Treaty of Versailles | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles is the name given to the document stipulating the peace terms imposed on Germany by the Allied victors of the First World War. Canada had separate representation at the conference where the treaty was negotiated, marking an important stage in the gradual movement toward Canadian independence from Great Britain.

Sir Robert Borden

Peace Terms

The peace terms of 28 June 1919, handed to Germany after the First World War, were drawn up at the Paris Peace Conference and signed near the French capital at Versailles. The treaty broke up and redistributed the German Empire and required substantial reparation payments from it. The treaty contributed to German resentment in the period following the war. In the 1930s Adolf Hitler systematically undid the treaty.

Canada Asserts Itself on the World Stage

Canada had little impact on the final shape of the treaty, but Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden led a successful and historic fight for separate Dominion representation at the peace conference, and separate signatures on the treaty. He believed passionately that Canada, with 60,000 war dead, had paid the price of such recognition. This increased Canada's prestige and the opportunities for making its views known. However, when it came to signing the treaty, the British prime minister did so for the entire empire, the Dominions included [Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa]. This reduced the importance of their hard-won individual signatures — which appeared on the document, but in indented version: the names of their countries appearing under that of the British Empire.

Canada's involvement reflected the ambiguity of its position in the world. Canada remained subordinate to Britain, in fact and in the perception of other nations, but its emerging international personality had been recognized.

The treaty also made provision for a League of Nations, where Canada would have its own membership, providing another vehicle for the advancement of the country’s national status.

First World War - 3403907

Collection: First World War