Impact of the World Wars on Canadian-American Relations

Introduction

Discussing the Canadian – American relations within the time frames of the First and Second World Wars, the issue of the impact of those wars on both countries should be analyzed. The questionable and knotty problem over the comparing analysis, of which one of World Wars played more significant effect, must be also recovered.

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With the view to understand better the circumstances and conditions of the period of our interest, it is necessary to provide with the overview of the issue under consideration. Being a member of the British Commonwealth during the First and Second World Wars Canada was obliged to signup for military duty. The United States were holding neutral position in the World Wars, but their troops were directed to Canada to fight for Antanta’s interests as the Great Britain, the head of the Commonwealth, was a member this union. The USA and Canada were also connected historically, as America was once a British colony too.

Main body

Moreover, economic ties and affairs between those countries during the World Wars played a great deal in further development and harmonization of the two nations’ relations. But still, there were some demonstrations of tension concerning agricultural sector and opened markets.

Although, a free trade agreement had been established between the two countries, the Canadian Prime Minister suspected the American side in attempts to control all of the economic affairs on the continent. This led to the establishment of certain restrictions in the agricultural and service market between those two countries, but in general, relation between those countries remained warm and stable.

Meanwhile, the Great Britain was weakened by the lingering Wars. It became dependent on the United States’ policies and wishes, because of the British debt to America. Therefore, the US became capable in influencing Britain’s policy toward Canada with the view to provide their neighbor with the wider rights and political independence from the metropolis.

The United States’ interest in the above mentioned situation was determined by the all-embracing British control over Canadian foreign affairs, including “treaties about strictly bilateral Canada-United States issues, such as the Alaska boundary dispute or waterways management. Those treaties were negotiated and signed by the British”1. Using the British economical crisis and the American patronage, Canadian Prime Minister, Laurier, proclaimed that Canada intends to gain and preserve its autonomy2. Laurier’s successor, Robert Borden, followed him and demanded independence in Canadian foreign affairs from the Imperial government.

The First World War helped Canada in achieving of its objectives. By 1917 Canada had a full army with the Canadian commander. It was supported in its claim that it made enough sacrifices (65,000 people dead) during the First World War to earn a place in world affairs.

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And very soon, at Paris Peace Conference of 1919 Canada was proclaimed an autonomous country within the Commonwealth with the right to lead its own foreign policy apparatus from the metropolis. Such decision was really favorable for the United States of America and the relationships between the USA and Canada became even more close and fruitful then they were previously.

Following this, it should be pointed out that Canada achieved its autonomy from the Great Britain not because of waging some political conflicts with metropolis, but because of the Canada’s commitment to its soldiers that were sent to fight far beyond their country’s borders. Sacrifices in the First World War and the United States’ assistance strengthened Canadians positions in the world arena and prevented the British’s pressure on Canada, as the metropolis had to act more cautious in international affairs since then.

Nevertheless, the First World War can not be regarded as a turning point for Canada and for the American – Canadian relations. This role belongs to the Second World War. Though the human casualties were more then 45,000 people, the Second World War, indeed, contributed to the development of closer defense policy, economic and cultural relations with the United States: “In 1940 the two countries created a Permanent Joint Board on Defense… In 1941 they integrated wartime military production. After the Second World, Canada maintained and expanded its defense and economic ties with the United States”3.

According to Lester Pearson, the Nobel Prize-winning foreign minister of Canada, “the Second World War determined Canada’s passage from the British century of Canadian history to the American century”4. Although, having sufficient and close economic relations with the USA, Canada was afraid of America’s military interference, thus, it remained some relations with metropolis – Britain. But, in order to preserve its independence from the British over lordship and its economic domination, Canada established economic ties with the United States as a counterweight to.

Some scholars, for example the professor of the Vanderbilt University – Fleming, suggested that the Cold War started even earlier then the First and Second World Wars5. Therefore, it might be stated that Canada began to be drawn closer to America economically, culturally and militarily since then. The United States used Canada as a mediator in its international affairs, nevertheless, the latter had to beware of former’s hegemonic plans. But with the view to support friendly relations, Canada readily played the role of a satellite of the United States of America.

Conclusion

Concluding all of the above provided information, it is possible to assert that relations between the United States and Canada, which both had their ups and downs, were basically influenced and determined by international situation and circumstances of the political world arena. In accordance with Granatstein and Hillmer, “the international context of the mid-20th century was favorable to the American – Canadians relationship”6.

The fact that those two countries’ people fought and suffered side by side in the Second World War strengthened their relations and made them unconditional allies. Moreover, after the Second World War the American “way of life”7 held sway over Canadian people. The above provided factors determined and consolidated American – Canadian relationships and enhanced multilateral cooperation between those two countries.

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References

Bothwell, R. (1979). Canada and the United States. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart. Pp. 9-24.

Bothwell, R. and English, J. (1977). Cited from Pearson L. Canadian Trade Policy in the Age of American Dominance and British Decline, 1943-1947. Canadian Review of American Studies, # 8, pp. 52-65.

Bothwell, R. and Kirton, J. (1983). A Sweet Little Country: American Attitudes Toward Canada, 1925-1962. New York: Queen’s Quarterly. Pp. 43-65.

Dubofsky, I. and Burwood S., eds. (2005). The Great Depression and the New Deal. New York: Garland.

Fleming, D. F. (1961). The Cold War and Its Origins, 1917-1960 (Vol. 2). Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Granatstein, J.L. and Hillmer, N. (1991). For Better or For Worse: Canada and the United States to the 1990s. Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman.

Stewart, G. T. (1982). A Special Contiguous Country Economic Regime: America’s Canadian Policy. Danbury, CT: Grolier. Pp. 11-31.

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Footnotes

  1. Stewart, G. T. (1982). A Special Contiguous Country Economic Regime: America’s Canadian Policy. Danbury, CT: Grolier. Pp. 11-31.
  2. Dubofsky, l. and Burwood S., eds. (2005). The Great Depression and the New Deal. New York: Garland.
  3. Bothwell, R. (1979). Canada and the United States. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart. Pp. 9-24.
  4. Bothwell, R. and English, J. (1977). Cited from Pearson L. Canadian Trade Policy in the Age of American Dominance and British Decline, 1943-1947. Canadian Review of American Studies, # 8, pp. 52-65.
  5. Fleming, D. F. (1961). The Cold War and Its Origins, 1917-1960 (Vol. 2). Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
  6. Granatstein, J.L. and Hillmer, N. (1991). For Better or For Worse: Canada and the United States to the 1990s. Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman.
  7. Bothwell, R. and Kirton, J. (1983). A Sweet Little Country: American Attitudes Toward Canada, 1925-1962. New York: Queen’s Quarterly. Pp. 43-65.
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