The Canadian Forces and American military influence, 1963-1989
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The 1963 to 1989 period witnessed a rapid change in Canadian defence matters. During this period the Canadian government forced the military away from its traditional ally the United Kingdom and moved it closer to the United States (US). The Canadian governments of Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and Brian Mulroney attempted to create and retain a distinctive military with a truly ‘Canadian’ organization and with new Canadian military traditions. However, in the process of attempting to create a distinctive ‘Canadian’ military, all three of these governments moved the Canadian Forces (CF) closer towards the US military. While US defence and government officials welcomed an increased defence cooperation between Ottawa and Washington, they were often not responsible for the burgeoning ties between the US and Canadian armed forces. Moving the CF closer towards their American counterparts enabled Ottawa to keep its defence budget relatively stable without any drastic increases because of the promise of support from the larger US military. More importantly, this movement towards the US enabled all three prime ministers to continuously assure Washington of Canada’s abilities to help defend North America and participate in the cooperative NATO defence of Western Europe. Becoming a ‘strategic liability’ for the US in Western defence would have had grave consequences for Canadian sovereignty. For the Canadian government during this period, the only way to ensure Canada did not become a liability was to have the CF work closely with the US. As a result, Canadian defence policies during the Cold War strove to ensure that Canada was able to participate with the US in the defence of the West.