Diefenbaker, Latin America and Caribbean: The Pursuit of Canadian Autonomy
Zorbas, Jason Gregory
John Diefenbaker’s Latin American policy was based on his vision of Canada’s national interest, which placed a strong emphasis on the achievement of greater autonomy in foreign policy for Canada vis-à-vis the US and the expansion of Canadian exports to the region. For Diefenbaker, an enhanced relationship with Latin America had the potential to lessen Canada’s dependency on the US, while giving Latin American countries an outlet for their trade, commercial and financial relations other than the US. This new approach implied that Canada would formulate and implement policy that focused more on Canadian political interests and goals. It was not a matter of charting a totally independent policy for Canada in Latin America –– true policy independence was impossible to achieve. Nor was it the case that Canada would necessarily set itself in opposition to the US when it disagreed with its policies. For Diefenbaker the goal was to pursue a foreign policy that was aligned with, but not subservient to, the US. Ultimately, Diefenbaker’s policies towards countries such as Cuba, Mexico, the Federation of the West Indies, Argentina and Brazil were somewhat successful in expanding Canadian trade and commercial activity beyond the United States, and in establishing a stronger political relationship between Canada and the Latin American region. The policies were remarkably consistent, reflecting Diefenbaker’s desire to increase Canada’s autonomy, and differentiated by his personal involvement in initiating policy at the Cabinet level and in building and cultivating relationships with Latin American leaders; the goal was to further Canadian economic and political interests in the region. Though there were possibilities for greater expansion and connections with Latin America that were missed, Diefenbaker’s Latin American policy would be built upon and continued by successive Liberal and Conservative governments once he left office.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorHandy, Jim; MacKinnon, Janice
CommitteeWaiser, Bill; Kyba, Patrick; Smith-Norris, Martha; Story, Don
Canadian diplomatic history