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When Canada achieved nationhood status in 1867 it had not been granted all of the rights and responsibilities of a sovereign state. Foreign relations were still to be handles by the British Government as it did for all other members of the British Empire. When disputes arose with other countries, mainly the US in the case of Canada, the British Government would arrange for negotiations or an agreement resolution process to settle the matter. In some cases such as the negotiating of the Washington Treaty, they invited Canada to send a representative to serve on a commission but in general the Imperial Governments authority was uncontested.

The mass of immigration form Great Britain helped to maintain and in some areas such as Manitoba, expand the ties and feelings of fraternity towards Great Britain in almost all of English Canada but in French Canada the relationship had always been somewhat superficial. It was strongest among the formally educate segment of French Canadian society but they were very aware of the lack of any depth in the rest of the society. 

In 1880 an office known as the Canadian High Commissioner to London was created to coordinate affairs of mutual interest to Canada and Great Britain. The trend towards great autonomy and more control over all of its affairs continued into the late 1880's but as the 1890's began a change in policy in Britain began to appear.

The situation in Europe was evolving with the rise of Germany and the beginnings of real industrialization in Russia. There was a global rush to scope up all unclaimed lands as colonies by the European powers and this imperialism ultimately resulted in increased competition between the powers in many other spheres. The Germans began to build a grand fleet which would potentially challenge Britain for supremacy of the seas. The British reaction to this arms race was to take quick stock of it's resources and support within the Empire and to begin a strategic consolidation of it's colonies and Dominions in order to stand up to the Germans.

During the American revolutionary war there were some in Britain who felt that a better way to have travelled would have been the creation of a Grand Parliament which would have had members from the British colonies and settlements from around the world assembled in London to rule the Empire. These feelings began to re-emerge and in the 1890' and Imperial outlook emerged in Britain which instead of cutting the Empire members free from centralized control, promoted a view whereby certain areas of government would become more centralized and controlled from London for the good of the Empire.

In 1895 Joseph Chamberlain became the Colonial Secretary and immediately began to advance his view that defence, world trade, international law and order and some other issues could all be established and enforced with greater strength and result if it was done from London with the support of all of the member of the Empire. These feelings and this view was also promoted and supported to a degree in the Empire and in particular English Canada. In 1897 when Laurier's new government brought down their  first budget they showed their acceptance of no reciprocity deal with the United States but they also proposed a policy of Imperial Preference whereby certain items and industries would see a reduction in tariffs and duties if the items came from great Britain. This was the type of trade barrier elimination that Chamberlain, in Britain wanted. A great trading partnership, with Britain at the centre was the objective of the pro-imperial preference promoters.

The Colonial Conference of 1897 was the brain child of Chamberlain who saw the gathering of the leaders of the members of the British Empire in London for Queen Victoria's "Diamond Jubilee"  as an ideal opportunity to launch his idea of an Imperial Council. He felt that Laurier would be a supporter of this plan to create a council composed of representatives from all of Britain's self governing colonies and military and trade matters could be made the first issues addressed by this new Empire styled council. Laurier however, countered Chamberlain's points with equally persuasive counter points and a resolution was finally passed that accepted relations as they currently existed.

The South African war drew Canadians into the fight for he British Empire but the Canadian Government had resisted a formal declaration of war and the issue of Imperial Government as opposed to complete responsible government came to a head with the Naval Bill in 1910 resulting in Laurier's loss of the 1911 and the participation of Canada in World War I which resulted in a renewal and dramatic growth of Canadian nationalism and a return to the path towards full nationhood.