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42   DAYS OF PREPARATION

realize it as clearly as those who were within sound of the guns, or almost so. Yet the realization came, though more slowly than in Europe. There was the unusual spectacle of thousands of soldiers parading the streets. Many homes witnessed the sorrow and anxiety of parting, and on some days columns of the newspapers were filled with Canadian casualties.

The most serious question in regard to recruiting arose in the Province of Quebec. The French Canadians did not respond nearly as heartily as those Canadians who traced their descent to the United Kingdom. The comments were sometimes bitter. There was a party controversy over the situation. Conservatives tried to hold Sir Wilfrid Laurier responsible as the most influential French-Canadian leader. He made recruiting speeches, but his critics said he should have made more. Liberals said that the responsibility lay with the Government, which contained three French-Canadian members and which had been placed in power largely through the exertions of the Nationalists, who opposed all Canadian participation in wars outside of Canada. Both parties joined in denouncing Henri Bourassa, the leader of the Nationalists, who continued throughout the war to oppose Canadian participation and to make adverse criticisms of British policy.

But this controversy did not go to the root of the matter. The question was, what were the real sentiments of the people of Quebec? It is important because of the numbers and the probable growth of the French-Canadian population. In 1911, they numbered more than two millions out of a total Canadian population of 7,206,643. Notwithstanding the large immigration of the previous decade, practically none of which was from France, the French Canadians almost held their own, the percentage declining only from 30.71 to 28.51. In the thirty years from 1881 to 1911, the French-Canadian population was nearly doubled. With a similar rate of increase—and as it depends entirely on birth not on


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