Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

No Free Man: Canada, the Great War, and the Enemy Alien Experience

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

No Free Man: Canada, the Great War, and the Enemy Alien Experience

Article excerpt

Bohdan S. Kordan, No Free Man: Canada, the Great War, and the Enemy Alien Experience (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016), 416 pp. Cased. $39.95. ISBN 978-0-7735-4778-0.

During the First World War thousands of enemy aliens were interned across the British Empire. In this book Kordan revisits the history of those enemy aliens interned in Canada which he previously explored in his 2002 book Enemy Aliens, Prisoners of War: Internment in Canada during the Great War. Kordan begins his new book by noting that human rights are a passion of his. It is clear from his account of Canadian First World War internment that respect for the human rights of the internees was not always given a high priority by the Canadian government. Kordan observes that internment in Canada was a response to a fear that resident subjects of Germany and its allies were conspiring to sabotage the Canadian home front. He notes that this fear was unfounded. While this may be true, south of the border in the initially neutral United States, agents of the German government did engage in acts of sabotage against the export of military supplies to Britain and its allies. So it could be argued, contrary to Kordan, that the Canadian government was reacting to a well-founded albeit unrealised fear.

Nonetheless, Kordan shows that the actual implementation of internment in Canada often bore very little relationship to the potential threat posed by the enemy aliens. The majority were civilian non-combatants: immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire who had neglected to acquire Canadian citizenship by naturalisation. …

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