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Who are the internees?

total in camps

civilians 65%

legitimate POWS 35%

Detainees were defined at the time as

5,954 austro-hungarians (czechs, slovaks, ukrainians)
2009 Germans
205 turks (subjects of the ottoman empire)
99 bulgarians
312 Miscellaneous

At the time, the definition of “German” or “Austro-Hungarian” covered a huge swathe of people who did not necessarily define themselves as ethnically German or Austrian or Hungarian. 

Apart from the natural irritation consequent upon a deprivation of liberty, the general disposition of prisoners was philosophical acceptance of the situation, the policy adopter being that of humane treatment throughout.

General William Otter, commander of internment operations 1914-1920 in Internment Operation 1914-1920


The number of civilians registered as ‘Enemy Aliens’, and thus not allowed to leave the country and forced to regularly report to designated authorities.

On August 15th, 1914, Parliament passed the ‘Proclamation Respecting Immigrants of German or Austro-Hungarian Nationality’ allowing for the arrest of ethnic Germans and Austrians suspected of threatening National Security. The War Measures Act received the royal seal on the 22nd of August 1914. It granted the Borden government the power to essentially rule by decree, in the form of Orders-in-Council, and to suspend civil libertiesin the name of national security.

Deux prisonniers au camp d’internement de Spirit Lake, en Abitibi (Québec) [1914-1920], Library and Archives Canada, PA-170451