Canada's New Place in the Empire
A Challenge to Imperial Federation
Prof. W. P. M. Kennedy
University of Toronto
THE relations between Canada and the Empire have been forced to the front as a practical question by the war. It is not inexpedient to consider these relations amid the clash of arms, because the terrific nature of the present struggle makes it all the more necessary that we should have considered, in some degree at least, the many problems of reconstruction. Among these problems one of of the most vital is the problem of Empire. On a clear understanding of the issues which it raises, and on the attitude of the Empire at large towards them will depend in no small degree the future security and peace, not merely of the Empire itself, but of the world at large. Canada’s place, for obvious reasons, will be a vital and urgent one in relation to any discussion. The Great War has given her a position in the Empire which will force her relations to it into prominent consideration. Academic discussions must give place, as far as Canada is concerned, to practical considerations, and these will be all the more valuable if they are brought forward at once and are considered at the present time in a spirit of wise and constructive statesmanship.
It may be well, then, to begin with the academic discussions of the past. I am only calling “academic” those suggestions of politicians, historians and literary men, which hinted at Canadian representation at Westminster. While it is interesting to remember that some of the earliest suggestions for such a scheme came from Canadians, John Beverley Robinson and the House of Assembly of Upper Canada for example, I do not think it is necessary to consider them. Of more importance is the scheme for Imperial Federation, which was more than outlined by Sir Joseph Ward at the Imperial Conference of 1911. The clumsiness of his scheme would seem to rule it out of court at once, but as it still survives in many circles as a practical suggestion, it is necessary to consider Canadian public opinion with regard to it.
Broadly speaking such a necessity can-
not be said to exist, for there is in reality no Canadian public opinion in connection with it, if by public opinion is meant an opinion arrived at by judicious and careful weighing of the proposal. During my residence in Canada, I have made it my business to gather information on and criticism of this scheme. I have discussed it with Canadians in every walk in life, and of all political compleplexions and brought it
to their notice from every point of view, and I have no hesitation in saying that outside a small doctrinaire and academic circle, there are very few Canawho think it worthy of serious consideration. In other words, Imperial Federation would be swamped in any test of Canadian sentiment that it would be possible to take. Indeed I might say, “Canadian conviction,” for there is in Canada practically only one side to the question—that is opposition. I do not wish to be misunderstood, or to leave the impression that Canadians are so prejudiced that they refuse to discuss the scheme. Rather the objections are to them so obvious, that they have little patience with a proposal which is vitiated ab initio by inherent objections.
FIRSTLY, the very term “Empire Parliament” has a dangerous sound, and the vast body of Canadians would never tolerate the setting up of any body, in relation to any aspect of their government, over which they had not immediate and direct control. Westminster is a long way off, and the hard worn battle of responsible government has left among Canadians a wholesome suspicion against
centralization. An Empire Parliament would mean, from the Canadian point of view, a parcelling out of the control of Canadian affairs and the narrowing down of the sovereignty of the Canadian Parliament. It would mean the surrender in one way or another to a miscellaneous and composite assembly of the discussion and management of many aspects of political activity which are peculiarly Canadian. In addition, all this would take place in an atmosphere distinctly un-Canadian and far removed from the vital touch of Canadian public opinion. The cable and wireless can never make Westminster Canadian, and a Parliament drawn from the ends of the earth would command no respect in a crisis. Parliamentary Government, if it is to be living and efficient, demands human and humanizing relationships with the people governed, and these relationships must stand the stress of a storm. It is impossible to conceive of an Empire Parliament standing such strains, and a press message from a special correspondent would fail to satisfy Canada, if any crises, arose in which her affairs might be at stake. Empire Parliament is but old Downing Street “writ large.” Canada does not forget the struggle in her history from 1791 to 1848, and will not freely or gladly or lightly accept an arrangement, which will ask her to send men to Westminster whom she cannot quickly dismiss, if not by an adverse parliamentary vote, at least by strong quick-acting public opinion. To put the matter another way, Canada’s Empire relationships must be made and kept in Canada and settled by Canadians in close touch with full-grown Canadian self-consciousness.
But, it may be said, all this is sentiment —real difficulties would not arise—the problems of Empire would raise everything to a higher plane. It is just the failure to recognize that sentiment is the surface of conviction that makes such a criticism possible. The “higher plane” of Empire savours too much of the absolute
A large question mark to-day looms up in tire mind of the Canadian citizen with reference to the future: What is Canadas place to be in the Empire after the rear? This question divides naturally into two heads: What is to be our share in the direction and government of the Empire?; and what is to be our share of the burdens and responsibilities? It is true that these questions which are new in all minds should be brought out and actively discussed and it is the intention of MacLean s to devote considerable space to the consideration of them from all angles. In coming issues articles will appear from men of greatest prominence, outlining their views on
in metaphysics, and is just the point where careful conduct of the practical is more than ever necessary. The attenuated air of Empire will not be suitable for the mundane discussion of everyday government.
OECONDLY, then, it may be well to ^ make the sentimental objection clearer by some practical difficulties. No successful Federation has ever been formed without a previous customs’ union, or, after Federation, the immediate handing over to the central legislature of the control of the Customs. Would Canada accept such a proposal? Has Canada not a right to regulate her affairs on a free trade or protective basis as she pleases? Would Canada surrender the present control of her trade policy to a body which would act like an irresponsible executive? There might be no necessity, says the academic thinker. But the practical statesman must reply that, since the raison d’etre of an Empire Parliament would be Imperial unity, there might arise an occasion when it would consider that its duty lay in over-riding a Canadian tariff arrangement because of possible hurt to that unity, however remote. To take another example, might not the fear which is quite common in Great Britain of antagonizing friendly nations by the exclusion of coloured aliens from Canada by the Canadian Government drive an Imperial Empire Parliament to a consideration of the curtailment of this right? I use the word “consideration” advisedly, for the mere suggestion of a proposal to limit Canada’s power over those whom she will admit to enjoy her citizenship would at once wreck the very unity, the maintenance of which would be the avowed aim of an Empire Parliament. Other problems might be mentioned. These two, however, will be sufficient to show that no scheme, guarded though it were by a meticulous written constitution, could prevent friction. I believe that an Empire Parliament would wreck rather than unify the Empire, and it would in no way solve Canada’s Empire problem; Canadian sentiment, backed by hard-headed business thought, is against it.
I have already hinted at the emphasis which the war has laid on the problem. Canadian liberty has been consecrated as never before by the blood of thousands of her sons, and Canadian freedom and self government have at length been transfigured and transformed into selfconscious nationalism by the light sheij from many a European battlefield. These facts are so strongly in evidence in Canada that they force her Empire problem to the front of issues needing the
most careful and most delicate handling in the near future. At the same time they make it more unlikely than ever before that Canada will entertain any suggestion for Empire centralization. Imperial Federation will be mistrusted more than
TT may be well to ask in a clear cut *■ and definite manner what aspects of Canada’s Emph-e problem has the war forced to the front?
I think that question can best be answered by two equally direct questions: firstly, will Canada in the future be content to be automatically at war when Great Britain is at war? It is not a question of whether the Canadian government may not see its way to take an active part in such a war, it is a question whether Canada will be content, from the point of view of international law, to be in a state of war against any country with which Great Britain is at war, and at the same time have had no say in the declaration, or no effective knowledge of the remote and antecedent circumstances out of which it arose? Secondly will Canada be content to allow Great Britain in the future, as lax-gely in the past, to bear the heavier bui-den of Empire defence? The problem can be stated in another way—is Canada to have any effective say in Empire foreign policy and in Empire defence? Or, whex-e, as in this tragic moment in the Empire’s history when Canada was expected and rightly expected to take her share, is it right to allow such an expectation to arise, when Canada is voiceless as on August 4th, 1914?
If before the Great War, Canadians wex-e little if at all interested in Empire problems as demanding their attention, to-day I believe the opposite to be the case. There is undoubtedly abroad a wide consideration of them. This interest is not confined to any one class. I have found it most vital among the x-ank and file of the Canadian army and among farmers and workmen. In the highest form it is due to the meritorious claim that Canada has passed for ever out of colonial tutelage and that she has won on the battle fields of Europe her place to full citizenship. That claim is beyond the possibility of dispute. In another form, more hinted at than explicit, it can be found in the undercurrent of public opinion, which claims that Canada cannot in futuxe be dragged into a war like a feudal vassal in the Middle Ages. Whatever form it takes, however, there it is—an interrogation of self-consciousness which will grow rather than diminish. In addition, the raising of a large army has brought to the fx-ont the question of Empire defence as never before.
Whatever the future may hold for peace movements and federations of nations, the question of preparedness cannot be left, hung in air as it were. It is almost a platitude to say that a people which has done as nobly as the Canadians have done cannot be expected to be shut out as children when Old Mother England arl-anges the family plans in relation to her neighbours. Children in one sense Canadians are proud to be; but grown up children who have proved their growth. The family council chamber must admit them in an efficient and responsible way. Foreign policy and defence must in future be shared in real co-operation.
TT is here that Imperial Conferences 1 are a failure. When in 1911 representatives of the Dominions were admitted to the full secrets of the international policy, and when a px-omise was given that this would be done regularly in the future, a distinct advance was made in Empire relationships. But like all compromises, the advance only emphasized the weakness of the arrangement. It still x-emains a concession. The Dominions are only consulted; they have no effective voice. Their opinion is asked; it has no value except that attaching to courtesy and sentiment. Canada has no say in the conduct of foreign policy, in treaties with foreign powers, still less in all that delicate machinery called diplomacy is there any skilled and responsible Canadian mind. An Imperial Conference was nothing more, in the final analysis, than a delicate compliment.
It is very easy to offer ready-made solutions to problems of government. The documents of Canadian history are filled with futile schemes, which only survive to the curious by the label name of their authors. I have no desire to pass into such lists, still less do I wish to bx-ing fox-ward any scheme which is based on abstract theories. If I suggest one.
I do so conscious of the magnitude « of the issue and of the necessity that it should c t have in it something practical and if?/ , workable. * px-oach BK^Ê problem with VW ElggS any pet prev di lections. That there is a problem I know. Its solution—what^^g^B ever it may be—I seek, as every serious citizen must. Here, I would make a few caveats which to me seem ^ fundamental. There must be no disputes over “less”
Imperial problems from the, various angles. Prof. Kennedy's solution, as outlined in the accompanying article, is a new one and should arouse earnest thinking and discussion. It is not Imperial Federation in the accepted sense of the word, yet it assures for Canada a share in deciding all Imperial policies which would affect the Dominion and it, covers also the equally important feature of our share of the expense of Imperial upkeep. The solution he advances is the result of a very careful study of the problems from all angles—for Prof. Kennedy is an Englishman who has made Canada his home and therefore has an appreciation of both viewpoints.
or “more.” Canada must be allowed to take her share in any discussion “as full grown in all her powers,” as an equal partner in the firm. The component groups must labor under no handicap. Of course this equality does not mean economic or psychological or institutional similarity. It is a political equality. Canada must be received as the political equal of Great Britain. Canada must be treated as politically competent. Great Britain must be prepared to receive Canada as a people, with all the self-consciousness of a people and all the complexity of interests peculiar to a distinct political group. There must disappear from British speeches and British newspapers the obsolete word colonial, Canada is prepared to offer to the councils of Empire the experience of a century in the difficult evolution of the art of self-government. She has crushed into a hundred years England’s own constitutional struggle, and the compressed intensity has made more valuable, rather than less, her experience. In addition, her experience has not found her wanting in the test of achievement. Her hundred years has made as §ure a reply as England’s roll of centuries.
The solution which I am about to suggest is one which the study of Canadian history has forced upon me. All Canada’s difficulties in relation to Great Britain in the past have been solved by the gift of full responsibility. It was not till the British Cabinet laid down the famous principle to Lord Elgin that he should choose as his advisors only those who had the confidence of the people, that Canada began a period of comparative harmony in relation to the Home Government. All the “tinkering,” all the conciliation, all the compromises previous to Lord Elgin’s régime in Canada were utterly ineffective to allay the friction. The relationship between a responsible executive in Canada and the political fact of Canadian dependence seemed irreconcilable. The knot was cut by accepting the former as a fact and leaving the latter to take care of itself. I am convinced, then, that with regard to her Empire problem this history must be kept in mind. Responsibility-full responsibility —must be the keynote of any arrangements which may be arrived at. In other words, England must not let the lesson of her past experience
with Canada go unheeded. The policy of drift would almost be better were attempts made in relation to Canada and the Empire, in which England acted the part of predominating partner and assumed an attitude of gracious condescension. The animating spirit of any pourparlers must be frank friendship for and with a responsible nation—friendship which is willing to trust to the full and is above suspicion. On that aspect of the question I have no doubts whatever. It may seem unnecessary at a moment of emotional good feeling to emphasize the point. It is well to do so, however, for the stress of reconstructions will leave little place for such sentiments. The very emotions which Canada’s response to the far-flung battle flag have aroused in England have intensified in Canada a justifiable pride in her own worth among the allied nations and make it essential that her capacity for responsibility be considered fully equal to that of Great Britain.
THE solution which I would very tentatively offer is based firmly and deeply on the idea of responsible Cabinet Government. In every Canadian Cabinet in future there might be a Minister of Foreign Affairs and a Minister of Defence. These two Ministers as members of the Cabinet would be responsible to the people in accordance with the principles and conventions of the Canadian Constitution. They could reside for some months of the year in London and be ex officio members of the British Cabinet, when foreign affairs and defence were discussed and when a policy in relation to them was formulated. They would be admitted as responsible Ministers to all secrets of the Foreign Office, the Admiralty, the War Office, and would have before them all diplomatic correspondence relating to international policies. They might then return to Canada, take their seats in the Canadian Parliament, give such an account of their work as would be regulated by the current policy governing such matters and receive and answer questions as any responsible ministers are accustomed to do. If the Canadian Parliament accepted their proposals, for which, of course, the Canadian Cabinet would naturally accept responsibility, then Canada’s position in relation to foreign affairs and to the defence of the Empire would in the final analyses be that of her responsible Ministers—that is, of the Canadian people themselves, according to the principle governing responsible self-government. Of course, there are obvious difficulties, but when the full implications which the creation of such portfolios implied were understood beforehand, these dangers ought not
to be any greater than those connected with all Cabinet Government. When Canadians elected a Parliament and returned a Government to power, they would in future be clearly aware of the fact that they were creating a foreign policy and a scheme of defence, common for the Empire, yet Canadian as far as the responsible creation of both was concerned. I feel certain that it is along such lines as these that reconstruction lies. The plan which I suggest eliminates the idea of an Empire Parliament and it would keep foreign policy and defence in close touch with Canadian control and Canadian sentiment.
From another point of view—and one of the most vital—the scheme has an important advantage. It does not raise the question of an Empire Parliament taxing the Empire for Empire defence. Least of all would Canadians accept any taxation over which their Minister’s have not full control. With this scheme in working order a Canadian Cabinet would arrange Canada’s share in expenditure, and the supplies necessary for it would be raised by a vote in the Canadian Parliament and would be spent in a manner arranged by Canada’s own Government —whether on a Canadian army and navy or as a contribution to a central fund would be of little consequence, provided that Canada voted the money on her own responsibility to carry out a scheme in which she had a full and responsible share, and in relation to plans to which she had given her consent through her responsible Ministers.
The scheme should be allowed to evolve. There ought to be no serious difficulties in its gradual application. Much will be learned from past experience in treatymaking with foreign powers, and Canada’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Defence would from one point of view act as the Ambassadors of a foreign power entrusted with drawing up a treaty, responsible like them to their own Government. The great initial step would be their admission to the British Cabinet, where the broad outlines of foreign policy and defence could be at once arranged. The details could be worked out gradually between the British and Canadian Governments. Once the principle was recognized that England could not arrange a foreign policy and a scheme of defence for Canada unless they had been prew# ou si y sanctioned by responsible Canadian Ministers, half the difficulties would be overcome. And the fact that Canada had a foreign policy and had a scheme of defence, which were in the final analysis her own, would crown the national selfconsciousness of the Dominion with those responsibilities which are the terrible and awful glory of national manhood.