The Covenant (the treaty provisions creating the league) established a council, assembly and secretariat. The council met quarterly and comprised the major powers as permanent members, plus non-permanent members elected by the assembly. The assembly consisted of representatives of all member states, and met annually. Under a secretary-general, the secretariat provided the permanent staff. A Canadian, Sir Herbert AMES, was financial director 1919-26, a high administrative position in the secretariat.
The league provided opportunities for international discussion of political and legal questions, disarmament, economic relations, the protection of minorities, communications and transit, and health and social questions. Members were required by Article 10 of the Covenant to respect and preserve each other's territory and independence. Aggression against any member would be considered aggression against all, and would lead to collective economic, and possibly military, measures. The purpose of collective security was to avert war, and in the 1920s the league participated in the attempted reconciliation of Germany with France and Great Britain. However, it proved incapable of effective action in the face of territorial aggression in the 1930s by Italy, Germany and Japan. The league ceased to function as a collective-security organization, although its social and economic activities continued until WWII.
From 1920 to 1923 the Canadian government actively but unsuccessfully sought removal of the collective-security guarantees, fearing involvement in European wars. More positively, in 1929, Raoul Dandurand, Canadian representative on the council, successfully proposed strengthening league procedures in overseeing the treatment of linguistic and religious minorities in eastern Europe. In 1935, when Canada supported the league's sanctions against Italy, Canadian delegate Walter A. RIDDELL proposed stopping all exports of oil, coal and steel to Italy. This action, unauthorized by the new Mackenzie King government, was publicly repudiated. Subsequently, Canada kept a low profile at league meetings.
The League of Nations, even though ultimately unsuccessful in achieving collective security, established a new pattern of international organizational activity. League membership brought Canada its first official contact with foreign governments, helped establish its position as a sovereign state and confronted it with both the opportunities and the dilemmas associated with problems of international co-operation and attempts to prevent war.
Author RICHARD VEATCH
Links to Other Sites
Sir Robert Laird Borden
This biography of Sir Robert Laird Borden includes interesting details about Canada's role in the First World War and related issues. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
1914 - 1921: The Crucible of War
A brief history of Canada's role on the world stage during peace and wartime from the website for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. Scroll down the page for historical notes and photographs of major events.
Watch film clips from Paul Cowan's "Paris 1919," a feature-length documentary with archival footage and dramatic re-enactments that take viewers inside post-First World War peace talks. Based on the book of the same title by author Margaret Macmillan and narrated by R.H. Thomson. From the National Film Board of Canada website.