Canada and the Paris Peace Conference
Following the armistice to end the fighting on November 11, 1918, as Canadian troops began the return voyage to Canada, the victorious Allied nations prepared to meet at Versailles, France to draw up the treaty terms to formally conclude the war.
While the Dominion countries were not originally invited to have separate representation, during the months of preparation for the Paris Peace conference, Sir Robert Borden demanded that Canada have a distinct seat due to the immense contribution and sacrifice of Canada during the war.
Despite reservations from other countries, particularly the United States who felt that representation from the dominions equated to a larger voice for Britain, as a result of Borden and the other delegates’ efforts Canada and the other dominions succeeded in their claims and did gain a place at the table.
The main result of the Paris Peace Conference, the Treaty of Versailles, was signed on June 28, 1919, five years after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and his wife.
Canada signed the Treaty independently, but the signature was indented under “British Empire”. While this did reflect the continued ambiguity of Canada and the other dominions’ role in the world, it did represent a significant step for Canada gaining full independence over its foreign policy and also a seat in the League of Nations.
John W. Dafoe was one of Canada’s most influential journalists, and in 1919, he attended the Paris Peace Conference as a representative of the Canadian Press and greatly informed Canadians’ understanding of the proceedings. A fervent promoter of Canadian autonomy in external relations, Dafoe encouraged Canadian participation in international conferences and organizations that emerged in the wake of the First World War. In 1928, with Sir Robert Borden, Sir Arthur Currie and Sir Joseph W. Flavelle, he founded the Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA) to help Canadians better prepare for their role in international meetings.