War Measures Act: Wikis


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The War Measures Act (enacted in August 1914, replaced first by the Public Order Bill (1971–1985), then 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: during the First World War, the Second World War, and the 1970 October crisis, all detailed below.


First World War

The War Measures Act was initially adopted on 4 August 1914, and remained in effect until 10 January 1920.[1] With the advent of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, additional regulations and orders were added to make the membership in a number of organizations, including socialist and communist organizations forbidden.[2] Immigration from nations that were connected directly or indirectly with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany was stopped and natives of these countries (Austria, Hungary, Germany and the Ukraine) were classed as enemy aliens under the War Measures Act. These enemy aliens were required to carry ID with them at all times, not permitted to possess firearms or leave the country without permission nor publish or read anything in a language other than English or French. Thousands of these enemy aliens were also interned in camps or deported from Canada. It was not until the labour shortage in Canada became dire that these interned individuals were released into the workforce again, in an attempt to boost the economy and the war effort.[2]

Second World War

During the war there was widespread fear of foreign nationals spying and working against the country of Canada.[citation needed] As a result the federal government used the Act and the accompanying Defence of Canada Regulations to implement, Japanese Canadian internment. Any citizen of Japanese descent including children were sent the internment camps in the interior of British Columbia for the duration of the war along with any property or money seized by the government. Other enemy aliens were also interned as well as members of groups considered subversive.

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, removing rights such as habeas corpus from all Canadians.

The use of the War Measures Act to address the problem presented by the FLQ was well supported by Canadians in all regions of Canada.[citation needed] However, there were many vocal critics of the Government action, including NDP leader Tommy Douglas, who said, "The government, I submit, is using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut."[3]

While the War Measures Act was in force, 465 people were arrested and held without charge.[3]

Some people even accused Prime Minister Trudeau of trying to criminalize and break the separatist movement in Québec.

It was replaced by the Public Order Bill, eventually rescinded after 15 years by the Conservative government in the fall of 1985.

See also


External links

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