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94   DAYS OF PREPARATION

believe that the time has come when the authority of the State should be invoked to provide the reinforcements necessary to sustain the gallant men at the Front who have held the lines for months, and who have proved themselves more than a match for the best troops the enemy could send against them, and who are fighting in France that Canada may live in the future. . . . I bring back to the people of Canada from these men a message that they need our help, that they need to be supported, that they need to be sustained, that reinforcements must be sent them. . . . I have promised in so far as I am concerned that this help will be given. I should feel myself unworthy of the responsibility devolving upon me if I did not fulfil that pledge. . . . Therefore it is my duty to announce to this House that early proposals will be made on the part of the Government to provide by compulsory military enlistment on a selective basis such reinforcements as may be necessary to maintain the Canadian army in the field as one of the finest fighting units in the Empire. The number required will not be less than 50,000 and will probably be 100,000."

There was one man in the Commons who did not permit himself to be carried away by the enthusiasm and patriotic display. The veteran Liberal leader, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, patiently listened with no sign on his countenance revealing what he thought of the proposal or the attitude he would assume towards it. His reply to the Prime Minister was brief and non-committal. He said: "Whenever that policy is made known to us we shall receive and consider it in the same spirit that we have determined since the outbreak of the war toward all the proposals of the Government, and that is, to give them due and fair consideration, reserving to our-selves the liberty of true British subjects to discharge our duties in a way we consider they ought to be discharged."


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