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Canada's World: Historic Timeline (1946-1955)


To fulfill the project’s goal to create a new story for Canada’s role in the world that reflected historical experiences, Canada’s World included an historic timeline exercise in many of its dialogue events, including the national dialogue. This exercise invited participants to document moments in Canada’s history that have contributed to the story of its role in the world.

Below are some major initiatives and events that participants included in their timeline activities that have affected Canadian foreign policy and Canada's role in the world from 1931 to 2009.

Browse the timeline by historical period:

You can also contribute to the Canada’s World citizens’ timeline here.

Historic Timeline:


October 1946

  • Twenty three nations, including Canada, sign the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the agreement that many years later leads to the creation of the World Trade Organization.

December 19, 1946

  • Ottawa announces that it will formally establish a High Commission in India, its first diplomatic post in South Asia.



January 13, 1947

  • Louis St. Laurent gives a lecture at the University of Toronto entitled the Gray Lecture, in which he outlines the five principles of his foreign policy, including:
  1. National unity
  2. Political liberty
  3. Rule of law in national and international affairs
  4. Values of Christian civilization
  5. Acceptance of international responsibility in keeping with Canada's conception of its role in international affairs

    Canada will achieve this by participating in constructive international action through multilateral organizations. For the first time, Canada is elected to a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, beginning in January 1948. (Canadian terms on the UN Security Council include: 1948-49, 1958-59, 1967-68, 1977-78, 1989-90 and 1999-2000).


December 10, 1948

  • Proclamation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Canadian John Peters Humphrey is the primary author.


April 4, 1949

  • Canada, along with 11 other countries, signs the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, DC, creating the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), with the mandate to ensure the collective military security of all members. The NATO treaty marks a new era of ties with the United States and of distance from Great Britain and spelled out the importance of economic collaboration. In April 1949, Canada is the first country to vote for the ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance. The new treaty included what is sometimes called the "Canadian Article” — Article 2 —  calling for social and economic cooperation among members.


January 1950 

  • The Colombo Conference takes place, providing an opportunity to discuss Asian development. Participants include Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and Ceylon. Cabinet declines to "approve" publication of the Colombo Plan (to promote Asian development and implement the first aid program for the developing world) and makes it clear that nothing would come from Ottawa until the U.S. signed onto the deal. The deadlock is broken only when the Department of Finance suggests tying Canada's US$25 million contribution to the purchase of $10-15 million worth of Canadian wheat.

    Other notable events in Canada's relationship with Asia during this time period include Foreign Affairs Minister Lester B. Pearson's refusal to sponsor Indian membership in the peace conference to end conflict in Korea and Canada's defense of American military aid to Pakistan.

December 18, 1950

  • The first Canadian troops enter Korea, thereby joining the Korean War. Approximately 25,000 Canadians serve in the war; over 300 die and 1,143 are wounded.












February 1951

  • After Canada supports a United Nations resolution condemning China as an aggressor in the Korean War, the government in Peking (now called Beijing) retaliates, ordering Canada to close its small legation in Nanking.

September 1951

  • Canada and 48 other nations sign the Treaty of San Francisco, a formal peace treaty with Japan, re-establishing normal diplomatic relations. Canada officially establishes an embassy in Japan for the first time (prior to the declaration of war, Canada had operated a legation from 1929-1941).


1952 - 1953

  • Future prime minister of Canada Lester B. Pearson is the President of the UN General Assembly.




July 21, 1954

  • The conclusion of the Geneva Conference results in the Geneva Peace Accords, which lead the French to withdraw their forces from what was then called Indochina (present-day Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos). The Accords also divide Vietnam into North and South along the 17th parallel. Canada plays a role in supervising the ceasefire in Indochina, as part of the International Control Commission (ICC), along with Poland and India for the next 18 years.


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