Courtesy Reuters

A Policy of Neutrality for Canada

ONE of the by-products of the diplomatic revolution of the 1930's has been to make Canadians turn increasingly away from a policy of participation in European wars. Until 1931, when the Conservative Party in England began its profound changes in British foreign policy, few Canadians had seriously considered such a possibility. Canada was the last important portion of the Americas to pass through the colonial stage; in her people (apart from the French Canadians) had survived longest the unquestioned acceptance of the obligation to provide military assistance to the European mother country. Hence Canadians, with more loyalty to Britain than to democracy, helped to subjugate the Boers in 1899; hence they accepted the automatic belligerency imposed upon them in 1914 without a murmur. Even the growth of "Dominion status" in the 1920's did not make them reconsider their European commitments, for then the League of Nations was in existence. In the collective system, as Mr. Stimson once pointed out in a memorable speech, no state can be neutral in the event of war, and the laws of neutrality, presupposing international anarchy and unfettered state sovereignty, become obsolete. Like the other Dominions, Canada achieved her full nationhood only after the Great War and under the cover of the League; she emerged from colonial subordination, not to walk into an unfriendly world, but to join an association of states with wider ideals and higher purposes than the Empire to which previously she had been exclusively attached. Membership in the Commonwealth was submerged (though not obliterated) in a larger alliance, which also, be it noted, involved intervention in European affairs and hence no change in the traditional foreign policy of Canada in this regard.

Since the beginning of the present decade, however, the international order which nourished Canadian autonomy has steadily crumbled away. The members of the League, amongst whom Great Britain and France have always been dominant, have either been unable or unwilling to prevent a change back from League methods to power methods of settling

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