Capitalism on Trial: Section 98, the Communist Party of Canada and the Battle for Legality in the Interwar Period

Date created: 
Section 98
Communist Party of Canada
Free speech
Legal history
Political trials

In 1919, the Canadian state enacted a law that criminalized the advocacy of radical politics. Section 98, as it became, was broad in its terminology, and carried a maximum punishment of twenty years imprisonment. In 1931, the state utilized the law against eight leaders of the Communist Party of Canada in an attempt to declare the organization to be illegal in Canada. The party, however, did not crumble under pressure. At trial, the accused were able to use the courtroom as a forum to protest the legality of the law; after the leaders were convicted, the party campaigned tirelessly for the release of their comrades, and for the repeal of Section 98. The party was successfully able to use its repression to forward its political agenda. This thesis explores how the party navigated Canada’s legal system in order to realize its political goals.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Senior supervisor: 
Mark Leier
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of History
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.