Back in the day: Nov. 22


Back in the day on Nov. 22, 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was in his motorcade passing by the Dallas Book Depository when Lee Harvey Oswald placed his own submission in “the shot heard round the world” awards.

To commemorate today’s sombre anniversary we are going to take a look at John F. Kennedy’s special relationship with Canada, how our country would not be remotely the same without his short-lived presidency, and our influence in his death.

When JFK and Prime Minister John Diefenbaker first met in 1961, the American President pronounced the PM’s surname incorrectly multiple times: “Deefun-bawker.” This would leave a sour opinion of the president, not helped when Diefenbaker learned that his mother passed away during the meeting. Kennedy wasn’t too much of a fan either, remarking to his brother that he “didn’t want to see that boring son of a bitch again.”

Later, when Kennedy visited Ottawa, Diefenbaker insisted the president plant a ceremonial tree, which ended up re-injuring his already bad spine in the process, forcing Kennedy into a back brace.

Diefenbaker started losing his foothold in the 1962 election; some historians give credit to Kennedy. See, it was public knowledge that the two North-American leaders were not close buddies by any stretch of the imagination. Kennedy would publicly support the opposition leader, Lester B. Pearson, even inviting Pearson to the White House just weeks before a Canadian election where the Tories lost over 100 seats in the House.

It all came crashing down when Diefenbaker didn’t support Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis and refused to uphold Canada’s obligations in NORAD. The White House denounced Canada’s actions and just a couple weeks later Diefenbaker lost a non-confidence motion, with Lester B. Pearson winning the Canadian election not too long after that.

Pearson’s administration went on to introduce universal health care, the Canadian Pension Plan, and the current iteration of Canada’s red maple leaf flag.

On Nov. 23, 1963, Kennedy was driving down Dallas wearing a back brace that forced him to sit stiffly with little motion, the kind of motion that could dodge a bullet, some might say.

However sensational that claim may be, it is still captivating to ponder the effects Canada and the United States have on each other, and it is hilarious to think of such petty loathing between two neighbouring world leaders.


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