ANC-C6846 | Imperial War Cabinet

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Imperial War Cabinet
May 1, 1917, 20th century
This artefact belongs to : © National Archives of Canada
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Keys to History

A year after Borden's New Year's announcement there had been terrible losses in France and a change of government in Britain, largely engineered by two Canadians, Max Aitken and Arthur Bonar Law. In March 1917 Canada's prime minister joined Dominion colleagues and British ministers in an Imperial War Cabinet. "If we want their men", the new prime minister David Lloyd George told his new adviser Colonel Maurice Hankey, "we must call them to our councils." And he did.

It took a further year of terrible losses at Arras and in the Passchendaele offensive before the British leaders told the Dominion premiers the full truth about the war and listened to their advice. In fact, the experiment was unworkable. Dominion advice led chiefly to involvement in Russia's civil war, while Dominion premiers like Borden could not act as prime ministers when they were far away in London. Nor, when they reckoned up the full cost of the war, would Canadians willingly bear the apparent burdens of a world-wide Empire. Experience backed full sovereignty for Canada and other Dominions, not the imperial federation that had been Borden's dream in 1914.

  • What

    Never before had leaders from the self-governing colonies been present at a meeting of the British cabinet -- but never before had their support been as vital.

  • Where

    The photo was taken in the garden behind No. 10 Downing Street in London, the official residence of the British prime minister.

  • When

    The photograph was taken in March or April, 1917.

  • Who

    The British prime minister, David Lloyd George, sits between two Canadians at the Imperial War cabinet in 1917. Arthur Bonar-Law, a New Brunswicker who headed the British Conservative party, is on his right, and Sir Robert Borden, the Nova Scotian who headed Canada's government, is on his left. They are surrounded by other British and Dominion leaders and the prime minister's staff.