January 20, 1969

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

LIB

Mitchell William Sharp (Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Hon. Mitchell Sharp (Secretary of State for External Affairs):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to table in French and English copies of the order in council regarding the application of sanctions to Rhodesia.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   RHODESIA-TABLING OF ORDER IN COUNCIL RESPECTING SANCTIONS
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COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE

DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS

?

Right Hon. P.-E. Trudeau@Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I should like to report briefly to the House of Commons on the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference which concluded in London last week.

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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?

An hon. Member:

Were you there?

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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LIB

Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Trudeau:

Where the hell were you?

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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?

An hon. Member:

We weren't invited.

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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LIB

Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Trudeau:

And you never will be, I may tell you that.

This was the sixteenth of these meetings since world war II. The 28 members of the Commonwealth represented at the conference made it the largest by far of any of the Commonwealth meetings held to date. Twenty-four of the 28 states were represented by heads of government-either prime ministers or presidents-and this, according to the calculation of the chairman, was one of the biggest meetings of heads of government anywhere since the 1945 San Francisco conference.

This is perhaps the greatest strength of the Commonwealth, this opportunity on a regular basis for men of good will to sit down together and discuss one with another the problems which affect them and the 850 million people whom they represent. All the other advantages of the Commonwealth relationship-the

exchanges of people, the trading patterns, the economic assistance and co-operation schemes, the informality of diplomatic representation- these all assume their tone from the free and frank dialogue which takes place at the prime ministerial meetings.

It is difficult for me as a newcomer to these meetings to compare this latest conference with those that have preceded it in recent years. My impression is that this meeting was not only successful as Commonwealth meetings go, but significantly so. Indeed this conference may have marked some kind of watershed for the Commonwealth. For one thing the Commonwealth is now close to its maximum size, and future meetings will not note the presence of many new members. For another, the scope of the secretariat seems now to have been defined and its services identified. But most important, and here I rely not simply on my own observations but on the comments of several veteran heads of government, the Commonwealth meeting appears to have attained a new plateau of maturity. Those who anticipated dramatic events at this meeting were incorrect; those who forecast an emotional confrontation over racial issues have been proved wrong. Equally, of course, those who hoped for the emergence of some brilliant answers to vexing questions were disappointed.

What did emerge was a realization by all leaders present that there was great value in open discussion and in an exchange of opinions. It was obvious, for example, that an easy solution for the complex problem of Rhodesia simply did not exist. This being so, no advantage was to be gained from a prolonged and emotionally charged argument alleging breaches of faith or lack of understanding. Instead, the observations and the admonitions of the several Prime Ministers and Presidents were made and recorded and the meeting moved on to the next item on the agenda. I do not mean to leave the impression that the Rhodesian question was not adequately discussed, or that the conference did no more than touch it in passing. Quite the contrary. The case of Rhodesia's African neighbours and those who supported them was argued with great vigour and skill; nothing material was omitted in order to avoid

4460 COMMONS

Statement on Commonwealth Conference hurting the feelings of others; there was no hypocritical attempt to pretend they did not exist. The Rhodesian debate was honest and it was tough, yet at its conclusion something of considerable significance occurred.

[DOT] (2:10 p.m.)

After looking at the problem in its exact dimensions, after closing in on its many difficulties, men holding opposite views admitted that the true nature of the difficulties was now better understood than before and they noted in some instance, after listening to the comments of others that their rigid attitudes were capable of some modification. Of most importance, however, honourable men agreed honourably to disagree.

There is little headline material in this kind of decision; neither is there much domestic political advantage for individual leaders. But to a world burdened almost beyond endurance by incredibly complex problems of immense moment, an agreement to disagree and to search patiently for solutions and areas of agreement is of immeasurable value. Delegates can walk out of meetings in anger, but they cannot remove with them the underlying cause of their annoyance. Organizations can be broken apart by impatient members, but the act of disintegration contributes nothing to the easing of the original tensions.

The conference revealed in still another way the coming of age of the Commonwealth. For if the African states did not insist that the meeting preoccupy itself exclusively with Rhodesia, neither did the Asian or Caribbean states view the meeting simply as an arena within which to press their own demands for economic assistance. And, in my view, as important as either of these events, none of the white countries attempted to dominate the proceedings on the pretext that their economic development, their political experience or their longer independence gave them any superior wisdom in the solution of new problems. One sensed that at this meeting the participants were equal members; no one pretended to possess all the problems, no one claimed to have all the answers. The 88 contributions to the debates on the five agenda items were remarkably evenly distributed around the conference table.

There is a well known tradition at Commonwealth conferences, Mr. Speaker, which denies to members the right to discuss, without consent, matters affecting the domestic policies of another member, or matters of solely bilateral interest. It is this rule which prevents the meeting being employed as a

DEBATES January 20, 1969

forum to the particular advantage, or disadvantage, of any single country. It is this rule as well which encourages the participation in general debate of all 28 member states. There is little doubt that in the long run the rule is a wise one. In the short run, it does present a challenge to countries seeking to discuss a problem which, because of its very size, seems to them to be of international, rather than of domestic, implications. At this meeting the Nigerian civil war fell into this category.

The tragedy of Nigeria was mentioned at the conference by Prime Minister Wilson in his opening remarks on the first day. It was the subject of considerable corridor talk and out-of-conference discussions. Though not on the agenda, it was regarded by most delegations-and not least the Nigerian delegation- as of extreme importance.

On Wednesday of last week, at a gathering of heads of government outside of the conference proper, which I attended, the leader of the Nigerian delegation agreed on behalf of his government to enter into fresh talks in London with the rebel representatives, without any pre-conditions to be attached to those talks. He agreed as well that it would be in order for other Commonwealth governments to do what they could to urge the Biafrans to engage in talks on this basis. Before we left London, Canadian officials met with Biafran representatives in an attempt to convince them to do just that. I am deeply disappointed that that attempt was unsuccessful, as were, we understand, the representations of other delegations and of the Secretary General.

I mentioned a few moments ago, Mr. Speaker, that the role and scope of the Commonwealth secretariat were defined with more precision than heretofore, at this conference. The general view as expressed was that the secretariat has an important role to play, but that the Commonwealth should not become over-structured. If I may repeat what I said in London at the conference.

As the Commonwealth grows In number of members it increases in diversity. The common ingredients, which were once the adhesive of membership, are now outnumbered by the unique institutions and practices of so many of the members. Nor, wisely in my view, have any steps been taken to create some artificial adhesive or binder. There is no charter, no constitution, no headquarters building, no flag, no continuing executive framework. Apart from the secretariat, which is a fraction of the size one might expect for an organization which encompasses a quarter of the peoples on this earth, there is nothing about the Commonwealth that one can grasp or point to as evidence of a structure.

January 20, 1969

Even the use of the word "organization" creates an impression of a framework which is misleading. The Commonwealth is an organism, not an institution-and this fact gives promise not only of continued growth and vitality, but of flexibility as well.

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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PC

John (Jack) Henry Horner

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Horner:

Did you say flexibility?

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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LIB

Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Trudeau:

Yes, flexibility.

If this peculiar characteristic of the Commonwealth offers difficulty, as it seems to do, to historians or journalists or persons from non-Commonwealth countries, it is perhaps unfortunate. But surely this unique source of strength should not be surrendered in the name of conformity to accepted institutional practices. The Commonwealth is not a miniature United Nations Organization; the conference is not a decision making body. To attempt to convert it would simply underscore differences of opinion; it would force countries to take sides and to vote against one another. There exist international organizations where this has to be done and where it is done; the Commonwealth is not and should not become a replica of them.

The Commonwealth provides an opportunity for men of good will to discuss with one another, both in plenary session and in the many bilateral meetings, their problems and their hopes for the future; to learn from the wisdom and experience of others. The Commonwealth conference is a forum for men who are as different as God has made them. It is a meeting place where men are able to demonstrate the advantages of dissimilarity, the richness of diversity, the excitement of variety. Is this not what life is all about, to learn, to share, to benefit, and to come to understand?

I think it is. I think Canadians agree with me, for in our own country we exhibit a multiplicity of character a diversity of climate, of topography, of resources, of customs, of traditions, of peoples, which is a segment of the wide world beyond. We accept almost instinctively the view that of the many challenges offered by the 20th century, none is greater than the aspiration of men to live in societies where tolerance and equality are realities. The Commonwealth is a means toward such a goal. To suggest, as some do, that the Commonwealth must be more than a forum for discussion or a clearing house for economic assistance from the few rich nations to the many poor ones, is to miss the vital point of the exercise.

Is Canada any less strong, and less united in understanding because Canadians and their leaders engage in constant dialogue, because

DEBATES 4461

Statement on Commonwealth Conference the wealthier provinces accept the principle of tax equalization? I think not.

So too in the broader international community of the Commonwealth. Human inequality is a political fact of great potency. The most effective means of reducing the explosive potential of discrimination is to meet other persons as political equals and to assist them toward economic equality. That is what the Commonwealth does. I believe these are useful exercises. For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I assured the London conference that Canada firmly supported the Commonwealth principle.

In this brief resume I have purposely not catalogued many of the matters discussed at the conference for these are dealt with in the communique issued at its conclusion and may more conveniently be found therein. I should now like to table the communique in English and in French. If hon. members agree, the communique might be printed as an appendix to Hansard, as has been done on previous occasions.

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Is it agreed?

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

[Editor's note: For communique above referred to, see appendix.]

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
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LIB

Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Trudeau:

At the close of the Commonwealth conference I went to Rome where, after a most cordial interview at the Quirinal Palace with His Excellency the President of the Italian Republic, Mr. Saragat, I was received at the Vatican by Pope Paul VI.

We spoke of peace in the world, the difficulties of maintaining it, for instance in Vietnam and in Nigeria, and of the importance of promoting it more particularly through the respect of human rights and international aid.

In the course of the conversation, I informed the Holy Father that Canada was considering setting up diplomatic relations with the Vatican. The Pope welcomed the idea, stating that the Vatican would be honoured by such relations. But he added that he would leave it to Canada to decide on taking that initiative.

Pope Paul VI spoke very warmly of Canada, the problems and the tremendous possibilities of which he is well acquainted with. Speaking of our fellow-countrymen, the Holy Father said he was convinced, and I quote:

What unites them is stronger and more important than what divides them.

January 20, 1969

Statement on Commonwealth Conference

And, speaking of the great cause of peace in the world, he added:

Your country, Mr. Prime Minister, Is basically a pacifist country, and we like to think that it will continue, under your leadership, to bring with authority its precious contribution to so vital a cause to the future of humanity.

After this most cordial interview, I also had the pleasure of conversing with the Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, Mr. Mariano Rumor, and several of his ministers.

Together, we reviewed the international situation. We also talked about the relations between Canada and Italy. In this regard, we noted the real progress that has been accomplished in the last few years, and we expressed the hope that this progress will continue.

That, in brief, sums up that day in Rome.

[DOT] (2:20 p.m.)

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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PC

Robert Lorne Stanfield (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Robert L. Stanfield (Leader of ihe Opposition):

I wish to begin by saying we all welcome the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) back. We missed him-except I do not think he was ever really very far from sight. I could report to him on the pace of legislative achievement in the house during his absence, but I am sure this would be unnecessary. Undoubtedly he has spent the past week end in his usual blameless way, curled up in front of the fire with a copy of Votes and Proceedings before him, and by now he is well informed as to what has transpired here. By now he is up to date, at least in this sense of the phrase. Possibly, even trendy. In any case, I venture to speak on behalf of parliament and the country in saying how pleased we are that the Prime Minister is back safe and well.

I am pleased, too, that he found the conference useful. However, I do feel it necessary to speak quite frankly here on occasions such as this, because I think we must be frank. Parliament and the country have to consider in a very serious way what has transpired in the course of this conference, and I think the country has the impression, as I have the impression, that never in the history of the Commonwealth has Canada made a contribution less important and less useful than has been made by the Government of Canada in connection with this conference. I do not think any leader of the opposition has ever had occasion in the past to reproach the government of this country in any way in this connection, and, if I may say so, I hope it will not be necessary again. None of us in my party-and I think this applies to every

informed person in the country-is under any illusion as to the difficulty of arriving at a consensus among members of the Commonwealth at this conference; but there are things which should be said.

The Prime Minister has spoken about the usefulness of this organism, the British Commonwealth of Nations, the Commonwealth exists as a unique world organization-I refer to it as an organization. It is multi-racial, worldwide, embracing, as the Prime Minister said, about a quarter of the population of the world, bringing together both established and emerging nations of varying views and colours. The Commonwealth has helped maintain international order and understanding and has helped to reduce international tension in the past. Any international organism or institution, whatever one might choose to call it, which serves as a bridge between the races on a worldwide basis is surely of great value today. It has a potential for good both in the present and in the future-I am speaking here in terms only of its minimal potential and not in terms of tradition-and to that extent it is well worth using, well worth preserving, well worth strengthening.

Canada, in the past, has played a leading role in that community. I think it is quite clear that other members of the Commonwealth are disappointed in the lack of Canadian leadership last week. It would not be surprising if there had grown among other members of the world community a concern that Canada, might similarly abstain from other international responsibilities that she has heretofore assumed.

While we welcome some of the structural improvements in relations between Commonwealth members to which the Prime Minister has referred, we must recognize with regret that these were due to the initiatives of others. There seems little doubt that the negative attitude of Canada in abstaining from the responsibility of leadership has contributed, I fear, to a weakening of the Commonwealth, and I fear a weakening of its importance as an institution or organism in the modern world.

Secondly, I want to acknowledge the truism that Canada cannot be all things to all people. That is one of those truisms to which the Prime Minister subscribes. Let us then choose the policy areas and objectives and methods that we can pursue with the realistic prospect of making a significant contribution. That truism has the corollary that there are some areas in which we are unusually qualified to contribute. The Commonwealth is one area

January 20, 1969 COMMONS

where we have had a decisive influence in the past.

I am not suggesting that Canada should concentrate exclusively on the Commonwealth role or that we should neglect our responsibilities to the United Nations, to NATO or to any other institution with which we are connected and which is important to world peace. But we do have very significant opportunities to assist in the development of the Francophone communities. The nature of our country enables us to play an important role here. All of these things that are of value not only to us but to international understanding should be explored and pursued.

Our role in the Commonwealth remains of central importance to Canada, not because of historic connections alone but because our service to the Commonwealth in the past has built up a trust and a confidence which it would be wrong to weaken or to waste.

In another forum the Prime Minister has sought to excuse his abstention on the ground that he was a "New boy". He may be a new boy with the Commonwealth, but Canada, sir, is not. In any case I have too much respect for the Prime Minister to find him believable in his self-assumed pose as the innocent abroad.

Canada's failure at the Commonwealth conference-the government's failure on behalf of Canada-has at its root, I think, the same attitude of casual non-involvement and noncommitment that also threatens to become the trademark of the government's response to urgent domestic concerns. At a London press conference the Prime Minister brushed aside suggestions that Canada might have an important role to play in certain mediation efforts, by disclaiming any desire to engage in international heroics or to intervene in the domestic affairs of any nation. I am sure that it was not from any tendency toward heroics that the Prime Minister's predecessor helped bring the Commonwealth through an impasse on Rhodesia on a previous occasion, nor from which the right hon. member for Prince Albert (Mr. Diefenbaker) took the lead in bringing the Commonwealth to its agonizing decision on the South African question. It was, I suggest, at least partly because these questions threatened the existence and integrity, and therefore the usefulness, of the Commonwealth as an institution.

[DOT] (2:30 p.m.)

In referring to Nigeria the Prime Minister told us of the assurance the Nigerian federal

DEBATES 4463

Statement on Commonwealth Conference authorities gave him that they were willing to meet Biafran representatives, without there being any previous conditions. ThePrime Minister expressed regret that efforts to encourage the Biafrans to meet with the Nigerians at the negotiating table have proved fruitless to date. I could not help observing from press reports that the day after the Prime Minister announced thatNigerian federal authorities had agreed to hold discussions with the Biafrans without there being any previous conditions, thatsame proposal was clearly and emphatically withdrawn by a spokesman from the Nigerian government. I, too, am disappointed that the effort to bring Biafra and the Nigerian federal government together has proved fruitless. I hope that what has been done indicates on our part a firm intention to keep lines of communication open so that Canada may, even if belatedly, play a leading role in

alleviating starvation and bringing a measure of peace to that unfortunate country.

It is noteworthy that the United States has recently begun to take initiatives in this field. The sale of four aircraft to the churches and the review by the United States State Department of that country's entire policy toward Nigeria offer a small but perceptible glimmer of hope that the civilized world will accept some responsibility in ending the conflict and suffering in Biafra. Canada has been lax in accepting any responsibility there. One hopes that the government will take advantage of any initiatives taken by the United States or other countries.

I do not claim to be an historian, but I suspect it will be said that in the last week or two Canada for the first time failed to exercise leadership in the Commonwealth; that, as a result, the Commonwealth has suffered; that its importance as a modern worldwide institution has been weakened; and that Canada's potential influence in the world is less now than it was a few weeks ago. Certainly as a result of this conference our position has not been enhanced, but diminished. Canadians and the entire international community will regret this. Let me add, the world does not stand still for the government of Canada. Opportunities passed up are opportunities lost for alleviating the anxieties and problems facing the world, as well as for supporting existing institutions. Mr. Speaker, events in the world do not wait for the Prime Minister's programmers.

The Prime Minister referred to his Vatican visit, indicating he favours an exchange of diplomatic representatives with the Vatican.

January 20, 1969

Statement on Commonwealth Conference He said this despite the understanding we were given that this matter is still under review and that the government has not taken a definite decision on it. If the government should decide to exchange diplomatic representatives with the Vatican it will be following a political step taken by many other countries. While not wishing to carp, I am surprised that the Prime Minister has taken this initiative after having some weeks ago expressed doubts, in an offhand way perhaps, about the usefulness of existing methods of diplomacy. Perhaps his was only a passing doubt. The entire country will await with interest the government's decision on the exchange of representatives with the Vatican.

Finally, may I touch briefly on several matters that have caused me concern. I emphasize that the matter of the coverage of the Prime Minister's personal life by the press is a matter between him and the journalists, and is no concern of mine. But for the Prime Minister to suggest, even in a lighthearted way, that it would be possible in this country for the government to use the police in order that a private vendetta might be pursued, would be to joke in inexcusable taste. As it happens, there was nothing lighthearted about the remark, nor the context in which it was made. So, sir, I cannot take that remark lightly and I must tell the Prime Minister in all frankness that I found his remark deeply disturbing.

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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NDP

David Lewis (Parliamentary Leader of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. David Lewis (York South):

Mr. Speaker, I join the Leader of the Opposition in welcoming the Prime Minister home and I tell him that he can be certain that some of the reports to which he apparently took objection did not in any way affect the reputation he has across this country.

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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NDP

David Lewis (Parliamentary Leader of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Lewis:

He remains the object of pristine purity now, just as he was when he left for London-no more and no less.

I wish it were possible to welcome the Prime Minister's contribution in London, but I am afraid that is not possible. In fact, it is not easy to know what Canada's contribution at the meeting of Commonwealth prime ministers was. I regret to add that after the Prime Minister's lengthy and not very exciting lecture this afternoon about the Commonwealth, we are still in the dark as to precisely where he stood on what issue, and for what reason.

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Topic:   COMMONWEALTH CONFERENCE
Subtopic:   DISCUSSION RESPECTING LONDON MEETING-DIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE WITH THE VATICAN- RELATIONS WITH THE PRESS
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January 20, 1969