Louis St. Laurent
Prime Minister, 1948-1957
An address by Prime Minister St. Laurent on the occasion of the formation of the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources on December 8, 1953, forms another example for Northern themes in political elites' imagination. While St. Laurent presented the government's rationale for reorganizing the administrative structures for the North, a decision that was primarily motivated by Ottawa's view to emphasize to "non-Canadians," that is Americans, "that the people of Canada are greatly interested in this northern territory and regard it as an important part of the territory subject to the sovereignty of the Canadian nation," St. Laurent provided a brief glimpse into the sources that informed his conception of the North. Reaching the end of his address, he touched upon the issue of integrating the First Nation populations in the Arctic--"a very sympathetic group of people," as he described them--with the rest of Canada, revealing that he had been "quite impressed by what I have read and seen in films about the Eskimos" (emphasis added). This statement is indicative of the formative influence of cultural works on the conception and understanding of the Canadian North. St. Laurents' unsuspecting comment may serve as a window into the substantial role of cultural constructions of the North that, beyond the realm of arts and culture, shape the ideas of key political decision-makers (House of Commons Debates, 1953/54, Vol. I, 697, 700).