HomeHistoryUncertaintySacrificeServiceSo What?Hard QuestionsFor TeachersResponsesLinks

German-speaking Canadians and the First World War

In the First World War, Canada 's main enemy was Germany . At the time, there were 500,000 people of German background living in Canada . Many had been invited to settle in Canada 's Prairie provinces because of their farming skills. They were known as hard workers. Prime Minister Robert Borden called them the “very best” in the land.


But when Canada was at war with Germany, Canadians quickly began to view all German-speaking people with suspicion, even those who had been in Canada for many years.


It was at this time that Canadians began to discriminate against some people who did not look and act like other Canadians.  


For example, when the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa burned down in February 1916, many people blamed the Germans living in Canada. It later turned out that the fire began when someone left a burning cigar too close to a stack of papers.


A few months later, in September 1916, when a bridge in Quebec City collapsed, people once again blamed Germans living in Canada. They thought that Germans, working for the enemy, had attacked the bridge. A thorough investigation proved that it was a construction accident, not enemy sabotage.


Perhaps one of the strangest accusations, however, was that German airplanes were making raids on Canada. Canadian citizens reported that they had seen German airplanes flying overhead. These planes were entirely imaginary. Germany never had airplanes flying in Canada, but people made up stories anyway.  

Top | Home | History | Uncertainty | Sacrifice | Service | So What? | Hard Questions | For Teachers | Respond | Links | Search | About This Site