Was Conscription the Right Choice?

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Was Conscription
the right choice
in 1917?
Canada’s contribution so far:
Prime Minister Borden
initially pledged 25,000
troops; 30,000
volunteered
 He said “There has not
been, there will not be,
compulsion or
conscription.” -1914

Oct 1915:
Borden
increases
commitment to
250,000 men
 Jan 1916:
500,000 men
 Is this realistic?

French-Canadian Frustration





Regulation 17: Restrictions on language
3% of volunteers were Fr-Can, but they were
scattered amongst English.
They were bitter about assimilation; some
felt it an “Imperialist war.”
They had or no loyalty to Britain or France.
Nationalist Leader Henri Bourassa opposed
compulsory military service.
Recruitment/
Propaganda
“Will we wait until
ours burns?
Let’s enroll and quickly”
“This is the moment
to act.
Don’t wait until the
Germans come to
reign destruction
here in Canada.
Be men!
Do not stay
behind.”
Why did Canadians in
general stop volunteering?
 Farming
families needed their sons.
 People heard about the horrors
of war.
 Vimy Ridge, & Passchendaele
resulted in news of high casualties.
“A matter of honour”



1917 Borden went to an Imperial War Conference in
London.
David Lloyd George urged Borden to commit more
men.
Borden visited Canadian soldiers and realized the need
for more troops to maintain the war effort.
The Election




Borden realized Canada’s
capacity to help but knew
volunteers would not be
enough. He would have to
force through conscription.
Military Voters Act
Wartime Elections Act
Wilfrid Laurier and
Francophone Liberals were
opposed. Conservatives & most
English Liberals supported
conscription.
Outrage!
Riots in Quebec
1918.
 French-English
tensions grew.
 Only 48,000
conscripts went
overseas…
 was it worth it?

Outcome:
Conscription Crisis represented the
impossibility of reconciling French &
English views.
 Quebec became anti-Conservative.
 Canada was deeply divided. Had WWI
continued, it might have sparked civil
war.

Two views of Conscription
Finis
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