August 4, 1914

The First World War breaks out

When the United Kingdom goes to war, Canada—a British dominion—is also officially at war.

The war deepens the divide between English and French Canada like never before.

In 1918, the Military Service Act will impose conscription on all Canadian men between the ages of 20 and 45 for overseas service.

Across the country, Canadians were largely in favour of their country’s participation in the war, and tens of thousands of Anglophones, Francophones and allophones volunteered to serve on the front.

Unfortunately, with the exception of one battalion, all the units of the Canadian Corps at the front operated in English only, which made it difficult to recruit French-speaking soldiers. Anglophone newspapers and politicians accused Francophones of being the main reason for the gradual decline in recruitment.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Corps and the Allies were experiencing enormous losses. In 1917, the government decided to impose conscription for overseas service, and this issue divided Parliament largely along linguistic lines. Conscription came into effect in January 1918. That same month, the Quebec legislature debated a secession motion, and in April, there were riots in Québec City.

Source: Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1976-228 NPC, C-006859