Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

VIII
Colonel Hughes creates the first contingent-- "There is only one feeling as to Sam, that he is crazy."

IT was now well into June of 1914. Parliament was prorogued on the twelfth. On the twenty-eighth the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated at Sarejevo. On the twenty-ninth Borden's memoirs record: "I left for Nova Scotia, arriving at Halifax late the following evening. Here I received various delegations, chiefly respecting patronage." This now seemingly incredible serenity reflected not irresponsibility but sheer innocence. Borden had concluded at least two years earlier that war-sometime, somewhere--was inevitable, but he still had no suspicion that it was imminent. Nor was this surprising. For his knowledge of what was about to happen in Europe, he remained dependent on the press, on his intuition, and on the vague and irregular dispatches relayed to him at the pleasure of the British government through the Governor General.

As late as July 23--barely two weeks before war was to begin-- the only Canadian military units in an attitude of belligerency were poised to repel, not an armed invasion from Europe, but a shipload of 376 would-be East Indian immigrants. The unfortunate party had sailed from Hong Kong on a Japanese vessel in the full but unwarranted expectation of being allowed to enter Canada at Vancouver. Ever since coolie labor finished the C.P.R. and filled the country with leftover laundrymen and café owners, Canada's imigration policy had been distinctly hostile to Orientals and there was no change now. On Borden's orders the H.M.C.S. Rainbow, the dubious pride of the hapless Canadian navy, had rushed to the Vancouver dock area, as had a detachment of militiamen. Ultimately the unhappy Indians sailed back home after the equally

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