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CHAPTER 1: A Semi-Autonomous Defence (1871-1898)

The Role of Francophones (2 pages)

The Social and Economic Context for Francophones

According to d'Orsonnens, at least one other reason militated against Francophone participation in the Militia. When he asked some of his own people why they were forming fewer volunteer companies than Canadians of other backgrounds, he got this answer: "It's fine for the English. They're rich. We're poor. We can't afford to waste our time voluntarily in this way - they'd cut our allocations. So let them force us. We'll bow to the law like all the others. We'll even submit gladly." [22]

This reply neatly summarizes the response to the conscriptionist message that d'Orsonnens articulated at greater length elsewhere, so we should not take it too literally. All the same, we may conclude that a French Canadian who enlisted despite the hostile conditions described above had a sense of military duty far above average. In any case, the key problem of Francophone under-representation in the Canadian defence forces following Confederation would have major repercussions. No one seemed prepared to deal with this issue while there was still time.