On the morning of December 21st, 1918, French-Canadian conscripts in the 259th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (Siberia) mutinied at the corner of Fort and Quadra Street in downtown Victoria. They refused to embark for service in a new theatre of war – the Russian port of Vladivostok and Siberia, to aid the White Russian forces fighting the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. The war on the Western Front had ended six weeks earlier, prompting sharp debates within Canadian society and the military force itself.
But at the point of the bayonet, the mutinous men were forced to embark for Russia, exceeding the powers granted under Canada’s conscription law, the Military Service Act 1917. The ringleaders were shackled together in the bottom of the ship, the SS Teesta, and received sentences of between 30 days and 3 years imprisonment with hard labour for “Joining in a mutiny while on active service in his majesty’s armed forces.”
This year, on the 93rd anniversary of the mutiny, we are gathering to remember this forgotten moment in the history of Victoria, French and English Canada and the world. The event will feature the story of the conscripts and mutiny itself, a moment of silence for the fallen soldiers of the Siberian Expedition, a musical interlude, and a public call for a formal apology for the families and a full pardon from the federal government for the French-Canadian soldiers wrongfully convicted of mutiny at Victoria.
Learn more: On Youtube, En Française, or Visit Canada’s Siberian Expedition Virtual Exhibition & Digital Archive.