When he took over Expo 67, Pierre Dupuy, the suave aristocrat at the left, was the least known eminent Canadian in Canada. But in half the world's capitals he could open doors no salesman could even knock on. This is what he's meant to the fair

Terence Robertson October 3 1964


When he took over Expo 67, Pierre Dupuy, the suave aristocrat at the left, was the least known eminent Canadian in Canada. But in half the world's capitals he could open doors no salesman could even knock on. This is what he's meant to the fair

Terence Robertson October 3 1964


When he took over Expo 67, Pierre Dupuy, the suave aristocrat at the left, was the least known eminent Canadian in Canada. But in half the world's capitals he could open doors no salesman could even knock on. This is what he's meant to the fair

Terence Robertson

WHEN PIERRE DUPUY RETIRED as Canadian ambassador to France last autumn President Charles de Gaulle was host at the biggest farewell banquet in the memory of the diplomatic corps. In its closing scene the tall, austere De Gaulle embraced the stocky Dupuy and boomed: "Mon cher ami, no matter when you return, the doors of Paris will he open to you."

A few days later when Dupuy reached Montreal to take over his new job of commissioner of the Canadian Universal and International Exhibition (more familiarly known as Expo 67) he received a welcome that was considerably less warm than his farewell had been. The fair was going badly. Some top men had resigned; a computer had predicted that Expo 67 could not possibly be ready before 1969. Newspapers, broadcast commentators and even Members of Parliament were gloomy at the appointment of the little-known ambassador. He was called, among other things, an “ineffectual figurehead" whose presence increased the probability that the fair would be a big flop.

Dupuy, who had learned the wisdom of discreet silence in more than forty years as a career diplomat, said nothing and prompth went abroad again to start what he knew was the most important part of his job: opening the doors of top government officials of a hundred foreign countries and persuading them to invest large sums of money in Expo 67 exhibits.

By mid-August, less than a year after he took the job. so many countries had agreed, firmly or tentatively, to take part in Expo 67 that the main site on St. Helen's Island in the St. Lawrence River was practically sold out and. with nearh three years to go before the opening. areas on adjacent lie Notre Dame were being converted into exhibit lots.

When I spoke to Pierre Dupuv on one of

his quick trips hack to Montreal recently (he has been spending four out of six weeks "on the road" selling Expo 67). he told me he was confident that sixty of the hundred and twenty nations on his list of prospects would have exhibits at the fair. This would make the Canadian World's Fair the largest ever in terms of the number of nations taking part. The Brussels fair, largest so far. had fewer than fifty.

The explanation, if not the excuse, for his countrymen's early lack of appreciation of Pierre Dupuy as head man of Expo 67 is that he is probably the least known eminent Canadian — in Canada. In government circles he has. of course, long been known as one of the nation's most effective and most respected representatives abroad. Canadians who needed his help while visiting in France know him as an ambassador who got things done swiftly and apparently without effort. But most Canadians know little about him and many have never even heard of him. The reason is that he has spent very little time in Canada since 1922. when he became a junior official at the Canadian legation in Paris. Moreover, some Canadians who do know Dupuy tend to be suspicious of him because he is one of the very rare Canadians who can match experience, knowledge and wit with the sophisticated international set that moves in an exclusive circuit between the capitals and playgrounds of Europe.

I first met Dupuy in Paris two years ago when I was doing research for a book on the Suez crisis, and suffering the frustrating experience of trying to see French political leaders who had no particular interest in seeing me. When I called on him at the Canadian embassy on the Avenue Montaigne. Dupuy was openl\ —and to me irritatingly — amused by

my vain attempts to open official doors. And for my part I did not feel at all confident that this prim, schoolmastcrish-looking man could help me much with the tough breed of men I had found French officials to be. Then Dupu\ made a few casual phone calls: within hours I had several "impossible " interviews set up.

Dupuy was able to go beyond normal diplomatic limits to help me and other Canadians abroad because he worked with various French Resistance groups whose leaders remembered him as one of their few trusted links with the Allies. Many of these men now occupy senior positions in the government, the armed forces and the police, or are powerful political figures. "In many instances,” Dupuy told me. "the fact that I had known police inspectors in the tourist districts for quite a while seemed to help a bit when Canadian visitors foolishh got into trouble of various sorts."

For many reasons, Dupuy is not easily persuaded to talk about himself. He has a natural reserve, a diplomat's professional wariness in the presence of journalists, and an intention to write his own memoirs one day. Lie has often replied to my questions about his career with modest disclaimers of having ever done anything important, or with a smiling: "I claim the right to keep the details of that incident for my own book."

In spite of my many opportunities to talk with Dupuy 1 know little about his diplomatic activities. During one of his rare and brief recollections he mentioned that at a League of Nations disarmament commission meeting in Geneva he had first met a Canadian delegate named Lester Pearson: and that in the late 1930s he met a French army colonel named Charles de Gaulle. Apparently it was not until the Germans occupied northern France

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Churchill rated Dupuy "skilful” at working openly as a diplomat and secretly as a spy in France

in 1940 that his French - Canadian background and intimate knowledge of France brought him to the attention of Allied leaders and marked him for special service.

After the Franco-German armistice he moved from Paris to London where he received two sets of instructions more or less at the same time. One set came from Ottawa appointing him Canadian charge d'affaires to the Vichy government of Marshal Pétain; the other was in the form of a request from the British Foreign Office that he might volunteer for political intelligence assignments under the cloak of his official diplomatic status. Dupuy agreed, and was later called to Downing Street to meet Winston Churchill and senior officials of the Foreign Office. He became, after this meeting, not only Canallas diplomatic representative at Vichy, but also Churchill's personal envoy to Pétain and a secret agent operating in Occupied France as well as Vichy.

Churchill has since described Dupuy in his memoirs as “skilful and accomplished": Mackenzie King recorded, at a time w'hen he was preoccupied with preventing a formal state of war between Vichy France and Britain, that he felt “proud that a Canadian should

have played so important a part."

Dupuy's first mission was to seek a private interview with the aging Marshal of France to deliver a toughly worded message from Churchill: Britain would not tolerate any Vichy action against the French colonies in Africa which had rallied behind General de Gaulle. Moreover, Britain would attack Algeria and French Morocco if Vichy ceded North African bases to the Germans. Churchill's final instructions had been: “You have to make him feel that we have teeth as well as Hitler."

For two months Pétain refused to see Dupuy. The Canadian spent his time renewing his contacts with the defeatist politicians in Vichy, and arranging lines of communication with British intelligence agents. Pétain eventually saw him on November 24, and as Dupuy delivered Churchill’s message he noticed that the old man seemed so tired that he actually tell asleep. After several polite attempts to wake him up. Dupuy fell back on a highly undiplomatic ruse. He leaned over and shouted in Pétain's ear: “De ( ¡aullé!"

The Marshal jerked awake and, with arms flailing, berated all that De Gaulle stood for: De Gaulle, he declaimed, was the main obstacle in the way of good Vichy-British relations. “His official reply to Churchill's message made me worry about Churchill's reaction." Dupuy recalled. Pétain ignored the British warnings and stated that French bases would be ceded to the Germans if Vichy was offered attractive concessions.

Meanwhile, Mackenzie King felt uneasy over Dupuy being a Canadian diplomat while working under cover as a British agent. In August, King visited London and during an official lunch asked Eden if Dupuy's w'ork was of such importance that it justified maintaining formal Canadian - Vichy relations. Eden thought not, on the ground that Vichy was a lost cause anyway. But when King repeated the question to Churchill, the British Prime Minister replied: “Let us keep him. He is of great service. It is most desirable that we preserve a contact with France."

Dupuy stayed in France for the remainder of 1942, until two events — the Allied invasion of North Africa and Germany’s abrogation of the armistice terms to take control of the Vichy government — led to a final severance of Canadian - French relations. He served for the rest of the war as Canadian ambassador to the exiled Allied governments in London, returned to the Continent as ambassador to the Netherlands in 1945, moved to Rome as ambassador to Italy in 1952. and then returned to Paris in 1958 where he remained until his appointment to Expo 67.

Dupuy is a gregarious man in his own circles, but professional diplomacy and two bizarre and dangerous wartime years have made him too reticent to he a good self-publicist. He is withdrawn among strangers and this is a deficiency in the eyes of his critics, who would prefer the boss of Expo 67 to be brash and flamboyant.

When Dupuy visited Monaco re-

cently. derisive critics suggested that only an intellectual dreamer would hope to drum up business in a principality devoted to gambling. They suggested he might persuade the Rainiers to bring their yacht to Montreal equipped as a miniature casino and act as barkers for the most luxurious floating crap game in the world. But from Dupuy’s viewpoint, nothing could be more natural than to drop in on Rainier and Grace: he was in the neighborhood, anyway. Knowing the Rainiers, and feeling they should be included among the heads of state invited to the Montreal World’s Fair, he delivered the invitation personally. “They have provisionally accepted and I think a lot of people are going to enjoy seeing them." he says.

Among Dupuy’s qualifications tor the job of foreign salesman of Expo is the fact that as an ex-ambassador of long standing he probably knows personally more highly placed personages than any other Canadian who might have taken the job. In addition, he can enlist the support of many foreign businessmen who were often his guests at embassy functions. When sailing in the Mediterranean, he can — and does — moor alongside the Onassis yacht at the Cannes Yacht Club, to which the Greek shipping magnate and many other wealthy European industrial leaders belong. Dupuy is in the middle ranks as a yacht owner of the international set, with a sixty-foot sloop manned by a crew of three and with accommodation for eight guests. This suggests he is at least comfortably off

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financially — but personal finances is something Dupuy would not dream ot discussing. He has. however, been a well-paid and wcll-perquisited foreignservice officer for many years, and his present remuneration is public knowledge; salary $22,500; expense allowance. $17,500.

In the cultural field Dupuy has been on the official invitation lists for opening nights ot famous opera companies for so long that he knows their directors. Seven of these, including the Paris Opera, the New York Met, the Royal Opera ot ( ovent Garden, and the Moscow State, have already agreed to open their North American tours for 1967 in Montreal.

I he more nations Dupuy persuades to come to the fair, the more acute becomes a minor but important problem: where to locate the various nations in the interests of peace. How close, for instance, can Pakistan be sited to India. Israel to an Arab state. Cuba to the United States. Turkey to Greece,

and Malaysia to Indonesia? What may seem correct and logical to the hostnation can appear provocative, even offensive, to the guest.

The United States and Soviet pavilions will face each other across the narrow channel between St. Helena's and Notre Dame islands.

"I explained to the people in Moscow," said Dupuy, "that we thought this arrangement would symbolize the Atlantic gap between east and west as it realistically exists. I also mentioned that we would put a bridge across the channel between the sites so that they could walk across and meet each other. This would conform to the theme of the intermingling of man and signify a hopeful lessening of political tensions. They agreed immediately."

The retired diplomat. Pierre Dupuy, has achieved an amicable confrontation between the two most powerful nations on earth that might be envied b\ anv summit conference. ★