CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

Ronald Reagan heckled during second visit

The Story

Members of Parliament show up spiteful and full of jeers for President Ronald Reagan's address. "Stop Star Wars now," shouts MP Svend Robinson. "He's mad," calls out another NDP MP Les Benjamin, as heard in this CBC Television report on Reagan's speech. The president ignores the first few catcalls, and then asks playfully: "Is there an echo in here?" Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is embarrassed by the parliamentary hooligans, as he listens attentively in the Parliament with wife Mila. Although the two leaders have difficulty settling key environmental issues, they seem to have a close relationship. In fact, Prime Minister Mulroney has been criticized for being too close with his southern counterpart.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: April 6, 1987
Guest(s): Svend Robinson, John Turner
Reporter: Nicole Baer
Duration: 1:49

Did You know?

• The heckling MPs were protesting President Reagan's disarmament policies. Svend Robinson disagreed with the Star Wars initiative, which proposed to destroy missiles in space. When Les Benjamin called President Reagan "mad," he was alluding to the president's disapproval of MAD - the Mutually Assured Destruction of nuclear weapons initiative.
• MAD is a political concept rooted in the 1950s, when distrust of the Soviet Union was high. Politicians stockpiled nuclear weapons without real fear of war. They believed the Soviets would never press the button first knowing the other side would be able to retaliate.
• During President Reagan's 25-hour visit to Canada, he and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney failed to settle two pressing political issues. There were only four hours set aside to discuss the tabled issues of acid rain and Arctic sovereignty. Even though the points remained unresolved, President Reagan made one concession. He added two small sheets of notes to his parliamentary address. In the addendum, he said he'd "consider the prime minister's proposal for an accord on acid rain."

• Despite the political impasse, the two leaders seemed to have a good relationship. On St. Patrick's Day two years earlier, Prime Minister Mulroney, President Reagan and wives Mila Mulroney and Nancy Reagan sang When Irish Eyes Are Smiling together on national television. 

• The Globe and Mail reported that 15 photo opportunities during the 1987 visit were "pseudo-events" to help improve the images of the two leaders. News reports had recently scandalized President Reagan's CIA-funded Contras, while Prime Minister Mulroney's Cabinet ministers accused him of political conflicts of interest.
• Watch the complete footage of Reagan's 1987 address to Canadian Parliament: Part 1 and Part 2.


Mr. President Goes to Ottawa more