At the beginning of the 20th century, Britain was still guiding Canada‘s foreign relations. Later in the century, Canada was often accused of following U.S.’s lead in foreign affairs, despite Ottawa’s refusal to join the Organization of American States. But there was consternation in Canada, the U.S.A., and some other parts of the world on October 13, 1970, when Mitchell Sharp, Minister of External Affairs, announced in the House of Commons that Canada was giving official recognition to the Republic of China.
The move should not have come as a surprise. Negotiations had taken place of twenty-two months. In fact, the first steps dated back to 1960 when Communist China bought 200,000,000 bushels of wheat from Canada, government led by John Diefenbaker.
Relations became closer when Pierre Elliott Trudeau became Prime Minister in 1968 (see my April 6 post: Trudeau Elected). Trudeau had paid extensive visits to China in 1949 and 1960. The second visit was as a member of the first group of white Westerners to be admitted since the revolution and the visit lasted six weeks. In 1966, Trudeau was a member of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations and he was in favour of the Communist government’s admission as the official representative of China at the U.N. He also told his colleagues that Canada should recognize Communist China.
Canada’s delay in recognizing Communist China is believed to have been due to unwillingness to embarrass the U.S.A. By 1970, the U.S. A. probably welcomed Canada’s move. The New York Times reported that most Americans approved; only the most better anti-Communists were opposed.
Canada’s move was soon followed by the establishment of an embassy from Peking in Ottawa. Communist China was admitted to United Nations as the official representative of China, and President Nixon of the U.S.A. announced that he was going to China to visit the Communist leaders.
There is little doubt that Canada’s recognition of China in 1970 helped to break the dangerous log jam in international affairs.
To learn more about today’s post, I suggest the Government of Canada, and the Canada Treaty Information, and the University of Alberta China Institute, as well as the Canada-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group, and finally the Review of the Bilateral Political Relations.