Historian George Stanley argues that King's wartime policies, "may not have been exciting or satisfying, but they were effective and successful.
King Leopold’s Ghost
That is why, practically alone among wartime governments, his continue to enjoy public support after as well as during the Second World War. Historian Jack Granatstein evaluates the King government's economic performance. King realized the likelihood of World War II and began mobilizing on August 25, , with full mobilization on September 1, , the day Germany invaded Poland. In , Canada was at the war by virtue of King George V 's declaration.
In , the Prime Minister asserted Canada's autonomy and convened the House of Commons on September 7, nearly a month ahead of schedule, to discuss the government's intention to enter the war, which was approved two days later. King linked Canada more and more closely to the United States, signing an agreement with Roosevelt at Ogdensburg, New York in August that provided for the close cooperation of Canadian and American forces, despite the fact that the U. During the war the Americans took virtual control of the Yukon and the then-British colony of Newfoundland in building the Alaska Highway and major airbases.
King—and Canada—were largely ignored by Winston Churchill , despite Canada's major role in supplying food, raw materials, munitions and money to the hard-pressed British economy, training airmen for the Commonwealth, guarding the western half of the North Atlantic Ocean against German U-boats , and providing combat troops for the invasions of Italy , France and Germany in — King proved highly successful in mobilizing the economy for war, with impressive results in industrial and agricultural output.
The depression ended, prosperity returned, and Canada's economy expanded significantly. On the political side, King rejected any notion of a government of national unity. King's government greatly expanded the role of the National Research Council of Canada during the war, moving into full-scale research in nuclear physics and commercial use of nuclear power in the following years.
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King, with C. Howe acting as point man, moved the nuclear group from Montreal to Chalk River, Ontario in , with the establishment of Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories and the residential town of Deep River, Ontario. Canada became a world leader in this field, with the NRX reactor becoming operational in ; at the time, NRX was the only operational nuclear reactor outside the United States. King's promise not to impose conscription contributed to the defeat of Maurice Duplessis 's Union Nationale Quebec provincial government in and the Liberals' re-election in the election.
But after the fall of France in , Canada introduced conscription for home service. Still, only volunteers were to be sent overseas.
King wanted to avoid a repeat of the Conscription Crisis of By , the military was pressing King hard to send conscripts to Europe. In , King held a national plebiscite on the issue, asking the nation to relieve him of the commitment he had made during the election campaign. In the House of Commons on June 10, , he said that his policy was "not necessarily conscription but conscription if necessary". French and English conscripts were sent to fight in the Aleutian Islands in — technically North American soil and therefore not "overseas" — but the mix of Canadian volunteers and draftees found that the Japanese troops had fled before their arrival.
Otherwise, King continued with a campaign to recruit volunteers, hoping to address the problem with the shortage of troops caused by heavy losses in the Dieppe Raid in , in Italy in , and after the Battle of Normandy in In November , the Government decided it was necessary to send conscripts to Europe for the war.
Casper the Friendly Ghost - Wikipedia
This led to a brief political crisis see Conscription Crisis of and a mutiny by conscripts posted in British Columbia , but the war ended a few months later. Over 15, conscripts went to Europe, though only a few hundred saw combat. Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor in December , Japanese Canadians were categorized as enemy aliens under the War Measures Act , which began to remove their personal rights. Roosevelt signed Executive Order , which called for the removal of , people of Japanese ancestry from the American coastline.
A historian of internment, Ann Sunahara, argues that "the American action sealed the fate of Japanese Canadians. On February 25, the federal government announced that Japanese Canadians were being moved for reasons of national security. Others were deported to Japan. On September 22, , Prime Minister Brian Mulroney delivered an apology for the internment, and the Canadian government announced a compensation package. Throughout his tenure, King led Canada from a colony with responsible government to an autonomous nation within the British Commonwealth. King asserted Canadian autonomy against the British government's attempts to turn the Commonwealth into an alliance.
His biographer asserts that "in this struggle MacKenzie King was the constant aggressor". During the Chanak Crisis of , King refused to support the British without first consulting Parliament, while the Conservative leader, Arthur Meighen , supported Britain. King wrote in his diary of the British appeal: "I confess it annoyed me. It is drafted designedly to play the imperial game, to test out centralization versus autonomy as regards European wars No [Canadian] contingent will go without parliament being summoned in the first instance".
Anything like centralization in London, to say nothing of a direct or indirect attempt on the part of those in office in Downing Street to tell the people of the Dominions what they should or should not do, and to dictate their duty in matters of foreign policy, is certain to prove just as injurious to the so-called 'imperial solidarity' as any attempt at interference in questions of purely domestic concern.
If membership within the British Commonwealth means participation by the Dominions in any and every war in which Great Britain becomes involved, without consultation, conference, or agreement of any kind in advance, I can see no hope for an enduring relationship. King therefore went to the Imperial Conference of and argued for greater autonomy of the Dominions.
This resulted in the Balfour Declaration , which announced the equal status of all members of the British Commonwealth as it was known then , including Britain. This eventually led to the Statute of Westminster The Canadian city of Hamilton hosted the first Empire Games in ; this competition later became known as the Commonwealth Games , and is held every four years. In the lead-up to World War II in , King affirmed Canadian autonomy by saying that the Canadian Parliament would make the final decision on the issue of going to war. He reassured the pro-British Canadians that Parliament would surely decide that Canada would be at Britain's side if Great Britain was drawn into a major war.
At the same time, he reassured those who were suspicious of British influence in Canada by promising that Canada would not participate in British colonial wars. His Quebec lieutenant, Ernest Lapointe , promised French-Canadians that the government would not introduce conscription; individual participation would be voluntary. In , in a country which had seemed deeply divided, these promises made it possible for Parliament to agree almost unanimously to declare war.
King played two roles. On the one hand, he told English Canadians that Canada would no doubt enter war if Britain did. On the other hand, he and his Quebec lieutenant Ernest Lapointe told French Canadians that Canada would only go to war if it was in the country's best interests.
With the dual messages, King slowly led Canada toward war without causing strife between Canada's two main linguistic communities.
Ghost King Tiberius
As his final step in asserting Canada's autonomy, King ensured that the Canadian Parliament made its own declaration of war one week after Britain. During the war, Canada rapidly expanded its diplomatic missions abroad. However British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made all the major military and diplomatic decisions for Canada and the other dominions, with minimal consultation. While Canada hosted two major Allied conferences in Quebec in and , neither Mackenzie King nor his senior generals and admirals were invited to take part in any of the discussions. King's government introduced the Canadian Citizenship Act in , which officially created the notion of " Canadian citizens ".
Prior to this, Canadians were considered British subjects living in Canada. On January 3, , King received Canadian citizenship certificate number With the war winding down, King held a federal election in and won a minority, but formed a functioning coalition to continue governing. As King was defeated in his own riding of Prince Albert , fellow Liberal William MacDiarmid , who was re-elected in the safe seat of Glengarry , resigned so that a by-election could be held, which was subsequently won by King.
The main opposition party Conservatives were weak for most of the two decades after R. Bennett lost the election, and King had virtually unchallenged power for much of his later years; this expanded still further during the War. He promoted engineer C. Howe into positions of great power and influence during the War, but was hit hard by the death of key minister and protege Norman McLeod Rogers.
After this setback, and the death of his Quebec lieutenant Ernest Lapointe, King sought out the reluctant Louis St.
Laurent , a leading Quebec lawyer, to take over Lapointe's role, and eventually persuaded St. Laurent to serve as a top aide. King helped found the United Nations in and attended the opening meetings in San Francisco. However, he became pessimistic about the organization's future possibilities.
After the war, King quickly dismantled wartime controls. Unlike World War I, press censorship ended with the hostilities. He began an ambitious program of social programs and laid the groundwork for Newfoundland's later entry into Canada.
King moved Canada into the deepening Cold War in alliance with the U. He dealt with the espionage revelations of Soviet cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko , who defected in Ottawa in September , by quickly appointing a Royal Commission to investigate Gouzenko's allegations of a Canadian Communist spy-ring transmitting top-secret documents to Moscow. External Affairs Minister Louis St. Laurent dealt decisively with this crisis, the first of its type in Canada's history.
Laurent's leadership deepened King's respect, and helped make St.