How Conscription Negatively Impacted Canadian Society

1298 words - 5 pages

Sir Wilfrid Laurier declared “I oppose conscription because in it has the seeds of discord and disunion”
(Newman, 94). Conscription is compulsory military service. It caused hatred, riots and protests that divided Canada
severely. It was the cause that tore the delicate balance between the French and English Canadian relationship. The
conservative party, who had first introduced conscription, still find it difficult to receive votes from Quebec, even after
50 years. (CBC, 14) Conscription was not justified as it negatively impacted not just Canadian society, it created
political problems and caused a severe division between Canada’s two linguistic groups.
Conscription negatively impacted Canadian society. This bill stripped away the freedom from Canadian
citizens, leaving them bitter and divided amongst themselves (Newman, 96). Sir Wilfrid Laurier warned that “If this
military bill is passed, we will face a cleavage which may rend and tear this Canada of ours down to the roots”
(Newman, 94). Conscription had surely made an enormous dent in society. Riots occurred in Quebec because of this
single issue. The Quebec citizens were absolutely outraged that they were forced to fight for “les Anglais”. Feeling
little attachment to both France and Britain, many did not want to participate in the war. They raided army registration
offices and shattered the windows of English-run shops. These protestors were met with armed police officers
(CBC,12). On Easter weekend, 4 unarmed civilians were killed and dozens injured because of the arrest of Joseph
Mercier, a young French Canadian citizen that was found without conscription papers. Adding to the negativity that
conscription brought on society, an additional loss of men decreased Canada’s ability to supply food, clothing and
war materials needed for the war (Newman, 94). Throughout the war, the Canadian economy was able to strengthen,
and the country became more independent. Now more than ever, employees were critical in order to keep machines
running, earning money. Without the citizens to create materials, Canada would not be able to profit. Taking away
men would be disastrous to the home front, as well as the war front. As Henri Bourassa, a Quebec politician
famously said, “What England needs most are not soldiers, but bread, meat and potatoes.” (Quinlan, 33).
Furthermore, the war needed food desperately as soldiers were hungry, cold and weak. Sending more men to fight in
barren grounds of France, they fought – not only for their country, but for their lives. Canada had already sent
550,000 soldiers for World War I. Archbishop Bruchési of Montreal argued to Prime Minister Borden “Do you not think,
in light of our population, we have largely done our share? The people are agitated. ... In the province of Quebec; we

can expect deplorable revolts. Will this not end in bloodshed?" (CBC,14). Canada’s contribution to the war was huge, as the country’s...

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