Creating space for transformative conversations

Canada's World: Historic Timeline (1969-1983)


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:


  • Under the leadership of Lester Pearson, the Commission on International Development publishes a report, "Partners in Development", proposing that developed nations commit themselves to devoting one per cent of their GNP to foreign aid. 

January 1969 

  • Canada ratifies the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


  • Canada adopts a target of contributing 0.7 per cent of its GNP to foreign aid. In the same year, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a public corporation to fund research on the needs of developing countries, is established.

March 1970

  • Canada became a founding member of the Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique (ACCT), the forerunner of La Francophonie. (1995).

April 1970

  • Canada, asserting that the waters of the Artic Archipelago, including the North West passage, constitute internal waters, passes the Arctic Waters' Pollution Prevention Act. The act gives the Canadian government rights to an over 100-mile pollution control zone around the arctic islands.

June 1970

  • Pierre Trudeau's "Foreign Policy for Canadians” recommends that foreign policy be related to five national interests:
  1. Economic growth
  2. Social justice
  3. Quality of life
  4. Sovereignty and independence, peace and security
  5. Harmonious natural environment.
  • Canada's role in peacekeeping was to be downplayed (the NATO force in Europe was cut in half), there was to be closer contact with Europe and developing nations, and foreign aid was to be increased.

October 1970

  • Canada officially recognizes the People's Republic of China. Both countries announce the establishment of formal bilateral relations and trade/political ties quickly develop. At this time, the majority of Western nations still acknowledge instead the claims of the Nationalist regime on the offshore island of Taiwan, which occupies a disputed seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

    Canada's example prompts similar action by several countries and eventually the United States follows suit in 1973.









October 1971

  • Canada becomes the first Western country to introduce a federal policy of multiculturalism, thus cementing the legitimacy of cultural pluralism within the Canadian mosaic. The key elements of this policy are that all Canadians should be able to maintain and develop their own cultural identities if they so wish, they should be willing to share their cultures with other Canadians, and they should be free from prejudice and discrimination.


  • Canada becomes a permanent observer in the Organization of American States (OAS) but does not officially join the body as a member until 1990. Canada becomes a full member of the Inter-American Development Bank.

June 1972

  • Canada co-sponsors the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden. Chaired by Canadian Maurice Strong, this is the first major international gathering of nations to address the world's environmental issues.

September 1972

  • Canada and the Soviet Union stage the "Summit Series" of hockey. Although the event is based on a competitive sport, the series is widely seen as a metaphor for the supremacy of capitalism versus communism. Canada wins the series on a last-minute goal watched live by almost the entire country.











May 1974

  • Canada had supplied India with a Canadian-designed nuclear reactor (to be used for peaceful means) as part of the Colombo Plan in 1956. The plutonium fuel used in the nuclear device detonates as part India's nuclear test came from that nuclear reactor.



  • Canada allocates 0.53 per cent of its GNP to development assistance — the highest percentage it would ever contribute.


  • Canada accepts 69,000 refugees from Indochina — Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam — during the course of fighting and unrest in the region.


  • Canada formally ends its nuclear relationship with India and Pakistan. However, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited quietly restores cooperation in 1989.

June 1976

  • Canada becomes a permanent member of the Group of Leading Industrial Nations, otherwise known as the G7 (currently the G8). Member countries represent approximately 65 per cent of the world economy and the majority of global military power. Since then, there have been four summits held in Canada: 1981 (Ottawa), 1988 (Toronto), 1995 (Halifax), and 2002 (Kananaskis). Major economic and political issues are discussed at these meetings.

July – August 1976

  • Canada hosts its first Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXI Olympiad, in Montreal, Quebec. Ninety-two countries participate. Canada wins eleven medals (five silver, six bronze).

October 1976

  • Canada signs a Framework for Economic Cooperation with Japan as part of Ottawa's attempts to diversify trade. Both countries also seek to expand cultural ties. At this point in time, Japan is Canada's second largest export market.




  • Canada ratifies the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

June 1979

  • Prime Minister Joe Clark announces that the Canadian government will proceed to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. However, in October, Clark revises his decision and announces that the government does not intend to move the Canadian embassy until the status of Jerusalem is settled.

November 1979

  • Canada, the U.S., and 32 European countries sign the Economic Commission of Europe (ECE) Convention on long range Trans-Boundary Air Pollution, the first multilateral agreement on air pollution and the first environmental accord involving all nations of Eastern and Western Europe and North America. The Convention is a mechanism to deal with and manage "regional" trans-boundary air pollutants like sulphur, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds as well as air issues like acid rain and ground-level ozone.


  • Canada practices "quiet diplomacy" in Central America in an effort to provide stability in the region. Canada also takes a leading role in forcing economic sanctions against the white minority regime in South Africa.

January 1980

  • Prime Minister Joe Clark announces Canadian sanctions against the USSR and a boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow unless the USSR withdraws from Afghanistan.

January 1980

  • Canada arranges the covert escape of six Americans hiding in the Canadian Embassy after the U.S. embassy is taken over as part of the Iran hostage crisis.





April 1982

  • The United Kingdom transfers final powers to Canada, thereby finalizing Canada's full political independence from the Crown. Canada adopts its new Constitution, which includes a Charter of Rights and Freedoms for all Canadians.

December 1982

  • Canada signs the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention. It is ratified in 2003.



  • The Trudeau Peace Initiative: On October 27, 1983, in a speech at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Prime Minister Trudeau advocated several confidence-building measures to reduce Cold War tensions, including a conference of the five nuclear powers with a view to decreasing nuclear weapons arsenals. This is the launch of what became known as the Peace Initiative. To promote the idea, in the following months Trudeau travels to France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, West Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Nations in New York. In February 1984, he announces that he has received "pledges of co-operation to defuse East-West tensions" from East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Also expressing support is Premier Zhao Ziyang of China, the only nuclear power to favour the initiative. Soviet officials give encouragement but declined to participate actively.

February 1983

  • The Canada-United States Test and Evaluation Progam Agreement (CANUSTEP) is established, allowing the United States the opportunity to operationally test new and emerging military technologies in Canada.  The agreement is re-negotiated in 1993, allowing Canada access to certain facilities in the U.S. 

October 1983

  • Canada openly condemns the United States at the United Nations for its invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury).

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