The First World War - Conscription & The War Effort

Questions to ask yourself:

How does government use its power?

What you will be able to do:

Describe the measures implemented by the government of Canada during wartime.

Explain the Canadian war effort.

Explain the different points of view on the conscription crisis of 1917.

Begin to imagine war experiences by reacting to images:

Look deeply at one or more of some selected pictures, from a wide range of different locations during the first world war. Consider titles given too the images by your teacher, any available texts or web site links, zoom in and around the documents when necessary. Observe shapes, colors, textures, the position of people and/or objects in the frame. Observe the foreground, middleground and background too. Respond to the images! Use an organizer available already on our Google drawing sample images, that you can copy and edit to use. Work collaboratively to note down your questions, connect any historical events you already know about, share your impressions!

Watch an overview video about World War 1.

Consider also guiding questions like: How does government use its power?

One option is the video “Canada World War 1”. “This video tells the story of Canada's role in World War One, both overseas in the trenches of the Western Front and on the home front. While this global conflict forged a new sense of nationhood in the British colony, the cost to Canada in killed and wounded was high. This history is recounted using archival footage, photographs, posters, songs from the period and soldiers' letters home.”

In small groups review how the war started, how Canada got involved, and where and how they fought. Review any other personal experiences of soldiers and other participants that you had not thought of in the image analysis activity earlier.

Write down and share any questions you have. Consider using an organizer like this 5W's organizer.

The War Measures Act

The War Measures Act was a federal law adopted by Parliament on 22 August 1914, after the beginning of the First World War. It gave broad powers to the Canadian government to maintain security and order during “war, invasion or insurrection.” It was used, controversially, to suspend the civil liberties of people in Canada who were considered “enemy aliens” during both world wars. This led to mass arrests and detentions without charges or trials.
Source: Smith, D., War Measures Act (2020). In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

What is conscription?

“Conscription is the compulsory enlistment or “call up” (sometimes known as “the draft”) of citizens for military service.

… “Under conscription, all males of a certain age must register with the government for military service. In some countries, females are also conscripted. Once registered, these people may be “called up” for military service. Some people may be exempt (or excused) from mandatory military service. This could include people in certain occupations or who suffer from physical or mental illness or disability.
Source: Granatstein, J.,, & Jones, R., Conscription in Canada (2020). In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Investigate the Conscription Crisis, and Compare Different Reactions and Perspectives.

Research further, always considering key questions like: How do individuals experience war, and how do those efforts affect the outcomes of wars? and Why were certain historical events “significant”?

Use available documents on this page or in our larger collection specifically here. Follow links to the various online sources referred to in them to research te various contexts for the need for conscription, the efforts of the Canadian government to recruit soldiers, the reactions of different peoples in Canada, etc.

To go even further, you could compare different conscription and volunteer experiences in other countries at the time (some documents in our collections refer to these experiences). Reflect on whether this process was needed, was good for the country, and on the significance for Canadians, Quebecois, and other groups.

Use an organizer like this one to take notes and gather examples that could be then shared with the class or used in discussions and debates on the issues

Investigate the Canadian War Effort:

Describe Facts and Situate a Battle, and Explain the Consequences of that battle, both immediate and long-term!

In partner-groups research various battles in which Canadian soldiers were involved. Try this Google Search for battles in which Canadian soldiers were involved or view our document section here.

With your findings on a particular battle event during the war, map out the locations, events and players of that/those particular battle(s), using Cartograf or Google Maps, or another mapping or presentation technology. For each battle also explain the Canadian involvement and role specifically, and the significance of their efforts.

This task is explained in greater detail in our main document collection here. And... a demonstration Cartograf map has already been started (It was for teacher use and for information on the MAIN causes of WW1, but feel free to take a look!)

Under construction:

Other tasks and the rest of the main document collection are here

Task suggestions overviews also begun in slides below:

LIVE - Inquiry Phases - WW1 War Experiences