MY THOUGHTS ON THE CANADIAN CONSCRIPTION OF 1917
Dad told me you have recently been conscripted and ordered to report for military service. I suppose the persuasiveness of the drafting posters and how important it is for us “to stand shoulder to shoulder with Britain” as Prime Minister Borden so clearly stated seemed to leave no room for alternative measures. While I am completely against you reporting for service, there are negative consequences if you don’t go. That being said, I would like to share with you my experiences since the day I joined force - the consequences of not going, the casualty count, and the Canadian government’s response 3 years into the war - so you have a clearer understanding before you decide.
The government could not force you to do what you think is wrong or punish you for refusing to do something you thought was wrong. You can go to your local tribunals to plead your case. If the judges found that it was best if you stayed at home, then you will not be sent overseas (Shaw 2009). Though this alternative measure has caused anger amongst other Canadians. Many people believed that if contentious objectors (people who simply did not want to fight in WWI) were not willing to give service against the enemy, then the only choice for them was between civil or military prisons. Often the conscientious objectors were abused and deemed a coward and I know you are no coward.
However, so far, more than 6,000 Canadians have been killed, missing, or wounded at Ypres during the German’s gas attack. We stood our ground and defended Ypres while the French colonial army broke and ran (Ferguson, 2005). The incompetence of the British High Command lead to the death march of more than 57,000 soldiers along the Somme River in 1916. We lost nearly 3,600 Canadians taking Vimy Ridge. Yes, thanks to General Arthur Currie, we have fought extremely well and reduced Canadian casualties to a minimum. But because of that the British High Commander kept asking us to head assaults one battle after another. (Ferguson 2005). The battle at Passachendaele was perhaps the worst so far. It had cost 15,654 casualties to capture five square kilometres (Ferguson 2005). If you are thinking about enlisting in the airforce so you don’t have to be a chess piece tossed into a ground massacre, the life as a pilot could be just as short. One-third of all fliers died in combat (Ferguson 2005).
I understand that walking by all the war posters everyday might make you want to help. The poster that had a drawing of a man sitting on a couch reading newspaper with the writing “why don’t I go? The 148th Battalion needs me” got me to enlist myself back then! In retrospect, perhaps buying some victory bonds and rationing my food was the way to go. While more support to the Canadians already fighting in Europe could end the war sooner; why are we forcing more young men to fight and die in an imperial conflict? A lot of the men here volunteered to fight because we believed that Canada is part of North America that owed allegiance to the British Crown and their battle is our battle. This imperialist feeling is fading fast and the war has started to do more damage to Canada then just loosing abled young man to pointless battles. There are jobs at home that requires men power to operate, dad needs you on his farm because harvesting season will be upon us soon and we will need all hands on deck. What is the point of fighting a war to keep our way of life if there is nothing to come back to? Additionally, the government have created more national debt by selling Victory Bonds to our citizens in order to fund this war.
Yes, the bodies are falling fast and we need more men to come fight as well as relief the ones that have not seen home for months. Borden promised the men overseas that he will find a way to wrangle 100,000 more men to help fight the war. But…