Alexander ~ Socials 11

Conscription and Conflict

Prime Minister Robert Borden declared that "when Great Britain is at war, Canada is at war, and there is no difference at all." Borden's intention to send a large number of soldiers aroused furious debate across the country debate that would culminate in a real crisis when conscription was carried out in 1917. On the front, the officers of the Canadian Expeditionary Front were desperate for reinforcements to make up for their losses. Borden, an passionate imperialist, was determined to maintain Canada's participation, and for him this was the only way for Canada to be considered equal to Great Britain, rather than a mere colony. Disturbed by the loss of men and the length of the war, Prime Minister Borden declared CONSCRIPTION on May 18, 1917. By this means he raised another 100 000 men, but because the war ended in 1918, only 24 000 of them ever saw action in France. Conscription severely divided the nation for it was deeply resented in Quebec, where French Canadians generally opposed the war. Borden was convinced of the importance of establishing a forced conscription system to compensate for losses. The solution ~ the Military Service Act. There were many anglophones among the farmers, union heads, and pacifists who opposed the idea, but they had no forums in which to make themselves heard. Francophones were almost unanimous in their opposition. Henri Bourassa, the symbol of French-Canadian nationalism, refused to let the government impose conscription as long as Bill 17 was still in effect in Ontario. Borden pushed through the Military Voters Act and the War-time Elections Act, and then called an election. Borden's union support was high in all provinces, with the exception of Quebec. However, by eliminating the votes of the military types who supported Borden, the unions would have had a lead of just 100,000 votes. Applying the new conscription system across the country proved to be difficult. In Quebec, the...