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Father of the Atlantic Pact

Louis Stephen St-Laurent never cared much for politics, its gamesmanship or its pretense. Yet under the leadership of this reluctant but passionate visionary, Canada witnessed an era of unprecedented prosperity and international influence. Accusations of arrogance would eventually cause St-Laurent to retire an embattled and disillusioned man. But the golden age would forever be the legacy of "Uncle Louis." The CBC Archives looks back at Canada's unassuming prime minister.

If the Second World War convinced Louis St-Laurent of the need to get involved in international affairs, the Red threat confirmed it. With the emergence of the Cold War and a seemingly weak United Nations, St-Laurent is determined to secure peace and security some other way. As NATO's chief proponent, his mission began as Canada's foreign minister, but it was as its leader that the vision would finally be realized. Deemed one of his finest achievements, this CBC footage includes the historic speech St-Laurent delivers regarding NATO's inauguration. 
• After becoming Prime Minister, St-Laurent planned on calling an election to confirm his position by popular mandate. But he had two pressing obligations that took precedence. One was to bring Newfoundland into Canada and the other was to get the approval of Parliament for Canada's membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. With only two dissenting votes, his second goal was accomplished on March 28, 1949.

• St-Laurent's first appeal for public support of NATO was conducted in a national broadcast on Nov. 11, 1948. He argued that it was not enough to have the right to national security; what was necessary was the ability to defend that right.

• On April 1949, Canada was the first country to vote for the ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance.

• A strong ally of St-Laurent, Lester B. Pearson, Canada's external affairs minister played a significant role in selling NATO to the Canadian public and negotiating Canada's membership in the organization.

• The first 12 signatories to the North Atlantic Treaty were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower was selected as the first supreme allied commander.

• One of the most significant and unifying points of the treaty is Article Five. Outlining NATO's focus on international security, it states that an "an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all."
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television Special
Broadcast Date: July 23, 1973
Duration: 1:38

Last updated: June 18, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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