Battle of Vimy Ridge
At 5:30 am, on Monday April 9, 1917, Canadian troops successfully invaded Vimy Ridge - one of Germany's key vantage point in Northern France. Both armies wanted control over Vimy because its height gave troops an advantage. Previously, British and French forces have attempted to take this ridge however, they were unable to defeat the German troops thus, they turned to the Canadians for help.
Battle of Passchendaele
The Battle of Passchendaele occured as a result of General Douglas Haig's insistence on breaching the German front lines on Ypres, Belgium. This battle was a part of the Third Battle of Ypres. British, Australian and New Zealand forces have all tried to attack German forces at this location but, they were all unsuccessful. On October 26, 1917, the artillery barages began and on November 10 of that year, the Canadian soldiers had won the battle.
Canada's Hundred Days
In response to Germany's last attempt to attack the Allies before the arrival of US troops, Canada launched a series of attacks on Germany's strongholds such as the city of Amiens, Canal du Nord, town of Cambrai, Valenciennes and city of Mons. At 11:00 am, November 11, 1918, an armistice was signed and the Great War ended.
Why did Canada participate in WWI?
- At the time, Canada was a colony of the British Empire and therefore, Britain's participation in the war meant that Canada too, had to enter the war in Europe.
- Before, Canada had not been recognised by other countries as a powerful nation so, Canada wanted to use WWI as an opportunity to introduce itself to the international community.
- Canadians wanted to participate in the war as many of them were born in Britain and hence, felt the obligation to aid their 'homeland' in the war.
- Canadian Major-General Arthur Currie
- British Lieutenant-General Julian Byng
- British General Douglas Haig
The Chanak Affair, 1922
In the early 1920s, after Turkey's defeat in WWI, France, Britain and Greece occupied the majority of West Turkey; Britain was in control of Chanak - a small seaport on the Dardanelles. In 1922, a nationalist Turkish group began revolting against the Allies' authority in their country and therefore, they drove Greece out of Turkey and threatened to attack British troops at Chanak. On September 15, 1922, Britain requested all its dominions to send troops to aid in the conflict that was occurring. Canada, as a British dominion, is unofficially obligated to comply with Britain's demand but, Canada's Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was hesitant in sending Canadian troops to Turkey. On September 18, King's Cabinet agreed that Parliament should have authority over such decision. Their reluctance continued and when the issue was finally resolved, the war in Turkey had ended.
Why did the Chanak Affair occur?
- Canada's willingness to become an independent nation urged it to refrain from abiding to Britain's demand for. By choosing to make their own decisions, Canada establishes its independence from the British Empire. It explicitly communicates its willingness to be detached from Britain's affairs.
- After WWI, Canada suffered many casualties and thus, the country especially soldiers, did not have the morale to participate in another war.
- The stationing of British troops in Western Turkey precipitated tension within the region notably, amongst nationalist Turkish troops. The strain eventually boiled into the conflict between Turkey and Britain.
- Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King of Canada
- Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Britain
Halibut Treaty, 1923
The Halibut Treaty is a Treaty between Canada and America regarding fishing practices in the Pacific Ocean. In 1923, over-fishing by American and Canadian fisheries caused a drastic decrease in the amount of Halibut that remained in the ocean. Despite so, firms were hesitant to diminish their production as commercial fishing was a major industry at the time. The Government of America and Canada formed this treaty in order to preserve fishing stocks. The Treaty implemented a closed season for commercial fishing - from November 16 to February 15 fisheries were prohibited from fishing; violation of this treaty can lead to a penalty of seizure. Also, the Halibut Treaty developed the International Fisheries Commissions (IFC) - an organisation aimed to contribute to the regulation of large-scale commercial fishing. Normally, it was required for Britain to have a seat or a signatory in a deal involving its Dominions but, Canada negotiated this deal entirely by themselves.
King-Byng Crisis, 1925-26
On October 29, 1925, Canada held a federal election to re-elect Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and the Conservatives won against the Liberals and the Progressives. King refused to overturn his power to the Conservative Party and therefore, he turned to the House of Commons and urged Parliament to decide on the outcome of the election. As the new House was mainly Progressives, it supported King’s decision in hopes of gaining another chance at winning the election but on June 25, 1916 this conditional endorsement ended. Before this date, Prime Minister King had requested Governor General Julian Byng of Vimy to dissolve Parliament and host new elections, to which Byng denied. Moreover, the British Governor General directly intervened in the political makeup of Canada by asking the Conservative party to form a Parliament under the leadership of Arthur Meighen. Prime Minister King was forced to comply to the Governor’s demand and he resigned. Arthur Meighen’s new arrangement passed four out of five votes and subsequently, he asked Governor General Byng to dissolve parliament and have a re-election; this time, Byng agreed. During the re-election, Meighen’s campaign centered around the allegation that Liberals were corrupted and unable to operate the country effectively. On the other hand, King’s campaigned focused on the negativity of British interference - an issue that resonated with the Canadian public. As a result, King won the election and was Prime Minister once more.
Why did the King-Byng Crisis happen?
- The crisis was initiated by Byng's disagreement to King's offer to dissolve the pre-existing Parliament and re-elect new members. His fear of approving an unprecedented motion set off a chain of events that resulted in King's re-election and public disapproval of British interference in Canadian politics.
- The general reluctance to turn over power provoked actions that contributed to the King-Byng Crisis. For example, King's refusal to give up his Prime Minister position to the Conservatives caused him to request the dissolution of parliament and subsequently, caused Arthur Meighen's appointment to Prime Minister. Meighen's unruly authority induced negative opinions on British intervention
- Governor General Byng's decision to form a conservative government under the leadership of Arthur Meighen enraged Canadians and therefore, allowed King's campaign to thrive resulting in his re-election. More importantly, it created distrust for Britain in the Canadian public.
- Canadians’ disapproval of British intervention in their political system compelled them to respond to King’s campaign and thus, they elected him as Prime Minister.
- Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King
- Governor General Julian Byng of Vimy
- Conservative leader Arthur Meighen
Statute of Westminster, 1931
After WWI, Canada struggled to become an autonomous nation through various ways. The Statute of Westminster is the product of their accumulated efforts. In 1929, Britain hosted a conference on the Operation of Dominion Legislation where dominions of Britain were invited to discuss improvements to the structure of the empire. Canada’s Minister of Justice, Ernest Lapointe, attended this conference with Dr. O. D. Skelton. At the conference Skelton, argued for Canada’s complete independence from the Empire and was met with reluctance from Britain. However, the combined insistence for autonomy from other British dominions compelled Britain to agree. In December 11, 1931, Britain passed the statute declaring “self-governing dominions were autonomous communities within the British Empire”. The dominions had complete legal power over their country but remained allies of crown through the commonwealth. The Statute of Westminster allowed nations to pass, repeal and amend laws within their countries without the consent of Britain. Nonetheless, Canada was unable to amend, repeal the British North America Acts, 1876 - Canada’s Constitution - until 1982. Also, the Judicial Committee of Privy Council in Britain remained the final court of appeal for Canada until 1942. Even so, the Statute of Westminster is still considered today as Canada’s declaration of independence.