League of Nations
Canada entered World War One very much the colony of Great Britain. Canada emerged from the blood guts and mud and death which defined that war as a nation, having proven herself in battles such as Vimy and the second battle of Ypres. At the conclusion of the carnage of WWI, there was a strong feeling amongst the Nations who fought in that conflict that there must be a better way to resolve international disputes. It was out of this strong belief and desire to end wars, that the 'League of Nations' was born. It was at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, that President Woodrow Wilson first outlined the fourteen points of peace which became the framework for The 'League of Nations'. The foundation of the League was the belief of collective security, and the resolving of conflicts through arbitration, not bloodshed.
The League's strongest supporter and architect was the U.S. President, Woodrow Wilson, it was during the darkest days of World War One that Wilson, a deeply religious man, wrote the Fourteen Points of Peace, it was his vision that of a world governing body, based upon collective security, that the League was based on. Sixty-three nations signed on with the League. Amongst them was Canada. The greatest shortfall for the League was the inability of Woodrow Wilson to bring the increasingly isolationist United States into the League. For Canada, the League of Nations represented the first opportunity to take the World Stage as an equal. It was a Canadian, Sir Herbert Ames, who served in the high administrative position as the first Financial Director of the League between 1919-26. Future Canadian Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson and future Governor General, George Vanier played prominent roles at the League of Nations. Lester Pearson would go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in creating the United Nations Peace Keeping Force and resolving the Suez Crisis of 1956.
Canada took an active role throughout the entire life span of the League of Nations. Some of the issues which Canada's representatives fought for include the removal of the collective security guarantees. The fear was that the provisions of the collective security left Canada vulnerable to being pulled into yet another European war. One of Canada's greater successes was in 1929, when delegate Raoul Dandurand successfully proposed strengthening of League procedures in overseeing the treatment of linguistic and religious minorities in Eastern Europe. In 1935, Canada supported the League's sanctions against Italy. Canada's delegate to the League, Walter A. Riddell, proposed stopping all exports of oil, coal and steel to Italy. This action was not supported by the Canadian Government. The League of Nations was unable to bring to heal the increasingly aggressive Nazi Germany. It was the inability of the League to work collectively which added to the strength of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party in flaunting the international bodies power.
Ultimately, it was this failure to act which led to World War II. The League of Nations did succeed in establishing that an international governing body was possible and it was from the ashes of The League of Nations that the United Nations emerged. Using much the same framework, the signatories to the United Nations covenant were determined to ensure that the second half of the 20th century was not as bloody as the first half. The brutality of the two world wars and the shock of the extent of murder committed by the Nazis against the Jews led to the United Nations passing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written by a Canadian Law Professor, John Peters Humphrey, and represents a giant leap forward, establishing basic rights which all humans should expect. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights' 30 Articles inspired the development of human rights laws in Canada and its principles are reflected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As John Peters Humphrey said in 1948: