Lieutenant Colonel P.A. Piuze
189th (Canadien-Français) Battalion
Don’t you think, Sir, that the fact of leaving my family (I am the father of five children) and position is one sacrifice that should count for something? Furthermore, the sudden disbanding of my Battalion will certainly seriously hurt my reputation not only in the military life but also in the civil.
(Piuze to George Perley, 16 Nov 1916)
Born on 28 October 1888 in Fraserville, Quebec, Philippe-Auguste Piuze was a militia captain in the 89th Regiment. Commanding officer of 189th Battalion, the twenty-eight year old lieutenant colonel was one of the more successful recruiters in Quebec. “I was anticipating my Battalion to go to the front as a draft, although I was promised it would go as a Unit,” he wrote on arrival in England. Instead, his battalion was taken from him almost immediately after disembarking.
For Liberal MP Ernest Lapointe and many French Canadian Members of Parliament, the fate of the 189th symbolized the poor treatment francophone officers had received from the Borden Government, the Militia Department and the British military. According to Lapointe, after landing in England in September 1916, a military official immediately assumed control of the 189th Battalion, denying Piuze “the glory—if it be called a glory—of commanding his own unit on British soil.” Lapointed explained:
Colonel Piuze, who is a very well qualified officer, is to-day commanding the depot battalion at Quebec. That is what happened in England; I was there at the time, and I know what I am talking about. All the officers of the unit were very angry, and took opportunity to ventilate their grievances. Colonel Piuze himself did not complain.
Lapointe implied that former Minister of Militia Hughes had influenced Piuze’s dismissal. Hughes agreed that the young French Canadian was “one of the best officers” but denied any personal involvement in the case.
As Parliament debated the contentious issue of conscription, some French Canadian members believed that the disrespectful treatment of Puize and his men had discouraged further enlistment from Quebec. Conservative MP Herménégilde Boulay argued that the disorganization of the battalion damaged soldier moral as the officers were “replaced by people who were perfect strangers.” Liberal MP Rodolphe Lemieux accepted the military necessity of dispersing the French Canadian battalions but pointed out “there is some pride in our people.” French Canadian civilians and politicians wanted to follow the exploits of military units that shared their language and heritage.
After the war, Piuze remained involved in the military and became a prison warden in Quebec. In 1937, Premier Maurice Duplessis appointed Piuze Commissioner of the Provincial Police, where he took a strong stand against gambling, vice and communism. During the Second World War, he took command of the Canadian Provost Corps, which enforced military law and discipline.
He died on 8 September 1967.