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Conscription Crisis

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Essay title: Conscription Crisis

Conscription Crisis, 1917

The defining moment I chose is Conscription Crisis, 1917. This predicament started in early 1917 right down to the end of the war. World War I broke out in 1914 and Canada, as a collaborator of Great Britain, involuntarily found itself in the scrimmage. Such was the estimation of Prime Minister Robert Borden, to say the least.

Towards the end of 1916, tallies were being sent back to the commonwealth of the total killed. The information was catastrophic. 1916 was demonstrating to be the most horrible year of the war so far, at least for the Allies. The French and British had experienced and were still suffering heavy casualties. French soldiers at Verdun were even beginning to mutiny. Russia was whispered to be diminishing out of the war. Some radical action had to be taken.

A new government in Great Britain, which was determined to win the Great War, had requested all its dominions, i.e. Canada, to put forth fresh recruitments. After a visit to the battlefront, Prime Minister Borden agreed in every respect with this proposition. He had witnessed himself that the Australians, who had much less inhabitants than Canada, had put forth undisputedly more supplementary soldiers then Canada.

Conversely, volunteers were getting harder to get. Due to the fact that the numbers of fatalities in the war were not kept undisclosed to the communal, the request of the government for additional armed forces seemed incredulous, and had an instantaneous reverse effect. When Prime Minister Borden formerly put forth the idea, in private I might add, not yet in the House of Commons, his own cabinet, which he himself had put in place, told him the idea was crazy, preposterous.

Borden was convinced of the significance of launching a compulsory conscription structure to recompense for wounded and deceased. Even his cabinet became increasingly distressed as to some extent agree with what he said. He thus passed the Military Service Act. Francophones were approximately unanimous in their disagreement. Henri Bourassa, the representation of French-Canadian patriotism, refused to let the government enforce conscription as long as Bill 17 was still in effect in Ontario. Borden forced through the Military Voters Act and the War-time Elections Act, and then called an election. With all the extra votes he guaranteed to be in his favor, he had already sealed the deal on conscription. This had great consequences in Canada, and with their international and foreign affairs and policies, as we will look at in parts B, C and D of this writing piece.

Section B

There are many reasons why the conscription crisis of 1917 is important to Canadian history, and I will go over four of them right here. First of all many new laws were created due to this crisis. The Military Voters Act for instance. This act enacted that anyone who had once been active in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Militia, or any Air Force of the British or Canadians, is allowed to vote, whether or not he is Indian (which is very abnormal), whether or not a citizen of the Dominion of Canada, whether or not female, (again irregular), is considered a military elector. In addition, which I think is the most abnormal of all; minors were given the vote if they were active in one of the groups mentioned above. The second law, the War-time Elections Act, extended the vote to all mothers, sisters and wives of the soldiers serving at the front at the time. This actually ensured a double vote for each soldier, for undoubtedly his mother sister or wife would vote the same as he would. These laws would have affect on Canada because, although they were designed for that certain time period, they will most undoubtedly be used again.

Another way that conscription is significant to Canadian history is basically because this was the first time they had to deal with it on their own. Once could argue that they had to deal with it during the Boer War, but their participation there was extremely limited, and there was no way that the conscription would be passed for something like that. However, that first time that Prime Minister Borden forced conscription foretells the outcome on any future referendums on such issue.

There is another outcome that this conscription crisis foretells, and this is the strained future relation between Quebec and the rest of the provinces. As I mentioned in Section A, paragraph 5, sentence 3, “Francophones were approximately unanimous in their disagreement.” Due

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