Effects of War and Peacekeeping on Canadian Autonomy

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Over the course of its history, Canada has progressed immensely regarding its autonomy. Starting out as just a colony of Great Britain, Canada was in the control of the overarching British Empire. However, Canada now has emerged as a sovereign state, in control of its own future. A major contributing factor to Canada ultimately reaching autonomy has been its participation in war and peacekeeping efforts. Contributions made in war efforts such as WWI and WWII have allowed Canada to demonstrate just how influential and powerful the country can be. Even though Canada entered WWI under the order of Great Britain, Canada’s showing at the battle of Vimy Ridge helped it emerge as a more independent country, gaining its own seat in the League of Nations. After participation in World War Two, Canada once again progressed in independence and earned the right to be a founding member in both NATO and the UN. Along with wars, Canada has made many contributions to peacekeeping. Canadian Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson, is considered a founder of modern peacekeeping after his efforts in the Suez Canal Crisis during the Cold War Era.

With Canada’s legal status as a self-governing colony of Great Britain, Canada was automatically brought to war after Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914. However, Canada would not give up the freedom to decide what level of involvement it wanted in the war. For the first time in its history, Canada fielded a massive military force of over 80,000 men by 1916, establishing a solid reputation in combat. Canada’s independence started to show in the First World War with Canada having to bear all costs of its military contribution, managing all of its troops independently, and controlling overall participation in the war effort. This was a major improvement over the previous multinational wars such as the war in South Africa where Canada had no control over what they did.

Although Canada participated in several battles in WWI, The Battle of Vimy Ridge was the first where Canada was in charge of strategic planning. Lieutenant-General Sir Julian Byng took command away from the Lieutenant-General of Britain. All four Canadian divisions were assembled to participate in the battle. Canadians comprised about 100,000 of the 170,000 men involved in the battle for the Allies. The main assault of the battle lasted four days and resulted in a decisive Allied victory. Four Canadians were awarded with Victoria Crosses, the greatest honour for military forces from the British. Vimy Ridge was the first instance where Canada was the one controlling the outcome of the war, and not the British. The British trusted Canada with that power and thought of them as a more autonomous state. It was also the first instance in which all troops of the Canadian army acted as one cohesive unit, a symbol of the unity of Canadians coming together for a common goal. During the First World War, the armed forces of Canada controlled their own outcome, and provided a substantial military contribution. The country had much more power in matters on the battlefield than in previous battles. After WWI, Canada established an Overseas Ministry in London allowing for a larger influence in Great Britain’s military actions. The Canadian government gained control of their military for the first time in WWI, which helped establish Canada as being an intelligent leader of military organization. The Canadian Armed Forces were an example of how successful Canada can be on its own, strengthening the Canadian spirit and strengthening Canada’s desire of complete autonomy. They were also a symbol of Canada’s coming of age. Canada went into the War as a subservient colony of Great Britain, but emerged as what many believe, a true nation, signing the Treaty of Versailles themselves. After The Great War many steps were taken by Britain that developed Canada’s autonomy much further. Although it would not be correct to say that all of these acts were...
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