UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Canada and League sanctions, 1919-1936 Saywell, John Tupper

Abstract

In 1919 Canada became a member of the League of Nations. In so doing she accepted the obligation to support the maintenance of peace by the collective measures defined in the League Covenant. This included the preservation of the territorial integrity and political independence of every League member against external aggression by the application of financial, economic and, if necessary, military measures. These sanctions were outlined in Article 10 and Article 16 of the Covenant. Canada accepted these obligations with mixed feelings. Some elements in the Dominion opposed from the beginning the assumption of any external obligations. Others considered the enhancement of the nation's international status as outweighing the burden of sanctions. Very few were of the opinion that it was to Canada's advantage to play an active role in the League and do all in her power to preserve peace by joining in collective measures against an aggressor. As time passed both government policy and public opinion became more hostile towards Canadian commitments to the League. From the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 to the Fourth Assembly in 1922 Conservatives and Liberals alike attempted to remove or dilute the irksome obligations. Canada initiated an attack on Article 10 and supported the movement for the weakening of Article 16. The effect on Canada of the abstention of the United States was immediate and profound. The period between the wars was marked by an ever increasing intimacy in the relations between the two states. Every Canadian government closely watched the prevailing attitude in the United States and supported any action by the League which might facilitate the entry of the United States. In addition, Canada's position on the continent of North America was used as an excuse for a negative role in the League. The government of Canada refused to accept the draft treaties or the Geneva Protocol for it was believed that these schemes increased the obligation to participate in collective measures. The Pact of Paris, on the other hand, was accepted with some enthusiasm. It contained no specific obligations and was endorsed by the United States. The economic depression, the failure of collective security and the breakdown of the League of Nations, and the rise of armed dictatorships increased the isolationist sentiment in Canada. By the end of 1935 the great majority of Canadians were inclined to favor a North American policy of aloofness towards Europe and the League. Their natural sympathies lay with the isolationism of the United States. Throughout the period from 1919 to 1926, from the birth to the death of the League of Nations, Canada's policy towards League sanctions was one of negation. This policy was subscribed to by every Canadian government and was supported by the Canadian people. This paper surveys the more prominent features and outstanding incidents of Canadian policy and opinion with regard to League sanctions.

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