arose that Canada might be invited to participate in a new commission-we made it clear that we would only accept such an invitation if our conditions based on this experience were substantially met. And you probably have got tired of seeing me on television talking about this and I am sure I am even more tired than you are.
But over these last two or three months, I have made it clear to Canadians, to the world, to the Americans, to everyone involved, that Canada does not intend to repeat the experience of the old ICC. And if they expect us to serve then certain minimum conditions must be met.
Now the first and fundamental condition was that the provisions for the operation of the new commission appear workable and offer some prospects of being effective. More specifically we stipulated these conditions: that the belligerent parties, that is the Americans, the South Vietnamese, the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong should be bound by the same agreements which set out the role and procedures of the new commission. Now this was one of the shortcomings of the previous agreement people are inclined to forget that neither Washington nor Saigon were parties to the 1954 agreement and therefore never really considered themselves entirely bound by it. The signatures of all of the belligerents were in fact obtained in Paris so that condition was met.
We sought a "continuing political authority" to which the commission or any of its members could report and consult and which would assume responsibility for the peace settlement as a whole.
I went to Paris and I urged the acceptance of such a continuing political authority. We would have preferred the United Nations as the continuing political authority. It was quite clear before I reached Paris that that was quite impossible so, instead, I proposed that the Secretary General should Chair the conference which I ultimately had to Chair. But the Secretary General should Chair it that he should receive the reports from the International Control Commission and that he should reassemble the Conference if need be because of a serious breach of the truce. We put that proposal forward and even the presence of the Secretary General as the vehicle for transmitting the reports of the International Control Commission to the other members of the Conference or as the instrument for recalling the Conference was unacceptable. And what emerged instead was an arrangement whereby the four Parties to the Paris Agreement, that is the belligerents themselves, are responsible for conveying to the participants in the Paris International Conference reports from the International Commission which the Commission has to submit to them and the views of its individual members. Now this is not a fully satisfactory arrangement by any means but you will see that at any rate we made some progress. I am quite satisfied that if Canada had not gone to that Conference and if I had not, from the very outset, put forward a proposal of this kind there would have been virtually no provision whatever for any continuing political authority:
We also made clear that Canada could not participate unless invited to take part by all of the parties concerned. And this in many respects was the most important condition.
I was absolutely determined, so was the Canadian Government, that we would not be there as the representative of any party of any side in this conflict; that we were going to go there as the representatives of the international community acting in the interests of peace and that we could not be labelled as the representative of Saigon, or of the United States, or of China, or of North Viet Nam, however unlikely that might be. This was the objective. All the parties asked us to participate on the Commission.
Now, as you can see, we were not altogether happy with the arrangements and they didn't comply fully with our conditions and yet it is clear that an effort was made to accommodate our position.
With the signing of the ceasefire agreement in Paris we had to decide immediately whether or not to take part in the new international commission. As we did not wish to obstruct in any way the path toward a peace settlement and as it was too soon to determine whether the arrangements for the Commission's operations would be workable, we agreed to take part for an initial period of 60 days and dispatched immediately some 290 men and women to Viet Nam to form the Canadian team on the International Control Commission and we were very fortunate to be able to assign to this responsibility two very distinguished men, our Ambassador in Greece, Michel Gauvin, and General McAlpine, who was the military commander.
In this sixty days, which expires next week, we have to complete our own evaluation of the effectiveness of the Commission both in terms of its specific tasks and as a stabilizing presence.
It was my view that a personal, on-the-spot visit to the Commission and direct conversations with political leaders in Saigon and Hanoi would greatly assist me in making informed and responsible recommendations to Cabinet. It was also my view that this visit would assist members of the Opposition Parties to make their own judgments about an important area o1 Canadian foreign policy.
I said at one stage that I didn't think any member of the opposition should be entirely dependent upon what I said. I thought that was a very modest contribution to non-partisan ship.
The visit also afforded us an opportunity to form impressions about the Canadian role in Laos where we have been asked to expand our participation in a reactivated Commission. This is the old Commission in which we are still present.
My invitation was not accepted by the Conservative Part but I was very glad to have with me Parliamentarians from the other Parties in the House and from the Senate.
With this group, a number of official advisers and 34 journalists, we set off from Ottawa a week ago Tuesday on a journey of 22,000 miles.
Most appropriate that I should be sitting here today along side of the Japanese Consul General since our first major stop was Tokyo. I was anxious to discuss Viet Nam with my Japanese colleague, the Foreign Minister, Mr. Ohira, particularly as I felt the Japanese absence from the Paris Conference deprived those meetings of important and influential counsel. On arrival at Tokyo I was agreeably surprised to learn that the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Tanaka, also wished to see me.
And I may say that I reminded him of his visit to Toronto when the Japanese Ministers were here for a joint CanadianJapanese meeting some two years ago now I think. Mr. Tanaka at that time was Minister of Trade and Mr. Mizuta was the Minister of Finance and as sometimes happens, the Minister of Finance didn't quite make it to the top like the Minister of Trade did. Sorry I couldn't have got together with Mr. Mizuta to commiserate with him.
Both the Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister urged Canada to remain on the Commission despite the frustrations which they acknowledged. Their message was essentially "don't disturb the arrangements by withdrawal-peace is too fragile". This was to be the prelude of advice which was consistently given to me by almost every political leader with whom I spoke during our visit.
In Saigon I met with President Thieu, with the Prime Minister and with my counterpart, the Foreign Minister. I had a thorough briefing by the Canadian delegation to the International Control Commission and you may recall that from your readings of the newspapers that there was a famous reception in Saigon given by Ambassador Gauvin which was described as a "diplomatic coup" .
It was, I believe, the first time that all of the parties to the Agreement, including the principal representatives of the Viet Cong, and North Viet Nam and the four ICCS representatives had all come together under one roof in Saigon.
And it really was quite a memorable occasion. I hadn't realized that I was such an attractive boy that I could get them all together like that but there they were and it's surprising that anybody except the Canadian press was able to get near the Viet Cong because our press realized this was a great coup and made the most of it.
Saturday morning we flew to the regional headquarters of our International Control Commission at Can-Tho. Can-Tho is in the key Mekong Delta area just south of Saigon. It was long and bitterly fought over as the rice bowl of Indo-China. This was a fascinating and illuminating experience. We received an excellent briefing from Canada's External Affairs and Military representatives and had discussions with members of the Joint Military Commission, as well as with the Polish, Indonesian and Hungarian members of the Commission.
The land in the Mekong area is still hotly contested.
Indeed, the news of the last day or so has indicated how hotly contested it is because the confrontation that is now taking place at about division level is in the Mekong Delta area and indicates how crucial this area is to the struggle now going on. The delta is quilted with leopard spots.
As I was saying, the difference between the 1954 agreement and the 1973 agreement is that in '54 you sort of divided Viet Nam in half and there were the Communists and south were the others, although, of course, there were the national liberation front in the south also. But in this case, in the 1973 agreement, it was a cease-fire in place so that the struggle that is going on now is for small areas, for villages. As you go through Viet Nam you can see the flags on the houses indicating the allegiance of the inhabitants of that area. You can imagine what it's like with the liberation front and the government areas sitting side by side. We learned that since the cease-fire came into effect in January, some 7,000 incidents had been reported throughout South Viet Nam. Some of these involved large-scale operations, possibly up to divisional strength. But from all of these incidents came only 31 requests for investigation by the International Control Commission, and from these requests only two reports have emerged. The Commission's frustrations as you will see are very real indeed.
There is one famous case that has been well documented was the investigation of some missiles that were said to have been located up in Kay San in the northern part of South Viet Nam and the difficulties that emerged for our Chairman, Michel Gauvin, in trying to get an investigation under way was simply too incredible to be recounted. First of all it was said that the photographs that had been submitted by way of evidence must be forgeries they were taken before the truce came into effect and so on, and so on, and so on. And in the end no investigation took place. The Commission divided two in favour of investigation, two against. And, you know, the argument of a straightforward Canadian like Michel Gauvin was: well, you know, they may be forgeries, let's go and find out if they are forgeries. They were taken before the truce, let's find out if they were there before the truce. That's what it's all about. But in fact nothing happened.
In Vientiane, I had a long conversation with the Prime Minister, Prince Souvanna Phouma. While recognizing a direct relationship between the war in Viet Nam and the use of Laotian territory for military purposes, he was particularly anxious to ensure some measure of international involvement in the future of Laos through the reactivation of the old ICC. We now have two people in Laos, that's the skeleton that remains. A ceasefire has been achieved. However, the two sides in Laos have not been able to find common ground for a military agreement on the modalities of disengagement and supervision. Until this takes place, it will not be possible for us to determine our response to the request for Canadian participation in a reactivated Laos Commission.
I also had discussions in Vientiane with representatives of the Pathet Lao.
Now the Pathet Lao are the political grouping in Laos that is opposed to the right wing element I suppose you would say in the Royal Laotian Government. But it is unlike the Viet Cong because the Viet Cong pretends to be the government of South Viet Nam where the Pathet Lao is simply a political force working in Laos and it is possible there to incorporate them into the government and this is now being done.
I raised with them the case of Lloyd Oppel, the Canadian Missionary who was seized in Laos last October. I was quite frankly shocked to hear them tell me that Mr. Oppel's release would be delayed until certain domestic political arrangements in Laos had been agreed. In other words until a government had been formed in Laos under the new agreement. I replied in very plain language, making it clear to him that there could be no possible relationship between the continued imprisonment of a non-combatant Canadian citizen and political developments in that country. He promised to report my position to his superiors and I also raised this question with the political leaders in Hanoi. They too promised to look into it.
The reason I raised it in Hanoi is that Mr. Oppel's name first appeared on a list of prisoners supplied by the Democratic Republic of the Viet Nam, so I felt justified in raising his name with them and they said we will take this up with our allies, the Pathet Lao.
Finally I spent a day in Hanoi talking with Prime Minister Pham Van Dong and the Foreign Minister Trinh. The first visit ever made by a Canadian Minister to the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam which we just recognized a few weeks ago in order to show our impartiality as a member of the International Control Commission.
All of my talks with political leaders in Hanoi and Saigon centred upon the question of continued Canadian participation in the Commission.
As I have already indicated, the views of all the leaders with whom I spoke were to the effect that Canada should continue to serve on the Commission. Most of these leaders emphasized that the consequences of an early Canadian withdrawal would be far-reaching. I have also received similar views from the governments of the United States, Britain, Indonesia and China. I made no commitment to any of them at that time and in case you think I am going to reveal any secrets I am not going to make any commitments here today because the question is still before the Government.
While the advice to us had a common theme, I think it is relevant to point out that each Party had its own distinctive reasons for wishing us to stay on.
For reasons which are very understandable governments of countries not directly involved in Viet Nam tend to suggest that any international presence is better than no international presence and it's even better if Canada is there. For Canadians our 19 years in Viet Nam have long since disabused us of any such illusions.
I found the attitudes of the leaders in South Vietnam very direct. They have no illusion that the ICCS would be able to discharge effectively the responsibilities set out in the Paris Agreement.
Indeed, I am inclined to think sometimes that the way we want the ICCS to work is just an amiable eccentricity on our part. I explained very frankly to the Vietnamese both in the South and in the North that the composition of the Commission made it extremely unlikely that the Commission would ever reach a finding unfavourable to North Viet Nam or to its allies in the South. At the same time I said that Canada would not hesitate to support a finding detrimental to the position of the Republic of Viet Nam if we felt that the facts indicated such findings because we take an impartial view. We don't look upon ourselves as representing any side in this struggle. Whereas, obviously, some of the other members of the International Commission feel that is what their job is.
The South Vietnamese leaders acknowledged this. However, they said that the important thing was to bring all points of view into the open. They also attached importance to the Commission's presence in connection with the political settlement.
In the North the political leaders replied to all of our suggestions by referring us to the terms of the Agreement. They regarded this as sacrosanct and like their counterparts in the South declared they intend to abide by the Agreement.
I asked Prime Minister Pham Van Dong of North Viet Nam which he regarded as having the highest priority, his country's desire for peace or the reunification of Viet Nam as a whole. He replied that the question of priorities did not arise as strict observance of the Agreement would lead to peaceful unification.
It was clear from these conversations that both the North and the South are expecting quite different and in some ways contradictory results.
In my conversations with Foreign Minister Lam and President Thieu, I raised the question of civilian prisoners in South Viet Nam. I urged them to consider the weight of public opinion in Canada and abroad on this matter. Both told me that they had already released five thousand civilian prisoners on the occasion of the recent lunar new year celebrations, and that they had provided a list of over five thousand additional civilian prisoners to the other South Vietnamese Party, that is the Viet Cong, for release in accordance with the Paris Agreement and Protocols. Both went on to contrast their record on this issue with that of the other side. They told me that of the 60,000 South Vietnamese civilians missing and presumed captured by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, only two hundred or so had been included in the list required under the Paris Agreement and Protocols. This will give you some idea of the flavour of the situation or of the atmosphere.
If I appear to be passing out a lot of bouquets, it is not to be diplomatic-but because they are more than justified. I was enormously impressed and proud of the efficiency and dedication of our people in Indo-China-both civilians and military. Many of them are working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week in appalling conditions. Their challenges and frustrations would be daunting on a weekly basis. Theirs are daily. The problems are not only those of a political and military character. Just as often they are administrative. It was soon abundantly clear to me that had it not been for these Canadians, it is doubtful that the ICCS would have been in any position to be even potentially effective.
I would not like to leave you with the impression that nothing has been achieved and that this enormous effort has all been in vain. However unsatisfactory we find the present situation, it is an obvious improvement over the situation that existed before January 28. Prisoners of War on both sides are being released. Very soon the last American forces in Viet Nam will have departed. The ICCS had its role to play in these developments and if it did nothing else but help to provide the framework within which these accomplishments were made possible that in itself is ample justification.
You will have noted from what I have said that the Canadian approach is cautious, but it is also responsible-responsible to Canadians who would not wish us to make reckless and unrealistic commitments and responsible to society at large which earnestly wishes an end to the bloodshed.
In conclusion I would emphasize that it has never been part of our mission in Viet Nam to make peace. That can only be done by Vietnamese themselves. Others have tried without conspicuous success and we have no such ambitions. We had felt that our readiness to respond to the unanimous request that we participate in the ICCS at the beginning could help to give a start to the cease-fire-imperfect as it might be. That it has done. What now must be decided is how much further we should go. It has been my object during the past few weeks to ensure that the Canadian public, the Parliament and the Government have the fullest possible information on which to base their judgment and I thank you for the opportunity of telling the story once again. Thank you.
Mr. Sharp was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club by Lieutenant-Colonel R. H. Hilborn, a Past President of the Club.
Mr. Sharp, you have been a very moving speaker. As our President mentioned in his introduction, you have moved from one date to accommodate Mr. Bourassa and from another to accommodate Mr. McNamara. May I say that you shouldn't feel too badly about this. This has become to be known as President Potts' proclivity. I have suffered in much the same way. I was asked at one point to thank the Premier of Quebec for his address and I was called a day or two before by the President to say that there was some youngcomer by the name of Royce who he thought would do a better job. So he really knows how to hurt a guy. However, he has redeemed himself in my book by asking me today to express the thanks of this meeting to you.
As has been mentioned, this brings me full circle. Our President said that on one memorable occasion, memorable to me at least, I stood before a large audience in this hotel and introduced you in absentia only to rise again to give your speech and I felt it a bit much on that day to call upon myself again to get up and for the third time to thank the speaker. And this was done with his customary elan . . . by General Legge, recognizing, of course, the content and not the delivery. But at last I have the opportunity.
We thank you particularly for coming to us at such a critical time and for so vividly and thoroughly putting us in the picture to the point where all of us, I am sure, share the dilemma facing you.
It's been of great value and interest to us that you pick up where the popular press leaves off that we may know the truth behind the apparent impotence of the ICCS and may have no illusions about how it works. We know now that the difficulties are not entirely concerned with the reluctance of Hanoi or the Viet Cong to co-operate. We know of your concern that our people may be condemned to the same fate as the almost nineteen year old International Control Commission out of complete irrelevance.
Many of us were disappointed that, perhaps because of an inability on short notice of appropriate serums or delay in renewing a passport that your genuine and generous invitation to the external affairs critic was declined, all of which you have said seems to me to support the telling argument for bipartisanship in the vital areas of Foreign Affairs and National Defence.
Thank you, sir, on behalf of all of us here today for sharing with us your time, and your knowledge, and your grave concerns.