Wilfrid Laurier honoured for defending wartime civil liberties

Wilfrid Laurier’s defence of the civil liberties of “enemy aliens” was remembered with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque and bust.

On Nov. 20, Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s staunch defence of the civil liberties of “enemy aliens” was remembered with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque and bronze bust of Canada’s seventh prime minister at the Laurier House National Historic Site, in Ottawa. This initiative was organized by the Trutiak Family (MST Bronze Ltd) with the support of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation (UCCLA) and Parks Canada.

Louise Laurier, a descendant, unveiled the likeness.

During the First World War, and in the midst of a crisis over military conscription, the Unionist Government of Sir Robert Borden passed The War Time Elections Act (10 September 1917) which effectively disenfranchised anyone who had immigrated to Canada after March 1902, stripping the right to vote from tens of thousands of Ukrainians and other Europeans branded as “enemy aliens” through passage of The War Measures Act (22 August 1914).

Laurier, then leader of the Liberal opposition in the House of Commons, protested this measure, saying he despaired for the future of the country if the promises made to these immigrants were betrayed. Despite his determined stand, the government was able to pass the Act, ironically while allowing some women the right to vote for the first time in Canada’s history (the wives, sisters and widows of soldiers serving overseas in the Canadian Expeditionary Force).

“While Laurier was not successful in his protest of The War Time Elections Act, he took an unpopular stance in the House of Commons because it was the right thing to do and did so during a time of war and domestic crisis,” said Lubomyr Luciuk, UCCLA’s director of research. “For that we are honouring him with this bust and plaque, recognizing the principled position he took in defence of the civil liberties of so-called ‘enemy aliens.’”

He added, “Laurier demonstrated remarkable statesmanship when all around him others exposed their prejudices and xenophobia. Laurier’s words bear remembering, for their currency remains valid to this day.”


Just Posted

Skateboard park finally finds a home

New site adjacent to Diamond #4

Local air show hits turbulence as Provincial funding falls short

Community donations help save iconic event

Cough, cough…Vanderhoof’s air a problem

Wood stove replacement program largely ignored

U.S. consulate general to visit Northwest

Trip part of the region’s first-ever pop-up consul for American residents

VIDEO: B.C. Mounties reunite veteran with lost military medals

RCMP say Zora Singh Tatla, who served in the army in India for 28 years, is the righful owner

Federal government seeks public feedback on pedestrian safety

What safety measures do you think need to improved for pedestrians and cyclists?

4 facts to ring in St. Patrick’s Day

What do you really know about the Irish celebration?

Experts urging caution as rabbits die by the hundreds in B.C. city

Province of B.C. confirms more positive tests for rabbit haemorrhagic disease

Canucks snap scoreless streak but fall short in 5-3 loss to Sharks

Swiss forward Timo Meier nets two, including the game-winner, to lead San Jose

Northwest B.C. pellet plant to provide energy to Asia

Pinnalce Renewable Holdings and West Fraser Timber approve construction of plant in Smithers.

Search continues for 10-year-old Montreal boy missing since Monday

Montreal police said they are exploring every possibility in search for Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou

Airline passenger-rights bill claws back protections for travellers: Advocate

Bill C-49 would double tarmac delays, scrap compensation for flights affected by mechanical failures

Canadian research vessel to explore 19th Century shipwrecks

Commissioned this week in Victoria, the RV David Thompson is Parks Canada’s newest vessel

Most Read