On Protocols and Fireproof Houses

Date01 September 2006
Published date01 September 2006
Adam Chapnick
On protocols and
fireproof houses
The re-emergence of Canadian exceptionalism
| International Journal | Summer 2006 | 713 |
Ever since Canada’s government leader in the senate, Raoul Dandurand,
uttered the phrase, “We live in a fireproof house,” at the fifth assembly of
the League of Nations in 1924, the expression has had a special meaning
for Canadians. At the time, it reflected the widely held notion that their
country was exceptional. Unlike the citizens of Europe, who had yet to dis-
cover how to live together in harmony, Canadians had long made peace with
their American neighbours, and had thereby constructed for themselves a
veritable fireproof house across the Atlantic. Thanks to their international
behaviour and fortunate geographical location, they would never need to
call on the international community for military assistance. As such, in
spite of their League membership, they felt entitled to a lesser burden when
it came to maintaining the peace of the world beyond their borders. Fifteen
years after Dandurand’s now infamous remark, the outbreak of the Second
World War exposed the national illusion for what it was, and soon after
Canadians embraced internationalism with a zeal that reflected the guilt of
their earlier naïveté. For a long time, their spirit remained grounded in the
Adam Chapnick is assistant professor at the Canadian Forces College. He is the author of The
Middle Power Project: Canada and the Founding of the United Nations (UBC Press, 2005). He
would like to thank Vanessa Corlazzoli and Erica Berman for their assistance and Brian Kendle, in
particular, for his comprehensive feedback on an early draft of this essay.

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