Conscription

Conscription comes to Canada, 1917

This handbill, intended to be widely distributed and posted in public buildings, provided instructions for unmarried men between the ages of 20 and 34 to report for service or lodge a claim for exemption.

National registration comes to Canada

According to the 1940 legislation, everyone over the age of 16 was compelled to register with the federal government, giving their personal information and employment history, to provide an inventory of the available skills that might be mobilized for the war effort.

Vote Meighen

Arthur Meighen, briefly Prime Minister during the 1920s, tried to return to office in 1942. Meighen had been chosen as leader of the opposition, but he lost the bi-election needed to get him a seat in the House of Commons. His campaign was based on a pro-conscription platform.

Illustrated War News, March 31, 1915

The Illustrated War News was a weekly British magazine produced during the First World War. Each issue contains photographs, drawings, articles, and maps portraying the allied war effort, for readers in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Newfoundland.

Exempted from conscription

Men who had been given exemptions under the Military Service Act were required to complete this questionnaire to justify their claim. It pays particular attention to men employed in the agricultural sector.

Conscription comes to Canada

Conscription came to Canada in 1917 amidst great controversy. This leaflet was part of the government's effort to explain why it was necessary and how it would work.

View PDF: MSA.pdf

A law-abiding man

Many young men attempted to evade conscription during the First World War, so the military authorities provided certificates to men who had observed the law and properly registered with the government, as proof against harassment by the police of potential employers.

"Win the War" and Lose Canada

By 1917, war weariness had become apparent among many Canadians. This was heightened as the issue of conscription was thrust to the forefront of the political scene. Henri Bourassa and other anti-conscriptionists presented their views in this pamphlet, and many others like it. Among the contributors are Bourassa himself and the federal Minister of Agriculture, Sydney Fisher. Opposition to conscription was grounded on a number of reasons, not limited to the weakening of domestic manpower and the perceived threat to the economic wellbeing of the country. Furthermore, conscription was an apparently divisive issue that, Bourassa argued, would lead to "national disunion and strife".

Instructions for conscripts

Men who were called up for military service during the Second World War received explicit instructions on how to report and secure a medical examination.

Mennonites and conscription

Under Canadian law, exemption from conscription during the First World War depended on membership in a faith group that had been recognized as pacifist. These cards verified that Jacob and Johann Wiebe were baptized members of the Sommerfeld Mennonite Church in Manitoba and were therefore not subject to conscription.

Conscripts from Quebec

A conscripted soldier was not necessarily a reluctant soldier. The fact that these French-Canadian men were willing to have portrait photographs taken in uniform suggests that they were not reluctant to celebrate serving under the Maple Leaf.

The Senate debates conscription

Part of a series covering the conscription debate in the Canadian Senate, this booklet presents the opinions of the Right Honourable Napoléon Belcourt, a Toronto-born lawyer who had represented the city of Ottawa as a member of parliament.

Exemption from conscription

Carl Atkins was exempted under the Military Service Act on the grounds that he was physically unfit for military service.

View PDF: msaexemption.pdf