Essay on World War I and Military Voters Act

Submitted By dmanster
Words: 651
Pages: 3

Early in the war, Canada had experienced little difficulty in attracting sufficient numbers of new recruits to maintain the army in the field. Popular enthusiasm for what was expected to be a short but glorious war, high levels of unemployment at home, and a surplus of young single men all combined to create a rich environment for recruiting. Wages offered by military serving were generally attractive in a depressed economy. Among French Canadians recruiting was much less effective, due in no small part to ham fisted direction by Sam Hughes who had a long history of fanning anti-French, anti-Catholic sentiments for political gain.[1] Opposition to conscription did not mean opposition to the war. In the February 1917, there had been a very successful campaign by the Patriotic Fund in Quebec to donate one day’s pay. Both Le Devoir and La Presse had donated space to support the campaign in the spirit of what was described as “bonne ententism”, and almost 2/3 of those who subscribed were French Canadians.At the same time it had become increasingly clear that volunteers alone could no longer meet the demand for reinforcements for the Canadian Corps. By April recruiting had fallen to 5,530, increasing only slightly in May with the news of the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge. In that same battle, almost twice that number had been killed or wounded. Borden who had been in Britain with other Commonwealth leaders returned from a visit to troops in France convinced that conscription was the only solution.

Seeking to bolster support for conscription, Borden reached out to the opposition to form a union government. Laurier refused, fearing loss of his political base to Henri Bourassa, who led opposition to the war in Quebec. The Liberal party split over the issue with many liberals joining the union government to fight the election. In June, the Union government put forward legislation that would have enabled the government to conscript every male between 18 and 60.

Opposition to conscription was not limited to Quebec. Many farmers opposed the measure arguing that they needed their sons at home if they were to meet the rising demand for agricultural production. Labour leaders supported the conscription of wealth arguing that burden of service should be shared by the wealthy as well as the working class. Still others opposed the war as a matter of conscience or saw the measure as an offense against Canadian democracy. Among visible minorities denied political equality there was also objection to being called to…