The Halibut Treaty

    In 1923, Canada and the United States of America decided to negotiate a treaty to protect halibut stocks on the northwest coast of North America. In the treaty, the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) was established as joint management of the halibut stocks off the coast of British Columbia and Alaska.

    Canada chose to negotiate the new Halibut Treaty without the presence of a British official, despite argument by the British. In every prior negotiation, the British had been actively involved and would ratify the resulting document. This time, Prime Minister Mackenzie King protested, saying that it was Canada's issue and thus only its concern, not Britain's. King threatened to send independent representation to Washington, D.C. if Britain intervened, at which point Britain finally backed off; independent representation for Canada would effectively bypass any authority Britain had.

    Mackenzie's insistence won a major fight for Canada. Where once the nation was dependent upon its mother country to ratify any decision, Canada proved that it was capable of making its own choices and determining its own future. The motion paved the way to colonial independence for not only Canada but also other former British colonies when the Balfour Report was signed at the Imperial Conference in 1926. The Balfour Report stated that all British colonies "are autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate to one another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth."