The Chanak Crisis
The Chanak Crisis is important for establishing Canadian autonomy and independence because Canada’s actions, or rather inactions, helped to define its role in the British Empire, as an ally and as a dominion. In the Chanak Crisis, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was advancing on Constantinople in the neutral zone, Britain called on it’s dominions (Canada, New Zealand, Australia, etc.) for help and troops. The British forces were insufficient to hold back the advancing Turkish troops, and it looked like there might be another war. Both Canada and Australia were reeling from losses in World War 1, and were not interested in getting involved in this fight. Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister at the time, chose to defer the matter to Parliament instead of providing Britain with troops and assistance. By the time Parliament actually voted on the matter, the crisis had past, but it was still a demonstration of Canada’s blossoming independence. This was the first time in Canadian history a Prime Minister of Canada chose to decline a British request, and instead allow Parliament, an extension of its people, to determine its fate. The actions of the Prime Minister and Canadian government sent a message that Canada wanted more independence and a seperate foreign policy from Great Britain.
The Halibut Treaty
The Halibut Treaty was important for establishing Canadian autonomy and identity because this was the first time Canada had negotiated a treaty entirely seperate from Great Britain. In 1916 and 1917, the halibut fish stocks in the Pacific were declining, in an industry was primarily in Canadian waters and dominated by American fishermen, the two countries, Canada and American, decided to hold the American-Canadian Fisheries Conference, where they drafted a treaty outlying halibut management, tariffs, port sharing, and submitted it to their respective governments. This bill was block by the US Senate, and the two nations met again to discuss just the issue of halibut conservation. This treaty, and the subsequent commission it established created a closed season and carried out it’s own scientific research. Everyone in this situation was happy, from the individual fishermen to the Canadian and American governments. Britain, however, was not happy as they were not included in negotiations and they did not countersign the bill, due to Mackenzie King’s insistence. Canada’s actions, while technically illegal at the time, signaled to the British government that Canada was ready for more independence and autonomous.
In summary, both of these events signaled to Britain that Canada was seeking a more active role in their own foreign policy, as well as kickstarting the movement towards the Balfour Declaration and the Statute of Westminster.
The Halibut Treaty