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Human Rights in Canada: An Historical Perspective

The War-Time Elections Act

Ottawa, Canada
1917

Ever hear the old saying, "Every rose has its thorns"?

The rose in this case is the War Time Elections Act which gives women with male relatives in the Great War the right to vote.

The thorns? The War Time Elections Act stripped all "enemy aliens" who were naturalized after March 31st, 1902 of their voting rights. This included not just German-Canadians, but Ukrainian-Canadians as well. (Ukraine was controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a German Ally in the Great War.)

Meanwhile, in some provinces, Chinese, Japanese, Aboriginal peoples, and other visible minorities have yet to be given the right to vote at all.

Factoid

In 1918, the Censors Office make it illegal to write German, or speak it in public meetings.

Quotable Quote

"In Sydney after the war started, quite a few Blacks volunteered for active service and were told point blank, "We don't want you. This is a white man's war." However, around 1917, the Canadian Army was up against it they had lost a lot of men in France. At that point, they were willing to take anyone. Conscription came in, and then they took the Blacks and Whites. You had no choice - you had to go."

Coloured veteran Isaac Phills of Dartmouth recollects. (from The Black Battalion 1916-1920, Canada's Best Kept Military Secret, by Calvin Ruck.

Want to Know More?

Read the War Time Elections Act S.C. 1917, c.39