NORAD’s Influence on the Changing Relationship Between Canada and the United States

     The Cold War has been one of the most prominent precedents that have contributed to the complex and tight-knit relationships that Canada and the U. S. have today. This event was caused by the rise of international tensions that were waged on political, economic, and social issues. The world was divided between two economic ideologies; capitalism in the Western World and communism in Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union was a communist country, and the United States along with other Western countries were capitalists (DesRivieres et al. 132). This war against the Soviet Union convinced most Canadians that the United States was the support they needed to defend their shared values and security as they worried about the spread of communism. Both Canada and the United States feared a long-ranged attack by the Soviet Union, which led to the creation of the North American Air Defence Agreement (NORAD) in 1957. During the Cold War, the creation of NORAD had many controversies which placed tension between Canada and the United States’s relations. Canada had a desire for more independence, as there were differences in the policies integrated into the United States. Due to the NORAD agreement, Canada felt weakened because of their dependency on the U.S. militia. However, NORAD allowed Canada and the United States to grow a strong relationship, developing a stronger sense of trust. 


     Canada was dependent on the United States during the Cold War, due to the NORAD agreement; because the United States stationed their troops on Canadian soil, Canada cancelled one of their most significant military aerospace projects in exchange for U.S. military aircraft, and joined a program which depended on the United States. The fear of a direct Soviet attack from the air induced the United States to build three lines of radar stations across Canada to detect any Soviet attacks over the North Pole, which would give the United States time to launch a counterattack (DesRivieres et al. 135). This establishment was the first time the United States military troops were stationed on Canadian soil. Provided that, Canadians felt that this defence system compromised their country’s independence because Canadian Members of Parliament and journalists had to fly to New York to gain security clearance from the United States authorities to visit the lines. However, this was something Canada sacrificed for more security (DesRivieres et al. 135). Additionally, in 1952-53, Canada and the A.V. Roe (Avro) Company developed a supersonic jet aircraft called Arrow. It was supposed to be an “all-weather nuclear interceptor meant to fly higher and faster than any aircraft in its class” (Chong par. 6). When Arrow was tested on its first flight, it broke four different speed records (Chong par. 14). However, Prime Minister Diefenbaker cancelled the project, as it was too expensive to fund and buy for the Canadian air forces (Chong par. 16). The repeal of the Arrow Project led Canadian governments to buy other military fighter jets, such as the Voodoo fighters from the United States. Also, as an obligation to the NORAD agreement in 1957, Canada joined the Bomarc program, “a surface-to-air guided missile system” (Chong par. 25). This obligation demonstrates how the Canadian Air Forces had to trust and depend on the United States to supply military air jets and defence systems; as Canada cancelled their military

projects in order to save money, honour the NORAD agreement, and to protect the country from Soviet threats.


     The North American Air Defence Agreement brought tension between Canada and the United States, because Canada had a desire to keep their independence, as policies grew different. Although Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was quick on committing to the defence sharing agreement, some controversies occurred as Prime Minister Diefenbaker wanted to ensure that Canada kept its independence. During 1959, the Cuban Missile Crisis showed Canada’s hesitation in supporting United States policies. When Cuban rebels overthrew Cuba’s pro-U.S. leader in a revolution, the United States angrily responded by announcing a naval and air blockade of Cuba (DesRivieres et al. 140). The Soviet Union also installed offensive nuclear missile bases in Cuba, which was a direct threat to United States security. This threat led to the U.S. military and the U.S. NORAD forces to be ready for war, with aircrafts loaded with bombs in the air (DesRivieres et al. 140). As part of the NORAD agreement, the United States expected Canada to give “unconditional support of its policies” (DesRivieres et al. 143) by placing Canada’s NORAD forces on alert. However, Prime Minister Diefenbaker was hesitant in doing so because he believed the conflict was more in the United States’s policies and interests. This reluctance made Americans mad, because it was perceived that Canada was not committed to the agreement. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Diefenbaker believed that he was defending Canada’s independence (DesRivieres et al. 142). Americans accused Diefenbaker of failing to uphold military and political commitments for NORAD. Again, this shows the differences in the moral beliefs that Canada and the United States had, and as part of the NORAD agreement, Canada was expected to give support to the United States’s policies and demands. With Canada’s failure to commit to NORAD, the tensions between the two countries heightened. Canada’s refusal to nuclear arms for the Bomarcs (English par 16) breached the NORAD agreement. Canada hesitated to support Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and did not support the United States, because both nations had differing policies. Americans perceived it as Canada’s failure to fully commit in NORAD, placing tensions between the two countries. 


     Nevertheless, the North American Air Defence Agreement helped produce a great sense of trust between Canada and the United States, as it was not like the other alliances; such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which had many members. Instead, NORAD was a pact that established a joint command with the air forces of Canada and the United States. This pact placed Canada in direct partnership with the United States, meaning NATO had no impact in decision making. This agreement helped produce a great sense of trust as “consent of both governments [was] required before any formal alerts or action” (Granatstein par. 6). Although NORAD placed tensions between relations, it gave them a sense of trust, as they were neighbouring nations who were both against communist ideologies. 


     In retrospect, the Cold War has impacted Canada’s changing relationship with the United States in the 20th century. Canada desired to be independent with its growing differences in policies with the United States and felt weakened by being dependent on military weapons, due to the NORAD agreement. Nonetheless, NORAD still allowed Canada and the United States to develop a strong sense of trust. The aftermath of the Cold War and the NORAD agreement established a trusting, strong relationship between Canada and the U. S. that is evident when discussing how modern affairs in North America are resolved today. 






Works Cited 


Buteux, Paul. “Bomarc Missile Crisis.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 7 Feb. 2006, Accessed 03/09/2019. 


Chong, Barry Jordan. “Avro Arrow.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 7 Feb. 2006, Accessed 03/09/2019. 


DesRivieres, Dennis, and Michael William Cranny. Counterpoints: Exploring Canadian Issues. 

Prentice Hall, 2001. Accessed 03/09/2019. 


English, John R. “Canadian-American Relations.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 9 March. 2009,, Accessed 2/8/2019. 


Granatstein, J.I. “NORAD.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 7 Feb. 2006, Accessed 2/10/2019. 


Herd, Alex. “Cold War.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 6 Feb. 2006, Accessed 2/8/2019. 


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