Canada, The Birth of a Nation after World War 1
If there was a defining moment that made Canada into an independent country, it was the First World War that would lay the foundations for Canadian independence. World War 1 touched the lives of all Canadians and anyone who studies Canadian history cannot ignore the effects of the Great War. The war involved European countries but Canada being a dominion of the British Empire was called upon by England and had no choice but to participate. The war had both positive and negative effects on Canada and while many would rely on the negative aspects of the war, one must not forget what it did for Canada as a country. Canada’s involvement in the war would start a path to being an independent country, and after World War 1, Canada earned the respect from other nations especially after the heroic events at Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge. Canada was no longer to be looked at as a ‘self-governing colony’ but a nation that would have a say in international affairs. After the war, Canada earned a seat in the League of Nations and was now beginning to prosper and look like a truly independent country. After the formation of the League of Nations, Canada continued to demonstrate their will to make their decisions free from Britain’s approval and to influence decisions when it came to international affairs. For Canada to finally earn the respect from Britain and the other nations, they would have to participate in a war that would cost thousands of Canadians lives. Before the war Canada was considered a self-governing colony, but after the war was over, Canada cemented its position as a serious nation that would be more involved in international affairs then they ever did before.
World War 1 was the first major war that would be fought by large, centrally organized states since the birth of the Industrial Revolution. Nations like Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Britain and the United States had all encountered industrialization that would allow for new weapons and a new strategic way of fighting on the battlefield. These new mechanized weapons such as the machine gun would take the lives of approximately 12 million casualties and for Canada alone, the total military deaths includes 53,000 killed or missing in action and in 2009-2010, The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Annual Report gave a total of 64,976 military dead. Taking a look at this number, how can anyone think that there was any positive factors coming out of this war? Canadian historians have found that there were positive affects that came out of this tragic war. Before the war, Canada’s experiences with transferring the command and control of military forces to another nation essentially originated with the Boer War that occurred in 1899-1902. During this time, the Canadian army was assigned to, and integrated with British forces. This was a huge situation for Canada because it was the first occasion that Canada sent troops in large numbers for a conflict that was happening overseas. The Boer War saw the British and its dominion forces against the Afrikaner Republics of South Africa and the Orange Free State. By the time the war ended, more than 7300 soldiers and 16 nurses had sailed from Canada to South Africa, and approximately 270 were killed there. The Boer War was not a Canadian war, it was a British war and Canada’s involvement was only because they were a dominion of the British Empire and had no say in the strategies and direction of this war. One must remember that during this war, Canada was still a self-governing colony and had no control over its foreign policy. Canada’s military contribution to this war was very important but it was still Britain who had control over Canada’s military. Britain had the power to issue any order to a Canadian commander no matter what their rank was and they could discipline soldiers and assign any mission for a Canadian regiment that they seemed was necessary. Strictly speaking, Canada was still under major influence from Britain and didn’t have much of a say when concerning foreign issues, especially when dealing with a war. This all changed after World War 1.
When comparing Canadian foreign policies of the Boer War and the First World War there is one clear difference. In Africa, Canada had no choice but to surrender its military leadership to Britain, but when World War 1 became a reality for the entire world, Canada had more control over its military strength. Canadian historian Desmond Morton simply believed that this was the birth of Canadian independence because “Canadians were unwilling to surrender control over their own war effort.” Morton is correct in statin...