Arthur Meighen on military conscription, 1917

MP Arthur Meighen piloted conscription legislation through parliament in 1917

In 1917, there was a divisive debate in Canada over military compulsory conscription. It was led by Conservative cabinet minister Arthur Meighen, who had drafted the legislation. That bill became the centrepiece of  the bitterly contested “khaki election” which occurred in December 1917. The Conservatives won the election but divided the  country. Brilliant, opinionated, and incisive, Meighen was one of Canada’s great parliamentary orators. He entered the conscription debate on June 17, and attacked the aging Liberal leader Sir Wilfrid Laurier who wanted the legislation be deferred and put to a national referendum. Here is Meighen’s speech:

“A choice between fidelity and desertion”
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