Date of Award

1979

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to study the role that Canada played in the commonwealth and to assess the impact that this association had on several aspects of Canadian foreign policy from 1945 until 1968 by selected studies of particular issues that have been important to the Commonwealth during these years. The method used for assessing the evolution of Canada's relations with the Commonwealth is historical. In this historical study every aspect of the Commonwealth relationship was not surveyed, but our approach did permit a general assessment of changes in Canada's attitude and behaviour towards the Commonwealth and the impact that the association has had on Canadian foreign policy within the context of selected case studies.

Indian membership in the Commonwealth, first as a Dominion in 1947 and then as a republic in 1949, transformed the association from one which was Anglocentric to one which was multiracial in composition. As a member, Canada was compelled to support principles which were fundamental to the new Commonwealth and embodied the aspirations of the non-white members. It was as a result of Asian membership that Canada became increasingly more tolerant towards admitting non-white immigrants, or at least those from Commonwealth countries, and furnished economic assistance. Indeed, the evidence indicates that the shape and content of our aid program in its early years was clearly influenced by our Commonwealth association.

By 1961 it had become evident that the continued existence of the Commonwealth, serving as a forum to promote closer relations between peoples of different races, was threatened by the presence of a member state which practised a public policy of racial discrimination, and a British territory which continued to be governed by a white minority in sharp contradiction to the principles of this multiracial association. In order to preserve the Commonwealth from dissolution over these racial problems, Canadian prime ministers took a leading part in compelling South Africa to depart and repeatedly played a "lynchpinmanship" role during the Rhodesia issue.

In sum, there was an extraordinary transformation in Canada's attitude and behaviour towards the Commonwealth between the mid-1940s and late-1960s. Moreover, the case studies concluded that successive Canadian governments were subject to direct and indirect influences from various Commonwealth actors and from the institution itself. Yet, while Canadian perspectives were broadened or initiatives apparently taken in the best interests of the Commonwealth, Canada shared similar interests and values with its fellow members, and achieved its own policy objectives by preserving this institution as an instrument of foreign policy. Thus, Canada had broadened its conception of the Canadian "national interest" to embrace the Commonwealth. To this extent, the Commonwealth had an impact on Canadian foreign policy.

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