War Measures Act

The War Measures Act (enacted in August 1914, replaced by the Emergencies Act in 1988) was a Canadian statute that allowed the government to assume sweeping emergency powers. The definition of the War Measures act is; An act to confer extraordinary powers upon the Governor in Council in the event of "war, invasion or insurrection, real or apprehended."

The act was invoked three times in Canadian history:

First World War

Thousands of Germans and other Austro-Hungarian "enemy aliens" (the majority of them Ukrainians from Galicia and Bukovyna) were interned in 24 internment camps across Canada as a result of the War Measures Act, Canada's first national internment operations of 1914-1920. These enemy aliens not only suffered imprisonment, forced labour and the confiscation of what little wealth they had but many thousands more were forced to carry identity documents and report regularly to the authorities. Those who were jailed were also subjected to various state-sanctioned censures, including restrictions on their freedom of movement, association and free speech and, in 1917, to disenfranchisement. The internment operations continued until June 1920, nearly 2 years after the end of the war. Since the mid-1980s the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association has called for an official recognition of the internment operations and a restitution of the contemporary value of the internees' confiscated wealth, those monies to be dedicated to various commemorative and educational projects. On 9 May 2008 the Government of Canada signed a technical document with UCCLA, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko, provided for the establishment of a $10 million endowment that will allow for commemorative and educational programs and projects recalling what happened. A further $2.5 million was set aside within Parks Canada's budget for displays recalling the use of internee labourers in the national parks system during the First World War. A major new exhibit about Canada's first national internment operations is planned for the Cave & Basin site, in Banff National Park.

It was also envoked by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King during the Cold War Crisis after Igor Gouzenko, a Ukrainian clerk working at the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, discovered evidence of a home-grown Canadian spy ring operating. The ring was supplying the USSR with information, and Gouzenko traded this information with King for protection. King envoked the war measures act in secret to allow the police to arrest suspects without evidence and cause. In all 11 suspects were arrested in Montreal,Toronto, and London, England.

Second World War

During the war there was widespread fear of foreign nationals spying and working against the country of Canada. As a result the federal government used the act to implement Japanese Canadian internment. Any citizen of Japanese descent including children were sent to internment camps for the duration of the war.

The October Crisis

In 1970, Quebec nationalists and FLQ members kidnapped British diplomat James Cross and Quebec provincial cabinet minister Pierre Laporte, who was later murdered. What is now referred to as the October Crisis raised fears in Canada of a militant terrorist faction rising up against the government. At the request of the Mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau, and the government of the Province of Quebec, and in response to general threats and demands made by the FLQ, the federal Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau invoked the act. He did this so police had more power in arrest and detention, so they could find and stop the FLQ members. There was a large amount of concern about the act being invoked as it was a direct threat to civil liberties.

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