THIS year for the first time Canada has a population exceeding 11 millions. As the largest, richest and most important of the British Dominions she may fairly claim to be one of the most comfortable corners of a troubled universe. However, she does not thereby enjoy immunity from considerable worry and uncertainty about her future and confusion of mind about her best course of international policy. She remains a partner in the British Commonwealth, but her government qualifies her allegiance to it by explicit declarations that she is not obligated to enter any wars in which Britain and other members of the Commonwealth engage except of her own volition, and she has repeatedly taken her own international line. She retains her membership in the League of Nations, but Premier Mackenzie King has more than once declared that she is now under no obligations to assist in enforcing economic or military sanctions. She therefore gives lip service to the idea of collective security but shies at the commitments involved in its maintenance. She takes pride in her North Americanism and seeks to cultivate as close economic and other relations as possible with the United States, but she is not yet ready to throw in her lot with the Pan American Union. She thus occupies internationally the unique position of being engaged in an effort to preserve simultaneously ties with the Commonwealth, the League and the American group of nations. The difficulties of such a task are more than enough to account for the hesitancies and apparent incongruities in Canadian policy, and the opportunist line taken by her governments on important international issues.

The totalitarian states today parade their semblance of national unity. But real unity comes in democratic countries only in some desperate emergency, and in ordinary times their governments have to frame their policies to take account of conflicting currents of popular opinion that ebb and flow under a variety of emotional influences. In Canada the cleavages of public sentiment on foreign policy, tariffs, taxation and other problems which would be considered normal in any democracy acquire additional importance because of sectional cleavages which cut deep into the national fabric. Some of these arise from the facts of physical geography, some from differences in race, language and religion, others from a divergence of economic interest. No student of Canadian politics can gainsay their reality and no Canadian Government can cease to be conscious of the political difficulties which they create for it.

The three Maritime Provinces are old-established communities. There the first British settlement in Canada took place, and the region has much in common with the New England group of states. Small farmers, woodsmen and fishermen constitute a large proportion of the inhabitants, and industrial activity is confined to a few areas. The population increases very slowly, except for the French element, which grows at a faster pace than any other. The financial and business life of the Province of Quebec is controlled largely by an English-speaking minority; but the French-Canadians make up five-sixths of the population. These are passionately jealous of their racial, religious and linguistic privileges and are prone at times to adopt an attitude of truculent racial particularism which is not palatable to the rest of Canada. Ontario is the great industrial province of the Dominion. Its population is predominantly British, and if it has common interest with Quebec in the maintenance of a stiff system of protectionism and the development of the mining industry in the northern hinterland, it does not share Quebec's views about religion, education, foreign policy and other matters. The three so-called Prairie Provinces are separated from Eastern Canada by a sparsely settled wilderness and, although they now possess some industries, they are primarily agricultural communities, unable to see much merit in fiscal policies which inure chiefly to the benefit of the protected industries of Ontario and Quebec. Beyond the Rocky Mountains lies British Columbia, which has a more diversified economy than the Prairie Provinces and a viewpoint colored by close contact with the problems of the Pacific. Obviously in a country thus cleft into sections, political legerdemain of a high order is required to form national political parties, and secure majorities for them and keep them in power. A certain -- shall we say? -- elasticity in the programs of the Canadian parties and in the policies of Canadian ministries should therefore not be a source of wonder abroad.

Of the five different sections, the Maritime Provinces have probably the closest ties with the United States. For generations, thousands of their young people have every year migrated across the boundary. In consequence, most families in "the Maritimes" have near relatives in the New England States, regard Boston almost as their metropolis, and visit it more frequently than Montreal or Ottawa. In days gone by their products found very profitable markets in the United States. They are convinced that they cannot hope to regain real prosperity until they get freer access to these lost markets than is now available, and hence are the strongest supporters in Canada of close Canadian-American trade relations. This is not to say that the long-standing social and commercial ties between the Maritime Provinces and the mother country have not left a strong strain of Imperialist sentiment. In particular, the associations between Nova Scotia and Scotland have been steadily maintained. Indeed in certain quarters an antiquated colonial sentiment still survives and in New Brunswick it is today being fostered by a group of politicians belonging to the ruling Liberal Party who think that Ottawa interprets in a much too arrogant way the powers conferred upon the Federal Government by the Pact of Confederation. Under their influence, the provincial ministry sponsored at the time of the accession of King George VI a curious expression of this anti-Confederation spirit when they insisted that the new monarch should be specially proclaimed in the provincial capital as "The King of New Brunswick, a province autonomously dependent upon the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland." The authors of such a proclamation could fairly be described as zealous Imperialists.

Of all the Canadian regions, Quebec today presents the most baffling problem in the field of domestic policy. As the strange developments there were accurately and admirably described in the March issue of FOREIGN AFFAIRS they need not be enlarged upon again. But the important influence exercised by the French-Canadian element upon the foreign policy of Canada deserves emphasis. Today French Canada is the great stronghold of isolationist sentiment. From the days of the British conquest until the present century began, the French-Canadians were content, so long as their special privileges were untouched, to acquiesce in the arrangement whereby Canada accepted whatever foreign policy was prescribed by the British Government. It affected them only on rare occasions and then indirectly. There were, however, serious murmurings of French-Canadian dissent about Canadian participation in the South African War, which was regarded in Quebec as an unjustified attempt to impose the will of British Imperialists upon a small non-British race, and Mr. Henri Bourassa, the most brilliant French-Canadian politician of his generation, sacrificed a very promising political career in the Liberal Party by breaking with it on this issue. Mr. Bourassa, still alive but now withdrawn from active political life, for forty years devoted his rare dual competence as writer and speaker to a persistent crusade against British Imperialism and all its works, and has exercised a marked influence upon French-Canadian thought about imperial and international problems. In 1910 he founded the Nationalist Party, whose coöperation with the Conservatives in the election of 1911 helped the latter to defeat the Taft-Fielding agreement and win office at Ottawa; and during the last war he was in no small degree responsible for the lukewarmness which the French-Canadians manifested and which in its later stages developed into a violent opposition to military conscription. The racial controversy thus produced upset the old equilibrium of Canadian politics by driving the French-Canadian race almost solidly into the Liberal camp, and this bouleversement had the dual consequence of giving the Liberal Party a long spell of power and overloading it with conservative elements which have sterilized it as an agency of reform.

The experiences of the last war implanted in the minds of French-Canadians a firm determination that never again would they risk having to bow to the will of the English-speaking majority on such an issue, and the puissant influence of the French-Canadian element in the councils of the Liberal Party has been largely responsible for the attitude upon international issues which it has taken since the war. Not only have they refused consistently to acknowledge any obligations to support policies evolved in Downing Street such as the Locarno Agreement, but they also have made repeated efforts at Geneva to whittle down Canadian commitments in regard to the League Covenant. At Geneva and elsewhere Premier Mackenzie King has advanced the thesis that since the original idea that the League would include all the important countries of the world has come to naught, its members have the right to revise their interpretation of obligations undertaken on assumptions which have proved false; and he has intimated that Canada does not feel herself bound to participate in the enforcement of sanctions. This attitude pleases French Canada and is not without support in other sections of the Dominion, particularly in the rural communities where people cannot understand why their sons' blood should be shed on the banks of the Rhine or the shores of the Mediterranean because a lot of foolish Europeans are unable to compose their age-long rancors.

It is not, however, that French Canada is completely disinterested in the affairs of the outside world. The able and aggressive leadership of Cardinal Villeneuve and his friendship with Premier Duplessis have made the Roman Catholic Church politically powerful in Quebec to an unusual degree at the present time. Under the influence of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, French-Canadian opinion since the start of the civil war in Spain has ranged itself solidly on the side of General Franco on the theory that he is a stalwart defender of the Church against the assaults of atheistical Communists, and there is widespread jubilation about his recent successes which seem to presage his ultimate triumph over the hosts of Midian. But it is a fact that public opinion in the English-speaking provinces of Canada has long been prone to believe that any developments or policies which arouse enthusiasm in Quebec are to be regarded with grave suspicion. This disposition has been aggravated by the Fascist tendencies manifest in the last few years in Quebec. English-speaking Canada therefore has in the main been strongly on the side of the Valencia Government and against Franco. The originators of the present British policy in regard to Spain seem to be blissfully unconscious of the repercussions it is having in Canada. Influential papers like the Winnipeg Free Press have openly accused the British Government of betraying Spanish democracy and of deliberately conniving at its subjugation under the heel of reactionary forces, and the extreme Protestant element represented by the Orange order, which has long been a vociferous exponent of Imperialist loyalty, takes a sombre view of the Roman Catholic Church's prospective recovery of a stronghold which it seemed to have lost. It might be argued by the British Government that the success of a policy which pleases the Roman Catholic Church would tend to modify French-Canadian dislike of schemes of Imperial coöperation. But any such view is illusory, for while French-Canadians may feel temporary gratitude for benevolent friendliness towards the aspirations of their Church, they will not be moved to the extent of abandoning their isolationist attitude in the event of another European war. And meanwhile other Canadians who have not heretofore been isolationists will have become chilled in their enthusiasm for close coöperation with a Britain whose policies are directed by a government which, they feel, is indifferent to the triumph of reactionary forces in Europe. It is Canadian liberals who are the zealous advocates of the coöperation of their country with the Commonwealth and the League; and the effect of recent developments in Europe has been to cool their ardor almost to the vanishing point and to swell the ranks of the isolationists.

But an increase of the isolationist spirit should not be understood as meaning a growing momentum towards complete independence, for certain grave domestic stresses and strains forbid such a course. It has for some time past been crystal-clear that a constitution framed in 1866 for the purpose of welding together a group of pioneer and predominantly agricultural communities had become quite inadequate for the needs of a full-grown industrialized nation and was, through its weaknesses and archaisms, producing troublesome stresses and conflicts. As a result there is widespread agreement among all parties about the urgent desirability of a drastic reform of the constitution. The fundamental trouble arises from the fact that the avowed purpose of the framers of Confederation -- to build a strong federal state, capable of achieving progressively a real national unity -- has been frustrated, partly by a series of decisions of the Privy Council, the highest court of the Commonwealth, which have enlarged the authority of the provincial governments, and partly by the weaknesses of the Federal Government in failing to stand up against provincial aggrandisements in the administrative field. The result is that the present ministries of certain provinces, among them Ontario and Quebec, have been arrogating to themselves the powers of sovereign states, while the Federal Government has found itself without the constitutional power to carry out a program of social security. A Royal Commission, which the Mackenzie King government appointed for the purpose of investigating and reporting upon federal-provincial relations, as a preliminary move towards constitutional reform has revealed through its public hearings that certain provinces are not only adamant against any enlargement of the Federal authority but would fain see it reduced to a mere shell. Apparently there lies ahead a prolonged and bitter controversy on the constitutional issue. Until it has been settled whether or not Canada is to be something more than a congeries of provincial communities with conflicting economic and other interests, she cannot afford to move from her present anchorage in the international seas.

Naturally the Union Nationale Ministry of Quebec is opposed to any surrender of provincial jurisdiction and on this issue it has found an ally in the Liberal Ministry of Ontario. They have agreed in their representations to the Royal Commission to make common cause against the demands of the poorer and weaker Western provinces (in part backed by the Maritime Provinces) for a readjustment of present burdens and responsibilities, and if their alliance threatens to frustrate much-needed reforms, it also helps to put into the background religious and racial cleavages which have troubled the relations of the two provinces in the past. There was a time, also, when the great majority of the citizens of both Ontario and Quebec had the common link of an ingrained bias against the United States. But in each province this feeling has been greatly modified in recent years. Recently there have come from the lips of Quebec politicians surprising pronouncements about the advisability of working out a defensive alliance between Canada and the United States; while a rising Liberal politician in Ontario is a persistent advocate of Canada's entry into the Pan American Union. But in both provinces the manufacturing interests, fearful of American competition, are bitterly opposed to any enlargement of the present trade arrangement with the United States. They also share a common dislike of the preferences given by Canada to British goods and are to be ranked as devotees of economic nationalism.

What really is the value of the preferential system as a binding link in the structure of the British Commonwealth? Undoubtedly the right of preferential free entry to the British market now available to a long list of Canadian products has long been extremely beneficial to many Canadian producers, and after it was enlarged in 1932 it was of enormous help to Canada in weathering the great depression. Indeed there are numerous communities in Canada, e.g. the applegrowing districts of Nova Scotia and British Columbia, which have come to regard their preferential privileges in the British market as the sheet anchors of their prosperity and which today are extremely apprehensive lest these be pared down to facilitate the consummation of an Anglo-American trade agreement. So it can fairly be argued that the preferences given by Britain tend to make their Canadian beneficiaries favorable to the British connection and to plans of imperial coöperation. As for the tariff preferences conceded by Canada to Britain, they are popular with the average Canadian consumer as a check upon domestic manufacturers; but they would be much more popular if certain British exporters did not regard them as a form of subsidy to themselves and if they did not prevent the Canadian consumer from getting more than a comparatively small benefit from them. Often these British exporters have a margin of 30 percent in their favor, and they apply a large part of this to augment their own selling profits instead of letting the Canadian consumer enjoy a substantial reduction in the prices of the goods which they offer him.

But despite this modification of the effects of British competition, many manufacturing interests in Canada regarded the preferences conceded to Britain as opening the door for an unjustifiable invasion of their own preserves, and the result is to weaken Imperialist sentiment in the industrial areas. There is, incidentally, another curious outcome of the preferential system. The preferential privileges available to Canadian goods not merely in Britain but in other parts of the Commonwealth have induced a number of American industrial interests either to establish branch factories in Canada or to acquire existing Canadian plants. The system therefore operates in some degree to increase American control of Canadian industry, which was far from being the objective of its architects.

But though the domestic protectionist interests in Ontario are wary about supporting any closer economic consolidation of the Commonwealth lest it should lead to the abolition of all trade barriers between the member states, they join the large majority of the population in being willing and eager for imperial coöperation in other spheres. On the question of foreign policy, in particular, Ontario parts company with Quebec. Some of the rural folk of Ontario may be isolationist, and the French-Canadian settlers in the northern counties may share the views of their Quebec compatriots, but in most sections of the province the traditions of the United Empire Loyalists still survive in vigor, and the citizens of places like Toronto and Hamilton make proud boast that they yield to nobody in their devotion to the British Crown and Commonwealth. Thus there is scant support in Ontario for the idea of any further severance of ties with Britain, whatever may be the risks involved in their retention. There are also to be found here many believers in a system of collective security; if these cannot get it through the League of Nations, they will support an effort to secure a substitute through a common defense policy for the British Commonwealth.

It is in the Prairie Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta that collectivist sentiment has its firmest foothold. These three provinces are the Canadian counterpart of the American prairie states just to the south. Each region resembles the other in terrain, climatic conditions, economic activities and social structure and hence in political outlook. Each has been a hotbed of radicalism due to the belief of its inhabitants that their economic and other troubles are largely due to the selfish exactions of vested interests having their headquarters on the eastern seaboard of the continent. The Canadian prairies can offer orators who in the fervor of their denunciations of St. James Street, Montreal, match the western American critics of Wall Street. But in regard to foreign policy the prairie region north of the international boundary has a different outlook from that to the south. The close settlement of the Canadian prairies was delayed until all the best land in the milder climate of the adjacent American states had been taken up, that is to say until the closing decades of last century. The dominant strains among the early settlers were Eastern Canadian and British, almost in equal proportions. Later there began a northward hegira of land-hungry American farmers and there also came a steady stream of European immigrants representative of practically every race. Ukrainians were most numerous; but there were also large contingents of Germans, Russians, Swedes, Icelanders and others.

Now these European groups in Western Canada, as well as many of the British-born element, have not been there long enough to sever their ties with their kinsfolk and to lose all interest in the fortunes of their native lands. From the first, they were in the main favorably disposed to the idea of the League. Moreover, it happens that in the Prairie Provinces the newspaper field is largely dominated by two groups of papers owned respectively by the Sifton and Southam families. The editorial policies of these papers, though on domestic issues ranged on opposite sides, have been strongly directed to support of the League and to promoting Canada's zealous adherence to it. These two factors combined to give collectivist sentiment a vigor in Western Canada not found in other sections. Now that the League is in a state of collapse a general disappointment and disillusionment has come over the inhabitants of the prairie country. But for economic reasons they cannot renounce all interest in the affairs of the outside world. They have been experiencing hard times as a result of a series of devastating droughts which have aggravated the consequences of the agricultural depression. In the last few years the wheat crop, which is the main buttress of the prairie economy, has been so small that little difficulty has been experienced in disposing of it. But when a normal harvest returns, as it promises to do this year, the Prairie Provinces will again be faced with the problem of finding an outlet in foreign markets for between 200 and 300 million bushels of wheat. They have found themselves in recent years excluded from what once were profitable markets in Italy and Germany by the policies of economic autarchy enforced by the dictatorial governments of these nations, and they know that a revival of genuine prosperity cannot come to the Canadian West until some sort of international appeasement is achieved, which lowers trade barriers and permits the restoration of a sane system of international commercial intercourse.

Accordingly, in their own selfish interests the people of the Prairie Provinces will remain interested in all plans for clearing up the present European mess and will want Canadian governments to make whatever helpful contributions they can in that direction. They will also support the retention of the British connection, because Britain is now by far the largest market for Canadian wheat and because sales there are helped by a substantial preferential privilege. They will also want to be able to rely upon the protection of the British fleet for trade routes. Indeed, the proposal frequently is heard in this region that the western provinces should hive off and form a separate Dominion, so as to secure emancipation from the exactions of the protected industrial interests of Eastern Canada and be able to exchange their agricultural products for British manufactured goods with the interference of only a tariff for revenue. Proponents of this idea argue that its adoption would open up a new era of prosperity for the West and pave the way for a revival of immigration on a large scale. It is not for the moment within the domain of practical politics. But if ever the French-Canadian element were to achieve complete numerical dominance in Eastern Canada it might become a very live issue. Meanwhile the people of the prairies will continue to hope against hope for the rehabilitation of the League and throw their influence against illiberal isolationist policies.

Imperialist sentiment is probably strongest in the westernmost province which lies between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. British Columbia was originally settled by immigrants from Britain and was with difficulty dragged into the fabric of Canadian Confederation in 1871 by material allurements such as the promise of the completion of a transcontinental railway. Today its population contains a larger proportion of British-born stock than any other Canadian province, and moreover a considerable element of these are upper-class émigrés who feel that British Columbia offers a better milieu for a dignified life on a slender income than does the mother country. Conservative in their outlook, most of them have the passionate patriotism of the exile, and they provide a political element of "diehard" Imperialism which has no exact counterpart in any other section of Canada. The fact that the main economic activities of British Columbia are lumbering, fruitgrowing, mining, and fishing, and that the exports from these industries enjoy valuable preferential privileges in Britain, merely makes British Columbians more sensible than ever of the material benefits of the British connection and more anxious to preserve it.

Another factor which strengthens Imperialist sentiment in British Columbia is the local unpopularity of the Japanese nation and an ingrained suspicion of its ambitious designs. At intervals perfervid agitations about the "Yellow Peril" boil up in British Columbia and gloomy forecasts are made of the day when the white population of the province will find itself in a position of numerical inferiority to the Orientals and compelled to accept a degraded standard of life. By the last census (1931) the combined Chinese and Japanese population of British Columbia was 49,344, roughly 7 percent of the total population of 694,263, and its increment by immigration is kept down to narrow dimensions by drastic regulations embodied, in the case of Japan, in a so-called "gentleman's agreement." Today Japan's attack upon China has brought to life the latent antagonisms against her, and British Columbian supporters of the Government of Mackenzie King have during the present session been advocating measures to ban all Japanese immigrants and to exclude Japanese from fishing privileges on the Pacific Coast. Furthermore, it is alleged that many Japanese are illicitly smuggled into the province every year, and the Ottawa Government has had to take cognizance of this charge by appointing a special board of investigation.

The nervousness of the people of British Columbia about the aggressive militarism of Japan disposed them to give strong support to the rearmament program upon which the Mackenzie King Government has lately embarked, and substantial appropriations have been allotted to new defenses on the Pacific Coast. But the Minister of National Defense, who represents British Columbia in the Cabinet, frankly admitted during this session that for the defense of her Pacific coast Canada must in the last analysis rely upon the might of the British Navy and upon the hope that the coöperation of the American Navy would also be available. British Columbians may be zealous Imperialists, but they also know that in the event of a general war between the democratic and the Fascist nations, the energies of the British Navy might be fully occupied in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, and so they do not disdain the suggestion that timely succor might be forthcoming from the United States.

If no fundamental principle seems to direct the foreign policy of Canada, that is mainly due to the constant conflict between the separate doctrines of Imperialism, collectivism and isolationism. This conflict has impelled all Canadian governments since the war to pursue an opportunist course in the field of external relations, dictated by what is chronically the main objective of politicians, the alienation of the smallest possible number of votes. Another general European war might find the isolationists in the saddle. But a grave political crisis would have to be overcome first, and the struggle would do serious damage to national unity. Meanwhile, in the domestic political arena the visibility is very low. While the Liberal Ministry of Mr. Mackenzie King has been receding steadily in popular favor, no other party at present offers the prospect of an efficient administration. The constitutional controversy now looming into view might easily lead to a completely new alignment, with one element standing fast for existing provincial rights, and the other determined to strengthen the Federal authority. Such a struggle would change the whole face of Canadian politics.

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  • J. A. STEVENSON, Chief Canadian Correspondent of the London Times and Parliamentary Correspondent of the Toronto Star
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