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1926 Balfour Report: Canada Achieves Greater Autonomy From Britain

Topics: British Empire, Canada, United Kingdom, World War II / Pages: 2 (406 words) / Published: Jun 19th, 2002
The Balfour Report, from the 1926 Imperial Conference, declared the United Kingdom and its Dominions "autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status...and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations," which replaced the principle of hierarchal relationships. Based mainly on the British Commonwealth's acceptance of the principles underpinning the autonomy of the self-governing Dominions, this document represented an important step in Canada's path to complete autonomy. The law affirming these principles was the 1931 Statute of Westminister, which Canada adopted in the same year.

Arthur Balfour was British Foreign Minister during World War I. He was made a member of the British delegation at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and was made Earl of Balfour in 1922. When he chaired the Committee established at the 1926 Imperial Conference to report on Inter-Imperial Relations, Balfour was seventy-eight-years-old. The Statute of Westminister became law the year after he died.

The Imperial Conference met in London immediately after the September, 1926 General Assembly of the League of Nations in Geneva. The Balfour Committee held "long and intricate"

discussions from Wednesday, October 27 to Friday, November 19, 1926. Balfour opened the first meeting of the Committee, by stating that World War I had left the British Empire "unexplained and undefined," a situation made more complex by the role of the Dominions in "framing and signing the Treaty [of Versailles]." Ultimately, the Committee rejected the idea of a written Constitution for the British Empire, placing heavy favour on the British of implicit

constitutional guidelines and guarantees.

In the 1926 Balfour Report, Balfour wrote that the Dominions' "tendency towards equality of status was right and inevitable." Geographic and historic differences meant this goal could not be achieved by a federation of nations within the British Empire, but "by the way of autonomy." The report's effects included the recognition of the equal status of legislation passed by Dominion parliaments with British legislation, and stated that the British Parliament would

only enact laws applying to a Dominion, if that Dominion's government provided consent.

The Balfour Report was accepted in full by the 1926 Imperial Conference, thus, laying down the fundamental principles guiding the internal and external relations of the British

Commonwealth. Acceptance of the Balfour Report of 1926 was one of the most important defining moments in Canadian history, as it signified a large step towards full autonomy.

Eventually, Canada would achieve complete autonomy from Britain.

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