WW1 Debate: Fact Sheet


Name: Emily Cheung

Date: Thurs. Mar. 27, 03.

Topic: #6 “Enemy aliens” posed a real threat to Canada and deserved to be locked up. Against

Partner: Lauren Usami


Interpretation of Issue

            My interpretation of this issue would definitely agree with the side that I will be supporting in the debate which is against.  I view the statement this way because after researching through several different sources, I have encountered similar pictures that reveal and clarify the truth behind the internment camps.  The images were horrifying to look at because of the harsh and unbearable conditions the internees were forced to live in.  Besides the labour-forced camps, “enemy aliens” in my opinion, did not pose any threat to Canada because they volunteered to go to war but were rejected and arrested or deported to the camps.  Some even went to the extreme of paying to serve with the Canadian Forces but again were ignored.  These people were treated differently because of their race and diverse culture and unfortunately, that still remains an issue in itself today. 



“Enemy aliens”- immigrants from countries with which Canada was at war

civil rights- right that should be protected legally as fundamental rights that every individual should enjoy

                   irrespective of his or her status

internment- confinement within narrow limits, as of foreign troops, to the interior of a country

racism- any political or social belief that justifies treating people differently according to their racial origins



Argument #2: “Enemy Aliens” did not deserve to be locked up.  An official investigation by the Northwest Mounted Police found that there was not the slightest trace of organization or concerted movement amongst the enemy aliens “that could be considered a threat to Canada.”  Men emigrated from a difficult life of oppression in their old countries only to be incarcerated (imprison) in the new.  They had their civil rights taken away, lost their jobs, had their homes and businesses vandalized, and had to build new lives for themselves.  Local authorities often trampled on human rights of these people with unjustified searches, surveillance, and arrest.  The concentration camps provided cheap labour where they worked long hours and had to carry out park development projects.  Life in the camps was grim mostly because clothing was scarce and the food rationed.  Desperation led to one suicide and more than 60 perished in escape attempts.



-         War Measures Act formed the basis for future government incursions (invasion) on civil liberties of citizens and immigrants, intern enemy aliens suspected of not being peaceful and trustworthy

-         anyone found without work or identity papers or failed to report regularly to police became candidate, required to carry special identity cards and report at regular intervals

-         depression of 1913, losing jobs through discriminatory employment practices, first to be fired

-         1916, paroled from camps to fill labour shortages within industry and agriculture

-         several pleas to have family members released, was no help due to lack of legal and procedural guidelines and actions of local officials

-         “Looking back at my short time I was here, and I was only a boy, I realised all the time what marvels you can do if you just had the labour…We had plenty of labour.  Anybody who asked us to do anything, we provided the slaves.”

- Col. Anderson-Wilson, May 4, 1973

-         “…the conditions here are very poor, so that we cannot go on much longer.  We are not getting enough to eat.  We are hungry as dogs.  They are sending us to work as they don’t believe us and we are very weak.”

- No.98 Nick Olinyk to his wife, 1915

-         valuables were seized, some of the confiscated money stolen , over $32,000 in cash left in the Receiver-General's Office at the end of internment operations (estimated present-value $1.5 million)

-         Watson Kirkconnell, “there were: few on whom the long years of captivity had not left their mark ... confinement in a strange land, inactivity and hopeless waiting were in themselves enough to shatter the nerves and undermine the health”

-         Otter, "insanity was by no means uncommon among the prisoners"

-         “They suffered because of cold and lack of proper clothing,” Boyko, age 12, father died in 1948 at age 77

-         “Food was poor, and after all this, they suffered the humiliation of racial slurs and profanity directed at them by the guards.”

-         Craig Mahovsky of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, “The Dominion of Canada confiscated their personal property, including religious items, conscripted their labour, stripped them of their citizenship, silenced their presses, and suspended their voting rights, all on the basis of a perceived allegiance to a homeland many of them had fled.”


Planned Responses to Opposing Arguments

-         fear that “enemy aliens” might work secretly for a British defeat and sabotage the war effort

-         fear was not based on actual threats but on war-created xenophobia (hatred /fear of foreigners) that caused Canadians to suspect loyalty of those different from themselves

-         innocent until proven guilty

-         harm Canada’s economy and background of British descent

-         contributed to war by raising funds, interned for attempting to enlist in Canadian, faced prejudice


Closing Statement

                Enemy aliens” had initially been welcomed into Canada until it was feared that they would still harbour sympathies for their home countries.  Ukrainians, Germans, Australians, and people of Italian, Jewish, Chinese, and Japanese heritage had become successful farmers, business people, workers in Canada’s industries, and also fought or worked in labour battalions but were driven back to their home countries or arrested and placed in internment camps.  Many showed loyalty to the country and supported the war effort but Canada did not keep its promises.  They were treated with increasing prejudice and hostility and their civil rights had been erased. They were deprived of their freedom of mobility and association, and their properties and valuables often were confiscated.  Daily existence in the internment camps was strenuous.  They were forced not only to maintain the camps but also to work for the government and private concerns, and they were sometimes mistreated by the guards.  All in all, we believe that “enemy aliens” did not pose a real threat to Canada and therefore they do not deserve to be locked up.




1)      Cruxton, J.B. and W.Wilson. Spotlight Canada. Canada: Oxford University Press, 2000.

2)      Granastein, J.L. et al. Nation: Canada Since Confederation. Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 1983.


3) “The Enemy Within.” ANZAC Day.


(26 Mar. 2003.)

4) “World War One Internment Camps: Banff National Park.” Banff  National Park of Canada.


(26 Mar. 2003.)

5) Kokodyniak, G.W. “Introduction.” Internment of Ukrainians in Canada 1914-1920


(26, Mar. 2003.)