The Frist World War and the Conscription Crisis in Quebec

The outbreak of the First World War, in August, 1914, led to great tensions in Quebec and Canada.

On the one hand, there was a tendency to support the war effort, especially out of patriotism, among the English speaking Canadians.

On the other hand, there was the anti-militarist tradition, lack of enthusiasm for the war effort and the widespread rejection compulsory military service among French Canadians.

In fact, from the time of the Boer War, in the beginning of the 20trh century, the nationalist movement in Quebec attacked what it called English imperialism and predicted than sooner or later Canada would be drawn into murderous imperial wars. All the nationalists preached loyalty to Canada and declared themselves ready to fight for the defence of Canadian soil but there opposed to any attempt to require them to defend Britain or any other country, including France. Thus, when the First World war breaks out in 1914, the French Canadians do not oppose Canadian involvement, but they demand that this participation be voluntary and kept at a reasonable level. Logically enough they argued that if it was very appropriate to defend civilisation and justice on European soil, perhaps it was equally appropriate to re-establish French-language rights in Canada… A fair place for French-speaking Canadians and respect for French culture and language in the military was a further logical demand.

During the first years of the Great War (the First World War), while French Canadians didn't protest against war effort, they were in no hurry to enlist, and they showed little interest in fighting in Europe. Well, for that matter, English-speaking Canadians did not answer the call with heedless enthusiasm either, and most recruits were men born in Britain living in Canada. However, in English Canada, Quebec was openly accused of not doing its share.

As the war dragged on, Canada's involvement became more intense, and with a population of eight million, Canada had set itself a quota of 500,000 men!

Nevertheless, despite the fierce propaganda campaign, it was not possible to reach this figure through voluntary enlistment, especially since soldiers were being decimated in the murderous battles taking place in Europe. Prime Minister Borden, responding to the will of the English-speaking majority, brought up a bill to make military service compulsory, in August 1917.

This was the beginning of the conscription crisis in Quebec.

See also:

  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • LinkedIn
  • TwitThis