Canada and the draft (was Rocket Richard)
- Ouch. Now here's a controversial topic. The question of whether there
should be a draft was a very divisive one during both world wars. Both
times, the country was split along ethnic lines.
Canada imposed a draft in 1917, and French Canada was very bitter. World
War I was seen as a foreign war that Canada had no part in. There were even
riots in Quebec.
What deepened the divide was that English Canadians saw themselves as
British subjects first and Canadians a distant second. The Union Jack was
still on the flag. They were fiercely in favor of getting into the war.
Things hadn't changed much in World War 2, except that the Liberals -- out
of the two political parties, the one that had the most French-Canadian
support -- was in power, and they didn't want to alienate Quebec. There had
been considerable debate over whether to enter the war in the first place.
The government held a referendum in April 1942, and Quebeckers voted 71
percent against conscription, while the rest of Canada voted 70 percent in
favor. So the government had the green light to hold a draft, but Prime
Minister King still hesitated. "Conscription if necessary, but not
By 1944 the Allies were so shorthanded that, very reluctantly, the
government brought in a draft. Quebec was still bitterly opposed to
conscription. I believe the mayor of Montreal, Camillien Houde, was jailed
for discouraging Quebecois from registering.
>For the sake of the Americans on the list (and maybe even some Canadians) I
>should mention that, during World War II, Canada's draft was somewhat
>different from America's. Nobody could be drafted for overseas service (it
>changed near the end of the war). Canada's huge military forces in Europe