FRENCH CANADA AND THE WAR

Canada's History - - THE PACKET - –– Mark Reid

When the Great War erupted in Au­gust 1914, Cana­di­ans of Bri­tish de­scent led the charge to en­list. For French Cana­di­ans, re­ac­tion to the war was more muted, and there was a gen­eral re­luc­tance to em­brace what was seen as a Euro­pean con­flict.

By 1917, de­bates over forced en­list­ment had led to protests in the streets in Que­bec, while in Par­lia­ment the pol­i­tics of con­scrip­tion was cleav­ing party loy­al­ties and cre­at­ing last­ing im­pacts on the po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

How­ever, the no­tion that French Cana­di­ans did not serve in the war is a myth. The most fa­mous French­s­peak­ing reg­i­ment of the war was the 22nd (French Cana­dian) Bat­tal­ion, au­tho­rized in au­tumn 1914. Two mem­bers of the 22nd re­ceived the Vic­to­ria Cross, and the reg­i­ment fought at many key bat­tles, in­clud­ing Mount Sor­rel, the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, and Cam­brai. Re­cent re­search by his­to­ri­ans has re­vealed that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of French Cana­di­ans also vol­un­teered to fight, rather than wait­ing to be con­scripted; how­ever, due to anti-war sen­ti­ment in Que­bec, these men gen­er­ally did not dis­cuss their ex­pe­ri­ences to the same ex­tent as English- Cana­dian vet­er­ans.

French-Cana­dian of­fi­cers in Canada in 1918.

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