Courtesy Reuters

Canada, the Empire and the League

NOT the least remarkable feature of Canada's remarkable general election campaign, which ended in October in the return of the Liberal Party to power, was the fact that the appeals of the major parties avoided all temptations to exploit the critical international situation for political purposes. This was a break in the Canadian political tradition, and it bore striking testimony to the effect of Canada's new status of independence and equality upon the poise and balance of our parties. Formerly the attitude owed by Canada to Great Britain in matters of war and defense was a continuing issue in our politics which, in times of excitement, threatened to submerge all other issues.

The contrast between the excitement which attended the Chanak incident in 1922 and the calm of 1935 when the international situation was even more menacing, is a measure of our growth in a sense of national dignity and reserve. The League of Nations was in existence in 1922; but when the new and aggressive Turkish Republic threatened the arrangements of the Treaty of Sèvres, the government of Great Britain at once accepted the responsibility of defending the threatened positions and forthwith sent advices to the governments of the Dominions which have been variously described as messages of mere information and as a summons to take part in the struggle which was thought to be impending. That they were the latter cannot be successfully denied.

This 1922 call to action was a "try-out" of a system of imperial government which had been tentatively agreed upon at the Imperial Conference the year before. The system provided for common external policies and for common action in support or defense of them. When the hour came for its application it broke down principally because Canada, where there had been a change of government from Conservative to Liberal between 1921 and 1922, failed to obey the summons pending consideration of the situation by the Canadian Parliament. There was wide-spread resentment in Canada because the government at Ottawa refused to

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