Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Jonathan Vance


This dissertation provides a history of three border regions along the Canada-U.S. international boundary during the First World War era (1914-1918), including Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan; St. Stephen, New Brunswick, and Calais, Maine; and White Rock, British Columbia, and Blaine, Washington. It examines the development of cross-border economies and border-crossing cultures in these communities before this period and reveals how the war–and specifically U.S. neutrality–affected such transnational relationships. Furthermore, it investigates local reactions to wartime legislation designed to better monitor the cross-border movement of enemy aliens, undesirable immigrant groups, enlisted men, and, following the introduction of the Military Service Act in 1917, men of military age (18 to 45).

The three case studies included in this dissertation reveal that attitudes toward the international boundary’s permeability varied widely across Canada. In communities where the war was preceded by several generations of intense cross-border economic and social relations, such as at Windsor and St. Stephen, the conflict failed to disrupt the continued growth of distinct border-crossing cultures. In fact, in many cases residents of these communities used various local channels to express their belief that the federal government should better accommodate transnational traditions when implementing legislation affecting travel across the international boundary. Furthermore, the language used to formulate these protests reveals that many residents of Windsor and St. Stephen believed that they resided in a distinctly international community. By contrast, the White Rock case study reveals that where settlement at the border did not pre-date the introduction of a centralized immigration apparatus, there were far fewer protests against changes to the boundary’s permeability. The White Rock and Blaine example also demonstrates that concerns about the movement of certain goods and people–including alcohol and undesirable racial groups–factored into local conceptions of the international boundary and an extranational neighbour. Together, these three case studies provide insight into how Canadians in border communities interpreted the war, nationalism, and the Canada-U.S. relationship.