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What role did conscription play for Canada during WWI?

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What role did conscription play for Canada during WWI? When looking at the Great War, it is easy to see that-at first-participation levels were high. But what happened? Why was conscription necessary? What purpose did conscription serve? Canada entered World War One on August 4th, 1914. Colonel Sam Hughes was told to create a militia of 25,000 men. After creating a training camp at Valcartier, which was capable of holding 32,000 men, the first contingent was assembled. This contingent had 31,500 men and was named "Canada's answer". There were huge numbers of men who were volunteering to go to war. Because of this, military recruiters were able to hand pick their soldiers. Since they were given this power, they mainly chose white males because they did not want colored folks getting used to shooting white males. French Canadians were also a notable exception from they Canadian military. This was not because they were not being chosen, but because they did not want to fight for England. ...read more.


This vote was called the Military Voters Act. Borden, however, did something very intelligent. In order to make sure that conscription came to fruition, Borden extended the vote to soldiers overseas. This was smart because obviously those soldiers would vote in favour of conscription because they would want more support. 215,849 soldiers voted in favour of conscription, compared to 18,522 soldiers who voted with Laurier's Liberals (against conscription). Another interesting thing about these votes was that they could be distributed in any riding. This would be useful, for example, if there was a riding in which anti-conscription had slightly more votes; those votes could be transferred to ensure that conscription would be voted in favour of. Had it not been for the military votes, Borden would have only won by100,000 votes. This law began to be enforced starting January 1st, 1918. It directly resulted in 404,385 men becoming eligible for military service. 385,510 of those men asked to be pardoned from conscription, an alarming 95%. ...read more.


Yes, it did send 124,588 men to war to help the pre-existing troops. But what did it do negatively? How did it affect the home front? There is no simple answer. One possible answer is that it further strained English-Canadian and French-Canadian relations. This was a time where these two groups of people already did not like each other. The English-Canadians did not think that the French-Canadians were doing enough to support the military. This point of view makes sense. As was previously mentioned, French Canadians made up 28% of the total population at the time, but merely 5% of the military. The French Canadians did not feel loyalty toward England, or France, only toward Quebec. After conscription was announced there were huge riots in Quebec, and four people were killed. This is an example of how opposed the French Canadians were to conscription. All-in-all conscription played a role for Canada in World War One. Some historians have even gone far enough as to say that it was the single greatest political controversy of that time. While that is debatable, the fact that there were many positive and negative sides to conscription is not. ...read more.

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