© McCord Museum
Trying to Please Both
About 1939, 20th century
Ink, crayon and graphite on card
36.4 x 28.8 cm
Gift of Mr. John Collins - The Gazette
© McCord Museum
Keys to History:
The Statute of Westminster (1931) gave Canada independence and control over its foreign policy. Establishing a clear policy, however, was difficult. Quebec nationalists fought for a strong isolationist stance as they feared being drawn into another European conflict. English-speaking "imperialists" favoured a system of collective security, unconditional support for Britain and conscription. Some Canadians supported the collective security provided by the League of Nations; many others felt that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans made Canada safe from a European or Asian conflict; and a small group of pacifists were opposed to any war. Prime Minister King's solution was to stay out of international disputes and support Britain's efforts to appease Hitler. King knew, though, that if Britain went to war, Canada would surely become involved.
As the risk of war in Europe and the Pacific increased, tensions rose between those who supported and those who opposed Canada's involvement.
As tensions rose, the country looked to Ottawa to establish a clear Canadian position
When Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Britain and France pledged unconditional support for Poland, the next country to suffer Hitler's attention.
Prime Minister King sought to balance the conflicting demands of different groups in Canada and avoided committing himself to either the imperialist or the nationalist cause.