Impact of ww1 on canadian politics
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Impact of WW1 on Canadian Politics. Dividing Issues. Canada entered the war displaying political unity but underneath their were signs of disquiet. Many issues divided the French and English Canadians. The issue of conscription split English and French Canadians.

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Dividing issues
Dividing Issues

  • Canada entered the war displaying political unity but underneath their were signs of disquiet.

  • Many issues divided the French and English Canadians.

  • The issue of conscription split English and French Canadians.

  • Many French Canadians were reluctant to enlist.

  • They felt Canada would best serve the Empire by shipping wheat and other commodities.


Dividing issues contd
Dividing issues contd.

  • Could French Canadians enlist in units that would serve the French army?

  • Of the 619,636 soldiers that served in the CEF only 35,000 were French Canadians only 14,000 had volunteered before 1917.

  • Over 228,000 of the CEF were born in Great Britain and had emigrated to Canada.

  • Many French Canadians were farmers and across the country farmers were very reluctant to enlist.


French language issue
French language issue

  • Montreal police discouraged people from singing ‘O Canada” and instead insisted on “God save the King”

  • Other issues that divided the French and English….

  • Prejudice had always existed – fear of the other language or the Catholic religion or on the other side - Protestants.

  • There was a dispute over French as a language of education in the English speaking provinces.

  • French was banned as a language in the Ontario school districts.


French language issue contd
French language issue contd.

  • This decision was supported by the English speaking Catholic hierarchy it was enforced by squads of school inspectors.

  • How could French Canadian soldiers fight for justice abroad when they were denied it at home?

  • Robert Borden – Conservative Prime Minister was not interested in dealing with the issue.

  • He also paid little attention to the weak French Canadian contingent in his government.

  • The Ontario govt did nothing so did Borden!


French and english issues
French and English issues…

  • Issue of the “Ontario schools” embittered relations in Canada during the Great War and did nothing to encourage French Canadian recruitment during that time.

  • After visiting London in May 1917 Borden decided that conscription would be needed to fill the holes in the army.

  • Although there was a strong tradition of reconciliation in the national political system. The English and French Canadians got on because they had to.

  • Despite this a constant tension simmered between the groups.


Conscription issues
Conscription issues….

  • English Canadians believed there was one Canadian nationality and the Empire was worth fighting for.

  • Henri Bourassa, an extreme French Canadian nationalist, preached to English Canadians that their participation and commitment to the Empire was mistaken.

  • He stated that the grievances of the French Canadians of Ontario should be the priority, not the wrongs of distant Europe and the excitement of the Empire.

  • Bourassa was one of the biggest opponents of the issue of conscription.


Borden and conscription
Borden and Conscription

  • Borden returned from a meeting of the Imperial War Cabinet in 1917. During the meeting the ministers discussed the issue of manpower.

  • Borden visited Canadian troops in France who had been victorious in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

  • After this visit Borden decided that in order to keep faith with the troops at the Front he must send reinforcements.

  • Borden brought up the controversial issue of conscription upon his return home in may 1917.


Conscription cntd
Conscription cntd.

  • He knew this would be a controversial issue one of the reasons being that French Canadians showed little interest in volunteering for the army.

  • Borden tried to gain the support of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the liberals by offering them half the places in the Cabinet and any seat except the prime ministership.

  • Laurier refused as the Liberals were against conscription.

  • Although many of the English speaking Liberal leaders would have preferred to take Borden’s offer they supported Laurier.


Conscription contd
Conscription contd..

  • In Ontario and the West many Liberals were recent immigrants and farmers who were not interested by appeals of patriotism and as a group they resisted volunteering.

  • Borden passed the Wartime Elections Act which banned anyone that had immigrated from an enemy country from voting and allowed all military personnel and their families to vote. He also promised to exempt farmers from conscription.

  • An election was called in Dec 1917 with simplified issues: “ Do we want German rule?” if so, vote for Laurier, if not Borden was the man.


Election 1917
Election 1917

  • Laurier lead a French Canadian party with some English Canadian candidates, one of the most notable of these, Mackenzie King (he became PM in the first post-war election of 1921).

  • Borden won the election and he got conscription.

  • His followers won in a campaign that came very close to preaching racial hatred which was extremely unpopular in Quebec.

  • The election of 1917 would have far reaching consequences in the 20 years for the Conservative party.


1918 last year of the war
1918 – Last year of the war.

  • There was evasion from the draft and other forms of resistance especially when Borden broke his election promise and applied conscription to farmers’ sons.

  • Although the result’s of Borden’s conscription were disappointing, his industrial mobilization was not.

  • The Canadian government was doing well on the economic front.

  • After Sam Hughes was removed production of armaments and munitions soared. 25% of the shells fired on the Western front came from Canada.


Stronger canada
Stronger Canada

  • By 1918 the money to pay for war production came from Canada.

  • The government introduced an income tax but most of the money came from selling bonds inside Canada.

  • The Victory Loans of 1917, 1918 and 1918 were bough by over a million people raising billions of dollars.

  • As a result of this Borden represented a stronger, less dependent Canada.

  • Great Britain was using Canadian funds for armaments, eating Canadian produced food and relying on dominion soldiers (mostly Canadian and Australian) as replacements for the BEF.


Impact of ww1 on canada
Impact of WW1 on Canada

  • Initial political unity as Canada enters the war but eventually a split between French and English Canadians over the issue of conscription.

  • This issue took place during the conflict and its impact extended to the post-war era.

  • In 1920 Robert Borden retired and he was replaced by one of his lieutenants, Arthur Meighen, as prime minister.

  • Meighen had imperialist leanings and was a strong conscriptionist during the conscription crisis which left him with many opponents in French Canada.


Impact of ww1 contd
Impact of WW1 contd.

  • This led to Meighen and the Conservatives losing in the first post-war election in 1921.

  • Mackenzie King became the new Liberal leader and prime minister.

  • Conditions occurring during the First World War led to decisions and conditions that in the post-war era set the stage for the development of new political parties:

  • High prices for wheat during the war, due to wartime demand , dropped sharply after the war but farmers still had debts to be paid which were at a high interest rate.


Impact of ww1 contd1
Impact of WW1 contd.

  • Western farmers felt that they were at the mercy of eastern business and these grievances grew , leading to the development of political parties founded to oppose eastern influence.

  • They were joined by eastern farmers in this.

  • “United Farmers” governments were formed in Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario.

  • In Ottawa, farmers’ representatives coalesced as “Progressives”, determined to implement a platform that favored themselves.


Impact of ww1 contd2
Impact of WW1 contd.

  • The close of the First World War led to a growing demand for new goals in politics with an upsurge of democratic feeling after participating in the “ war to make the world safe for democracy”.

  • Desire for broad government policies that would improve the welfare of the people.

  • The growth of industry during the First World War led to a growth in union membership.

  • Unemployment rose as the nation shifted from a war to peace time economy .


Impact of ww1 contd3
Impact of WW1 contd.

  • Working class discontent also grew with the removal of price controls and an increase in living expenses.

  • This development of One Big Union, and the Winnipeg Strike in 1919 are examples of this which led to the election of Labor members to provincial legislatures and a more prominent role in politics.

  • Remember to supplement this information with your own reading!

  • There are many resources available online here are a couple to get you started:

  • www.canadahistory.com

  • www.academicinfo.net/canhistlibrary.html


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