Recapturing the Northern Vision of John G. Diefenbaker and William L. Morton
25 October 2012
“We ask from you a Mandate: a new and stronger Mandate, to pursue the planning and to carry to fruition our New Development Programme for Canada. This National Development Policy will create a new sense of National purpose and National Destiny. One Canada! One Canada, wherein Canadians will have preserved to them the control of their own economic and political destiny. Sir John A. MacDonald gave his life to this Party. He opened the West. He saw Canada from East to West. I see a new Canada—a Canada of the North.
“…There is a new imagination now. The Arctic. We intend to carry out the Legislative Programme of Arctic research, to develop Arctic routes, to develop those vast hidden resources the last few years have revealed. Plans to improve the St. Laurence and the Hudson Bay Route. Plans to increase Self-Government in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. We can see one or two provinces there…Completion of Confederation by developing a self-governing North…”
John G. Diefenbaker,
opening campaign speech,
Winnipeg, Feb. 12, 1958
This Diefenbaker vision of the North included “the development of the national resources for the opening of Canada’s northland (transportation, communications, hydro-electric power), affirming “Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic,” a new 50,000 people Arctic domed city at Frobisher Bay. A “Road to Resources” across Northern Canada to further the development of oil, gas and mineral resources. For Diefenbaker, Northern and Arctic development was not just a campaign promise but a mission he intended to carry to Ottawa and, as the new Prime Minister, attempt to convert Central Canada to adopt such a future vision of the country.
Diefenbaker found a powerful intellectual ally in Manitoba historian William L. Morton, the only historian of his generation to put forward a comprehensive study of Canadian history as a Northern Economy. “Canada, Morton wrote, is a northern country, with a northern economy, a northern way of life and a northern destiny.”
When elected President of the Canadian Historical Association (1960-1962), Morton delivered his CHA Presidential address before his peers assembled at Queen’s University on June 11, 1960.His paper titled The Relevance of Canadian History, was also included as the fourth and most significant section of The Canadian Identity published in 1961:
“…Canadian history is not a parody of Americans, as Canada is not a second-rate United States, still less a United States that failed. Canadian history is rather an important chapter in a distinct and even unique human endeavour, the civilization of the northern and arctic lands. From its deepest origins and remotest beginnings, Canadian history has been separate and distinct in America. The existence of large areas of common experience and territorial overlap no one would deny. History is neither neat nor categorical; it defines by what is central, not by what is peripheral. And because of this separate origin in the northern frontier, economy, and approach, Canadian life to this day is marked by a northern quality…”
“…The relevance of Canadian history lies, then, in the morally defensible character of Canadian purpose in maintaining a northern nation in independence and vigour in the circumstances of the second half of the twentieth century. The first element of that purpose is to be found in the realization of the northern economy. For that Canada possesses the necessary land bases in the great river valleys of the south. It possesses also in ever increasing measure the industrial power by which to bring to bear on the Canadian Shield and the Arctic the technological skill and power to conquer the north. It possesses in its scientists and its universities the knowledge and the capabilities in research to fathom the deep secrets of the north and to measure the hair’s-breadth difference between disaster and success in northern development…”
Building NAWAPA and the Strategic Defence of Earth (SDE)
The Kennedy-Diefenbaker era was filled with optimism: In the United States, the young President toured the Southwest and gave speeches praising the past generations of Americans who had the vision and foresight to build large water infrastructure works to bring fresh water to the arid and desert areas of the United States, a policy that would culminate with the North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA) project being endorsed by Presidential candidate Senator Robert Kennedy. JFK inspired a generation of Americans and people across the globe with his speech announcing that the United States would “put a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.”
In 1962 Canada became the third nation with a space program with the launching of the Alouette satellite. In 1959 Canada and the United States opened the St. Lawrence Seaway, a unique endeavour in maritime history. And in 1958, people across Canada rallied in earnest to the northern Vision of John Diefenbaker. In the mid-sixties, as described by U.S. Senator Frank Moss’ correspondence, the continental NAWAPA project received enthusiastic support across Canada.
Canada and the United States must work together again to rekindle that era’s optimism as we marshal support to finally begin building the NAWAPA project in 2013 as part of a new 21st Century Vision for our Northern and Arctic regions and also revive our commitment to space through the building of a Strategic Defence of Earth (SDE) system.
As LaRouchePac leader Michelle Fuchs presciently wrote at the close of 2011:
“The Arctic “Earth’s window to space” becomes even truer than when that phrase was first coined. Initially it referred to the invisible northern and southern polar portals out of our atmosphere — an influx of extra-terrestrial radiation of which the aurora borealis and australis were only the beautifully visible fringe. Now, it signifies further that the Arctic is our window to space as a new and necessary frontier for humanity: the place where a new cultural renaissance will be fostered, much as the United States realized Nicholas of Cusa’s plan of building humanity’s first true republic on shores distant from the feudal backwardness of Europe. At the same time, here in the Arctic is where we will develop the technologies necessary to achieve that destiny in the stars.”