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Legacy of internment

As the war approached its end, the internment camps took on distinctly political functions. As initial support for the revolution in Russia waned, the Canadian government worried about the radicals within its midst.

Communists and labour union leaders were rounded up under the War Measures Act and union publications were censored. Many of these individuals, along with the few ‘Enemy Aliens’ still interned, would be deported to Europe in 1920, often arriving in countries ravaged by war, revolution, or both.

They Menace Canada on Both Coasts. Come on Canada! Get Ready to Buy the New Victory Bonds [1942], Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-761

Grade Four Report Card; Tashme, BC [1944], Akira Kawai Collection, Nikkei National Museum, 2013.58.2. 1.a-b

Internment returned during the Second World War when over 24,000 people would be interned under the War Measures Act, this time in 40 camps, including roughly 22,000 Japanese-Canadians. The powers of the War Measures Act were again used to silence political dissidents-communists, socialists, and those advocating for labour unions.

Naturally, I am not particularly bent on remaining here in Canada, where I was treated so unfriendly. I rather wish to return to the United States... With them I am sure to be welcome.

Edward Midgard, on his outrage with Canadafor being deemed an enemy alien, 1919.

In 1970, the War Measures Act was invoked again, in response to kidnappings by the Front de libération du Quebec (FLQ). This resulted in mass imprisonment and the military occupation of Montreal. During this period 3,000 searches were conducted, 497 people were arrested, 435 released without charges.

The War Measures Act was overturned in 1988 and replaced with the less dictatorial Emergencies Act. Canada has tried to accept responsibility for some of the internments that were the result of the Act, including apologies to the Japanese and Italian communities, and a significant compensation commitment to the Ukrainian community in 2008. 


On 25 November 2005 MP Inky Mark’s private member’s Bill C-331, Internment of Persons of Ukrainian Origin Recognition Act, received Royal Assent.

Following negotiations with the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko the Government of Canada established the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, 9 May 2008, to support commemorative and educational initiatives that recall what happened to Ukrainians and other Europeans during Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914-1920.

This project has been made possible by a grant from the Endowment Council of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.