Military Service Act
Passed in the House of Commons on 24 July 1917 after an impassioned debate between bitterly opposed Anglophone and francophone Members of Parliament, the Military Service Act provided for the conscription of men to serve in Europe. Resentment ran high and riots broke out in Montréal and Winnipeg. Most French-Canadians were opposed to sending conscripted troops overseas but were by no means alone in this opinion; there were also strikes in British Columbia. The worse events occurred in Québec City where riots against conscription had broken out in late March 1918. After five days of disorder, troops arrived on Easter Monday, 1 April 1918, to restore order. That evening, after the electricity had been cut off by the rioters in lower town, the troops opened rifle and machinegun fire on the screaming crowds. The official (and still contested) casualty count came to four killed and over 70 wounded. The bitterness in French Canada was strong and fueled opposition to conscription in the Second World War.
During the Second World War, French Canadians were widely branded as unpatriotic by the more vocal, and often rather racist, English Canadians, which did nothing to help the nation’s war effort. These feeling may have been different had it been known that, according to statistics compiled after the war, 116,092 of the 124,965 men called up in Ontario had asked for exemption. This was 3,000 more exemption demands than in Québec where 115,602 men were called up. In all, about 93% of men called across Canada applied for exemptions. Of the 100,000 conscripts incorporated into the army, less than 5% joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force at the front in 1918. 45,000 were sent to Europe and only 25,000 reached the front, causing much resentment among the other 95%, who were volunteers. The Military Service Act caused alienation and political strife between French and English Canada, and its military benefits were not obvious. Little seems to have been learned by government, as the same divisive measures were imposed again during the Second World War.
Incomplete official statistics on war services continued to entertain bitterness between communities in Canada and it was only after detailed studies were made in the 1960s and 1970s that a more balanced picture of the enlistment of Canadians in the Great War emerged: French Canadian volunteers, who often did not understand English, had been spread into many CEF battalions while the enlistment figures of English Canadians had been boosted by volunteers born in Britain or of British parents. Fortunately, enlistment arguments mattered little to men at the front in the Canadian Corps, whatever their origins. As brothers in the trenches, they fought and died, were maimed and experienced untold horrors. In its higher wisdom, the nation honours them all, conscripts or volunteers, as its sons.
See also: Conscription, National Resources Mobilization Act (NRMA).
Explosive device used at sea and on land. To destroy ships, some mines are anchored to the sea bed and float just below the surface of the water, exploding on contact. Others lie on the sea bed and are activated by a ship's acoustics, magnetism, etc. On land, it is buried at a shallow depth and detontates when trod upon or driven over. Also a gallery dug underground, usually by army miners and engineers, to a position under the enemy, where explosives are placed and detonated. Mines were used extenssively by Canadian engineering troops on the Western Front during the First World War.
Specialized soldier-artisan involved in the handling and setting of mines. Often, a tunnel was dug under the walls of a besieged fort or city and a mine placed to explode and make a breach. Detachments of the Royal Military Artificers, called Royal Sappers and Miners from 1813, were posted in Canada from the 1790s.