The Polaris Incident: “Going to the Mat” with the Americans


  • Peter Kikkert


During the early Cold War, as the Soviet menace placed Canada in between two hostile superpowers, the Canadian government decided to take steps to ensure that its sovereignty and national interests were not threatened by the Americans in the new strategic environment. Using the controversy surrounding Operation Polaris as its focus, this article examines the extent to which the Canadian government actually defended its sovereignty and rights against American intrusions in the early Cold War. Although the Canadian government approved Polaris, the Americans quickly overstepped the boundaries of the project. The Polaris incident was an American transgression against Canadian sovereignty and against the model for defence negotiations established up to that point. The resolution of the dispute, however, safeguarded Canada’s sovereignty and solidified a relationship that was built on cooperation, respect, and informal and open dialogue.

Author Biography

Peter Kikkert

Peter Kikkert is a Master’s student in the Department of History at the University of Waterloo. His research interests include Canadian defence policy, Circumpolar Affairs and Canada’s prosecution of German and Japanese war criminals following the Second World War. For his Master’s thesis, titled “An Informal and Open Dialogue: The Canadian-American Defence Relationship in the Canadian North During the Early Cold War,” Peter is examining a number of defence projects undertaken in the Arctic between 1945 and 1950 and how the Canadian government dealt with the sovereignty concerns these projects raised. Currently, he is a Balsillie Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and is a recipient of the J. Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship.