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Posted by George Freund on October 26, 2015 at 4:55 PM

1962-1963, Canada:  'Knocking Over' "Dief the Chief"

A Plot "Made in the U.S."
By Richard Sanders, coordinator, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker

    In 1962, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Livingston Merchant, and his Second Secretary Charles Kisselyak, fuelled a plot among the Canadian Air Forces, Canadian journalists and others to dispose of Prime Minister Diefenbaker.

    Kennedy hated Dief largely for his anti-nuclear stance.  Merchant and other U.S. embassy officers with espionage backgrounds, met at Kissel-yak's home in Ottawa to feed journalists with spaghetti, beer and anti-Diefen-baker/pronuclear  propaganda.  Among the many participants in these off-the-record briefings was Charles Lynch of Southam News.

Diefenbaker later denounced these reporters as "traitors" and "foreign agents."  He lashed out against Lynch on a TV program saying, "You were given briefings as to how the Canadian government could be attacked on the subject of nuclear  weapons and the failure of the Canadian government to do that which the U.S. dictated."

    Merchant and Kisselyak work-ed with RCAF Wing Commander Bill Lee and NORAD's number two man, Canadian Air Marshall Roy Slemon.  Air Marshall Hugh Campbell and the chair of Canada's chiefs of staff, Air Marshall Frank Miller also approved Lee's campaign. Diefenbaker's avidly pronuclear Defence Minister, Douglas Harkness, also knew of Lee's effort.

    As head of RCAF public relations, Lee went to Washington twice a month to confer with U.S. authorities.  "It was a flat-out campaign," he later said.  "We identified key journalists, business and labour, key Tory hitters, and...Liberals.... We wanted people with influence on members of cabinet. In the end the pressure paid off." 

    In 1962, new U.S. ambassador,  William Butterworth, continued the "flat-out campaign" by holding discrete meetings at the U.S. embassy to exert influence on Canadian journalists.

    Lester Pearson was the President's choice.  Kennedy gave the go-ahead to his friend and America's leading pollster, Lou Harris, to become the Liberal's secret campaign advisor in the 1962 election.  Diefenbaker survived with a minority government.

    The plot to bring down Canada's government came to a head in January, 1963.  On Jan.3, top U.S. Air Force General Lauris Norstad held an Ottawa press conference. 
Prompted by questions from Lynch, and other reporters briefed by U.S. intelligence, Norstad criticized Canada's antinuclear stance.  On Jan. 12, Pearson announced his new policy of supporting U.S. nuclear weapons in Canada.  In protest, Pierre Trudeau called Pearson the "defrocked priest of peace" and refused to run for the Liberals.

President J.F.Kennedy (during his TV address concerning the “Cuban Missile Crisis” October 1962.)


The coup's final blow came when the U.S. State Department issued a press release which called Diefenbaker a liar on nuclear issues (Jan. 30). This tactic was suggested by Willis Armstrong,  head of the State Department's Canada Desk in Washington. 

Butterworth added his suggestions and sent his senior embassy advisor, Rufus Smith, to Washington to draft it.  "With Armstrong chairing, half a dozen officials from State, the White House and the Pentagon...shaped...the rebuke."  The draft was polished by Under Secretary of State George McGhee and approved by acting Secretary of State, George Ball, and national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy.

    The Canadian media had a heyday attacking Diefenbaker. Fights broke out in Cabinet.  Diefenbaker recalled Canada's ambassador from the U.S.  On Feb. 5, Defence Minister Harkness announced his resignation and Pearson called for a non-confidence vote.  Dief's minority government fell, or  rather, it was 'knocked over.'

    Kisselyak was the U.S. embassy's contact to Pearson's election campaign. The Liberals had the strong advantages of a friendly media and Harris' state-of-the-art, computerized polling tactics.  Diefenbaker, facing a primed hostile media, ran a stridently anti-U.S. campaign.  Pearson's victory was hailed by newspapers across North America.  Within days, the new External Affairs Minister, Paul Martin Sr., was approached by Butterworth to negotiate the acceptance of U.S. nuclear weapons.  The warheads were deployed in Canada on New Year's Eve and there was partying in Washington.

Sources: Knowlton Nash, Kennedy and Diefenbaker, 1990 and Floyd Rudmin "Is the Sky Falling, or What?," Feb. 20, 1995

For more material relating to the US role subverting Canadian democracy, refer to these excellent articles by Prof. Floyd Rudmin:
Key Quotations on the events of January 1963

President John F. Kennedy said the U.S. would take a stronger leadership role in NATO "even at the risk of offending sensitive allies."
(AP interview, Jan.2)

On General Norstad's Media conference, Jan. 3
"[Norstad's] purpose was to establish a basis for Pearson's conversion to U.S. nuclear policy."

"Kennedy sent Norstad to do this hatchet job on us. It was American imperialism of the highest order."
(Alvin Hamilton, Agriculture minister)

"This was another American turn of the screw to bring down the Conservative government."
(Charles Ritchie, Canada's ambassador to the U.S.)

On Pearson decision to reverse Liberal Policy and accept U.S. nuclear warheads into Canada (if elected), Jan. 12

"Kennedy achieved his dearest Canadian wish. Pearson progressed... to embracing the U.S. position on arming with nuclear weapons the Bomarcs and, no doubt, yielding to U.S. demands for storage of all manner of nuclear devices in Canada."

"A pure example of Pearson's willingness to accept the leadership of the U.S. on any vital matter."

Liberal policies were "made in the U.S."
(Tommy Douglas, NDP Leader)

On the U.S. press release, Jan. 30

"It was as deliberate an attempt as ever made to bring down a foreign government."
(Ed Ritchie, former under secretary of state for external affairs)

"This action by the State Department of the U.S. is constitutes an unwarranted intrusion in Canadian affairs... [Canada] will not be pushed around or accept external domination or interference in making its decisions." "President Kennedy was going to obliterate us. I dared to say to him that Canada's policies would be made in Canada by Canadians."

"An absolute outrage, the most blatant, heavy-handed, intolerable piece of bullying."
(Charles Ritchie)

"Like a bombshell"
(a Diefenbaker aide)

"Brazen interference."
(Howard Green, External Affairs Minister)

"The U.S. should know from this Parliament that they are not dealing with Guatemala...or Cuba."

"Kennedy decided the government had to go...[I] wouldn't put it past him  to say, 'Get rid of the bastards.'"
(R.Bell, Immigration Minister)

"Very useful. Highly beneficial in advancing U.S. interests by introducing realism into a government which has made anti-Americanism... practically its entire stock in trade."
(William Butterworth, U.S. ambassador to Canada)

"For God's sake, it was like tossing a match into dried hay."
(Rufus Smith, senior advisor to Will Butterworth)

Trudeau's summary of the events of January 1963
"Do you think General Norstad... came to Ottawa as a tourist?... Do you think it was by chance that Pearson... quoted the authority of Norstad?  Do you think it was inadvertant that on January 30 the state department gave a statement to journalists reinforcing Pearson's claims and crudely accusing Diefenbaker of lying?  You think it was by chance that this press release provided the Leader of the Opposition with the arguments he used abundantly?  You believe it was coincidence?  Why [should] the U.S. treat Canada differently from Guatemala when reason of state requires it and circumstances permit?"
(Pierre E. Trudeau)

Source: From K.Nash, Kennedy and Diefenbaker: Fear and Loathing Across the Undefended Border, 1990.

John Diefenbaker's "Made in Canada" Policies

"Diefenbaker promoted Canadian independence with evangelical zeal... 'We are a power, not a puppet,' the Chief thundered during the controversy over the placement of U.S. nuclear warheads in Canada. 'His rampant nationalism alienated the entire ruling class: Bay Street, Wall Street, his civil service and politicians from all parties.  [George] Grant credited the Chief with the strongest stance against satellite status ever attempted by a Canadian.  This stance came at a high price."
Source: Laurence Martin, Pledge of Allegiance, The Americanization of Canada in the Mulroney Years, 1993.

Cuban Missile Crisis: 

When U.S. spy planes showed missile sites being constructed in Cuba, Kennedy decided to blockade Russian ships en route to Cuba.  Despite NORAD, the Canada-U.S. Permanent Joint Board on Defense and NATO, Kennedy neither consulted nor informed the Canadian government until [two hours] before his TV speech on Oct. 22,  1962.
The U.S. asked the Canadian government to move our military to an advanced state of readiness.  Diefenbaker did not comply.  Nonetheless, Canada's military moved immediately to advanced readiness without the Prime Minister's authorization.  Canada's chief of naval staff ordered the Atlantic fleet to sea.  Canada's Minister of Defense ordered the military's Chiefs of Staff to special preparedness.
General McNaughton's 1941 remark is painfully relevant: "The acid test of sovereignty is control of the armed forces."1  Howard Green, Canada's anti-nuclear External Affairs minister, pleaded that cabinet reconsider "blindly following the U.S. lead, particularly since the President had not kept the commitment to consult Canada over the impending [missile] crisis.
'If we go along with the U.S. now, we'll be their vassal forever.'"2

1. C.P. Stacey, Canada and the Age of Conflict, Vol.2, p.349.
2. Peter Newman, Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years, p.337, p.337.

Source: Robin Mathews, Canadian Foundations web site


The Avro and the Bomarcs:
Diefenbaker cancelled the Avro Arrow fighter plane program (1959) because the U.S. wouldn't buy any of them.  Although then expected to arm Canada's Bomarc missiles with U.S. nuclear warheads, Diefenbaker refused.

Operation Sky Hawk:
Dief cancelled a U.S. nuclear war-related training exercise over Canada (1959).

Diefenbaker refused U.S. demands to stop trading with Cuba, and instead increased Canada's trade (1960).

At a Commonwealth conference (1961), Diefenbaker was the only white leader to support the African and Asian members against allowing South African membership.

After Diefenbaker's Bill of Rights (1960), the government reduced immigration restrictions based on racial grounds and began to accept more Asian and black immigrants.

Dief appointed the first women cabinet minister and senator.

First Nations:
Native people allowed to vote for the first time (1960).

Dief resented JFK's speech to Parliament urging Canada to join the Organization of American States, because Dief had already refused (1961).

Diefenbaker refused U.S. requests to cut off wheat supplies to China if they continued supporting Vietnamese independence efforts (1962).

Nuclear Test Ban:
Kennedy pushed for opposition to the treaty, but Canada voted for it (1962). The U.S. and most NATO countries abstained.

Sources: Knowlton Nash, Kennedy and Diefenbaker, 1990 and

1964: Knocking Over Lester B. Pearson
from :

 March 29, 2003 Calgary Herald / CanWest News Service By Jamie Portman
CIA was out to get Pearson, film says:
Plot centres on mysterious death of diplomat

The CTV network is about to unveil a controversial new movie that suggests the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was prepared to go to any lengths -- even murder -- four decades ago to destroy Canadian Prime Minister Lester
Pearson and bring down his Liberal government.

Pearson's offence? He offended Washington by pursuing an independent foreign policy and by being too friendly toward the Soviets when the Cold War was at its peak.

The movie, Agent of Influence, is scheduled to premiere April 13 on CTV (Ch. 3) and threatens to lob another grenade into the already troubled terrain of Canada-U.S. relationships.

Ian Adams, who wrote the original 1999 book on which the film is based and co-authored the script with his son Riley, admits it contains parallels to the present situation, which sees Prime Minister Jean Chretien in trouble
with the Americans for refusing to bring Canada into the war against Iraq.

"They hoped to get Pearson because they were convinced he was a KGB agent himself," Adam told CanWest News Service. "They saw his diplomatic activities in the United Nations and his opposition to the war in Vietnam as the activities of someone who was a Soviet agent or acting in the interests of the Soviet Union. It's exactly the same kind of thinking that's going on today -- and it's somewhat eerie."

The Alberta-Quebec co-production focuses on a troubling event in Cold War history -- the mysterious 1964 death of Canadian diplomat John Watkins in a Montreal hotel room. Watkins, a close friend of Pearson and former Canadian ambassador to Moscow, was picked up by RCMP special agents in Montreal and taken to a hotel room for interrogation. A few days later, he was dead.

The official story was that he had died of a heart attack during a farewell dinner with friends in a Montreal restaurant before returning to Europe.

Adams thinks otherwise. His thesis is that Watkins, who is portrayed in the movie by Christopher Plummer, became an innocent pawn in a plot to discredit Pearson. Watkins himself was deemed a security risk by the Americans because of his homosexuality and his access to the Kremlin's inner circles, and the film speculates that the aim of his interrogation was to force a confession that he had been recruited by the KGB to influence Canadian foreign policy.

Adams, who has written several books on covert intelligence activities, was researching an earlier book when he began hearing "whispers that Watkins had not died according to the official story. These whispers came from former RCMP intelligence officers and a couple of people at the deputy minister level in the bureaucracy."

Adams went to Quebec's provincial archives to examine Watkins's death certificate and recognized one of the witness signatures as that of an RCMP security officer.

"I recognized right away that he had not died among friends. John Watkins was not the kind of man to spend his last day in Canada with RCMP officers."

Adams then checked with the provincial coroner, who told him that the men who signed the certificate had not revealed their police connections.

"When you die in this country in police custody, you immediately get an inquest and an autopsy, and Watkins was denied both," Adams points out.

After Adams published his initial findings in 1980, the Parti Quebecois government swiftly ordered an inquest into Watkins's 1964 death. The RCMP refused to hand over the full report, claiming it would damage national
security, but finally admitted Watkins had died under police interrogation in the Montreal hotel room and that he had not given into Soviet blackmailing tactics and was not a traitor. But Adams wasn't satisfied, sensing Canadians had only heard part of the truth. Watkins's fate continued to haunt him.

"I carried the story around in my head for 20 years, gradually piecing it together. It's a fascinating story. I couldn't understand why they wanted to get to Watkins, and it was only after more digging and talking to more people that I realized they were really after Pearson and wanted to extract a confession from Watkins that would incriminate Pearson in some way."

Adams concedes that portions of the story are speculative and stresses that apart from Watkins, all the characters are "fictional composites." But he says everything that happens in the movie is consistent with what he knows
about the Central Intelligence Agency.

Among the more inflammatory ingredients: a vicious, homophobic CIA agent (Ted Whitthall) -- who controls the interrogation and refuses medication to the angina-stricken Watkins; a Paris sequence involving the torture and
murder of one of Watkins's closest male friends.

"I've seen enough documentation about the way the CIA works around the world in various situations like that," Adams says bluntly.

"Look at CIA activities around the world and this is the least of things you would accuse the CIA of doing."

GRAPHIC: Photo: Courtesy, CTV; Christopher Plummer stars in Agent of
Influence as Canadian diplomat John Watkins, who died mysteriously in a
Montreal hotel room in 1964.



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