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.

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JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.