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Conscription crisis of 1917

Nielsen_Noetic

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Canada's French and English populations have always been at odds with each other. This has had a deep affect on the way our laws culture and even our constitution has been developed. We have always tried to strike a balance between out two peoples preferring to compromise (for the most part) rather than result to violence.
In the year 1917 a war was raging, not just any war, a world war. The greatest war of all time up to that point in our species history, Canadians fought and died in this conflict. Giving their lives so as the Kaiser could not stamp his boot on the frail flower that is democratic freedom.
During this time of immense sorrow and bombastic heroism tensions between our two national cultures began to boil, as they have in the past and continue to do to this day. The source of ignition for this animosity was of course conscription. The conservative government of the day had deemed it necessary that men from the ages of 20 to 45 be forced to serve Canada in a military capacity, to ensure the war effort would not be slowed.
This outraged the Franco population and caused rioting in the streets in cities such as Montreal.
Robert Borden the Prime minister at the time came to the conclusion to instate conscription after having toured the battlefields of Europe himself, and realising that because the very nature of this war was one of attrition, more men were needed. The situation was so desperate in fact that, men, who should by all rights have been being sent home, were being instead sent back to the front lines.
The causes which saw the francophone population avoiding service in droves were numerous; the biggest reasons however were known to be; the fact that the army was blatantly biased in favour of Anglo-Canadians and two, the French population did not have strong ties with either England or France.
The first of the two causes I must admit I can understand, if I were a French Canadian and knew it was a reality that my advancement in the ranks was very unlikely I would probably avoid service as well. For the simple fact that your chances of dieing as a private are much higher than the chances of dieing if you're a Major.
The second of the two root causes is harder for me to understand, it would seem sensible that being French themselves they would have a sense of loyalty to their homeland that being France. I would, I guess that is why it is so bewildering to me.
The piece of legislation which made it legal for the Canadian government to force men into service was known as the military service act  this act; was in my mind necessary despite the cost of further alienation of the French population from the rest of Canada. The war was won, it was a hard fight, many millions died but in the end it was democracy which prevailed.
I would like to say this was due in great part to the French population of Canada but that would be a lie. For even after conscription came into effect many French Canadians still refused to fight for this nation.
What is truly hard for me to grasp is that they would not feel obligated to serve the country which gave them refuge from the world around them. It is your nation which defends you this is a fact but it is also a fact that you must be willing to defend that nation when it calls on you to do so.
The French population's outright denial of any loyalty to this nation disheartens me.
   
 
I wonder if you have taken the time to check out the battle honours of some of these Franco units whose loyalty you so readily call into question?


Canada's French and English populations have always been at odds with each other. This has had a deep affect on the way our laws culture and even our constitution has been developed. We have always tried to strike a balance between out two peoples preferring to compromise (for the most part) rather than result to violence.
In the year 1917 a war was raging, not just any war, a world war. The greatest war of all time up to that point in our species history, Canadians fought and died in this conflict. Giving their lives so as the Kaiser could not stamp his boot on the frail flower that is democratic freedom.
During this time of immense sorrow and bombastic heroism tensions between our two national cultures began to boil, as they have in the past and continue to do to this day. The source of ignition for this animosity was of course conscription. The conservative government of the day had deemed it necessary that men from the ages of 20 to 45 be forced to serve Canada in a military capacity, to ensure the war effort would not be slowed.
This outraged the Franco population and caused rioting in the streets in cities such as Montreal.
Robert Borden the Prime minister at the time came to the conclusion to instate conscription after having toured the battlefields of Europe himself, and realising that because the very nature of this war was one of attrition, more men were needed. The situation was so desperate in fact that, men, who should by all rights have been being sent home, were being instead sent back to the front lines.
The causes which saw the francophone population avoiding service in droves were numerous; the biggest reasons however were known to be; the fact that the army was blatantly biased in favour of Anglo-Canadians and two, the French population did not have strong ties with either England or France.
The first of the two causes I must admit I can understand, if I were a French Canadian and knew it was a reality that my advancement in the ranks was very unlikely I would probably avoid service as well. For the simple fact that your chances of dieing as a private are much higher than the chances of dieing if you're a Major.
The second of the two root causes is harder for me to understand, it would seem sensible that being French themselves they would have a sense of loyalty to their homeland that being France. I would, I guess that is why it is so bewildering to me.
The piece of legislation which made it legal for the Canadian government to force men into service was known as the military service act  this act; was in my mind necessary despite the cost of further alienation of the French population from the rest of Canada. The war was won, it was a hard fight, many millions died but in the end it was democracy which prevailed.
I would like to say this was due in great part to the French population of Canada but that would be a lie. For even after conscription came into effect many French Canadians still refused to fight for this nation.
What is truly hard for me to grasp is that they would not feel obligated to serve the country which gave them refuge from the world around them. It is your nation which defends you this is a fact but it is also a fact that you must be willing to defend that nation when it calls on you to do so.
The French population's outright denial of any loyalty to this nation disheartens me.
   
 
Sorry to burst your bubble  Nielsen_Noetic, but as Ex-Dragoon says; take some time and do some research before you make a post like that.  Having studied the Conscription Crisis, I would like to point out that the feelings were felt equally across Canada.  Some of the worst riots were in BC, where Artillery and Armour Soldiers of Anglophone Regiments mutinied.  If you want to generalize and make statements that are only partially true, then you will be called on the mat for them.
 
I have researched it thank you, in fact this is a social paper and I'll have you know I recieved a mark of 20/20
 
It appears then that your vision test must have been forged or just incomplete.   For some more research into the Conscription Crisis, try looking into the happenings in the interior of BC at that time.   Look up what went on around Kelowna.

Have some more fun with the research.
 
Nielsen_Noetic said:
I have researched it thank you, in fact this is a social paper and I'll have you know I received a mark of 20/20

I take it you mean Social Studies or perhaps Sociology. Otherwise I have this image of this being read aloud at a cocktail party or littel old ladies quilting bee ( both accepted and representative examples of social events in our society)

20/20 out of eh. Your teacher is a lot more generous than I would have been. I would have knocked off a minimum of 6 points on grammar, format and typos (1/2 pt each for the dozen odd ones I found) Start learning the proper use of which versus that for a start. That's before we get to the content, which GW and Ex dragoon have already done.

For your homework assignment how about a brief summary of those Battle Honours earned ( often at great sacrifice) by our Franco brethren?
 
PPCLI Guy said:
I never would have guessed   ::)

I wouldn't have...  I seem to recall a few of my social papers from grade 10, and they were a mite different.  I did this wonderful thing called research...  :D  However, I'm certain that the history buffs that have already responded here (George Wallace et cetera) will be more than willing to admit that they have erred in their own extensive researching.

T
 
George Wallace said:
Having studied the Conscription Crisis, I would like to point out that the feelings were felt equally across Canada.   Some of the worst riots were in BC, where Artillery and Armour Soldiers of Anglophone Regiments mutinied.   If you want to generalize and make statements that are only partially true, then you will be called on the mat for them.

Thanks for pointing it out George....I don't know much on the topic at hand, but at least I knew about the mutinies.

Regards
 
Nielsen_Noetic said:
I would like to say this was due in great part to the French population of Canada but that would be a lie. For even after conscription came into effect many French Canadians still refused to fight for this nation.
What is truly hard for me to grasp is that they would not feel obligated to serve the country which gave them refuge from the world around them. It is your nation which defends you this is a fact but it is also a fact that you must be willing to defend that nation when it calls on you to do so.
The French population's outright denial of any loyalty to this nation disheartens me.

I am not an expert on the conscription crisis but I will offer this to the fray.  One must take into account that by 1917 recruitment dropped across the country.  Let's face it, 1916 was not a good year (ie Somme, and other debaucles) and the often thought romanticism of war was gone forever.  I believe that because the war ended in 1918 conscription was not required.  If you look at the final numbers, the number of those recruited far exceeded the 500,000 that the government wanted, and did so without those recruited under the Military Service Act 1917.  However, at the time of legislation there was no way to know how many men would be required and the MSA was a legitimate act given the disasters of 1916 and no real end in sight.

I would like to direct your attention to those in Quebec who did serve.  Where to start.  Let try listing the battalions from quebec: 13th, 14th, 22nd, 24th, 87th, 5CMR, 117th, 150th (I may have missed a few).  To be fair many of these men were anglophones living in Quebec.  However, if you look at the nominal roles of these battalions you will find many francophones serving.  In your research you should have noticed that many of the higher number battalions were disbanded in England to fill the active battalions already serving.  For example, the 117th recruited nearly 1000 men from Quebec in 1916 but were dispered to other units once in England.

And finally, to put the nail into the coffin of your theory about Quebec recruitment, I direct your attention to Sherbrooke Quebec.  Ninety years ago the population of Sherbrooke was approximately 150,000.  The 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles was raised in 1915 (sailed to France in Jan 1916) and had on strength well over a thousand men.  Even before 5 CMR sailed to England recruitment for the 117th Bn had started.  By August 1916 another thousand + men had attested with the 117th.  In total, over 2000 men (both anglo and franco) had sailed to England less than six months apart.  All this from a relatively small population when compared to Montreal, Toronto, and other larger cities.  Despite being unhappy about conscription (a trend all across Canada) there were many who were drafted, served, and survived the war.  I would be interested to know (I already do know) if you know the exact number of recruits drafted under the MSA were from Quebec.

Your interpretation of history is interesting.  It was not Canada that gave "refuge from the world around them".  Perhaps a study of the first governor of Quebec James Murray could enlighten you on this totally seperate topic.

 

     

   
 
I would have to agree with the general feeling of this thread, that you haven't done enough research.  The English/French divide is something that was played up in the media at the time and by journalists and shoddy historians since.  The reality is much more complex.  A better way to look at it would be a rural/urban divide.  If you're a farmer, where do you get the labour you need to run your farm?  Your family.  If one son or more has already gone to the war, do you want your other son to go?  Hasn't your family already given enough?  I mean, you're barely getting by as it is.  If conscription comes, what happens if they take you AND all of your sons?  Are your wife and daughers enough people to get the harvest in?  If not, your crop rots in the field, you lose the farm and you're got nothing left to come home to.  Anglophone farmers in the Maritimes voted as solidly against conscription as their fellow farmers in Quebec.  It was only after the overseas votes from soldiers were added to the totals that the PEI ridings elected pro-conscription representatives.
I know I'm guilty of oversimplifying the issue here, but there are many more ways to look at the 1917 conscription crisis than english/french.
What about the non-Quebec francophones who loyally served?
What about the Australians?  They also had a vote on conscription, and the loyal serving soldiers voted AGAINST conscription in their country.
So what's my point?
1)  That the issue is more complex than you make it appear, and that it is obvious that you haven't done enough research.  You may have gotten 20/20 for your paper, and that's fine, but understand that if you were taking a university history course, your mark wouldn't have been the same.
2)  That voting or demonstrating against conscription was not disloyal, it was their RIGHT to voice their opinion on an issue that directly affected their lives.  Disloyalty would be refusing to serve once they were drafted, and there are plenty of graves in France, like "Quebec Cemetery" on the road between Arras and Cambrai, to show how loyal some of these conscripts were.

Just my two cents.
 
Lostmuskrat,

well put and good points on farmers.  My great uncle was a farmer from Vanscoy, SK and was drafted under the MSA and did go to England but not france.  It is my understanding that a farmer's son could be exempt if he was the only son.  In my uncle's case, there were four younger boys who could run the farm.  I guess his number came up and could not find a good enough excuse.  He was 22 when drafted and I assume he had no intentions of volunteering when he turned 18.  He died in 2000 at age of 105.

Also, did the farmers not get special leave to tend to the harvest.  I vaguely recall a "harvest leave" or something to that effect that allowed soldiers to go home to tend to the farm.  I am not sure about this - any thoughts?

 
 
Thanks, ex royal

The Borden gov't promised up and down an exemption for farmer's sons before and during the election and then reneged once they had won.  I don't know if it was for all sons or just one, and there may have been an exemption or a policy or a way to appeal a draft after you were selected.  I do remember something about a harvest leave, but I don't know if it applied only to Canada or to soldiers overseas as well.  As the war went on, leave got shorter and farther between, and September - November was the last campaign time before the winter gummed up all the roads and made it impossible to sustain an offensive.  This was one of the reasons behind the push for Passchendaele in 1917 - get to the high ground before it snows so that we spend the winter on top of the hill and Jerry can't see jack behind our lines - or shell Ypres accurately.
Anyhow, I would figure that harvest leave waas likely for soldiers training or serving in Canada, but after 1916, I doubt it would be there for soldiers overseas, if it ever had been.

Don't quote me on this though, I'm going off my (extremely vague) memory and not any kind of source or anything  :o  Guess I should practice what I preach ;D

A couple of books that might help a bit:
Marching to Armageddon  (Morton/Granatstein)
When Your Number's Up  (Morton)
Both are good reads, good general overviews of the war from a Canadian / Canadian soldier's perspective.  There should be at least one at your local public library, though I think they're both out of print.
 
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