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Canada at the Treaty of Versailles Talks, 1919

 

Canada Gets a Seat at the Table

Following the armistice on November 11, 1918 that ended the fighting in World War I, representatives of the various nations involved in the conflict met in Versailles, France the following year to draw up the treaty terms to formally conclude the war. Because of our laudable commitment to the war effort, Canada was accorded its own seat at the negotiations. This gesture was significant, recognizing that Canada was now able to exercise its own foreign policy decisions separate from Britain, and represented a major shift for the British Empire toward more autonomous member nations in what would soon become the Commonwealth.

 

The League of Nations

Having emerged as the pre-eminent world power and the decisive contributor to ending the war, the United States, represented by President Woodrow Wilson, anticipated that the other major powers would follow their lead in setting reasonable terms on the defeated nations of the Triple Entente (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and, by its separate peace and subsequent withdrawal from the war, Russia) in accordance with President Wilson's Fourteen Points for World Peace proposal. However, Wilson arrived at Versailles only to discover that Britain, France and Italy among others had already negotiated secret treaties amongst themselves to redraw the map of Europe and enact harsh punishments on the defeated powers. President Wilson’s own vision for world peace, the League of Nations, was the only concession he managed to secure.

 

Back in North America

Returning to the United States, President Wilson was devastated when the American Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles as well as membership in the League of Nations. Canada was granted its own seat and, in the absence of the United States, became the voice for North America.

 

The Canadian View

Journalist John W. Dafoe covered the treaty negotiations for Canadian newspapers. His diary offers a personal behind-the-scenes glimpse into the machinations of the talks and the pomp and pageantry that still surrounded such events.
John W. Dafoe

View excerpts from Dafoe diary and related questions and activites