Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

XLI
King meets two chllenges--First from Duplessis and Quebec, then from Hepburn and Ontario

CANADA's entrance into the Second World War had none of the bustle and bravura of her entrance into the First. In 1914 the scene was one of bold and instant decisions made and carried out with a Plantagenet flourish. But 1939 brought no grave, determined Borden hastening from his summer retreat to take counsel with his ministers. It brought no fiery captain like Sam Hughes to declaim on the greensward of Parliament Hill. No Hughes thundering off to round up an immediate legion of thirty thousand, rush them through dusty encampments on the plains of Valcartier, stuff them pell-mell into the quickly assembled transports, and thrust them across three thousand miles of water to take their place, ill equipped, ill trained, but superbly present and willing, beside the mother country.

On September 1, the day Germany attacked Poland, Mackenzie King summoned Parliament for a special session to begin six days later. At the same time he issued a cautious statement that the government would seek authority to co-operate with the United Kingdom. To those who had paid attention to his earlier speeches on international affairs, his failure to mention a possible declaration of war was of no particular significance. He had been maintaining for years that when and if the country had to face such a decision again, it would be made by Parliament and only by Parliament.

For the time being the question was largely an academic one, for in spite of four more years of growing tension Canada's immediate military capacity had not changed much since General McNaughton pronounced it virtually non-existent.

A month before the official beginning of the war, the full-time

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