July 13, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


Frank Oliver



When the House rose at six o'clock I was discussing the success of voluntary enlistment in the province of Alberta, and comparing the efforts made there on behalf of military service-the unrestricted efforts that were made to get men not only for the battalions that were being raised in that part of the country, but for every branch of the service and in every part of the country, these men being taken from a centre of agricultural production, which agricultural production is at the very foundation of our success in the war-with the restriction of efforts that were made in the collection of men from other parts of the country, especially in the eastern provinces and in those parts where industrial occupations are generally followed. It is a fact beyond all question that the Government in securing men to represent this country on the other side of the water was willing to take the men wherever they could most easily be got it followed the line of least resistance and took the men from those districts where they could most easily be got, without regard to the proportion taken from the population, and without regard to the basic importance of the industries thereby affected. That being a fact, I think, beyond all argument, when the conscription Bill is brought in, and when, so far from finding in the Bill any provision for equality of service I find that every provision is framed especially to avoid that essential principle, I am compelled to come to the conclusion that the policy of the Government in framing the Bill, and

its policy in giving effect to it, will again * be to follow the line of least resistance, taking the men where they can most easily be got. So that in this so-called selective system which jmy thon. friend calls conscription, and which he expects those who believe in compulsory military service to support, I find that the principle is the very same that was objectionable in the system of voluntary enlistment, namely, the principle of requiring the willing horse to carry the whole 'load. As it happens, our section of the country has played the part of the willing horse, and had voluntary enlistment been continued we were still willing to play that part. But when la compulsory service Bill is brought in, recognizing that the basis of any proper compulsory Bill is equality of service, we protest against this Bill, which most certainly does not provide for equality of service.
We must admit that enlistment had decreased, in our part of the country as in other parts, and there are many reasons for that. One reason which I propose to touch on here to-night concerns the peo-people of the western provinces very intimately, and I think it will be found to concern the people of many other parts of the country as well. In Edmonton, up to the 6th of August, 1916, we had enlisted altogether ten battalions, fully organized, with additional contributions to other units comprising almost 20,000. These battalions went forward from Edmonton as battalions, but to-day we have only one battalion at the front out of those 20,000 men. Every other battalion when it got overseas was broken up; the men were drafted into other units, and the officers who had organized the battalion were left without occupation, or at any rate without the position which they had expected to retain. Although we are through with voluntary service- the honour and glory that belonged to that service have been taken from us by the Bill now before the House-may I say that those who had charge of our military affairs, and who without the slightest compunction broke up battalion after battalion from every part of the country, seem to have been so utterly unable to understand those forces of the mind which cause men to offer for military service, and which accompany that offer, that it is almost inconceivable that they could have taken the action they did as they did. Men join the military forces in the expectation of risking their lives in military operations, and in those military operations
it is a rule of war as old-as the world itself that a man's welfare and safety depend upon his comrades. Comradeship and mutual confidence is the greatest security a soldier can have, and when men enlisted for military service have knowledge of each other's personality, character and antecedents, when they are really friends, they know they ean depend on each other and they will go into the horrors of battle with all the greater confidence because they are fighting with .men they know. But when these men who have enlisted in the expectation that they will go to the front under those circumstances are scattered hither and thither without any regard to promises or expectations, when they are compelled to go to the front with men they never saw before, and of whom they have no intimate knowledge

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