The Dominion and the Rising Sun: Canada Encounters Japan, 1929–41


251 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-1120-X
DDC 327.71052'09'043





Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a professor of history at Laurentian University. He
is the author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable
Kingdom, Chile and the Nazis, and The Diplomacy of War: The Case of


It is no longer respectable for historians of U.S. foreign relations to
limit themselves to U.S. sources. The expectation is that they will know
the language of the other country in question and, if accessible, use
its sources. Evidently, however, that standard does not yet apply to
Canada. Apart from a few references to Japanese items written in
English, Meehan relies entirely on Canadian sources. However, apart from
that one serious shortcoming, the book is excellent. Meehan’s mining
of the National Archives of Canada is exhaustive, and he has examined
missionary writings in both English and French. His clear writing is a
pleasure to read, and pictures enhance the text. He tells who went to
Japan on Canada’s behalf, why they went, how they performed, and what
they did.

The book covers the 12 years from the 1929 opening of Canada’s
legation to Tokyo until Pearl Harbor. By 1929, Canada had extensive
interests in Japan: trade, investment, business, and missionary. As long
as the Japanese remained in Asia, not British Columbia, Canadian
thoughts about them were usually positive. They were the “British of
Asia who would civilize the continent and provide a bulwark against
Russian bolshevism.”

Even the 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria and subsequent horrors did
not significantly change these attitudes. Hugh Keenleyside was
Canada’s chargé in Tokyo—in the absence of his superior, Herbert
Marler—when Japanese forces went to Manchuria. Keenleyside thought
that Japan’s explanation lacked credibility, but his was a minority
opinion. Prime Ministers Bennett and King were nonchalant. The Gazette
(Montreal), The Globe (Toronto), Saturday Night magazine, and Marler
himself defended Japan’s incursion into China. Japan was a civilizing
force in Asia, just like the United States in Central America and the
Caribbean. Japan’s withdrawal from the League was an embarrassment,
but maintenance of Canadian neutrality remained the highest priority.
Canadian officials expressed concern when London and Washington
disagreed with each other. Exports of metals to Japan skyrocketed.

Meehan offers an excellent foundation. Hopefully, someone with literacy
in Japanese will soon write a sequel.


Meehan, John D., “The Dominion and the Rising Sun: Canada Encounters Japan, 1929–41,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 12, 2024,