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IN LONDON in wartime, the Canadian diplomat Charles Ritchie recalled Canada in the years between the wars and declared: “I cannot imagine going back to the old small town Canada with its narrow, intense local interests and sitting down under it again.” Lester “Mike” Pearson, Ritchie’s colleague at the Canadian High Commission in London during the early war years, felt equally uncomfortable with the Canada of the 1930s, with its anti-Semitic school texts, small-town puritanism, and isolationist ways.
In 1946 Mike Pearson returned to Canada to stay, but it was by then a different country from the one that he had served since 1928 as an officer in Canada’s department of External Affairs. The war had cleared out the debris from the Canadian economy’s arteries, and the hopes that had shrivelled during the long depression now swelled once more. The economic resurgence and the Allied victory brought a new self-confidence to Canada that not even the Cold War’s chill could erase.