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Conscription: The Extinguisher of Democracy in Canada During Wwi

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Conscription: the Extinguisher of Democracy in Canada during WWI

The right to live is innate and inalienable and the undeserved deprivation of this right is the greatest evil in the world. But at the time of the outbreak of the World War I (WWI), the policy of conscription, a compulsory enlistment for military service, was passed and enforced in Canada, regardless of the opposite feeling and opinion of a significant amount of citizens. As a result, many Canadian men were forced to “sacrifice” their lives for the country against their will. The violation of human beings’ innate and eternal rights and freedoms of life and self-determination, lack of concrete and justified purposes of its ultimate end, namely fighting the WWI, and its political hypocrisy left conscription utterly unjustified in the history of Canada. Conscription immorally took away the lives and freedom of choice of innocent men without their consent, which is not to be done under any circumstances, let alone the sacrifice of those lives, contrary to their will, for a conflict where Canada’s purposes of joining were unjustified as well. Moreover, Prime Minister Robert Borden’s alteration of qualified voters which won him the election and subsequently started the conscription manipulated democratic ideology like a plaything, which made it even more unjustified.

WWI relied not so much on wealth and technology as on manpower. Conscription started when voluntary enlistment could not provide Canadian army with enough reinforcements because of the high casualties of trench warfare. Every soldiers who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force before conscription, fought voluntarily. They had decided to give up their lives for honor; loyalty, adventure, and many other things that they think were worth dying for. This could rightly be called sacrifice, because they did it voluntarily, and themselves were the only ones who had the right do so. Although the Charter of Rights and Freedoms did not exist at that time, it is contrary to morality and common sense if the state sacrifices should its subject without their consent under any circumstances. One has the right to life, liberty, and personal security, this truth was deeply rooted in the heart of every single person, it was beyond the limit of geography, races, and time. It was self-evident then, that conscription was immoral as it violated human beings’ innate rights for life and freedom, removed those chief goodness of mankind when it forced innocent citizens to fight and kill in a war that they could hardly survive, because there is nothing more valuable than life, and absolutely nothing more evil and unjustified than the underserved deprivation of it. “Men have no right to be forcibly killed and maimed to acquire a few acres of land” (Thorner 159), nor for any other purposes, under any circumstances. Is there any difference between conscription and massacre, if soldiers who enlisted did not even want to fight? Whether it was for honor, for glory, or for one’s duty, humans should still retain their inalienable right to choose freely and live, at least in a democratic country like Canada during WWI. Therefore, conscription in Canada was fundamentally unjustified not only in WWI, but in all the wars that ever happened and yet to come, because it would take away human beings’ rights for life and freedom of choice, which contradicted to the democratic ideologies that the country embraced.

Canada’s entrance of the First World War was not justified, nor was the decision of conscription, which was made entirely for WWI. According to Robert Borden, Canada fought for duty, honor and glory, and national security (Thorner 155). But Canada joined the war at a time when her properties had not been directly damaged or attacked by the enemies, and would not be attacked as long as she stays outside this conflict, in the other words, she joined when there had been no national emergency. Later on when Borden was about to start conscription, he contradicted himself when “he explained that a section in the Militia Act of 1868 provided for compulsory military service outside, as well as within the Dominion, in a case of national emergency” (Nicholson 344). Furthermore, was there was no honor in depriving Canadian’s freedom of choice while claiming that Canada entered the war “for Canadian liberty

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