CBC Digital Archives

Can the United Nations protect the free world?

Its goals were lofty and practical: to protect the free world and each other. Attacking one member of NATO meant you had attacked them all. At first, Canada played an important role as a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during the Cold War. But when the Communist threat died, some Canadians wondered why we were still part of the alliance. As NATO continues to redefine its mandate, Canada struggles to determine its own role.

media clip
After the Second World War, uncertainty reigns supreme. Former allies have become adversaries; Communism, not Nazism, is the new threat to global stability. Remarkably, Canadian Minister for External Affairs Louis St-Laurent becomes the first leader to publicly propose what will eventually become the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a security pact between the Western nations. 
• The United Nations was conceived during the Second World War when 26 countries pledged to continue their alliance in battling the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.

• According to its charter, the United Nations seeks to:
- maintain international peace and security
- develop friendly relations among nations
- co-operate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights
- be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations

• After the Second World War, tensions between the democratic and communist countries escalated. The USSR successfully assumed control over Romania, Poland and Bulgaria. In February 1948, Josef Stalin's Red Army marched across Eastern Europe and staged a bloodless coup in Czechoslovakia. Canada, Britain and the United States responded immediately and met in secret to discuss the possibility of a collective security pact against their UN partner, the USSR.

• "There are important divisions of opinion that might make our hopes of success look pretty flimsy but there is a worldwide demand for a strong and efficient organization for peace and we have to think that failure is impossible. It will require clear thinking and careful acting and we must keep in view the necessity for the sake of all mankind, of not permitting the creation of two worlds, one out to destroy the other." — External Affairs Minister Louis St-Laurent to the Toronto Star, Sept. 16, 1947.

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News
Broadcast Date: Sept. 15, 1947
Reporter: Willson Woodside
Duration: 2:36
Photo: George Hunter / National Film Board of Canada / Library and Archives Canada / PA-143182

Last updated: March 15, 2012

Page consulted on August 29, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Peacekeepers and Peacemakers: Canada's Diplom...

Canada has enjoyed a reputation for diplomacy ever since Lester B. Pearson came up with a nove...

1937: Remembering Robert Borden

Canada pays tribute to the wartime prime minister who passed away on June 10, 1937.

Peacekeeper to the World

For half a century, Canada's Blue Berets have defused escalating tension and conflict with the...

Louis St-Laurent and Canada's Golden Age

Louis Stephen St-Laurent never cared much for politics, its gamesmanship or its pretense. Yet ...

Interview with a Prime Minister

It's the top office in Canada, and the person holding it can often seem larger than life. Typi...

1946: First UN General Assembly opens

In London, England, a new international organization holds the first "town meeting of the worl...