Fearing a Canadian alert would provoke the USSR and believing the American Cuban policy to be generally unbalanced, angered by the lack of advance consultation and concerned about implications for Canadian policy on nuclear weapons, Prime Minister John DIEFENBAKER and Secretary of State for External Affairs Howard Green were reluctant to acquiesce to Kennedy. About half of Canada's ministers remained undecided, but as Soviet ships approached the quarantine zone later in the week the Harkness position gained support and on October 24 the Diefenbaker government authorized the Defcon 3 alert.
Canada's hesitant response reflected in part the desire of the prime minister and others to preserve the independence of Canadian foreign policy and to maintain a balanced posture in crisis conditions. The delay, however, was widely criticized and contributed to a growing perception of indecisiveness in the Diefenbaker government. It also exacerbated already difficult relations with the Kennedy administration and fuelled further controversy over nuclear weapons. The crisis itself ended October 27-28 when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to dismantle and remove the USSR missiles in Cuba.
Author DENIS STAIRS