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Ernest Lapointe and Quebec's Influence on Canada's Foreign Policy

Ernest Lapointe and Quebec's Influence on Canada's Foreign Policy

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Ernest Lapointe and Quebec's Influence on Canada's Foreign Policy
    Book Description:

    The influence of Ernest Lapointe in 20th century Canadian political history is one of the least understood. Analysing 17 foreign policy decisions, the author uncovers Lapointe's relationship with Mackenzie King and the voice of Quebec he represented.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7458-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)

    A democratic political system must allow for a certain amount of public participation in decision making. When the population, as in Canada, includes a significantly large minority group with a definitely distinctmentalité, the government cannot rely simply on majority rule to decide questions that clearly divide the two groups: the minority will feel that it is not heard in the decision-making structure, that it has no voice.¹ Recognizing a minority group, without giving the majority the impression that its voice is somehow less equal, is not easy.

    Many attempts by governments to include the minority voice have left both...

  5. 1 Finding a Place to Stand
    (pp. 16-30)

    ‘Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth,’ Archimedes said. During his early life, Ernest Lapointe probably thought little about moving the earth, but gradually, without consciously seeking it, he acquired the foothold that would permit him to play a towering role in Canadian foreign policy.

    Lapointe spent his formative years in a French-Canadian, Roman Catholic environment. He was born on 6 October 1876 and raised in the small village of St Éloi and studied at the neighbouring Séminaire de Rimouski and later at the Université Laval, where he received his law degree in 1898. His...

  6. Part I: Lapointe’s Rise and Canadian Autonomy, 1921–1929

    • 2 Lapointe, Gouin, and King’s Early Cabinets
      (pp. 33-46)

      The policies of the Union government during the war and the immediate aftermath had made it unpopular, for varying reasons, in many regions of Canada. The dominion election results of December 1921 confirmed the balkanization of Canadian politics. The Liberals won all sixty-five ridings in Quebec, as Meighen’s Conservatives were unable to convince Quebecers to forget about the conscription crisis and let bygones be bygones.¹ In the Atlantic provinces the Maritime Rights movement was willing to trust the Liberals to defend eastern interests, but in the west the Progressive movement, voicing farmers’ discontent, rejected both traditional parties and swept thirty-seven...

    • 3 Autonomy in the Empire: A Sure-Fire Reliable
      (pp. 47-60)

      Between 1917 and 1921 the Conservative-Union government had hoped that Canada would have a voice in a common imperial foreign policy. However, the First World War and subsequent conferences revealed the technical difficulties in such an arrangement, as well as British hesitation to implement such a policy. Probably the Conservatives would have changed Canada’s course, but it was the Liberal party that won in 1921, abandoned the common imperial foreign policy, and governed up to the declaration of dominion equality in 1926.¹ Some historians acclaim Canada’s progression from a colony to a nation, others condemn the betrayal of Britain and...

    • 4 Autonomy and the League
      (pp. 61-74)

      To demonstrate Canada’s evolving status to its people, and to the world, Ernest Lapointe and William Lyon Mackenzie King hoped that Canada would play a major role at Geneva, where the League of Nations met, as a fully autonomous member. The search for recognition of Canadian status became one of the main themes of Ottawa’s participation at the League during the 1920s. At the same time, and equally important, Canada wanted to avoid all commitments to international collective security, which risked limiting its sovereignty. King and Lapointe, like all Canadian leaders during the 1920s, faced a dilemma – reconciling an...

  7. Part II: A New Role in an Uncertain World, 1930–1938

    • 5 A Stronger Voice and Popular Support
      (pp. 77-93)

      In the period from 1920 to 1929 William Lyon Mackenzie King had been a new, inexperienced leader dependent on the help of regional leaders. Ernest Lapointe had proved most helpful to the prime minister, and the influence of each man grew throughout the decade. In 1930 this relationship changed. That year the Liberals lost decisively to R.B. Bennett’s Conservatives, and King was much less impressed with Lapointe. Even when the Liberals returned to power in 1935, King now solidly installed as leader, remained hesitant to accept the advice of Lapointe, or anyone else. Consequently, in the period from 1930 to...

    • 6 The League, Lapointe, King, and Chaos
      (pp. 94-106)

      During the later 1920s Lapointe had pushed King towards a policy of greater autonomy in the empire. To this end, Lapointe had also encouraged him to accept active Canadian participation at Geneva. In the 1930s the situation was different: the Statute of Westminster of 1931 seemed to ensure autonomy from Britain. Consequently, Lapointe did not have the same interest in the League of Nations, which was no longer needed to establish Canadian status. For example, when the high commissioner for refugees resigned, Skelton opposed the idea of promoting the election of a Canadian to succeed him, unless Canada were willing...

    • 7 Nation to Colony?
      (pp. 107-120)

      The League of Nations died a slow but certain death after the Ethiopian catastrophe. In 1938 Lapointe led the Canadian delegation to Geneva, announcing that by ‘practice and consent, the system of sanctions under the Covenant had ceased to have effect. Sanctions had become non-automatic and non-obligatory.’¹ But he had not given up hope that the League would fulfil its role as an organization of conciliation. In a speech after these meetings he expressed the hope that the League would never perish: ‘I may appear over-confident, but I trust that some day it will achieve its purpose.’² The presence of...

  8. Part III: Fighting Conscription, 1939–1941

    • 8 Fighting King and Cabinet
      (pp. 123-137)

      Lapointe’s influence in Ottawa had risen constantly during the 1930s, but the early months of 1939 were turbulent. Increasing awareness of the dangers posed by Nazi aggression shook the established order in many countries, and Ottawa’s decision-making structure was significantly altered. In Quebec Lapointe consolidated and in many ways reinforced his position within the parliamentary caucus, the provincial Liberal organization, and the province’s francophones. Increased status in Quebec had meant greater influence at Ottawa during the first two periods of his career; however, from January 1939 up to his death in November 1941, Lapointe’s position in Quebec meant much less...

    • 9 Sacred Pledges: The No-Conscription Pact
      (pp. 138-158)

      During the weeks following the Munich settlement, Ernest Lapointe saw no reason to modify Canadian foreign policy. At a meeting of the League of Nations Society in Canada in November 1938 he joined the majority of Canadians in expressing his approval of the settlement and his ‘admiration of the great Statesman whose courage, tenacity, patriotism and gallantry brought it about ... Through his efforts, and I wish to give credit to the powerful help he received from others, a world war was averted.’ Lapointe was more convinced than ever that Canadian policy was appropriate: if war should come, Parliament would...

    • 10 French Canada and the Fall of France
      (pp. 159-184)

      In the spring of 1940 the danger facing the world became suddenly and dramatically apparent. The speed and success of the German blitzkrieg on Holland and Belgium shocked many people, but it was undoubtedly the collapse of France in June 1940 that convinced Canadians that the situation had become critical. Lapointe and King were shaken and quickly ordered more soldiers overseas. The Second Canadian Division was sent to England; a third division was mobilized, and almost immediately the greater part of a fourth. M.J. Coldwell, the new leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), remembered the time in April 1940...

  9. Epilogue: King without Lapointe
    (pp. 185-200)

    How important the influence of Ernest Lapointe had been in Ottawa was suggested after his death on 26 November 1941, when William Lyon Mackenzie King began making decisions without his lieutenant. During Lapointe’s last month the prime minister had begun to fear that ‘should he not recover strength enough to help me, at least in Council, I shall be in a desperate plight,’ and he had offered to lessen Lapointe’s burdens in cabinet.¹ King recorded in his diary what he had told Lapointe on his deathbed: ‘But for him, I would never have been Prime Minister nor would I have...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 201-254)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 255-264)
  12. Index
    (pp. 265-270)