During World War I (1917), Britain requested support from all the British colonies and the Dominion of Canada where one of them. Though Canada was unable to provide enough soldiers for Britain. The main reason was because many French-Canadians did not join. Prime Minister Robert Borden thought it was a necessity to pass the Military Service Act or the Conscription Act to increase the number of participants. This forced all able bodied males from 20-40 to work in the military service except for conscientiousness objectors. Though this act was passed through a clever scheme from Borden. The Military Voters Act and War-time Elections Act were enacted to ensure that the Military Service Act would be passed in the next election. The Military Voters Act gave the right for all overseas Canadian soldiers to vote. Most of these soldiers were in favour of conscription to replace their depleted forces. With the War-time Elections Act, it allowed women who had close male relatives serving in the military to vote. These women appeared more patriotic and were valuable for the election. The conscription act was passed ,but this caused a great controversy.
Resulting from conscription, it split the country into 3 groups: the Anglos, the Prairie (farmers), and the French-Canadians(Quebecois).
The English thought the conscription act was reasonable. They argued that because so many soldiers were dying in Europe, they had to get more soldiers. No one volunteered to fight so they were forced to conscript. They believed if Britain was at war, Canada should be at war too. The French-Canadians are part of Canada so they should also fight for Canada. They also thought if Britain was to win the war, they would be able to protect Canada from being taken over by the tyranny.
Though the French preferred to differ from what the British thought. The French-Canadians were against conscription. They thought that the British were taking away their culture by forcing them to got to military which was English based. Canada didn’t treat the French-Canadians fairly, taking away their rights for example Bill 17. Most important of all, they didn’t feel loyal to Britain so why should they even want to fight for Britain? For more information about why the French-Canadians were against conscription, click here to read my debate.
Farmers, like the French-Canadians were also against conscription. Their central economic unit was from farming. With the young men sent to war, there wouldn’t anyone to work on their farm. If there was no farming, there would be no food, resulting in inflation. Also most farmers were pacifists and did not believe in fighting. Most important is that farmers were not experienced in combat so wouldn’t they be more productive to farm?
Collections, Toronto Public Library Special. “Canadiens-français Enrolez-vous!” Flickr. Yahoo!, aaaaaaaaa02 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 May 2012. aaaaaaaaa<http://www.flickr.com/photos/43021516@N06/6946758755/>.
Collections, Toronto Public Library Special. “This Is Your Flag … It Stands for Liberty.”Flickr. aaaaaaaaaYahoo!, 01 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 May 2012. aaaaaaaaa<http://www.flickr.com/photos/43021516@N06/6799448342/>.
“The Military Service Act, 1916.” Library of Congress. Web. 29 May 2012. aaaaaaaaaa<http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3g11040/>.