The British were the dominant group in Canada. The French, however, were quite inferior to the British. They lost many of their rights, including their right to learn and be educated in the French language at schools (Bill 17). Because of this hierarchy, the French had an intense hatred towards Britain. Regardless of their social status, the French had a huge amount of resources that the English required to survive and for the economy to be sustainable.
Canada’s affairs were still regulated by the British under the Confederation Act, and thus the declaration of war in 1914 led Canada into the First World War. At first, the British requested the French to join the fight, and promised there would be no conscription, according to Robert Gordon. However, the French hate the British. They wanted to be away from the British, not fight and die for them. They refused to fight in the war. The religious group in Manitoba, along with the Metis (related to Awmish) were pacifists; they don’t want to fight at all. This went on for some time, until in 1917, Robert Gordon was then forced to issue a conscription, which forced young men to go to war in Europe.
However, this conscription wasn’t very easy to pass. At first, for obvious reasons, almost no one, with the exception of the British, supported the idea of conscription. So, Robert Gordon cleverly thought of a way for more supporters of the conscription, and he issued the Military Voters Act. This Act extended the right to vote to all men and women in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Soldiers in war obviously would like to have more reinforcement, so the majority of them agreed to conscription. However, there still was more no than yes. So, Robert enacted the War-time Elections Act. This Act extended the right to the mothers, wives, and sisters of the soldiers serving, while at the same refusing that right to citizens from enemy countries. Mothers of soldiers would support conscription, since it would mean her son would return home more quickly. Along with these acts, propaganda played a a key role in promoting the idea of conscription and getting more voters to say yes to it.
The introduction of conscription brought about huge controversy. Due to the conscription, it splits the country into 3 groups: the Anglos, the Prairie (farmers), and the French (Quebecois). From the British’s perspective, the conscription is obviously reasonable. They argued that many soldiers were dying in Europe, and so they needed more solders. Because no one volunteered to do so, they were forced to enact the conscription. Plus, Prime Minister Trudeau’s famous quote, “When Great Britain is at war, Canada is at war, and there is no difference at all.” This quote is self-explanatory, where Trudeau explains how if the British are at our, Canada, which includes the French should definitely join in and help them. In addition, the British believed it was the French’s duty to protect their families and relatives by fighting for them. If Canada lost the war, the British hypothesized that the Germans would invade Canada and destroy the farmlands. Plus, back then, there was a huge glory to go at war, and return from it; it was very prestigious. The British thought that if more people were sent to war, the war would end sooner; sooner you go, the sooner you will come back. These were the arguments conveyed by the British people in response to the conscription.
The farmers, however, had a much different view on the conscription. They believed that farming was the central economic unit. If young men were sent off to war, who would do the farm work? If there is no farming, then there would be little food, resulting in an inflation. Plus, farmers were quite pacifists; they did not believe in wars. Obviously, farmers are not experienced in combat, so sending them off to war is almost certain-death.
The French people argued that because of Bill 17, they weren’t able to learn English very well, and when in battlefield, having a barrier in communication can be deadly. And because they are forced to fight for a nation they hate very much, their performance will reflect their hatred, i.e. they won’t fight very well in the war. If you send people to their deaths purposely, you can expect there to be major riots.
Eventually, people became quite fed up with this conscription. People voted against this conscription, and voted for another government party, and soon this conscription was abolished.