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Lest We Forget: Unarmed Canadians Killed by Soldiers in 1918 Anti-War Protests

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
A monument in Québec City to remember the killing of protestors by Canadian soldiers, Québec Printemps 1918.
A monument in Québec City to remember the killing of protestors by Canadian soldiers, Québec Printemps 1918.

They sang “O Canada.” The protestors sang “O Canada.” Not the soldiers. The soldiers sang “God Save the King.”

Stephen Harper says that the Canadian nation was “forged in the fires” of the Great War. The truth is that the war was very much about the oppression of the French Canadian nation and about the senseless slaughter of the sons of an English Canadian nation in thrall to war profiteers.

The soldiers were sent to Québec City to put down the rioters who saw no good reason to kill and be killed by their working class brothers in Europe. French Canadians and Irish Canadians saw no glory in dying for the British Empire. They were right. The First World War was nothing but senseless slaughter.

But young men were being conscripted to fight and die for a cause they did not believe in.

In the spring of 1918, things came to a head in Montréal and Québec City. There was widespread civil unrest in which objects were thrown at police. Pro-Empire targets, such as the Montréal home of a pro-war newspaper owner and the Québec City building in which conscription documents were held, were ransacked or set on fire. On April 1, 1918, Canadian soldiers were sent in to put down the rebellion.

Canadian troops used guns and live ammunition to put down protestors armed with snowballs and other projectiles. When the dust cleared, 70 protestors were wounded and four were killed.

Lest we forget the fallen, their names were Honoré Bergeron (49), Alexandre Bussières (25), Édouard Tremblay (23) and Georges Demeule (15). By all accounts they were not even in the protest, just in the wrong place at the wrong time… and French Canadian.

David Bernans is a Québec-based writer and translator. He is the author of Collateral Murder. Follow him on twitter @dbernans.

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