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Conscription During World War I. How Canada handled the problem of dwindling enlistments. Conscription. For the first three years of the war, the Canadian government relied on volunteers to fight

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conscription during world war i

Conscription During World War I

How Canada handled the problem of dwindling enlistments

  • For the first three years of the war, the Canadian government relied on volunteers to fight
  • At the start of the war, most able bodied men rushed to volunteer to fight so that they could have the opportunity to travel overseas
why fewer enlisted
Why Fewer Enlisted
  • From 1915-1917, Canadian soldiers gained a high reputation within their alliance for courage and bravery
  • As a result, they were often chosen for the toughest and most dangerous assignments during battles
after vimy ridge
After Vimy Ridge
  • In April 1917, Canadian soldiers had one of their greatest military victories of all time defeating the Germans at Vimy Ridge
  • That month over 10,000 Canadian soldiers were killed in battle but only 5,000 new recruits enlisted
  • The volunteer system was no longer bringing in enough people to sustain the war effort
pm borden breaks his promise
PM Borden Breaks His Promise
  • At the start of the war, Prime Minister Robert Borden made a promise to the Canadian people not to introduce conscription

Conscription – a system to make able bodied men join the armed forces

  • Because of the lack of recruits, Borden is forced to break that promise
borden s plan
Borden’s Plan
  • In order to break his promise, Prime Minister Borden calls an election on the issue of conscription
  • If he wins the election, he can prove that conscription is the ‘will of the Canadian people’
  • The election becomes one of the fiercest and angriest in the history of Canada
people against conscription
People Against Conscription

French Canadians

  • At the start of the war, many French Canadians volunteered to fight overseas
  • Sam Hughes hated Roman Catholics (many Quebecois were Catholic) so he made their lives difficult in training for the war
  • French soldiers were forced to train in English
  • Borden Fired Hughes in 1916 but it was too late to gain favour in Quebec
people against conscription1
People Against Conscription

French Canadians

  • French Canadians did not have the same ties to Europe and did not see it as their duty to protect Britain
  • Most felt that it should be up to the individual person whether or not they decided to go to war
people against conscription2
People Against Conscription

Western Canadians

  • Most people who settled in Western Canada came to Canada to escape from the European wars
  • In some of their homelands, the governments could force men into the army
  • They thought they had escaped that in Canada
people against conscription3
People Against Conscription


  • They felt their part of the war effort was to provide people with much-needed food
  • Who will do the work if the men are at war?
what the government did
What The Government Did
  • Prime Minister Borden asked the Leader of the Opposition Wilfred Laurier to form a coalition or union government to present a unified front on conscription
  • Laurier could not do this because even though he supported the war effort, he was against conscription
  • Several Liberals joined the Conservatives to form the Unionist Party in favour of conscription
the election of 1917
The Election of 1917
  • The Unionists won the Election of 1917
    • 153 seats for the Unionist Party
    • 82 seats for the Liberals
  • Only 20 of the 82 seats the Liberals won came from outside of Quebec
  • The results did not reflect the Canadian population
  • Had the votes of soldiers and their families been omitted from the polls, nearly half of the population voted against conscription
the aftermath of conscription
The Aftermath of Conscription
  • This issue caused a lot of bad blood between French and English Canadians
  • There were bloody riots in Quebec
  • This caused a division that still exists in Canadian society