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Canadian History for Kids: Conscription

January 20, 1945 – World War II – First conscripted Canadian soldiers arrive overseas.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive, looks at the ‘conscription crisis”.

Conscription is the necessary service of people, usually in the armed forces. Sometimes you are called a draftee.

In 1944, Canada had a Conscription Crisis! Conscription was used during World War 1, but was not very popular. The Conscription Crisis of 1917 caused a large split between French and the English people of the country. In fact, there were many riots in Canada over conscription in 1918.

Mackenzie King was the Prime Minister of Canada in 1939, the year World War 2 broke out. He was uneasy about Canada going to war, and very uneasy about conscription. Canada declared war against Nazi Germany on September 10, 1939 and sent one division to Europe. Prime Minister King promised to limit Canada’s involvement in the war.

By 1941 there were enough volunteers for five overseas divisions. But by 1942 there was pressure to bring in conscription.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive continues in April 1942, an election was held, which asked the people of Canada not to support conscription, but rather to allow the government to take back its promise made during the election.

The vote by Canadians was very close. But in the end they voted to allow conscription. On April 17th, 1942 Bill 80 was passed, allowing conscription. Those who were drafted, would only go overseas to fight, if it was absolutely necessary.

After battles in Italy in 1943 and France in 1944, Canada was short of troops. Prime Minister King was forces to send the conscripted troops to war.

Few conscripts (or draftees) saw combat in Europe: only 2463 men reached units on the front lines. Out of these, 79 lost their lives.

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

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