If you see the Maple Leaf and Royal Union flag together on federal buildings in Canada today, there's a reason. It's Statute of Westminster day ( iStock)

History Canada: Dec. 11, 1931, Canada becomes a sovereign nation

(public comments on RCI stories may take 24 h to appear if approved)

Largely unknown and unrecognised by the vast majority of Canadians, Statute of Westminster Day is nonetheless a hugely important day in Canada’s history as a nation.

The Confederation of Canada came into being on July 1, 1867,  but though that’s considered the date of the founding of the country, it still wasn’t an entirely “autonomous” nation.

That came only decades later on this date in 1931 with the passing of the Statute of Westminster. The British law clarified that Canada and other Commonwealth countries full legal freedom except in areas where those nations chose to remain subordinate to Britain. and status equal to that of Britain itself. That Statute included the Dominion of  Canada, the colony of Newfoundland (which would join Canada in 1949), the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, and the Irish Free State.

Imperial Conference 1926. Canadian leaders (L-R): Hon. Ernest Lapointe, Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King, Vincent Massey, Hon. Peter Larkin. It was at this conference that the beginnings of sovereignty for Commonwealth nations began. (AITKEN LTD. / LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA / C-001690)

As it was, Britain retained control over foreign policy, and was the last court of legal appeal and could void or alter laws made by those nations, while laws passed by Britain extended to the Dominions and colonies.

Having garnered great respect internationally and a strong sense of Canada’s unique nationality as a result of the First World War Canada has signed the Treaty of Versailles ending the war as a separate nation from Britain, but it wasn’t quite. In following years the government of Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie-King sought the full rights of a sovereign country in creation of laws and foreign policy.

On Dec 11 1931. the Statute of Westminster gained Royal Assent. This Act effectively made the Dominions sovereign states by allowing them to create laws independent of Britain. It forms the basis of the relationship between Commonwealth countries and the Crown today. )#TowerActs * UK Parliament Archives- Twitter)

It had begun the process in the 1920’s when Canada signed a fishing treaty with the U.S without British participation, established an embassy in Washington, and decided not to assist a British occupation force in Turkey without the approval of Canada’s Parliament.

However, the seeds for autonomy were sown in 1926 at the Imperial Conference when Britain’s foreign minister, Lord Balfour proposed that the Dominions be granted legislative autonomy.

In 1929, Canada’s head of the Department of External Affairs, O.D. Skelton, attended the Conference on the Operation of Dominion Legislation in London. Here the various resolutions proposed in 1926 were firmed up. In 1930 the various governments submitted terms of the future Statute to their Parliaments. Then on this date in 1931, the Statute was passed into law.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II sitting with Canada’s then Prime Minister PE Trudeau signing the act repatriating Canada’s Constitution in April 1982 in Ottawa ( Robert Cooper, LAC, Accession number 1984-133 NPC, e008300499

While the Dominions accepted all resolutions, only Canada couldn’t determine a process to amend the Constitution. Thus power to amend Canada’s Constitution remained in British authority until 1982 with the passing of Canada’s Constitution Act.

Additional information

Categories: International, Politics, Society
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet Netiquette guidelines.

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *