Canada's Voice
384 pages, 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
15 b&w photos
Release Date:01 Nov 2009
Release Date:20 May 2009
Release Date:01 Jan 2010
Release Date:01 Jan 2010

Canada's Voice

The Public Life of John Wendell Holmes

UBC Press

It is hard to imagine a person who embodied the ideals of postwar Canadian foreign policy more than diplomat and scholar John Wendell Holmes. Holmes joined the foreign service in 1943, headed the Canadian Institute of International Affairs from 1960 to 1973, and, as a professor of international relations at York University and the University of Toronto, mentored a generation of students, scholars, and policy-makers.

Canada’s Voice draws upon family letters, archival records, and more than 150 personal interviews to chronicle this influential policy-maker and intellectual’s friendships, public service record, and teaching and writing career. More than any individual of his generation, Holmes influenced how diplomats, scholars, and statespeople abroad understood Canada and its citizens and how Canadians saw themselves on the world stage. For students and practitioners of international affairs at home and elsewhere, Holmes was indeed “Canada’s voice.”

Accessible and engrossing, this is the only comprehensive biography of a man whose tireless work ethic, commitment to peaceful forms of conflict resolution, and unyielding desire to make a difference in the world helped shape foreign policy during Canada’s golden age as a middle power.

This book will be of interest to students and practitioners of international affairs and foreign policy and to anyone interested in Canada’s role in the world.


  • 2010, Shortlisted - Dafoe Book Prize, Dafoe Foundation
  • , Commended - The Hill Times List of Top 100 Best Books for 2009
It took one of the rising stars in the study of Canadian foreign policy – Adam Chapnick – to take on this task. The result is a tour de force. Duane Bratt, Mount Royal University, Canadian Foreign Policy
This is an important biography of one of the most significant shapers of Canadian foreign policy during the post-Second World War period. In a highly engrossing manner, Adam Chapnick convincingly demonstrates how this policymaker and leading public intellectual came to personify Canadian foreign policy during some of the most critical moments of the postwar decades. This biography will become the standard work on the life of a public servant who, as Chapnick rightly says, served as his country’s ‘voice’ in international affairs. David G. Haglund, Professor of Political Studies, Queen’s University
One of The Hill Times’ 100 Best Books of 2009
John W. Holmes had more impact on the thinking of careful observers of Canada’s foreign policy than any other Canadian ‘scholar-diplomat.’ Adam Chapnick’s balanced, thoughtful, and highly readable account of his ‘public life’ tells us why. It is essential reading for anyone with an interest in Canada’s post-1945 diplomatic practice and how it came to be interpreted by government officials and independent observers alike. Denis Stairs, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Dalhousie University
Selected as one of Embassy’s Top 20 reads of 2010
Adam Chapnick is the deputy director of education at the Canadian Forces College and an assistant professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College of Canada. His previous book with UBC Press, The Middle Power Project: Canada and the Founding of the United Nations, was shortlisted for the 2005 Dafoe Book Prize.



1 The Early Years

2 External Affairs’ New Golden Boy

3 The Rising Star

4 John Holmes’ Golden Age

5 Descending through the Diefenbaker Era

6 Ruin and Recovery

7 Headfirst into the CIIA

8 A Diplomat in Action

9 1967: A Year of Transition

10 Breaking Free from the Institute

11 Freedom, Passion, and Frustration

12 Older and Wiser

13 Regrets and Renewal

14 Saying Goodbye




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