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CHAPTER IV

CONSCRIPTION IN CANADA

1 THE history of conscription in Canada is practically the history of Canadian politics for 1917 and part of 1918. True, Canada heard conscription talk in Quebec years before the Great World War, but it was the fear of conscript armies and navies, not their proposal, that was the subject of debate. When the Laurier Navy Bill was before the Commons, prior to Sir Wilfrid's being swept out of office in 1911, the Nationalist leaders in Quebec told the habitants that a Canadian navy meant a con-script navy and that their sons would be "disembowelled for the Empire." But to the minds of the majority of Canadians conscription was only a name, only a heritage of autocratic kingdoms, never to be thought of in Canada, never dreamed of as the greatest political issue since Confederation. Even after the war was in full swing it was generally agreed that all Canadian soldiers should be volunteers. The conscription issue which later developed in Britain was at first but faintly reflected in Canada. Some military men urged it in a quiet way, perhaps because they saw the immensity of the struggle, and perhaps out of the spirit of pessimism born of those cruel days when the Hun was ruthlessly advancing on his career of conquest. Some thoughtful people argued for the principle afterwards known as "selective draft," because they saw men going into khaki who should have stayed at home, and slackers at home who should have been in uniform. But until the year 1917 was well advanced conscription voices were as voices crying in the wilderness.

As the size of the task for the suppression of German Kultur sank into the Canadian mind, so did the conscription sentiment grow. The slacker element them-selves were a walking argument for the principle of the

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