March 15, 2017
Ottawa also feared the rise of anti-capitalism. On December 1, 1918, Borden wrote in his diary that he was “struck with the progress of Bolshevism in European countries.” For their part, Canadian working-class groups condemned the invasion of Russia as “for the benefit of the capitalist.” The president of the B.C. Federation of Labour Joseph Naylor asked, “is it not high time that the workers of the Western world take action similar to that of the Russian Bolsheviki and dispose of their masters as those brave Russians are now doing?”
The allies invaded Russia to defend the status quo, much to the dismay of many Canadians who welcomed the czar’s demise and found it difficult to understand why Canada would support Russian reactionaries. Opposition to the intervention was widespread even among soldiers. According to the Toronto Globe, 60-70 per cent of the men sent to Siberia went unwillingly. One artillery section even refused to obey orders.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s western countries worked to isolate Moscow. Canada (and the U.S.) opposed a treaty to guarantee Russia’s pre-war frontiers, which England had signed with Moscow. Ottawa recognized the Bolshevik government in 1924 but ties were severed after the British cut off relations in mid-1927. Full diplomatic relations with Moscow would not restart until the late 1930s.
Russophobia has once again gripped the political/media establishment. A number of prominent commentators have defended the grandfather of Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland collaborating with the Nazis on the grounds it was either them or the Russians occupying Ukraine during the Second World War. Freeland herself deflected questions on the matter by saying Moscow may be trying to “destabilize” Canadian democracy while Brigadier General Paul Rutherford warned of Russian cyber warfare. More dangerous, Ottawa is ramping up its military presence on Russia’s doorstep (Ukraine, Poland and Latvia) to counter “aggression.”
To help clear the thick fog of propaganda it’s useful to remember how Canada responded to the fall of Russia’s monarchy. While Russia has never invaded Canada, we once invaded their country.