Early in the first world war over 330,00 men volunteered to fight as part of the British empire overseas. However the war was taking a huge toll on the Canadian forces and soon Canada was lacking the support and reinforcement. Due to the lack of troops, Sir Robert Borden had an answer to the issue.
He utilized conscription as a way to solve the problem. However, conscription was not agreed by everyone, Sir Robert Borden first went to Sir Wilfrid Laurier about the idea of conscription but was turned down. He then went to pro conscription coalition and soon formed a union government.
Conscription then became a law on August 29, 1917. This caused a huge dilemma where fights and riots broke out. Conscription was not the right way to handle the situation, this is because many people believed that canada had done enough in the war providing resources and it was forcing people to enlist in the army even though it may have been against their will.
When Canada needed more troops, conscription came to mind. Many disagreed with the idea. This is because many saw that Canada had already contributed enough to the war. Generously providing men, food, money and supplies. Some felt that Canada has done its duty. Others that agreed with the idea of conscription thought that it was patriotic to be fighting for the British Empire overseas. As the Military service act began in 1917, women were now able to vote and Sir Robert Borden knew that many women would vote for conscription because it meant more reinforcement and security because they probably had a family member already in the war. However, conscription was a failure.
Of the 401,882 men that were registered for conscription in early 1918, only 124,588 men were added to the strength of the Canadian forces and only 24,132 of those made it to France by the war’s end. This shows that although conscription did become a law it did not have a big enough impact on the strength of the country. Conscription was also not the best solution for the lack of troops because it was unethical and it was against some people’s will. When Sir Robert Borden suggested the idea of conscription, farmers were the most against the idea. They rather have their son help manage and produce more food and better their farming business. A Quebec politician, Henri Bourassa, explained that, “what England needs most are not soldiers, but bread, meat and potatoes. (Pg33)” from this quote it explains that the use of conscription was unnecessary and it was usually against someone’s will.
Another quote by Robert swan, “young girls were going along and they would meet what looked like a pretty good able-bodied man and they’d pin something white on them- called them a coward in other words, because they weren’t in the army. ‘What are you doing in civilian clothes when all my brothers are in the army?’ that sort of thing. (Pg 35) shows that they would be bullied and made shame of, being called cowards, if they were not in the army. In conclusion, conscription was not the best way to deal with the lack of troops because it canada had done enough partaking in the war and providing resources and because it was not right to force someone to enlist in the army if it meant that their lives would be at stake or to be called a coward for not defending the country.