Throughout his term as Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker struggled to determine whether Canada should acquire nuclear weapons. Minister of Defence George Peakes recommended that Canada integrate its air defences with the United States in order to present a united front designed to protect both nations. The North American Aerospace Defence Command policy (NORAD) was approved by Diefenbaker in early 1957. Although NORAD represented a major defence commitment, the decision was made without discussion with Cabinet or the Defence Committee. 


John Diefenbaker with George Pearkes and General Lauris Norstad


In order to meet the requirements of NORAD, Canada planned to make a significant investment in upgrading its military technology and resources. Previously, Canada’s military planning had focused primarily on the development of the Avro Arrow interceptor. After a lengthy debate, it was determined that the Avro was too costly and unable to effectively meet Canada’s security needs. The Avro project was abandoned, and in its place the government agreed to establish an arrangement with the United States for the sharing of Bomarc ground-to-air missiles as well as utilizing the American Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE), a system for tracking and intercepting enemy aircraft. 


John Diefenbaker speaking with fighter pilotsThe Bomarc missile was designed exclusively to carry a nuclear warhead; therefore arrangements had to be made for Canada to acquire them.   According to Minister of National Defence Douglas Harkness “it was unreasonable to secure the Bomarc without the nuclear warhead.”  By September of 1958, the direction of the Canadian Defence Policy indicated that the nation fully intended to acquire nuclear warheads from the United States. 

A number of delays were encountered as the negotiations over the details of storing, transporting and authorizing the nuclear missiles continued. In May 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy met with Diefenbaker in Ottawa. The intention of Kennedy’s Administration during the meeting was to push the issue of Canada’s incorporation of nuclear missiles into its national defence policy. However, Diefenbaker’s cabinet was increasingly divided over the question of  whether nuclear warheads should be utilized at all. 


John Diefenbaker, Dwight Eisenhower, and their aides at tableInternationally, Canada objected to the spread of nuclear weapons. The new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Howard Green, attempted to discourage the use of nuclear missiles in the nation's defence plan as it would be inconsistent with foreign policy. At the same time, Diefenbaker began receiving letters and petitions from Canadian citizens who felt the same way. The cabinet failed to make a firm decision on the issue and it was put on hold, despite public scrutiny of the delay. 

In 1963, Liberal Leader of the Opposition, Lester B. Pearson declared his support of acquiring nuclear weapons in order to meet the obligations of Canada’s NATO and NORAD agreements. Pearson expressed his misgivings over the defence role that Canada had agreed to play but stated that until Canada’s defence policy changed, a Liberal government would not evade its commitments.

John Diefenbaker with John F. KennedyTension mounted within the Diefenbaker Cabinet until 3 February 1963. In a Cabinet meeting that morning, Harkness announced that the “people of the nation, Party, Cabinet and he had lost confidence in the Prime Minister”.  Diefenbaker asked for a standing Vote of Confidence and, upon seeing several of his Ministers remain seated, left to submit his resignation to the Governor General. Diefenbaker was persuaded to return to the meeting and remain as Prime Minister.  His government fell in the House of Commons on 6 February.  In the election that followed, the Liberals emerged victorious and formed a minority government while Diefenbaker took up the position of Leader of the Opposition. Pearson quickly concluded an agreement with the United States to obtain nuclear warheads and presented it to the House of Commons in September of 1963.  In January 1969, Canada ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the missiles were phased out. Canada is currently a member of every international disarmament organization and is committed to pushing for an end to nuclear weapons.

Related Documents

The Accra Assembly 

The World Without the Bomb
P.O. Box 1627
Accra, Ghana
December 18, 1962.

Your Excellency, The Rt. Hon. John George Diefenbaker:

Allow me to address you personally as leader of one of the non-aligned nations to whom related matters of world peace, security and economic development are of increasing concern.

The non-aligned nations, non-aligned individuals and non-aligned organizations everywhere, today share a task and play a special mediatory role on the world scene. There is need to make a closer link between them.

These urgent times repeatedly are presenting opportunities for constructive action by non-aligned governments, organizations and individuals able to rise above artificial barriers of nation, race, class, color and creed to think and act in terms of this planet’s one essential – humanity.

Until now, many of these opportunities for purposeful and co-operative effort have been lost simply because there has been no suitable centre through which contacts could be made on a world-wide basis, and effective communication established at many levels for the consideration of problems common to all; no platform levels for the consideration of problems common to all; no platform from which proper cognizance could be taken of both world public opinion and official viewpoints so that attempts could be made toward a synthesis for constructive action.

But the times call for new approaches, new ideas, new methods, new efforts. And here in Accra, Ghana, this year, something entirely new came into being – a non-aligned, non-governmental international organization to bridge the gap between individuals, organizations, governments and the United Nation. This is of very special import to all non-aligned nations.

This organization is The Accra Assembly, initiated by the President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who sponsored its first meeting on “The World Without the Bomb” during the final week of June. To it were invited as participants 130 highly qualified non-aligned individuals and some experts and observers from all over the world. Their dedicated work during that week, to find fresh and valid approaches to some key problems of our time, clearly demonstrated that competent non-aligned thinkers can indeed suggest means to assist the great powers to find a way out of their present world-threatening impasse, and to initiate new efforts in many directions. A copy of their “Conclusions of The Accra Assembly” is enclosed for you herewith.

To begin at once to implement these proposals and to continue to seek among the wrld’s best minds for new ideas in line with developing world events, The Accra Assembly set up a governing Council and a permanent Secretariat charged also with making plans for future meetings of the Accra Assembly to be held in other countries in other years. Wholly uncommitted, this organization is non-aligned with any government, ideology, or group concerned with peace and development, although it seeks support and cooperative effort among all agencies and governments working for peace and development, anywhere in the world, regardless of outworn divisions encouraged and maintained by the “cold war.” In turn, it supports and encourages their efforts.


To non-aligned governments such as your own, The Accra Assembly presents an alternative and/or additional channel through which to work constructively for positive world aims without being caught up in cold war manoeuvres [sic]. To peace and developmental organizations, such as those in your country, it offers a suitable focal point or platform from which fresh proposals for resolution of international tensions, or new developmental plans, can be put forward without being tagged as a part of the ideological conflict, for The Accra Assembly stands above it.

For all of these reasons we now ask your personal interest and invite the support of your Government for the work of The Accra Assembly. This work is now accelerating daily and already – in six months – a number of its proposals are before the United Nations, others are being studied there, and work is going on in at least a dozen different directions, all in line with the interests and the stated objectives of the non-aligned nations, and therefore meriting their serious financial, political and moral support.

Your consideration is invited, too, because at no time in history has there been such an urgent need for peace, nor a period when peace was so illusive. We all know that in this generation man’s destructive capacity has reached a zenith and the whole world is threatened with total annihilation in the event of an outbreak of war. The recent crisis over Cuba has demonstrated how real and how close is the danger, and has emphasized the urgency of reaching agreement on total and complete disarmament. Even assuming that good sense some-how prevails and no war occurs, humanity still is in deadly danger from constant pollution of the atmosphere by radio-active fallout – a situation calling for an immediate test ban. And finally – this generation has seen numerous less developed countries attaining independence and urgently in need of wide-spread economic development. With poverty, hunger and disease the lot of a considerable percentage of the world’s population, can resources be wasted on the continued production of armaments? Billions are now being spent annually as the incredible arms race continues unabated in its intensity.

Thus the question of world peace and security has now become the concern of all nations great and small and of every single individual. No one can now be unaware that distrust among the big powers has given birth to the cold war which, more often than not, has frustrated hopeful internationational [sic] negotiations and prevented realistic and objective examination of issues. The big powers, against all counsels of wisdom, have manoeuvered [sic] themselves to the edge of a precipice from which they dare not move forward and from which they fear to turn back.

To this generation is given the responsibility and the opportunity to change this situation, to safeguard not only itself but the future generations for whom we hold the world in trust. The immediate problem of the cold war is not the emotional one it seems. It is not even ideological or political. It is so universal a problem – the problem of sheer survival – that emotion, ideology and politics cannot be allowed to divide us in our cooperative efforts to resolve it. This problem, as well as all others, can be solved if there is the enlightened will and fixed determination to do so.

So in this critical world period, the non-aligned nations, non-aligned organizations, and non-aligned individuals throughout the world can supply this will and determination, rendering invaluable service to humanity and accurately reflecting the demands of world public opinion.

It was with all this in mind that the non-aligned Government of Ghana, under the inspiration of President Nkrumah and with the whole-hearted support of its people, re-allocated roughly €80,000 from its Defence Budget for the establishment of The Accra Assembly. In addition, Ghana has provided offices for the Secretariat, seconded a number of its top officers to the Assembly work and paid their salaries, and further has made an initial contribution of €5,000 to assist in maintaining the Secretariat during the first crucial months of its work.


From the beginning, however, it has been felt that because of the non-aligned character of The Accra Assembly, which makes its work acceptable to both sides in the world conflict, it is neither desirable nor appropriate for one Government – Ghana – to continue maintain the Assembly single-handed, even if capable and willing to do so. To carry on its work, The Accra Assembly must have participation and backing from a variety of non-alingned [sic] governments and groups and individuals in all parts of the world.

In September, an initial appeal was addressed to non-aligned Governments through their diplomatic representatives in Accra, asking for financial grants and for consideration of sponsorship for future meetings of The Accra Assembly. No doubt these are being studied in normal diplomatic channels, as we have been informed; but due to the urgency of the world situation and the need for immediate and consistent constructive moves which require long-range planning, I have taken the liberty of putting the story of The Accra Assembly before you today in the context of world events, and I appeal to you personally to move your own Government toward an immediate financial contribution to the urgent work going on here.

Hardly any of the non-aligned nations are rich, we all know. We do not ask for huge sums; even token grants of only a few thousand pounds would help immeasurably in this phase of the work. Yugoslavia already has been of great assistance in sponsoring and underwriting the cost of the Pre-Accra Assembly planning meeting in Zagreb earlier this year, and the Czechoslovakia Peace Committee has contributed €2,300. The Government of Tanganyika was the first to make a contribution of €500 immediately after the close of The Accra Assembly meeting in June. If the work that now has been solidly started here is to go boldly forward – as it must – then Governments sympathetic to this work will realize that slow bureaucratic procedures cannot possibly move fast enough to be of any help, any they will, we hope, take immediate steps to grant whatever funds can be made available now.

Contributions are accepted in local currency if made through Ghana missions where they exist.

It would be strategic wherever possible to have such grants diverted from Defence budgets in the various non-aligned countries following Ghana’s example. This would demonstrate to world public opinion the acceptance of the practical idea of “putting first things first” and underscore the concern for peace, security and world development of the non-aligned countries as well as their willingness to give encouragement to and help take responsibility for work toward this end. When the very existence of humanity is at stake – as it is now – the size, prosperity or special problems of the non-aligned effort, for it is of special value to contributors themselves as a powerful addition to their own efforts and as safeguard of their own interests and the interests of the majority of the peoples of the world.

We await, Your Excellency, indication of your pleasure in this important matter.

Meanwhile, please accept the assurances of my highest esteem.

I remain,

Your Obedient Servant,


F.E. Bosten

General Secertary

The Accra Asssembly

His Excellency, The Rt. Hon. John George Diefenbaker,
Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada,
His Excellency’s Office,

Department of External Affairs 


To: Mr. H. B, Robinson, Office of the Prime Minister
From: Defence Liaison (1) Division
Subject: Public Statements on Acquisition and Storage of Nuclear Weapons
Date: November 4, 1960

In accordance with your request, I attach two copies of a revised chronology of statements made on the above subject. Our earlier chronology has been expanded so as to bring up to date and to include significant statements made by members of the opposition parties.

2. We intend to reproduce a number of copies of this revision for future reference but, before doing so, would be grateful if you would let us know if you think the format should be changed in any way.

Defence Liaison (1) Division

Mr. Ross Cambell,

Chronology of Government Statements Regarding 
Negotiations on Acquisitions and Storage of
Nuclear Weapons

The Prime Minister
February 20, 1959

  1. “The full potential of these defensive weapons is achieved only when they are armed with nuclear warheads. The government is, therefore, examining with the United States government questions connected with the acquisition of nuclear warheads for Bomarc and other defensive weapons for use by the Canadian forces in Canada, and the storage of warheads in Canada. Problems connected with the arming of the Canadian brigade in Europe with short range nuclear weapons for NATO’s defence tasks are also being studied.

    “We are confident that we shall be able to reach formal agreement with The United States on appropriate means to serve the common objective. It will of course be some time before these weapons will be available for use by Canadian forces. The government, as soon as it is in a position to do so, will inform the house, within the limits of security, of the general terms of understanding which are reached between the two governments on this subject.”

    Hansard, p. 1223.

  2. “It is our intentions to provide Canadian forces with modern and efficient weapons to enable them to fulfill their respective roles.”

    Hansard, p. 1223.



  1. “It is the policy of the Canadian Government not to undertake the production of nuclear weapons in Canada.”

    Hansard, p. 1223.

  2. “We must reluctantly admit the need in present circumstances for nuclear weapons of a defensive character.”

    Hansard, p. 1223.

The Prime Minister
March 10, 1959

“The government does not anticipate concluding a formal agreement with the United States in the immediate future. I would draw the attention of the house to the statement I made in this regard on February 20. I indicated then that it would be some time before nuclear weapons would and indeed could be available for use by Canadian forces. At that time I stated that as soon as the government was in a position to do so it would inform the house, within the limits of security, of the general terms of understanding reached between the two governments on this subject. I believe that is about as far as I can go on this occasion.”

Hansard, p. 1775

The Minister of National Defence
July 2, 1959.

“On February 20 of this year, during the debate which took place at that time, the Prime



Minister announced that as far as our troops in Europe were concerned and as far as our air force and troops in Canada were concerned, we were entering into a series of negotiations with the United States in order to arrange the details of the storing of and equipping our forces with nuclear weapons as and when they would be available and as and when we would have to weapons to launch them. By the time we get the Bomarc and by the time we get the Lacrosse over to the brigade and by the time we get the new aircraft to the air division, I am confident that these programs will be completed. Progress is being made with them and as soon as negotiations are completed an announcement will be made and it will be made in this house is the house is sitting at that time.

Hansard, p. 5393

The Minister of National Defence
July 3, 1959

  1. “Now, regarding the position of the supply of nuclear weapons, it was stated by the Prime Minister in the house on February 20 that problems connected with arming the Canadian brigade in Europe with short range nuclear weapons for NATO defence tasks are also being studied. These studies are continuing and are fast reaching a stage when there can be an exchange of notes of this matter. The negotiations have not been completed at the present time, and I do not think



    it would be helpful to make any firm statement until these negotiations have been completed. When they are completed, I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that if the house is in session a statement will be made in this house.”

Hansard, p. 5414

  1. “… I presume that eventually the Canadian forces will be equipped with atomic weapons under the same terms as the other NATO contingents under SACEUR which may also be equipped with atomic weapons. There may be a difference—I say may be—in connection with nuclear weapons which are stored in the United Kingdom as opposed to those which are readily available in Europe under the control of SACEUR for the troops under their control.”
    Hansard, p. 5415.

The Prime Minister
January 18, 1960

  1. “Eventually Canadian forces may require certain nuclear weapons if Canadian forces are to be kept effective. For example, the Bomarc anti-aircraft missile to be effective would require nuclear warheads.”

    Hansard, p.73

  2. “Negotiations are proceeding with the United States in order that the necessary weapons can be made available for Canadian defence units if and when they are required. I cannot comment in



    detail on these negotiations but I wish to state that arrangements for the safeguarding and security of all such weapons in Canada will be subject to Canadian approval and consent.”

    “I want to make it abundantly clear that nuclear weapons will not be used by the Canadian forces except as the Canadian government decides and in the manner approved by the Canadian government. Canada retains its full freedom of choice and decision. Furthermore, in order to ensure that any agreement entered into is kept up to date, it will be made subject to review at any time at the request of either government.”

Hansard, p.73.

The Minister of National Defence
January 20, 1960.

“Nuclear warheads stored in Canada are the property of the United States until they are released for use by the Canadian forces. When they are released to Canada, then Canada has the sole use and direction of use of those weapons. As was explained the day before yesterday by the Prime Minister, that will be a decision for the Canadian Government.”

Hansard, p. 133.

The Prime Minister
February 9, 1960

“If and when Canada does acquire nuclear weapons it will be in accordance with our own



national policies and with our obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty.”

Hansard, p. 867

The Secretary of State for External Affairs
March 10, 1960
(Before the External Affairs Committee)

  1. “Certain negotiations are under way.”

    Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, p. 73.

  2. “From time to time discussions go on on this question of nuclear weapons.”

    Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, p.75.

The Minister of National Defence
June 17, 1960.
(Before the Special Committee on Defence Expenditures)

“At the present time negotiations are proceeding with the United States for the general use by Canadian forces and the storing of atomic weapons in Canada for the use with by United States or Canadian forces. These negotiations are not complete. When that general agreement is complete then special agreements will have to be arranged with the commanders concerned, such as the supreme allied commander in Europe and the ACLANT commander.”

Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, p. 312.

The Prime Minister
June 22, 1960

“There have been discussions with the United States government regarding the possible conditions



under which nuclear weapons for jet interceptors might be stored in United States leased bases in Canada. No agreement has been arrived at.”

Hansard, p. 5239.

The Minister of National Defence
June 22, 1960.
(Before the Special Committee on Defence Expenditures)

  1. “There are no nuclear warheads stored in Canada initially. There are no nuclear warheads stored in Canada today. There are negotiations going on with the United States regarding the storage of defensive nuclear weapons for their interceptor squadrons which are at Harmon Field and Goose Bay. Those are interceptor squadrons, part of the NORAD command. They are there primarily for the defence of the area immediately adjacent to those two leased bases.”

    Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, p. 321

  2. “…Canada’s stand might be summarized in this way. Eventually, Canadian forces may require certain nuclear weapons, if Canadian forces are to be kept effective. For example, the Bomarc anti-aircraft missile, to be effective, would require nuclear warheads.”

Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, p. 323.

The Minister of National Defence
June 30, 1960.
(Before the Special Committee on Defence Expenditures)

  1. “There have been discussions going on in various places regarding the desirability of having



    nuclear warheads, regarding the sending of the information which is necessary, and regarding the storage of these warheads at the sites or elsewhere. All that information has been collected. With regard to Harmon Field and Goose Bay, we have now practically reached the final stage of negotiations and the exchange of formal notes. We are almost ready to proceed with this exchange.”

Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, p. 396.

  1. “There are no nuclear warheads at the present time stored at Goose Bay or Harmon Field, or at any other station in Canada. We are in the course of completing negotiations which will finally end with an exchange of a formal note which then will define exactly the conditions under which the nuclear weapons for defensive purposes can stored—not for transportation by SAC bombers, but purely for the air defence squadrons of the United States Air Force stationed at Goose Bay and Harmon Field.”

    Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, p. 397.

The Prime Minister
July 4, 1960.

“…On February 20, 1959, as reported on page 1221 of Hansard, I set forth the views of the Canadian government with respect to this matter, and they remain unchanged. At that time I set forth, as I say, that the full potential of these defensive weapons is achieved only when they are armed with nuclear warheads, and that of course



was referring to Bomarc and other defensive weapons.

“ I followed that statement by a complete statement on January 18, 1960, in which I used these words, which are to be found on page 73 of Hansard:” (see above)

“Since that time there have been continuing negotiations. By that I mean discussions between the representatives of the two countries. I am in no position to advise that there has been any determination made as a result of these discussions which would permit as yet of any negotiation taking place as between the Department of External Affairs and the department of state of the United States.”

“…in so far as general policy is concerned we are always in this position. On the one hand we are desirous of attaining disarmament; on the other hand we have to discharge our responsibility of ensuring to the maximum degree the security of the Canadian people. So far as that is concerned, discussions are taking place with respect to the Goose Bay and Harmon air bases, where an endeavour is being made to arrive at a formula which will ensure that Canadians in those bases shall exercise joint control….”

Hansard, p. 5653.



The Prime Minister
July 14, 1960.

  1. “…it is a well known fact that United States law requires that the ownership of nuclear weapons must remain with the United States and that the use of such weapons requires presidential authorization. That is the law as it now stands and as it has been in effect since 1945 or 1946.

    “At the same time, as I have said before in the house, if and when nuclear weapons are acquired by the Canadian forces, these weapons will not be used except as the Canadian government decides and in the manner approved by the Canadian government. These two elements together constitute joint control, and joint control is consistent with the view I expressed in the house on February 20, 1959, that it is important to limit the spread of nuclear weapons at the independent disposal of national governments.

    “I think I should add this, that negotiations and consultations with the United States, have been continuing for a very considerable time, and the reasons for the continuance of the negotiations is in order to attain the objective I pointed out in February, 1959, so that is and when an agreement is arrived at under the terms and on the conditions that I have repeatedly



    placed before the house, we shall be in a position to finally determine this matter.”

Hansard, p. 6271-2.

  1. “One determines a course by first taking the necessary steps as to the principles on which nuclear weapons would be accepted. Then when we have arrived at that point a determination will be made on the basis of international situations now existing, which are very grave, and in the light of any subsequent circumstances that may develop between now and the time would be in a position in any event to have atomic weapons.”

    Hansard, p. 6272

The Minister of National Defence
August 4, 1960.

“…We are, therefore, going ahead with the procurement of the vehicles which can use these nuclear weapons, but the decision as to the acquisition of the nuclear warheads depends on circumstances which might help develop sometime in the future…”


Hansard, p. 7557

The Minister of National Defence
August 5, 1960.

  1. “…We are entering into and have been carrying on discussions at various levels, the official level and between Canadian ministers and United States ministers, as to the sort of arrangement which could be made when nuclear



    warheads are made available which, as the Prime Minister said, will be so if and when they are required. We recognize, and I am sure the Leader of the Opposition does also, that by United States law these nuclear warheads whenever they leave the United States must still remain the property of the United States. So whether these warheads are placed in Canada or in the leased bases in Canada or in the United Kingdom, the United States still retain possession of them until such a time as the President of the United States releases them for use to the authorities of the country concerned.

    “In the United Kingdom where these nuclear weapons are not stored a form of joint control is exercised whereby a United States officer has a key to the receptacle where they are stored and also a British officer has a key, and the door cannot be opened unless both keys are used. So you have a form of joint control not dissimilar to the method which is used by anybody having a safety deposit box in the bank where the banker has one key and the lessee of the box has the other.

    “There would seem to be no difficulties in the way of reaching some sort of similar agreement regarding the storage of those nuclear weapons on Canadian soil. Then when the situation becomes



    such that these weapons are to be used, the sole authority to authorize the use of those weapons in Canada would be the Prime Minister of Canada who, having had them released by the President of the United States, would then give directions as to when and how they should be actually used.”

Hansard, p. 7652

  1. “…It is my opinion that NATO does not have sufficient strength in personnel and conventional arms to be able to resist an attack by Russian forces which would be supported by their conventional arms and, as we know, the Russian army is equipped with tactical nuclear weapons. If our soldiers are to have a fighting chance should they be attacked I feel it is imperative that they should have the use of nuclear weapons in the same way that the soldiers of the other allied countries will have nuclear weapons released to them through the NATO commander.”

    Hansard, p. 7654

  2. “…A question was asked whether our 104 squadrons would use nuclear weapons. All I can say there is that they would have the capability of using these weapons. Whether they would be allowed to operate with them from French bases I do not know. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition is aware of all the discussion there has been about the matter. That would have to



    be arranged by the NATO supreme allied commander with the French government and, in any event, we have air bases in Germany as well as in France. That is a problem which will have to be faced when the new aircraft become available. …”

Hansard, p. 7655

Chronology of Recent Opposition Statements
Regarding Negotiations on Acquisition
And Storage of Nuclear Weapons

The Leader of the Opposition
January 20, 1960.

“… If these weapons are released to Canadian forces, for use by Canadian forces for the defence of Canada, they should be owned by Canada and should used under Canadian authority exclusively.”

Hansard, p. 139.

Mr. Hellyer
August 4, 1960.

“…The Prime Minister has said repeatedly that any atomic warheads stored in Canada would be under Canadian control. Obviously, however, this is not possible under United States law. The most that could be conceivably expected, would be so-called joint control. This is an arrangement under which Canada would have the discretion whether to use atomic warheads but only after they had been released to Canada by the President of the United States. It would be a questions of whether to use uncle’s car but only after uncle had decided it would be safe to turn over the key.”

“…It (the Government) involves us in the acquisition of weapons which only reach their full



potential when armed with atomic warheads before any decision has been reached whether or not to so equip them. …”

Hansard, p. 7566

“…. It is our contention, therefore, that the government should discontinue at once its participation in the SAGE-Bomarc system, and not proceed with the installation of radar gap fillers. …Elimination of the SAGE-Bomarc system in Canada would eliminate the necessity for Canada storing or using atomic warheads on Canadian territory. The supersonic interceptors, which we would be acquiring under this arrangement, could be armed with conventional guided missiles such as the side-winder. There would then be no immediate question of extending control of atomic weapons to another power. …”

Hansard, p. 7567.

“…We regret the decision of the government to re-equip (the air division) on the basis of the strike attack role. Canada has not in the past contributed to the offensive potential in any way and especially any nuclear potential. .... Re-equipping the air division in this way creates a number of problems. … It creates the problem of the use by Canadian forces in Europe of nuclear weapons under national and not under collective control. By “national” I mean United States control. If such weapons, even tactical



defensive ones, are to be used as part of NATO defence forces, this should only be as a result of a collective NATO decision and if they are brought under NATO’s collective control. …”

Hansard, p. 7568.

“With respect to atomic weapons being used by NATO, as we have stated we urge a complete revaluation of the NATO policy to determine if it would not be possible to build up conventional forces. We have stated that we would not wish to anticipate the results of such reconsideration. If after this reconsideration it was felt that situations might arise when nuclear defensive weapons have to be used, then we would urge, provided it was a collective agreement, that these weapons be supplied and used or not used in respect to a collective NATO agreement. …”

Hansard p. 7572

Mr. Winch
August 4, 1960

“…No nuclear weapons should be permitted on or over Canadian soil.”

“…Canada must urge on NATO a fundamental revision of its present nuclear strategy coupled with a reorganization of its forces so that any aggression with conventional weapons



can be repulsed with conventional weapons. …”

Hansard, p. 7577

The Leader of the Opposition
August 5, 1960.

“…It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that our experience in the last three years has shown that in attempting to participate in continental defence in the way we have, we are becoming, nothing more than just the last two knots on the Bomarc tail of the defence kite. I believe that in getting out of this position, which I consider to be an ineffective one for Canada, we would be rejecting the use by us of any form of nuclear weapons for what is mistakenly called the defence of our territory. …”

Hansard, p. 7606.

“…I say in any event that Canada should categorically reject the proposition that her NATO forces should be equipped with nuclear weapons of any kind indeed; not only Canadian NATO forces, but all NATO forces should reject this proposition that there should be nuclear weapons of any kind under exclusive national control, whether it is the control of the country using them—which might be France, which has them now or will have them—or the control of another country is supplying the. No NATO forces should be equipped with tactical



nuclear weapons at all in those circumstances. I have not come out finally and unconditionally against such prohibition, because this re-examination is going on. But if NATO forces are to be equipped with tactical nuclear weapons at all, until some international agreement is reached outlawing these weapons completely, I suggest that this should be done only as the result of a collective NATO decision taken on the highest political level of the council, a decision which would also provide for collective NATO control and use. …”

“…Until such a final decision has been made by NATO on the highest political level, in my view Canada should not even consider equipping her European NATO forces with any kind of nuclear weapon.”

“…we should not have our air division in Europe equipped with aircraft, the CF-104, carrying, not under collective control but under United States control, what has been referred to as a baby nuclear bomb in a strike attack role. …”

Hansard, p. 7610.

“…I think this change of direction which I have mentioned should always have in mind the desirability of preparing our forced on land, on sea and in the air for international service,



preferably under the United Nations, and getting out of nuclear armament completely, without getting out of our collective commitments. …”

Hansard, p. 7611


February 16, 1959

Last autumn the Government announced its intention to introduce the BOWC ground-to-air missile into the Canadian air defence system and to equip the Canadian Brigade in Europe with the LACROSS ground-to-ground Missile.

  1. The Government’s decision to acquire these modern weapons for use by the Canadian forces was based on its appreciation, in the light of the best expert advice available, of the need to strengthen our air defence in the fact of this threat to the continent and on its determination to continue a full and effective contribution to the NATO shield. The full potential of these defensive weapons is achieved only when they are armed with nuclear warheads.
  2. The Government is, therefore, examining with the United States Government questions connected with the acquisition of nuclear warheads for BOMARC and other defensive weapons for use by the Canadian forces in Canada and the storage of warheads in Canada. The problems connected with the arming of the Canadian Brigade in Europe with short range nuclear-capable delivery systems for NATO’s defence tasks are also being considered.
  3. We are confident that we will be able to reach formal agreement on satisfactory means to serve our common objective. It will of course be some time before these weapons will be available for use by Canadian forces. At an appropriate time the Government



    will inform the House, within the limits of security, of the general terms of understanding which are reached between the two Governments on this subject, and an opportunity will be provided for the House to discuss them.

  4. I wish at this time, however, to give the House an indication of certain basic considerations in the Government’s thinking on the question of the acquisition and control of nuclear weapons.
  5. The first important consideration is the Government’s firm belief in the importance of limiting the spread of nuclear weapons at the independent disposal of national governments. The Secretary of State for External Affairs said in the External Affairs Committee on July 29, last, that it took but little imagination to envisage the dangers of the situation if the know-how with respect to the production of nuclear weapons were disseminated in numerous countries of the world. The prospect of further dissemination of such techniques continues to be a matter of fundamental concern to the Government. As a contribution to this important objective, it is the policy of the Canadian Government not to undertake the production of nuclear weapons in Canada, though we believe our scientists and technicians are quite capable of making them.
  6. The second consideration is the Government’s determination to leave no avenue unexplored in the search for an acceptable agreement on disarmament with the Soviet Union, even though we must reluctantly admit the need in present circumstances for nuclear weapons



    of a defensive character. We will not lose sight of this objective of disarmament. Even if that objective is capable of only partial realization, as for example in agreed zones of inspection in the Arctic, or agreed measures to guard against surprise attack, our firm support can be counted on. In the meantime, however, we cannot minimize the importance of providing the strongest deterrence to aggression and of protecting the deterrent power against surprise attacks.


  1. The third basic consideration is the Government’s commitments to support the collective security of the NATO alliance. Whether our effort is made directly in continental defence – the defence of the Canada-United States Region of NATO – or whether it is made on the continent of Europe, it will be made in concert with the efforts of our NATO partners. In the one content as in the other, it is the Government’s intention to provide Canadian forces with modern and efficient weapons to enable them to fulfill their respective roles.
  2. Following from the Government’s belief that the spread of nuclear weapons at the independent disposal of national governments should be limited, we believe it is right that ownership and custody of the nuclear warheads should remain with the United States. The requirements of Canadian and United States legislation on atomic energy will continue to apply. There will be no change in Canada’s responsibility for regulating all flights of aircraft over Canadian territory.



  1. The Canadian and United States Governments have assumed joint responsibility for the air defence of Canada and the continental United States including Alaska and have implemented their responsibilities through the establishment of the North American Air Defence Command. The Canadian Government exercises with the United States Government joint responsibility for the [(defensive) –scratched out] operations of the Command including the use of defensive nuclear weapons if that should become necessary. In the event that these defensive weapons are made available for use by NORAD, they could be used only in accordance with procedures governing NORAD’s operations approved in advance by the two Governments. These weapons, therefore, would be used from Canadian territory or in Canadian air space only under conditions previously agreed to by the Canadian Government. This interpretation by the Canadian Government of the exercise of common responsibility for continental air defence is shared by the United States Government.
  2. The procedures concerning custody and control of nuclear warheads for us by Canadian forces operating under the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and Supreme Allied Commander in the North Atlantic ocean will be subject to negotiation with appropriate NATO partners and the Supreme Allied Commanders.

Secret [scratched out] and Personal

January 8th, 1961

Memorandum for the Prime Minister:

Re: Nuclear weapons; policy statement

I have been thinking of the substance and tactics on this subject before getting down to wording and would like your direction on several points.

On substance, I believe you have now reached the conclusion that we should make the necessary arrangements with the United States to have nuclear weapons available for the Canadian forces, under joint control, and in accordance with the basic policies outline in your statement of February 20th, 1959. I hope this is the case, for I feel these defensive weapons are needed now in Canada for anti-bomber and anti-submarine defence. I think the real need for our forces in Europe having them is less urgent, but we have made clear-cut commitments to NATO on the matter and there would be serious trouble here and in Europe in cancelling or frustrating the huge F104 programme to re-equip our air division there. Moreover, I think there is another type of danger in serious delay; should you decide after an election to have these weapons available for the defence of Canada, many people would say or think that you had knowingly risked the security of Canada and the Alliance for election purposes.

Therefore I assume that what you want is a statement announcing that we are negotiating now with the United States the arrangements by which


nuclear warheads can be kept available in Canada under joint control for the use of Canadian and U.S. forces if and when they are required in defensive anti-aircraft and anti-submarine weapons. The statement would recognize the arguments for not having such weapons, disarmament and the desire not to enlarge the nuclear club, and would justify our delays on those grounds, but say why we feel the defence arguments now outweigh these considerations.

On tactics, I would suggest you consider asking the House of Commons to approve by suitable resolution the Government taking these necessary steps to be ready to protect the country and the Alliance. There has been so much said and written outside of Parliament by well meaning but ill-informed people on this subject, that I feel the air should be cleared and the Government given a chance to explain the real situation so far as security permits (which is pretty far) by a proper debate in the House early in the session. Moreover, it will I think strengthen your position on balance to have such a debate and make it necessary for the Liberals to declare themselves in a responsible way in advance of the campaign. The CCF (NDP) will no doubt oppose, but will have more difficulty in doing so in debate than on the hustings. I think most of those who will oppose you on this issue, after a good debate, will likely be voting NDP anyway, or for Pearson as winner of the Nobel peace prize.

The chief difficulty is, of course, Mr. Green and this causes me serious concern for I have much respect and affection for him, even when I cannot agree with him. I should be glad to help in any way I can in preparing memoranda for you to give him or in talking to those of his officials, chiefly Norman Robertson, who encourage him


in this last ditch opposition to our having these warheads available.

Perhaps I should add that I do not think we need to be in this nuclear business indefinitely. Our role in Europe should be, within a few years, as part of the non-nuclear force there on which the United States now puts such emphasis, if indeed we need to remain in Europe at all for more than five years or so. In North America, the importance of the ICBM and Polaris-type missiles will grow so rapidly in the next five years that defensive nuclear weapons of the nature we are planning to have within Canada will become much less important than now, and we could leave them to the United States and perhaps turn our efforts to special non-nuclear forces to use in some sort of international set up. But it is clearly far too early for that now and we should have ready as soon as possible the defensive weapons that would be important during the next five years or so.





January 14th, 1960

Nuclear Weapons for Canadian Forces

As I stated at the last session, the Government believes in limiting the spread of nuclear weapons at the independent disposal of national governments. We are planning arrangements now for arming the Canadian forces with defensive weapons using nuclear warheads, such as the BOMARC anti-aircraft missile, which will be consistent with this principle. Our need for such weapons will arise only in defensive operations taken jointly with the forces of the United States. Therefore we propose to obtain from the United States the nuclear warheads required, at the time they are needed.

In order to have these warheads available when and where they are needed, we are asking the United States Government to keep them in storage on the bases, in Canada or in Europe, from which the Canadian units are operating. They will remain in U.S. ownership, in accordance with U.S. law, but subject of course to Canadian law while in Canada until such time as they are transferred to the Canadian forces by decisions and orders of the President of the United States and the Government of Canada. If the bases are in third countries, for example in Europe, the concurrence of a third government may also be required.

One question on which there should be no doubt is that the decision to authorize the Canadian forces to use these weapons will be taken by the Canadian Government. This Canadian decision would be put into effect through the commanders of NORAD, SACLANT or SACEUR under whom the Canadian units concerned will be serving.


In Canada we contemplate arrangements being made to construct the special facilities needed to store these warheads on our bases. In storage the warheads will remain the property of the United States, maintained and safeguarded by the minimum numbers of U.S. personnel required to discharge these duties. These storage and maintenance facilities will be guarded by Canadian forces who will thus be responsible for the external security of the storage site, as well as the base as a whole. Some modification of these arrangements may be necessary at Canadian NATO bases in Europe where it is expected that common NATO storage facilities will be provided.

We hope that before many years have passed there will be a sufficient further relaxation of tensions, and sufficient progress made in disarmament, that it will not be necessary to keep these nuclear weapons on our bases. Until that time they will, when we complete the arrangements with the United States, strengthen our joint defences against aggression.

Handwritten: “Vault, 3 of 24”


To external 326 emergency

For Prime Minister and Minister


We were called to the state dept at 5:45 pm this evening and handed copies of a press announcement scheduled for release at 6:15 pm. Text in following tel.

  1. Willis Armstrong, after apologizing that it had not rpt not been possible to give us more advance notice of press announcement, said that he was under instructions to make certain supplementary comments, as follows.
  2. First, there had been four years of discussions on this problem. Every effort to solve it had proved abortive, and [quote] not rpt not really for technical reasons. [unquote]
  3. Second, the USA authorities had examined thoroughly the possibilities of storing components in USA on a stand by basis but had concluded that this was a contrived solution which no rpt not only might fail to strengthen continental air defences but might also create added confusion at times of growing emergency. Moreover, in USA view the stand by solution contemplated would mislead public opinion as to the state of air defences.
  4. Third, USA authorities did not rpt not see the relevance of refs to the Nassau Agreement in the context of the USA CDN negotiations on nuclear weapons for CDN forces in Europe. (Honest John and F104G) were designed for nuclear weapons. If they were to be assigned to a NATO nuclear force under the Nassau agreement they would be fully effective only if equipped with nuclear weapons.
  5. Fourth, with regard to the argument about the obsolescence of weapons systems, there was in USA view a difference between (a) cancelling weapons systems which were becoming obsolete and (b) immobilizing modern weapons by not rpt not taking parts which were …2

Page Two 326

Essential to the full operational effectiveness of such weapons.

  1. Armstrong volunteered certain additional comments. He said that the purpose of the statement was primarily to set out in factual terms the status of the problem as USA admin saw it in the light of the PMs speech in the House on Jan 25. There had been much press comment and speculation, largely in CDA but some of it from USA, which in the USA view made it all the more necessary to state clearly USA side of the case. No rpt no ref had been made in the statement to the fact that the disclosure of the negotiations had been made in Ott without advance notification to USA but this factor had caused much concern in WashDC. He went on, however, to draw attention to the fact that the announcement was so drafted as not rpt not to preclude further negotiations.
  2. Armstrong said that it was realized that the publication of this statement would cause concern and controversy in Ott but he said that after consideration of all the circumstances they had decided that it was impossible to withhold comment.
  3. With regard to para5 above Armstrongs attention was called to the misinterpretation which he had implied in his comments on the PMs refs to the Nassau Agreement. Armstrong was also reminded of the views I had expressed on Jan 29 to Tyler asst sec for European affairs regarding (a) the positive possibilities of continuing negotiations, as set forth in the PMs speech of Jan 25. And (b) the unfortunate effects which a public statement by USA Govt would have in CDA. As to Armstrongs remarks on the substance of the negotiations, we said that we would withhold comment until we received instructions from you