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Course :  History of Quebec

  • Posted by : Patriote17

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  • Date posted : Jan 01, 1970

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Québec a Nation History part 25 - WW1 Conscription Crisis of 1917 Relatively few francophones volunteered. The experience of the first contingent suggested that they could expect nothing but ill treatment as French-speaking Catholics in English-speaking battalions filled with what they perceived as mostly Protestant men and officers, unable to communicate with them and imbued with the spirit underlying Regulation 17. Young French Canadians seeking to serve, chose, instead, the few traditional "French" regiments of the militia, such as Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, where barracks life was in French and only the command language was in English. They had to be turned away, because the minister of militia and his subordinates were obstinate in their refusal to mobilize these traditionally French regiments or to create new ones. However, the government continued to raise its expectations for volunteers, aiming for 150,000 men by 1915. English Canadians did not believe that French Canada was providing a fair share to the war effort. There have been many reasons proposed for the lack of volunteers from Quebec; however, many prominent Canadian historians suggest that the Ontario government's move to disallow French language instruction in Regulation 17 as the main reason. Political pressure in Quebec, along with some public rallies, demanded the creation of French-speaking units to fight a war that was viewed as being right and necessary by many Québécois, despite Regulation 17 in Ontario and the resistance in Quebec of those such as Henri Bourassa. Indeed, Montreal's La Presse editorialized that Quebec should create a contingent to fight as part of the French Army. When the government relented, the first new unit was the 22nd (French Canadian) Battalion, CEF. While a few other French-speaking units were also allowed to be created, mostly by Reserve officers, they were all disbanded to provide replacements for the 22nd, which suffered close to 4,000 wounded and killed in the course of the war. As the war dragged on, soldiers and politicians soon realized there would be no quick end. Eventually, people learned of the trench conditions and number of casualties in Europe, and men stopped volunteering. There were over 300,000 recruits by 1916, but Prime Minister Robert Laird Borden had promised 500,000 by the end of that year.

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