1914 Francophones in Ottawa take trenches

Canada entered the First World War on August 4, 1914. The first Canadian contingents arrived in theaters of operation in France and Belgium in the first half of February 1915.

Many commentators at the time questioned the importance of the participation of French-Canadians in the war effort. Yet many historians have put into perspective this participation that is taking place, for Francophones, in a context that is very unfavorable to them.

Just before the war, Canada was hit by a large wave of immigration from the British Isles. These English-speaking immigrants will enlist en masse at the beginning of the conflict, thus dropping the percentage of French-speaking recruits. In addition, a large portion of French Canadians still live in rural areas, despite a steady urbanization movement since the mid-19th century. The situation in the Canadian army is also problematic. In 1914, military life was conducted exclusively in English; it is therefore difficult for a francophone to make a place for himself and his opportunities for advancement are very limited. Finally, the political context, especially in Ontario, is unfavorable to the enlistment of Francophones. In the province, the famous Regulation XVII limits the rights of Francophones to teaching in their language. Several French-speaking commentators at the time came to demand the re-appropriation of their schools before the war effort of their compatriots.

Despite all this, nearly 15,000 French Canadians volunteer to fight in Europe. Of these, many come from the nation’s capital and are directly affected by the Ontario government’s failure to respect their language.

Introductory sign – 1914

All Exhibitions

© Vanier Museopark. All rights reserved.