Debate: French-Canadians Against Conscription

My goal in this debate is to defend the position that Prime Minister Borden was not correct in passing the Military Service Act of 1917.  I am here to represent the French-Canadians during the World War I who objected to this act. To accomplish this goal, I define the Military Service Act of 1917 as being the conscription act which forces all able bodied males 20-45 to participate in military services. I will also examine my opponent’s claim that the prime minister was correct for passing the act. I believe Prime Minister Borden was not right in passing the Military Service Act of 1917 because this act suppressed French-Canadian culture. Secondly, it limited democracy towards the French-Canadians. Finally, the act went against their French-Canadian beliefs. I will explain in detail to why I think this.

My first point is that the Military Service Act of 1917 suppressed French-Canadian culture. This conscription act which forced Canadian men into the military service was mainly English-speaking, creating language barriers. The Military of Militia refused to create French regiments making the French-Canadian soldiers unable to communicate with the English soldiers or be promoted to senior positions. The French thought that the English were attacking French culture and trying to assimilate them into English culture. Most French-Canadian soldiers were not expected to fight because they opposed to fighting and oftentimes they were abused, deemed a coward and treated unfairly. For these reasons, the French-Canadians feared racism and discrimination. Another example of suppression of culture was when the French-Canadian males were taken away from their families. The French culture consists of the “3 Fs and C”. Two of these “Fs” are “Farm” and “Family”. Without the males, family and farming cannot be made possible; the seigneurial system needed men to farm and women had difficult time farming. In addition Bill 17 which was placed onto the French-Canadians in Ontario limited French language and the Military Service Act further puts the French-Canadian culture into danger. The conscription act infused the French-Canadians with the emotions underlying in Bill 17. This bill only allowed one hour of French per day in school which provokes great resentment among French-Canadians. The Military Service Act takes away culture which defines people, making people fell lost and discriminated. Culture was not the only thing taken away from them, but also their rights.

The conscription act was not democratic and stripped the French-Canadians of their basic needs and rights. The Military Service Act mainly affected the French-Canadians because the Canada used the French-Canadians as a replacement for the English soldiers. When the English Canadian soldiers came back home, they took over the French-Canadian’s jobs, political positions and especially their voters voice. It is an unfair play for Prime Minister Borden to pass the Military Service Act because he used it to solidify his votes in the 1917 elections. Adding to the Military Service Act, he extended the vote through the Military Voters Act and Wartime Elections Act. The votes came from overseas soldiers, who were in favour of conscription. The soldiers also appeared to be more patriotic and tended to vote the Unionist Party. Conscientious objectors (many were French-Canadians) and recent immigrants from “enemy countries” were denied from voting. Most French-Canadians who were against conscription supported the Liberal Party.  The conscription act made the voices of French-Canadians unheard. The many rights of the French-Canadians were taken way. The French -Canadians earned the right to keep their Catholic faith and along with their culture; Quebec only joined Canada on the condition that their French rights would be protected. If even the French-Canadian’s rights were taken away, is there a reason to be fighting for Britain?

French-Canadians had no reason to fight in the war in the first place. The Military Service Act went against what they believed in. French-Canadians did not feel loyal to France; French-Canadians and France did not necessarily see eye to eye. The French-Canadians did not see WWI as their war. English Canadians looked down on the French-Canadians as seen in the recruitment posters which stereotypes the French. They felt loyal only to Quebec. The French-Canadians considered themselves as their own nation and described themselves as Canadien. French-Canadians could not have felt a part of Canada when they are being assimilated into a melting pot. Thus, there is no reason for Canada to conscript the French-Canadians.

My opponent, the English Canadians, who believe that Prime Minister Borden was correct in passing the Military Service Act of 1917, do not see the larger picture. When my opponents stated that if Britain was to win, it will make Canada look good as Britain’s colony and makes Canada appear stronger, but they did not consider the French-Canadians.  Winning the war makes the English looks better, but not for the French-Canadians because the credit goes to Britain and not the French-Canadians, even if the French-Canadians participated in the war. We see this from the many First Nations that fought and were not recognized. Another point that our opponent pointed out was that the Military Service Act unifies Canada as a nation and with other countries. I believe this is false. It does not unify the French-Canadians because it takes away French culture and forces them assimilate into British Culture. With forcing, there will be a more likeliness of rebellion. The Military Service Act does not unify, but does in fact, the opposite. The act created those who supported conscription and those who were against conscription; not unifying the population. In sum, my opponent puts a dent in Canada’s appearance and unification.

As I conclude this debate on whether Prime Minister was correct in passing the Military Service Act, I will like to ask a few questions. Put yourselves into the French-Canadian’s shoes. Would you have wanted to go to war knowing that being forced to war meant your own culture is being oppressed? You couldn’t communicate with the English and felt fighting was against your beliefs.  How would you have felt if knowing that the Military Service Act was taking away your rights? The French Canadians who stood for their beliefs were not allowed to voice their opinions to defend their culture. What was the reason for the French-Canadians to fight? They did not feel loyal to Britain or France. This was not their war. In conclusion, I do not believe it was right for Prime Minister Borden to pass Military Service Act of 1917.


“Conscription Act.” Conscription Act. Canadahistory. Web. 15 May 2012. aaaaaaaaa<;.

“History of the First World War.” Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. aaaaaaaaaaWeb. 15 May 2012.

Jones, Richard, and J.L. Granatstein. “Conscription.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. aaaaaaaaaaThe Canadian Encyclopedia. Web. 15 May 2012. aaaaaaaaaa<;.

“The Conscription Crisis of 1917.” The Conscription Crisis of 1917. Historica. Web. 15 May 2012. aaaaaaaaaa<;.


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