Chronology of Canadian Military History Canadian Military History, Colonial Period, New France, First Peoples, Seven Years War, French Indian War Canadian Military History, British North America, American Invasion, War of 1812, Dominion of Canada, Riel Rebellion, South African War Canadian Military History, World War 1 History, 1914-1918, Canadian Armed Forces, conscription Canadian Military History, World War 2, 1939-1945, Battle of the Atlantic, conscription, invasion, Dday, Normandy, Germany, axis, allies, Hong Kong, Dieppe 1946-today
Canada and the 
First World War
The First World War
The Canadian Expeditionary Force
Vimy Ridge
Recruitment and Conscription
The Canadian Corps: Spearhead to Victory
Canadians on other Fronts
Canada and the Air War
Canada and the War at Sea
The Aftermath
Canada between the Wars
Canada in World Affairs



In 1917, Ottawa imposed the controversial measure of compulsory military service, or conscription.

Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden initially expected Canada’s overseas manpower needs to be met through voluntary means. Following the outbreak of war, militia units across Canada acted as recruiting stations. By the end of 1915, recruitment had declined and Ottawa allowed patriotic-minded groups of citizens to raise units at their own expense. In January 1916, Borden announced a Canadian overseas troop commitment of 500,000 men, an almost unsustainable number of voluntary enlistments from a population of barely eight million.

Recruiting was slower in French Canada, which lacked the ties of kinship and tradition with Britain that encouraged Canadians of British ancestry to enlist. As a result of high casualties and dwindling enlistments, in August 1917 the government passed the Military Service Act imposing conscription. French Canada bitterly opposed this measure, as did farmers’ and labour groups, and Canadians became deeply divided over the issue.


Canadian War Museum
1 Vimy Place
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0M8