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Golden Summer | European Powder Keg | Sarajavo | Canada Goes to War | Building an Army | Union Government | Nationalism | Women Get the Vote | Conscription Act | The Home Front | Victory | Aftermath

The war had begun with the enthusiasm of a young man looking for adventure but that outlook was not nationwide. French Canadians had grave reservations about going off to fight for the British Empire. The victory of General Wolfe in 1759 still lay heavily on the conscience of many in Quebec and the politicians recognized this. By 1917 the Canadian casualties on the Western Front were beginning to exceed the number of new recruits joining in Canada. Prime Minister Borden returned from the 1917 Imperial War Conference in London, convinced that he would have to bring in conscription to maintain the Canadian forces in the field. 

Borden appealed to Laurier to form a Union Government for the war in order to present a united front and focus entirely on the war. The leader of the Liberal opposition realized that conscription was a deeply divisive issue in Quebec and that he could not in all good consciences support it. He brushed aside offers of a Union government if it meant that conscription would be brought in. 

Parliament convened and Borden pushed through the Conscription Act on July 11, 1917,  with many Liberals from English Canada abandoning Laurier and joining Borden and his Conservatives. They also passed the Military Voters Act, and the War Times Election Act,  which granted the right to vote to women who were in the military, had a son in the military or a brother in the military. It also excluded from voting, conscientious objectors and some people who had not been in Canada for a certain period (who had arrived after 1902) and were of German or enemy origin.

These actions were of course intended to increase the vote in the upcoming election,  of the pro empire, English based Conservative party. On August 28th, 1917 the Military Service Act was passed which subjected all able bodies males in Canada between 20 and 45 to compulsory military service. The exceptions were conscientious objectors, those necessary to vital industries and those whose absence would pose serious hardships for their families or themselves.

The country was split between English Canada which wanted all able bodied men not yet at war to help support it as combatants, and French Canada where they were opposed to being forced to fight overseas in an alien land for a cause not vital to them.

Borden and his Union Government were elected with a majority and he included several Liberals in his Cabinet. Quebec elected 62 Liberals from the 65 seats in the Province, showing their strong anti-conscription feelings. Anti-conscription rallies were held in Quebec and eventually some of these degenerated into riots. It was only after this gut wrenching, divisive issue had run it's course that it was realized that the conscription system did not really help increase the number of new recruits .

The Military Service Act was enough to kill Conservative Party support in Quebec and many of those feels have lasted right up to the present day.