Diefenbaker’s Legacy

Diefenbaker’s Legacy

Posted on September 17 by admin
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This past summer, while visiting family in Ottawa, my mother and I decided to pay a visit to one of Canada’s more unique historical attractions. Located about 30 km west of Ottawa, the Diefenbunker was constructed at the height of the Cold War between 1959 and 1961. The four-story subterranean bunker was designed chiefly with the intention of housing the entire Canadian government for one month in the event of nuclear fallout. Such an event, of course, never occurred and the facility was used as a military base until being turned into a museum in 1994. With haunting linoleum floors and florescent lights, the Diefenbunker offers both a sobering time capsule of Cold War paranoia and a chilling glimpse into what might have been.

One of the museum’s highlights is the very austere bedroom that would have been used by then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. Interestingly enough, however, Diefenbaker himself never once set foot in the bunker, nor did he have any intention of ever seeking refuge there. Upon learning that the bunker only had space and resources for the government officials themselves and not their spouses or children, ‘Dief the Chief’ promptly dismissed the idea of being separated from his wife.

Arthur Slade’s biography John Diefenbaker (2001), part of Dundurn’s Quest Series, offers a complex and intimate look at the man who, at the age of nine, asserted “I’m going to be Prime Minister when I grow up.” Delving deep into the tensions and machinations of the Cold War era, Slade explores the way Diefenbaker deftly manoeuvered through the hostilities of his time, from spy scandals to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The result is a telling portrait of a man whose legacy, in many ways, is itself somewhat fortified.