As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, accuracy is a difficult challenge for writers of historical fiction. Today my brother Dave Bingham casts a keen eye on Ken Follett’s Winter of the World. Dave studied history at university and has an amazing ability to recall and make sense of historical facts.
As part of the American delegation, Woody Dewer attends the San Francisco Conference in late 1945 that created the United Nations. At the beginning of the conference, the Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov objects to Canada and Australia having separate representation and voting rights from Britain. After all they were part of the British Empire and this would amount to giving Britain 3 votes. Molotov adds that if Canada and Australia were given separate votes, Ukraine and Belarus should also. Ken Follett makes no comment about Molotov’s arguement, either by himself, or through Woody, or indeed through the real life Canadian delegate, Lester Pearson.
As I am not as familiar with Australia’s history, I will keep my remarks mainly to Canada’s international status in 1945. At Confederation in 1867, Canada became a self governing nation within the British Empire. At the time, this autonomy was limited in areas of foreign policy and judicial matters. Britain had the final say in those important areas. At the outbreak of World War I, Canada’s participation was automatic. If Britain was at war, Canada was as well, as was Australia.
Canada’s international position was significantly changed by the end of World War I. Due to its army’s victory at Vimy Ridge, and its ultimate sacrifice of 60,000 war dead, Canada had separate representation at the Treaty of Versailles conference in 1919 that formally ended the war, and had a separate seat on the League of Nations. In the 1920’s Canada more fully developed its own foreign policy. A notable example was the Chanak Crisis in 1922, when Canada did not automatically support Britain and France in their dispute with Turkey over control of the Dardanelles Straits.
The Statute of Westminster, 1931, gave Canada and the other British Dominions, including Australia, full legal autonomy. This meant that among other powers, Canada could set its own foreign policy. Shortly afterwards, Canada established its first embassy, in Washington. At the outbreak of World War II, Canada declared war against Nazi Germany fully a week after Britain and France.
By the end of World War II, Canada had the third largest military force among the Western Allies, after the United States and Britain. Canada’s contribution was significant to victory in Europe. The First Canadian Army was credited with the liberation of Holland in May, 1945.
By 1945, Canada was fully qualified to sit as a delegate at the San Francisco Conference and participate in the formation of the United Nations. I am sure Molotov, as the Soviet Foreign Minister would have been fully briefed as to the position of Canada and the other delegates. To compare Canada and Australia to Ukraine and Belarus, who at the time were vassal states of what was later called the “Evil Empire”, was just blowing smoke.
And that is that! We are a small country but one of great pride. As Canadians we value our separation from Britain, just as we value our distinctiveness from our wonderful neighbour to the south.
With great thanks to my brother, Dave, for his contributions.