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Conscription Crisis Canada 1942 Essay

Despite King’s promise, in 1940 the government passed the National Resources Mobilization Act, a law that authorized limited conscription of Canadian men. From 1940 to June 1941 when Hitler invaded USSR, Canada was Britain’s most important ally. This was a time of crisis; the Nazis were in control of Europe and were steadily expanding their power and influence. Pressure mounted on Prime Minister King to increase Canada’s contribution to Britain, including soldiers.

Supporter to conscription pointed out that Britain had the draft and the Canada should follow its example. But king believed that he had kept there would be no conscription for overseas service. In 1942 he decides to hold a plebiscite that would ask votes directly, heather they would permit king to break his earlier promise. On April 27, 1942, the plebiscite was held. When the votes were counted King’s worst fears were realized- English and French Canadians were clearly split on the issue. English Canada voted to release King and bring in overseas conscription.

In August and September of 1944, Canadian troops were fighting fierce battle in Europe and losses were a heavy. Army commander overseas believed they needed 15 000 new troops to maintain Canada’s ability fight the Nazis. On November 13, 1944, while meeting with his Cabinet, King made an announcement that shocked everyone. He reminded Ralston that he had submitted his resignation two years earlier and that he now accepted it. McNaughton was now the new minister of defense! King had once again escaped the trap of overseas conscription.

English Canadians regarded these men as cowards and referred to them as “zombies” or “the walking dead” . Again King was pressured to introduce conscription and again he came up with a solution. Limited overseas conscription of 16 000 of the “zombies” took place immediately- there would be conscription of men who had not already been trained as soldiers. Louis St. went along with King’s decision and the feared Quebec riots did not materialize. Some of the “zombies” deserted but most of those who were sent overseas fought bravely and brought honor to their country.


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