«Paper presented at the Canada and the End of Empire conference Institute of Commonwealth Studies London, UK 27 April 2001 José E. Igartua ...»
Laurent's speech is that it was angry and immoderate when actual Canadian policy has been understanding and moderate."83 The Halifax Chronicle-Herald was the only paper to resolutely approve of St. Laurent's remark about the "supermen of Europe." "What Mr. St. Laurent said at Ottawa on Tuesday will be applauded by a very large majority of the Canadian people who, like him, have been 'scandalized more than once by the attitude of the big powers' toward the smaller nationalities and the United Nations itself. It is not the Canadian way to find satisfaction in regimentation of the small and weak by the great and powerful, not in defiance of the UN by any of the great powers for their own purposes and to advance their own interests."84 Its editorial cartoonist drew a distinction between "great" powers and "big" powers.85 For the paper, Canada's foreign policy was governed by the moral imperative of duty, "by refusing to go along with the Mother Country of the Commonwealth when it felt that its "Anger is Out of Place," editorial, Winnipeg Free Press, 27 November 1956, p. 15.
83 "Well Spoken!," editorial, Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 28 November 1956, p. 4.
acts were wrong. Canada was hailed again as a peacemaker and to its record was added the title of moral leader."86 This moral imperative extended to the sort of special welcome Canadians should give Hungarian refugees arriving in Canada in December 1956. "There must be special vigilance against their drifting into communities and clubs of their own. Canada cannot grow truly as a nation with various races allowed to become pockets within the nation, pockets where jealousy, suspicion and bitterness and anti-democracy breed. It cannot grow truly as a nation if some are to be pointed at with a sort of contempt or scorn as “those foreigners.” It is not only for the good of the Hungarians, but for the good of those who already are Canadians that these newcomers be Canadianized as quickly as possible."87
The Suez crisis gave rise to varying political positions among the editorial writers of Englishspeaking Canada's daily press. Helen Adam's tally of the 26 English-language dailies revealed an even split between those who, in her words, "supported the Canadian Government's stand" and those who "support the Anglo-French intervention."88 But in nearly all the newspapers examined here – those of the major metropolitan centres – editorial position took the close links between Britain and Canada and Canada's role in the Commonwealth as granted. The arguments either for or against Canada's stand at the United Nations were very often expressed in the language of the moral values of freedom, justice, and loyalty. These values were invoked as part of the British political heritage of Canada. If this heritage led some to disagree with British action in the Middle East, so be it. Indeed, support for the Canadian refusal to back Britain at the UN was bolstered by reference to opposition to the Eden government's position both by the Labour Opposition and within the Eden government itself. Both among those who opposed Britain's intervention in Suez and those who approved of it, or at least "understood" the need for it, the frame of reference was Canada's self-definition as a "British" nation. There never was any questioning of Canada's participation in the Commonwealth, but occasionally some disparaging remarks about those members of the Commonwealth not part of the "older" (i.e., white) Dominions. The solidarity of culture, political tradition, and of "race" was the foundation of Canada's role in the Commonwealth.
Other values linked with the "British character" were invoked in the debate, especially among those who sided with Britain. The first was independence, a corollary of "British freedom." For newspapers such as the Vancouver Sun or Toronto's Globe and Mail, independence meant independence from the foreign policy of the United States and the freedom to align Canada's foreign policy with that of Britain. The second value appealed to in editorials was that of virility, a gender trait also deriving from Canada's "British" origins.
Editorials writers in the English-language press almost never bothered to comment on the specific role of France in the Suez crisis. The military intervention in Egypt was always called "Canada’s Duty," editorial, Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 8 December 1956, p. 4.
86 "Our New Citizens," editorial, Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 18 December 1956, p. 4.
the 'Anglo-French action' but the behaviour of France never elicited any substantial editorial comment and Canada's relationship with France was never broached. It is not surprising, therefore, that French-Canadian opinion on the Canadian stand at the UN was not discussed in the English-language press. French-Canadian ethnicity was only invoked by those newspapers who wanted to suggest explanations for St. Laurent's lack of "loyalty" to Britain.
The Suez crisis was the occasion for English-speaking newspapers to offer representations of Canada as a "British" nation. This was not the exclusive self-representation of Canada extant among editorial writers, as I have shown elsewhere. But at this particular juncture, this was the most important representation to invoke in public debate. As such, it is a powerful indication that it touched an important common cultural trait among English-speaking Canadians. This trait had been highlighted ten years earlier in the parliamentary debate over the Canadian Citizenship Act. It was still persistent in 1956. Yet, less than ten years later, during the Flag Debate of 1964, the "Britishness" of Canada was no longer assumed to be essential to English-speaking Canadians' representations of themselves as a nation. How this came to be is the next chapter in the story of the "Other Quiet Revolution."