Military Service Act (Canada)

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In Canadian history, the Military Service Act was a 1917 act passed by the Canadian parliament in an effort to recruit more soldiers. The First World War was going badly, casualties were enormous, and Canada's contribution in manpower compared unfavourably with that of other countries. Voluntary enlistment had been uneven, and the military believed they could not maintain the Canadian Corps at full strength without conscription. Encouraged by English Canadians and the British, Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden introduced the Military Service Act. Riots broke out in Quebec. The act was unevenly administered, and there were numerous evasions and many exemptions. By the end of the war only 24,132 conscripts had reached the front. The act's military value has been questioned, but its political consequences are clear. It led to Borden's Union government and drove most of his French Canadian supporters into opposition, as they were seriously alienated by this attempt to enforce their participation in an imperial war.[1] On April 20, 1918, an order-in-council was passed that removed exemptions from the Military Service Act. This left farming operations across Canada short of much-needed labour.


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