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In 1944, Ottawa imposed limited conscription for overseas service.

When the war broke out, the main federal political parties agreed there would be no conscription for overseas service. Following the defeat of France in June 1940, Parliament passed the National Resources Mobilization Act, which introduced conscription for service in Canada only. In April 1942, the federal government held a national plebiscite asking Canadians to release it from its “no conscription” pledge if, in the future, Ottawa decided conscripts were needed overseas. While across Canada more than 70% of Canadians voted “yes”, four-fifths of Quebecers voted “no”. As in 1917-1918, the nation divided along linguistic lines.

In November 1944, after heavy losses in front-line infantry units serving in Northwest Europe and Italy, Ottawa authorized the dispatch of 16,000 home defence conscripts overseas. Beginning in January 1945, 13,000 proceeded to Britain, but only a few thousand entered combat in Europe before the war ended. Canada’s war overseas was almost entirely a volunteer effort.

See also :
Canadian Newspapers and the Second World War : Conscription

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