Wartime Elections Act, 1917 : Canada's First World War Experience
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Wartime Elections Act, 1917

In brief, this act conferred enfranchisement on a select category of women and recent immigrants disenfranchised.   The act gave the vote to the wives, widows, mothers, and sisters of soldiers serving overseas. They were the first women ever to be able to vote in Canadian federal elections, and were also a group that was strongly in favour of conscription. The act also disenfranchised “enemy-alien” citizens naturalized after March 31, 1902, unless they had relatives serving in the armed forces. At the time the act was passed, it was justified through the patriotic fever surrounding World War I. While it was opposed by those who were disenfranchised and other opponents of the government, it was widely supported by the majority of Canadians.

“The disenfranchisement component of the Wartime Elections Act was far more egregious. In a shockingly brazen move, the act took the vote away from immigrants who had arrived since 1902 from wartime countries. While most German Canadians did not lose the right to vote in Ontario, as they were from long established communities, tens of thousands were disenfranchised in the west – where the 1916 Prairie Census revealed that 7.8 per cent of the west’s population was born in enemy territory. An estimated 50,000 males were disenfranchised” (Cook, 2011 p. 16).

Links:  Wikipedia on Wartime Elections Act   |   Canadian Encyclopedia on Wartime Elections Act  |  Resources on site Wartime Elections Act

Article written by Fiona

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