The Dark Side of Patriotism
When Canada entered the war, Borden's government also passed the War Measures
Act which gave the government of the day sweeping powers it deemed necessary
for "the security, defence, peace, order and welfare of Canada." The
Act allowed the government to get on with the messy business of preparing a country
for a massive war. The Act also permitted the detention, questioning and internment
of any Canadian thought to be a threat to national security.
Unfortunately, the dark side of patriotism reared its head during the early days
of the war. Even though a third of ethnic Canadians were Germans, by October,
1914, Germans and Austrians of war age were being interned. By the end of 1914,
there were 6,000 "enemy aliens" in a dozen internment camps across
Canada. Later in the war, a statue of Kaiser Wilhelm that had previously been
proudly displayed in Berlin, Ontario, was tossed in a
lake. To stop an industrial boycott, that city had to change its name to Kitchener.
German teachers, university professors and civil servants lost their jobs and
their postings. In Winnipeg, hamburgers were called "nips" as hamburger
sounded too German.
Despite the fears about foreign espionage and terrorism, there was no significant
sabotage in Canada and many loyal Canadians had their jobs, rights and freedom
taken away needlessly.