Hon. Mitchell Sharp (Secretary of State for External Affairs):
Mr. Speaker, on October 15 the Leader of the Opposition asked whether I would make a statement on exchanges of a political nature with Warsaw pact countries.
When the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet union, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and East Germany took place, Canada condemned it unequivocally. Our condemnation, if it was not to be simply a matter of words, clearly required concrete expression as well. Since much of the substance of our relations with the invading countries has been in exchanges of visits and information under official auspices in various technical and scientific fields, it was in this area that our position could be most clearly demonstrated.
[DOT] (3:00 p.m.)
In the case of departments and agencies of the government, this policy has been applied directly. In the case of individuals and private organizations we have naturally left the decisions to them to make, while giving advice on request.
The government decided first that planned exchanges having political content, that is those at a ministerial level, should not take place for the time being. Among these, for example, was the attendance of a Soviet delegation at the convention of the Canadian Institute of Forestry in St. John's, Newfoundland. This delegation was to have been headed by a minister of the so called Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, a government which I may say is the product of an earlier Soviet military occupation, the legality of which Canada has never recognized. Our decision in this case was taken in consultation with the government of Newfoundland and the interested private companies. Certain other visits, proposed or contemplated, which would have involved other Soviet ministers have also been set aside for the time being.
The government decided, second, that under the circumstances created by the invasion of Czechoslovakia it would be inopportune to embark on new exchange projects for the present, irrespective of their political content. Certain existing and ongoing exchanges of a purely technical, cultural or academic nature, some of which are of long standing and of considerable value to Canada, are nevertheless continuing. Most of these are, of course, carried out under private auspices. Among them I might mention the established exchanges of students between certain Canadian and Soviet universities.
A number of private Canadian firms and organizations which had planned shorter term visits or exchanges have postponed or cancelled them on their own initiative, since they, like other Canadians, were shocked by
Changes in Standing Committees Personnel the invasion of Czechoslovakia. In some cases these organizations have sought the advice of the government and have taken their decisions in the light of government policy as it was explained to them. As I have indicated, however, where private organizations or individuals have decided that for various reasons they wish to continue existing arrangements, it is not the government's policy to put obstacles in their way.
In adopting the policy I have described we have borne in mind that the exchanges which have grown up and flourished in recent years between Canada and the communist countries can be of considerable intrinsic value to Canada commercially, technologically, culturally and in other ways.
We have made it clear to the U.S.S.R. and its allies that our relations have been damaged by their action, and that the continued presence of their occupying forces in Czechoslovakia is an obstacle to their restoration. In doing so I wish to make clear we remain convinced that genuine and peaceful co-operation between east and west is in fact possible without the abandonment of principles on either side, but will not be possible as long as one side believes it can do violence to the principles of the other. Human survival itself may depend on the recognition of that fact.
Subtopic: EXTERNAL AFFAIRS