Immediate reactions

Herbert Norman’s death did not put a halt to the furor over what rapidly became known as the Norman Case. The scale and nature of the tumult illustrated that although Cold War political infighting is often seen as an American phenomenon, Canadian politicians and media were perfectly capable of wading into the same storm-tossed waters. The rhetoric was initially aimed in a southerly direction. Politicians competed with one another to condemn the treatment of Norman, calling it “persecution,” “character assassination,” even “murder.” Canadian newspapers followed suit. Minister of External Affairs Lester Pearson urged his fellow citizens not to “make this an international incident.” But Canadian public opinion nonetheless took a strong anti-American turn.

In this unstable political climate, Pearson himself soon replaced Norman as a focus of suspicion. Politicians like John Diefenbaker and media on both sides of the border began to ask Pearson tough questions and demand frank and complete answers. A Globe and Mail editorial headline announced “Mr. Pearson in Trouble.” What would you judge to be the cause of this shift in attention from Norman to Pearson? Was Pearson hiding something about Norman or had he acted properly? To what extent did this change in direction indicate that Pearson had been a target all along? And in this swirling atmosphere of posturing and maneuvering, were there any new revelations about the central issue of Herbert Norman’s loyalty?

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