legislation drafted in 1914 by Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden
in response to the wartime pressures of World War I
. It gave broad powers to the government and was patterned after the British Defence of the Realm Act
. While undemocratic
, it was felt that such laws were necessary for the state to properly defend itself from a threat to society. The provisions of Section 6 included absolute control over:
- censorship and the control and suppression of publications, writing, maps, plans, photographs, communications and means of communication;
- arrest, detention, exclusion and deportation
- control of the harbours, ports and territorial waters of Canada and the movements of vessels;
- transportation by land, air, or water and the control of the transport of persons and things;
- trading, exportation, importation, production and manufacture;
- appropriation, control, forfeiture and disposition of property and of the use thereof.
The provisions of the act are very powerful and came with the restriction:
... this Act shall only be in force during war, invasion, or insurrection, real or apprehended.
The act has been invoked three times.
1. During World War I
, in 1914, by Sir Robert Borden
2. During World War II
, in 1939, by William Lyon Mackenzie King
3. During the October Crisis
of 1970, by Pierre Elliott Trudeau
After a terrifying rise in FLQ terrorist bombings and kidnappings in Montreal in October 1970, the mayor requested the Prime Minister of Canada (Pierre Elliott Trudeau) mobilize an anti terrorist response. Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act of 1914 (his speech), citing insurrection and suspended basic civil liberties. Hundreds of people were arrested under suspicion of involvement in the terrorist group FLQ; most were never charged. This event solidified the hatred that Quebec Separatists had for Trudeau, whom they previously considered a traitor and now a despot. English Canadians generally perceived the event as a regrettable but necessary defense of a civil society under seige from terrorists.
The War Measures Act remains on Canadian books, and may be invoked if deemed necessary in the future.