«Paper presented at the Canada and the End of Empire conference Institute of Commonwealth Studies London, UK 27 April 2001 José E. Igartua ...»
28 "The Government is Shirking Its Duty," editorial, Calgary Herald, 3 November 1956, p. 4.
29 "The World Will Thank Britain," editorial, Calgary Herald, 9 November 1956, p. 4.
30 "Free Men Are In Debt To Sir Anthony," editorial, Calgary Herald, 21 November 1956, p. 4.
31 See the letters of 7, 9, 12, 14, and 19 November.
Pearson.34 The debates during the special session only confirmed its worst fears: the St.
Laurent government was affecting "a deliberate repudiation of the bonds of the Commonwealth."
"[M]any government actions in the past decade fall into perspective. They were minor things in themselves - for example, the appointment of a Canadian governorgeneral, or the dropping of such words as "dominion" and "royal" - but they all had the effect of weakening the formal and symbolic links of the Commonwealth. The suspicion is now almost a certainty that Mr. St. Laurent and his colleagues saw in the complex and confusing Suez crisis a magnificent opportunity to finish the job and break with the Commonwealth altogether."35 The Globe and Mail also used the Suez crisis to attack the St. Laurent government. It defended Britain's actions and condemned the Canadian government's kow-towing to the Americans. On November 2, it portrayed the Anglo-French invasion as a replacement for UN action: "It would seem that the only nations willing and able to keep peace in the Middle "When Parliament Meets," editorial, Edmonton Journal, 24 November 1956, p. 6.
East are the two who, at the moment, are so vehemently being denounced as "aggressors'."36 Opposite the editorial was a cartoon casting St. Laurent as a fallen Mackenzie King.
The paper could not oppose Pearson's proposal for a United Nations military force, as it has put the idea forward itself in the past. It condemned the Liberal government for not having pressed the issue harder at the United Nations. "the Canadian government has been disastrously wrong in its timidity –first, turning a blind eye to the Middle East; then, when it did see the need to police the area, failing to press home its views in Washington and all of the time giving tacit approval to United States actions and attitudes which prepared the debacle here.... The chickens of apathy, irresponsibility and me-tooism have come home to roost at Ottawa; and it will take more than UN speeches to drive them away."37 In the following days, the newspaper published a series called "Readers' Views on Middle East Crisis" in which readers overwhelmingly expressed support for the British action.38 The paper cast its support of the British action as an endorsement of the fight for freedom against the tyranny of Nasser or of the Kremlin. Free peoples, it declared, have to choose.
"If they are cowards, who want peace at any price, let them say so.... But if they are men, who have broken the bones of tyrants before and will cheerfully break them again, let them say that instead. And let them say it frequently, firmly, in a voice loud enough to reach well into the Kremlin."39 Here again, national character was defined as masculine virtue.
B. Others Roar Too The Vancouver Sun, ranked among "independent" Liberal newspapers,40 was cautious in its support of the Anglo-French action in Suez, but grew increasingly critical of the Canadian government’s stand at the United Nations as events unfolded. In its first editorial on the issue, on 1 November 1 1956, it averred that "Canadians agree with External Affairs Minister Pearson in regretting 'that Britain found it necessary' to send troops into Egypt in the face of the Israeli-Arab crisis." But it was ready to grant the benefit of the doubt to Britain: "Yet British governments haven't usually acted in this way without grave reasons. Until recently the British have been regarded as the sobering influence in world affairs." It "prayed" Britain and France "know what they are doing."41 The next day, it reflected on the effects among Canadians of the tension between Britain and the United States, "a question that sharply divides their loyalties." It called for a reconsideration of the smug Canadian position between our two allies. "Canada will have to do some straight and sober thinking about her course. This country has toyed for a long time with the notion that we can be both British and American - a bridge between two great nations. The present break in Anglo-American understanding speaks of our failure. The reason may be that we haven't truly tried to consider Britain's point of view."42 It was critical of Canada's half-hearted participation in the Commonwealth and began to criticise Canada's "The End – And the Means," editorial, Globe and Mail, 2 November 1956, p. 6.
36 "Mr. Pearson Abstains," editorial, Globe and Mail, 3 November 1956, p. 6.
37 See Globe and Mail, 3, 6, 8, 10 November 1956.
38 "The Gains," editorial, Globe and Mail, 12 November 1956, p. 6.
39 According to the Directory Newspapers and Periodicals 1956, N.W. Ayer and Son, Philadelpia, n.d., cited by 40 Adam, op. cit., Appendix II, p. 182.
"World Doubts Anglo-French Gamble Worth the Risks," editorial, Vancouver Sun, 1 November 1956, p. 4.
lack of support behind Britain at the UN. On 3 November 1956, it expressed support for the idea of a UN peace-keeping force but doubted the UN could set one up "in view of its present inability to make difficult decisions."43 It disparaged American foreign policy and Canada's tacit endorsement of it. It supported the Canadian proposal of a UN police force but condemned Canada's failure to stand by Britain: "...the anti-British stand we took by the side of Russia and the United States was a sign of unbalanced judgement."44 "The Liberal government in Ottawa took this attitude [opposing Britain at the UN] apparently in the sincere belief that the United Nations is more important than the Commonwealth and believing also that it had the majority of Canadians behind it. But neither of these things is at present certain."45 It later refuted Immigration Minister Jack Pickersgill's statement that the Canadian position at the UN had not been against Britain and added that it might have also been "against our own ultimate good."46 C. The Liberal View: the Independence of Canada The two main Liberal newspapers, the Toronto Daily Star and the Winnipeg Free Press, wholeheartedly supported the St. Laurent government's stand on the Suez issue. The Star had few editorials on the subject. On November 5, 1956, it commended the Canadian government for having had "had the courage to put principles ahead of sentiment" by supporting the UN charter "which stands against force as a means of settling international disputes" rather than following "her feeling for Britain." It rejected as sterile and unhelpful in resolving the crisis the position that "right or wrong Canada should have stuck by Britain;
indeed, this sentimental cry already is being echoed by some newspapers."47 It again condemned this attitude when Earle Rowe, the leader of the Opposition, expressed it in the Commons at the opening of the special session of Parliament, calling it "a perfect exhibition of outdated colonial mentality." That editorial, aptly enough, was titled "Colony or Nation?"48 The Winnipeg Free Press condemned the Anglo-French action on Suez as an attempt on the part of Britain and France to "appoint themselves 'world policemen'" by quoting the British Labour leader as saying that they had no right to do so. It found the situation tragic, for "[t]o censure Britain is eminently distasteful. But for Canadians to turn their backs on the principles of collective security is unthinkable." It approved Pearson's expression of "regret" and hoped "that his implied disapproval will even now have some effect on the Eden and Mollet Governments."49 Yet the next day, its lead editorial was titled "Be Fair to Britain": it affirmed that "Britain's aim – to preserve stability in the Middle East against the ambitions of Mr. Nasser and everyone else – is the right aim for all the western nations."50 An adjacent column by its London correspondent tried to throw some light on Eden's decision. Over the next two days, while debate was going on at the UN, the paper endorsed Pearson's position, heading its 2 November editorial with "Mr. Pearson Speaks for Canada" and prodding the federal Cabinet the next day to endorse Pearson's peace-keeping force proposal, grandly "UN Put On the Spot," editorial, Vancouver Sun, 3 November 1956, p. 4.
43 "Ottawa's Job to Halt U.S. Drift Toward Isolationism," editorial, Vancouver Sun, 9 November 1956, p. 4.
44 "Commonwealth Future Needs Reappraisal After Egypt," editorial, Vancouver Sun, 14 November 1956, p. 4.
45 "Nothing Against Britain?," editorial, Vancouver Sun, 21 November 1956, p. 4.
46 "Canada’s Leadership." editorial, Toronto Daily Star, 5 November 1956, p. 6.
47 "Colony or Nation?", editorial, Toronto Daily Star, 27 November 1956, p. 6.
48 "Britain and France Alone," editorial, Winnipeg Free Press, 31 October 1956, p. 13.
adding: " The Canadian Government can in this way render to the cause of peace a service almost unexampled in our history."51 The Free Press vigorously condemned the Anglo-French troop landings in Egypt of 4 November as "folly" and praised Pearson for getting the two powers to agree to a UN ceasefire force to replace their troops in Egypt. As a result of Pearson's efforts at the UN, "this country has attained a new stature at the United Nations and throughout the free world." It paid close attention to dissension within Conservative ranks in Britain concerning the Suez crisis as a way of showing Britain's Suez policy was opposed in Britain as well as elsewhere.52 Grant Dexter, the paper's Ottawa columnist, singled St. Laurent out for special praise as well, noting that he "took a much keener and immediate interest in these events than is commonly supposed."53 As we shall see, however, the paper's allegiance to the Liberal leader had its limits.
D. Some Tory supporters of Canadian Independence
Two Conservative newspapers, the Ottawa Journal and the Montreal Gazette, gave their support to the Canadian position at the United Nations. The Journal's first editorial on the issue, on 1 November 1956, was apprehensive about Britain's action on Suez, being "uneasy" about the precedent it was setting for circumventing the United Nations. At the same time, it warned to be "wary of making common cause with Britain's critics. Downing Street is not without sense, experience and courage."54 It conceded that "many Canadians are disturbed by what Britain and France are doing in Egypt" and endorsed Pearson's and St. Laurent's "clear and helpful" statements of Canadian policy regarding the Suez question and the Russian invasion of Hungary happening at the same time. The paper was careful to draw the distinction between Britain's and France's willingness to let the UN take over the "task of maintaining order along the Suez" and Russia's rejection of UN intervention in Hungary. 55 It characterised Canada's proposal of a peace-keeping force including Canadian troops as demonstrating "the vigor and self-reliance of an independent, responsible nation."56 The Montreal Gazette had few editorial words on the Suez question. On 5 November 1956, it endorsed the Pearson plan for the Middle East, while depicting Eden as an anti-appeaser from 1938 who believed British intervention was needed because the UN would be too slow to act.57 Four days later, commenting on the nomination of General E.L.M. Burns as head of the UN peace-keeping force, it observed that "Canada's stature in world affairs has grown enormously with United Nations efforts to solve the Middle East crisis."58 Its cartoonist "Act on the Pearson Proposals," editorial, Winnipeg Free Press, 3 November 1956, p. 11.
51 "Force and the United Nations," editorial, Winnipeg Free Press, 5 November 1956, p. 21; "Suez Cease-Fire," 52 ibid., 7 November 1956, p. 35; "Historic Step at United Nations," ibid., 13 November 1956, p. 13; the quote is from this editorial; Grant Dexter, "Regret But No Recrimination," ibid., 14 November 1956, p. 13.. On Conservative division in Britain, "The Significant Nutting," editorial, 5 November, and "Suez Cease-Fire."
Grant Dexter, "Regret But No Recrimination," Winnipeg Free Press, 14 November 1956, p. 13.
53 "Britain’s Case," editorial, Ottawa Journal, 1 November 1956, p. 6.
54 "Canada Does Her Part," editorial, Ottawa Journal, 5 November 1956, p. 6.
55 "Canada in the Middle East," editorial, Ottawa Journal, 8 November 1956, p. 6. Note again the appeal to the 56 masculine virtue of "vigor."
"There's Hope in the Pearson Plan," editorial, The Gazette, 5 November 1956, p. 8.
cleverly summed up Pearson's objective for the Middle East.59 Some of its readers, however, expressed support for the British-French action and condemned Canada's role at the UN while others supported the Canadian stand.60 On the East Coast, the independent Halifax Chronicle-Herald strongly endorsed the Canadian position on the Suez crisis and condemned the British action: "Great Britain has used the veto for the first time in the Security Council – and that to ignore the very basic principles of Gazette, 16 December 1956, p. 8.
59 See the "Letters From Our Readers" section of the editorial pages of 19 November 1956, p. 8, 24 November 60
the United Nations itself."61 It was the strongest condemnation of British action in the English-Canadian press. Nevertheless, it found the growing rift between Britain and the United States "disturbing" and applauded the "cautious moving," the "wise statesmanship" of the Canadian government, which it hoped all Canadians would support.62 Yet it agreed with Pearson that there was "No Parallel" between the Anglo-French action in Suez and Russia's "criminal onslaught upon Hungary" which Pearson had condemned at the UN.63 It considered "Canada's Task" as taking the moral lead of the Commonwealth in showing "a spirit of charity and decency and justice," a task which the Manchester Guardian had recognised Canada was undertaking.64
E. What about France?