World War I historians meeting in Paris this weekend say they will debate Quebec’s role in the war and its impact on French-speaking Canada.
The conference, which begins Friday at Paris’ Les Invalides monument, is part of events marking the centennial of the war and is organized by the French defense ministry.
The Conscription Crisis, as it was called in Quebec, has had a lasting impact on Canada’s French- and English-speaking communities, France 24 commented Thursday.
When fighting broke out in 1914, Canada, whose foreign affairs were controlled by Britain, was automatically drawn into the war. Volunteers were called upon to join the Canadian Corps, but French-speaking Canadians “accounted for less than 3.5 percent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s first contingent,” said Beatrice Richard, a professor at the Royal Military College St. Jean, near Montreal.
The lack of enthusiasm in Quebec for the war has been ascribed to few French Canadians with a strong attachment to France, and the province’s largely rural population, whose men would be needed for farming. It has also been suggested few French Canadians were eager to join an army managed by British authorities.
A Canadian draft law in 1917 exacerbated the issue between the linguistic communities, with Quebec men either hiding or actively seeking exemptions. It led to a riot in Quebec City on Apr. 1, 1918, in which five people were shot to death.
The conference is expected to shed light on the topic, which only recently has become a popular subject of research in Canada.