Richard Nixon photo

Address to a Joint Meeting of the Canadian Parliament.

April 14, 1972

Monsieur l'Orateur de la Chambre des Communes, Monsieur le President du Senat, Monsieur le Premier Ministre, Messieurs les Membres des Chambres du Parlement Canadien, eminents hotes et antis:

J' apprecie vivement votre aimable invitation ainsi que votre accueil chaleureux.

To all of you who have welcomed Mrs. Nixon and me so warmly on this occasion, I trust you will give me allowances for trying to speak in the language that I studied 37 years ago. When I tried it, the day before I came, on the top linguist in the American Government, General Walters,1 he said, "Go ahead. You speak French with a Canadian accent."

1Lt. Gen. Vernon A. Waiters, USA, frequently served as interpreter for United States officials on foreign trips. He was Defense and Army Attache at the American Embassy in Paris from 1967 until April 1972 when he became Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

I will have to admit that I am not very much at home in the French language, but as a former parliamentarian in my own country, I feel very much at home in this chamber. I am grateful for the high privilege which your invitation represents.

I am grateful for this chance to return to Canada, for the opportunity of signing here an historic agreement to restore and protect forever the quality of the Great Lakes we share together. That agreement testifies to the continuing vitality of our unique relationship, which has been described so eloquently by the Prime Minister. In discussing that relationship today, I wish to do so in a way that has not always been customary when leaders of our two countries have met.

Through the years, our speeches on such occasions have often centered on the decades of unbroken friendship that we have enjoyed and our 4,000 miles of unfortified boundary. In focusing on our peaceful borders and our peaceful history, they have tended to gloss over the fact that there are real problems between us. They have tended to create the false impression that our countries are essentially alike.

It is time for Canadians and Americans to move beyond the sentimental rhetoric of the past. It is time for us to recognize:

--that we have very separate identities;

--that we have significant differences; and

--that nobody's interests are furthered when these realities are obscured.

Our peaceful borders and our peaceful history are important symbols, to be sure. What they symbolize, however, is the spirit of respect and restraint which allows us to cooperate, despite our differences, in ways which help us both.

American policy toward Canada is rooted in that spirit. Our policy toward Canada reflects the new approach we are taking in all of our foreign relations--an approach which has been called the Nixon Doctrine. That doctrine rests on the premise that mature partners must have autonomous, independent policies:

--each nation must define the nature of its own interests;

--each nation must decide the requirements of its own security;

--each nation must determine the path of its own progress.

What we seek is a policy which enables us to share international responsibilities in a spirit of international partnership. We believe that the spirit of partnership is strongest when partners are self-reliant. For among nations--as within nations-the soundest unity is that which respects diversity, and the strongest cohesion is that which rejects coercion.

Over the years, the people of Canada have come to understand these concepts particularly well. Within your own borders, you have been working to bring a wide variety of peoples and provinces and points of view into a great national union--a union which honors the integrity of its constituent elements.

It was Prime Minister Laurier who said of Canada's differing components: "I want the marble to remain the marble; I want the granite to remain the granite; I want the oak to remain the oak." This has been the Canadian way. As a result, Canadians have helped to teach the world, as Governor-General Massey once said, that the "toleration of differences is the measure of civilization."

Today, more than ever before, we need to apply that understanding to the whole range of world affairs. And to begin with, we must apply it to our dealings with one another.

We must realize that we are friends not because there have been no problems between us, but because we have trusted one another enough to be candid about our problems--and because our candor has nourished our cooperation.

Last December, your Prime Minister and I met in Washington, and he asked me if I thought that the United States would always want a surplus trade balance with Canada so that we could always export capital here. My answer then, and my answer now, is "no."

As I said to him at that time, we in the United States saw this same problem from the other side before World War I. We then depended on European capital for our development, and we wanted to free ourselves from that dependence. And so we fully understand that Canada is in that same position today.

Canada is the largest trading partner of the United States. It is very important that that be noted in Japan, too. [Laughter] Our economies have become highly interdependent. But the fact of our mutual interdependence and our mutual desire for independence need not be inconsistent traits. No self-respecting nation can or should accept the proposition that it should always be economically dependent upon any other nation. And so, let us recognize once and for all that the only basis for a sound and healthy relationship between our two proud peoples is to find a pattern of economic interaction which is beneficial to both our countries-and which respects Canada's right to chart its own economic course.

We must also build a new spirit of partnership within the Western Hemisphere that we share together.

It has been said that Canada is bounded "on the north by gold, on the west by the East, on the east by history--and on the south by friends." We hope that will always be the case and we hope it will be the case not only with respect to the United States, your immediate neighbor to the south, but with respect to all your southern neighbors--and ours--who are bound by the great forces of geography and history which are distinctive to the New World.

But geography and history alone do not make a community. A true community must be a living entity in which the individuality of each member is a source of pride to all members, in which the unity of all is a source of strength to each, and the great community of the Americas cannot be complete without the participation of Canada.

That is why we have been encouraged by the recent decisions of Canada to upgrade its participation as an observer in the Organization of American States to ambassadorial status and to apply for membership in the Inter-American Development Bank, for both of these institutions make the abstract concept of community within the Americas a living reality.

A sound concept of community is also important in another international arena that we share, the Atlantic Alliance. Just one month after my inauguration as President of the United States, I observed that a new spirit of cooperation within that Alliance was essential as we began a new search for cooperation between East and West. The recent agreements concerning Berlin--the fact, for example, that thousands of families were reunited this Easter for the first time in many years-these are among the first fruits of a new era of East-West negotiation.

But as we seek better relations with our adversaries, it becomes all the more important to strengthen the alliances with our friends. We must never forget that the strength and the unity of the West has been an indispensable element in helping to bring about the new era of negotiation with the East. And that is why we began our round of summit talks last December by meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada, and then with the leaders of other close allies. That is why our East-West conversations will always be accompanied by full and genuine consultation within the Atlantic Alliance.

That Alliance began as a way of pooling military resources. Today it is a way of pooling our intellectual and our diplomatic resources as well. Like our Federal approaches to nationhood, like our Canadian-American brotherhood, like our inter-American neighborhood, the Atlantic Alliance has achieved a creative unity in which the individuality of its members is respected and advanced.

Let us turn now to the world as a whole--for this is where the challenge of building a true community will be most difficult--and most important.

We in Canada and the United States have always been proud to live in what is called the New World. Today there is a new world coming for everyone who lives on this globe. It is our responsibility to make this new world a better world than the world we have known.

Canadians and Americans have fought and died together in two World Wars in this century. We live now in what has been called the post-war era. But mankind has known a long succession of post-war eras. And each one of them has turned out to be a pre-war era as well.

The challenge we face today is to build a permanent post-war era--an era of lasting peace.

My visit to Ottawa comes midway between visits to Peking and to Moscow.

In many respects, these journeys are very different. In the People's Republic of China we opened a new dialogue after 22 years of virtually no communication. In the Soviet Union there is an opportunity to bring a continuing dialogue to productive conclusions.

But in their central aim, these journeys to Peking and Moscow are alike. Neither visit is directed against anyone--adversary or ally. Both are for the betterment of everyone--for the peace of all mankind.

However, we must not allow the fact of summit meetings to create any unrealistic euphoria.

The responsibility for building peace rests with special weight upon the great powers. Whether the great powers fulfill that responsibility depends not on the atmospherics of their diplomacy, but on the realities of their behavior.

Great powers must not treat a period of detente as an interlude between periods of tension. Better relations among all nations require restraint by great nations-both in dealing with each other and in dealing with the rest of the world.

We can agree to limit arms. We can declare our peaceful purposes. But neither the limitation of arms nor the declaration of peaceful purposes will bring peace if directly or indirectly the aggressive use of existing weapons is encouraged.

And great powers cannot avoid responsibility for the aggressive actions of those to whom they give the means for embarking on such actions.

The great powers must use their influence to halt aggression--and not to encourage it.

The structure of world peace cannot be built unless the great powers join together to build it, and its strength will grow only as all nations--of all political and social systems--come to accept its validity and sustain its vitality. This does not mean that the great powers must always agree.

We expect to continue to have profound philosophical and significant diplomatic differences with the Soviet Union and with the People's Republic of China in a number of areas. But, through opening new lines of communication, we hope to increase the chance that in the future we shall talk about our differences and not fight about them.

As we have prepared for both of these journeys, the experience of Canada has been most helpful. I am grateful to both the Prime Minister and to the Opposition Leader, Mr. [Robert L.] Stanfield, for sharing their insights with us as we embark on these endeavors.

As we continue toward our common quest for a better world order, let us apply the lessons we have learned so well on this continent:

--that we can walk our own road in our own way without moving further apart, that we can grow closer together without growing more alike;

--that peaceful competition can produce winners without producing losers, that success for some need not mean setbacks for others;

--that a rising tide will lift all our boats, that to go forward at all is to go forward together;

--that the enemy of peace is not independence but isolation, and that the way to peace is an open world.

And let us remember, too, these truths that we have found together:

--that variety can mean vitality;

--that diversity can be a force for progress; and

--that our ultimate destiny is indivisible.

When I spoke at the St. Lawrence Seaway ceremonies in 1969, I borrowed some words from the monument there which I had joined Queen Elizabeth in dedicating just 10 years before. That monument, as its inscription puts it, "bears witness to the common purpose of two nations whose frontiers are the frontiers of friendship, whose ways are the ways of freedom, whose works are the works of peace."

The truth to which that inscription testifies is of profound importance to people everywhere in this world.

For the ability of our two nations, Canada and the United States, to preserve the frontiers of friendship, to walk in the ways of freedom, and to pursue the works of peace provides example and encouragement to all who seek those same objectives, wherever they may live.

There is nothing more exciting than a time of new beginnings. A member of this body caught that spirit when he spoke in Parliament about the beginnings of Canadian nationhood 100 years ago. Listen to him: "Blood pulsed in our veins, new hopes fired our hearts, new horizons lifted and widened, new visions came to us in the night watches."

May that same sense of excitement inspire our two nations as we help lead the world to new beginnings today.

Note: The President spoke at 3:19 p.m. in the House of Commons in Ottawa.

He spoke from a prepared text. An advance text of his address was released on the same day.

Richard Nixon, Address to a Joint Meeting of the Canadian Parliament. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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