Post by: Hayden Love, NSLA Research Project Specialist
In the wake of Britain and France’s declaration of war on Germany, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King recalled Canadian Parliament on the 7th of September, leading to 3 days of intense debate. Would Canada lend itself and it’s sons and daughters to yet another European war?
The 1931 Statute of Westminster had granted British Commonwealth nations (Canada amongst them) a level of self-autonomy, free to dictate their own foreign policy. Now, in 1939, Canada could decide on her own whether or not to march back to the battlefields where so many had died only 20 years ago. It was a difficult decision to make.
Still, with her deep ties to the British Empire (and Quebec’s to France), it would have been near impossible for Canada to remain neutral. Though recently “independent” in some rights, the deep bonds of the Empire still bound the Commonwealth together, and Canada’s involvement in the Great War 20 years prior helped stir the call to action. The sacrifices made by Canadians should have not been in vain.
Moreover, Hitler’s policies stood in direct opposition to those championed by Canada and the West - democracy, freedom of choice, and freedom from religious or racial persecution. If Canada was unwilling to protect these values abroad, would it be willing to protect them at home?
A member of Parliament, H.S Hamilton, proclaimed during the 3 days of Parliamentary debate that “... this is Canada’s War. The effective defence of Canada consists in the utilization of the organized and united power and strength of this Dominion however, wherever, and whenever it can best be used to defeat Germany’s armed forces and destroy the philosophy on which it is based”.
On September 10th, 1939, Canada declared war on Germany.