Chapter II – 1914

– Montreal in 1914 –

It was a winter that never seemed to end. The snow began in November and there was no let up until St. Patrick’s Day when the temperature rose above freezing, offering the first hint of spring. The next day a storm dumped six inches of snow on the city, providing a day’s work for 3000 unemployed men and a white cloak for the soot covered snow banks. Montreal’s Irish community had staged their annual parade, the second oldest in North America, the previous Sunday. On Tuesday, the St. Patrick’s Day banquet featured William Redmond M.P., brother of John Redmond, Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party which had won the promise of “Home Rule” from the British government.[1] The Irish may have been the only Montrealers with anything to celebrate. An international financial crisis had begun in 1913, bringing an abrupt end to more than a decade of growth. The recession struck just as work on the two transcontinental railways neared completion and immigration from Europe and the United States reached an all-time high.[2]

The credit squeeze had an especially severe effect in a country which had financed much of its development on capital borrowed in London. As the President of the Canadian Manufacturers Association explained in his 1913 convention address, Canada’s adverse balance of trade exceeded one billion dollars over the previous ten years. To cover this he noted, “we have thrown industrial bonds by the millions, municipal bonds by tens of millions, and railway securities by the hundreds of millions…” Eventually, “our credit abroad would approach its limit and in the past year the inevitable happened.”[3] The Wall Street Journal, which ran a three-part series on Canada in early 1914, described the situation in similar terms. “There is a depression here, but there will be no crash. Canada is not going backwards, she is simply putting on the brakes until she catches up with herself.” The real problem, the Journal insisted, was railway construction “ahead of requirements.”[4]

Unemployment which was estimated at 100,000 nationwide was particularly severe in Montreal where seasonal unemployment had always been high.[5] When the St. Lawrence River froze and the harbour closed, there was real hardship throughout the working-class wards. The winter of 1913-1914 brought a further influx of unemployed “laborers and artisans from other parts of Canada” creating a situation described in the Labour Gazette as “worse than other places in Canada or in previous years.”[6]

Credit: McCord Museum

Those who read the daily newspapers in the first months of 1914 must have been depressed by the steady stream of bad news. On Christmas Day 1913 a break in the main conduit left the city without water for 193 hours. The enquiry that followed dissolved into a bitter dispute over responsibility, further diminishing the reputation of the civic administration. A five member Board of Control had been imposed on the city after revelations of widespread corruption among aldermen were revealed in the 1910 Report of the Cannon Commission. The new system was supposed to offer honest and efficient government, but few believed either result had been obtained.[7]

Stories about unemployment, an increase in petty crime, the high cost of living, housing shortages, and the slump in real estate values dominated the news until the municipal election campaign began to catch fire in late March. The long-established tradition of alternating French and English mayors suggested that if the minority could find an acceptable candidate, the pattern would continue. When George Washington Stephens, the namesake son of a wealthy businessman and Liberal politician, returned from his Paris home to campaign, everything seemed to be in place. Apart from Hugh Graham’s newspapers, which refused to endorse a Liberal, the French-language dailies and the Montreal Gazette supported Stephens, noting his contributions as Chair of the Harbour Commission, fluency in French, and marriage to an Italian.

Henri Bourassa’s decision to support Stephens was offered in the context of a series of four English-language articles printed on the front page of his newspaper, Le Devoir.[8] The tone was of an exasperated, kindly, but stern teacher reproaching the English-speaking community for its collective failure to behave like a minority. French Canadians, he noted, had accepted the convention of alternating mayors between the “races” despite the hypocrisy of the “English at large” who “talk of fair-play and broad-mindedness when and where they are in the minority, but seldom put these virtues in practice where they are the majority and when they can afford to assert their supremacy.” The next day Bourassa characterized the entire English-speaking population of the city as a single community “confined in their opulent and closed quarter, proud of their factories, their shops, their bank, their stock exchange and their Board of Trade, strongly inclined to self-esteem and self-admiration…” The tens of thousands of English-speaking Montrealers struggling to earn a living sixty hours per week would have been surprised to learn about their “opulent and closed quarter,” but since their newspapers largely ignored Le Devoir few learned of his views.

Bourassa complained that the “English-speaking residents of Montreal as a whole have made no effort to know their French-speaking fellow citizen, to learn their language, to understand their traditions and aspirations…” In contrast, French Canadians had learned English and exhibited a “tolerant spirit,” placing all citizens “on a footing of absolute equality in matters of civil rights.” The third article focused on the place of the French language in Montreal where large companies headquartered in this city continued to resist using French, even in their contacts with customers. This well-documented argument was accompanied by a paragraph urging the English community of Montreal “to raise themselves above the inferior level of mercantilism and take rank with the cultured classes of all civilized countries who make use of the French language as the international vernacular of all superior thoughts and aspirations.” The final essay dealt with the reaction of the English-speaking community to Regulation 17, the administrative order of the Ontario Government to restrict the use of French in the province’s schools.

The question of the status of the French language in schools of Ontario became one of the most discussed issues in the wartime relationship between French and English Canadians. The problem arose in the first decade of the century when the pattern of massive out migration to the United States slowed. In 1900 the US Census listed close to 800,000 “Canadian-born first language English” and just under 400,000 whose first language was French as residents.[9] After 1900 the southward flow was reversed and French Canadians, who had flocked to the mill towns of New England, sought employment in Montreal factories or opportunities in eastern and northern Ontario. By 1911 the French-speaking population of Ontario, barely noticeable ten years before, reached 202,442 or ten percent of the provincial total.[10] One considerable advantage Ontario offered over New England was a tax-payer supported Catholic school system which, while requiring the study of English, allowed the use of French as a language of instruction. In practice this meant students in French-Canadian areas of settlement were often taught exclusively in their native language.[11]

The growth of the Franco-Ontarian population challenged the dominant role of the Irish Catholic Clergy especially in Ottawa where conflict over control of the University of Ottawa and the city’s separate schools became a major issue. The establishment of the Association Canadienne Français d’education de l’Ontario in 1910 sharpened the debate when a resolution demanding “that the French language be given a more official and prominent position in elementary and secondary schools and the teacher training institutions of the province” was passed.[12] This ambitious program provoked an immediate reaction from both Irish Catholics and militant Anglo-Protestants forcing the Premier of Ontario, James Whitney, who had accepted a new grant formula improving funding for separate schools, to cancel the agreement because the resolutions “complicated matters” for him with the caucus.[13]

There were now three sides to the dispute; Protestants and secularists who were determined to protect the common school system from further erosion, Irish Catholics attempting to protect and extend their separate schools and the French Canadians of Ontario who sought to establish a secure place for themselves in the province. Everyone believed that their values, cultural identity and language was at stake. “Each group fought with all the self-rectitude of embattled justice.”[14]

Questions about the future of the French language in Ontario and the rest of Canada were further inflamed by the controversy over the words used by British Archbishop Francis Bourne at the Eucharistic Congress held in Montreal, September 1910. Bourne’s vision of a “united Canada enunciating in French and English alike the same religious truths…” included a statement on the necessity of using English in the “western provinces of the Dominion”. Bourassa seized the opportunity to present a passionate defense of the value of the French language in preserving the Catholic religion, “wherever there are French groups living in the shadow of the British flag or the glorious star spangled banner…” Subsequently Bourassa and Bourne met to address their differences but Bourne continued to argue that the Church must give priority to English at least in the west challenging Bourassa’s vision of a bi-cultural and bi-lingual Canada.[15]

Montreal’s 1910 Eucharistic Congress

The language issue festered until 1912 when the Ontario Government introduced Regulation 17, a circular of instructions which limited the use of French as “a language of communication and instruction” to the first two or three years of elementary school. The reaction among French Canadians in Ontario was swift and determined. A campaign of active resistance to Regulation 17 won broad support especially in Ottawa where the French-language majority on the Separate School Board declared it would not implement Regulation 17. They continued to defy the government, after funding was cut off for the 1913-14 school year.[16]

For Bourassa, whose interest in mass education was limited to ensuring that schools were Catholic and French, the future of the minority in Ontario was a major issue. He castigated the English of Quebec for failing to take a leading role in supporting minority rights in Ontario and warned that “the idea of retaliation was beginning to take root in the province”. The minority should remember that “in matters of education, whether linguistic or religious” their rights “rest upon the same constitutional basis as those of the French in Ontario.” Despite these grievances, Bourassa would continue to support Stephens, the “most qualified candidate.”[17]

Stephens ran a well-financed campaign with meetings in all parts of the city. Placing himself firmly in the Citizen’s Association, Board of Control, good government camp he argued for “real autonomy…home rule for Montreal,” honest civic administration and a plan for a future Montreal with a population of 1,500,000 citizens. Responding to comments about his wealth and year-long sojourn in Paris, Stephens recounted the story of his grandfather’s journey north from Vermont and the hard work required to build the family fortune through three generations. This success allowed him to serve as Chair of the Harbour Commission and now to offer to serve the citizens of Montreal.[18]

Initially the press paid little attention to Stephen’s opponent, the flamboyant “cigar maker” Médéric Martin, but as Martin continued his populist campaign, taking over events organized by other candidates, the press began to cover his speeches. Martin was an experienced politician. A city councillor and Member of Parliament for Ste. Marie, he was re-elected to both positions despite credible accusations of corruption outlined in the report of the Cannon Commission. Martin fought openly for the abolition of the Board of Control and the restoration of the old patronage system, criticizing Stephens as “the candidate of a clique, the candidate of the west end and of millionaires.”[19] Martin’s claim to represent the city’s working class was challenged by John T. Foster, the president of the Montreal branch of the Trades and Labour Congress who declared that Martin was not supported by organized labour. French Canadian trade unionists promptly criticized Foster insisting he had no mandate to speak for local trade unionists on municipal elections.[20]

Martin took particular delight in responding to Henri Bourassa’s attack on his candidacy. Bourassa had been on a speaking tour of western Canada and Ontario where his ardent appeal for Canadian autonomy and recognition of the equality of the two founding peoples had been politely received. Martin poked fun at Bourassa, telling an east-end audience that “it is a queer thing for this hater of the English to do but then we are getting used to his somersaults.” A week later he told a large audience that Bourassa was “an ambitious and destructive politician who had done more harm to his country than any other man in the Dominion”—a remark the Gazette reporter noted “was greeted with much applause.” Martin also told his audience that Stephens had addressed a “meeting of suffragettes and millionaires at the Windsor Hotel,” whereas he was opposed to women’s suffrage and to their employment outside the home. “Workingmen,” he argued, “are suffering by the fact that so many women are engaged in manufacturing.”[21]

Canadian suffragettes demonstrating in New York, USA.

The suffrage question had taken on new meaning in Montreal after La Patrie reported that the Charter of the City did not limit the vote to male ratepayers. Women who were listed as owners of property or renters who paid water tax could vote, and as many as 13,000 women were eligible.[22] This news produced a further indication of a growing divide along linguistic as well as class lines. The Montreal Council of Women (MCW) developed an energetic “Get out the Vote” movement aimed at eligible women. The Council had worked co-operatively with its French Canadian counterpart, la fédération nationale Saint-Jean Baptiste, on social issues but female suffrage was another matter.[23] Madame Caroline Beique, the wife of a prominent businessman and Liberal Senator, who became the first president of the fédération had reached an accord with Archbishop Bruchesi to promote “good feminism.” Bruchesi insisted that this mean “there will be no talk in your meetings of the emancipation of women, of the neglect of her rights, of her having been relegated to the shadows, of the responsibilities, public offices and professions to which she should be admitted on an equal basis with man.”[24]

This agreement had not prevented the fédération from working with the MCW to encourage spinsters and widows who owned property to vote in the 1910 municipal election, but after the 1911 visit of Emmeline Pankhurst and the formation in 1913 of the Montreal Suffrage Association[25], the fédération became much more cautious, refusing to become involved in controversial issues. The “Get out the Vote” campaign in 1914 was therefore dominated by women from the west end, English-speaking wards who established Committee rooms, organized visits and provided transportation to the polls—all in support of Stephens.[26]

If a large number of women from the west end voted, it made little difference. To the considerable surprise of the city’s newspapers Stephens and the “slate” backed by the Citizen’s Association were overwhelmed by French Canadian voters who chose Médéric Martin, a new Board of Control and solid majority of traditional patronage-linked aldermen. The pattern of voting laid bare the class and ethnic divisions in the city. St. Lawrence Ward, the “city above the hill,” gave Stephens 2,845 votes to 494 for Martin. Working-class St. Henri voted 3-1 for Martin. The equally working-class ward of St. Ann, with its mixture of Irish, French and English voters gave Stephens two thirds of the vote. In the east end of the city, Martin won large majorities in all wards. Three of the five controllers elected in a city-wide vote were French-speaking Canadians and only one, Joseph Ainey, was endorsed by the press and the Citizen’s Association.[27]

The French-language dailies were unable to explain the voting pattern or the large crowds of Martin supports who filled the streets around the newspapers’ offices on election night. Le Patrie, which had supported Stephens, reported that after working hours, voters in the east end had arrived at the polls in large numbers to support Martin and then joined a crowd which grew to 40,000. The mayor-elect had barely mentioned minority rights in Ontario during his campaign but Bourassa told the readers of Le Devoir that the voters had cast a protest vote against the humiliations inflicted on French Canadians in Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa over the past twenty years.[28]

Mayor Médéric Martin

Spring came to the city gradually. A last snowfall was recorded on 20 April, but by early May temperatures averaged 14 degrees and the more adventurous began to plant their gardens. The re-opening of Dominion Park was another sign of the change in seasons and moods.. Destroyed in 1913 by “one of the most spectacular fires seen here in the past fifty years,” the park was rebuilt in the style of Coney Island for the 1914 season.[29] For some Montrealers spring meant the start of a new social season which began with the annual exhibition of the Arts Association. The Association had moved into its magnificent new building on Sherbrooke Street West in 1913, offering Canadian artists a much enhanced opportunity to display their recent work. The “stately stairway and finely proportioned hall of the gallery” also offered “an effective settling for the many fine dresses” on display for opening night. The 1913 exhibit had proven to be a popular success with more than 15,000 visitors largely due to the controversy over a few post-impressionist paintings which scandalized critics. The Montreal Herald, always willing to sensationalize news stories, led off demanding to know if the selection committee endorsed “the Infantist School” with its “peculiar colour effects” represented by the nude paintings of Randolph Hewton and the works by John Lyman whose paintings the Herald declared were “contemptuous of all precedent.” Not to be outdone, the Star’s arbitrator of good taste, S. Morgan Powell, deplored “the faddish and inartistic fetish for bad draughtsmanship” of the two artists who were insincere disciples of the school “founded by a couple of Montmartre cranks, Van Gogh and Gaugin.”[30]

Montreal Museum of Fine Art, 1913

If the Arts Association hoped for an equally invigorating and attendance-building controversy in 1914, they were disappointed. The Gazette reported that “Sanity, Sincerity and Progress” characterized the majority of paintings at the exhibition. Hewton’s painting “Fons Solis” of nymphs dancing around a fountain was said to feature colours which were “high but harmonious.” Lyman, a friend and admirer of Matisse, submitted one of his more conventional Bermuda pictures which La Presse described as “un bon poem en coleurs.” The prize-winners, in an exhibit that included a number of major artists were Marc-Aurèle Suzar-Coté, and the impressionist painter, Mabel May. Without controversy the press coverage was thin and attendance down.[31]

The lateness of spring postponed the opening of the harbour idling more than 2,000 longshoremen for an additional month. By May there were signs of a partial recovery. Mayor Médric Martin, responding to his electorate, provided employment to several thousand laborers at $2.50 a day. The Angus Shops and other large companies added workers, but on “short time”. Overall unemployment remained high, the estimate for June was 25,000 to 30,000 men though demand for women willing to work as domestic servants was “fair”.[32]

– July Crises –

News of the assassination of the Austrian Archduke in Sarajevo, 28 June 1914, was featured prominently in the city’s daily newspapers, but the story was soon overshadowed by events in Mexico, a new crisis in Ulster, and the dramatic confrontation prompted by the arrival of the Komagata Maru in Vancouver. The Mexican revolution and the Unionist revolt in Northern Ireland were covered through syndicated reports, but the story of the would-be immigrants from India produced detailed reporting and numerous opinion pieces, especially in the English-language press. The Sikh and Hindu immigrants aboard the Japanese-registered ship were British citizens who had the right to enter Canada if they found their way around a 1908 exclusionary statute requiring immigrants and visitors from within the British Empire to reach Canada on a continuous voyage from their country of birth. Gurdit Singh, a wealthy Sikh resident of Hong Kong decided to challenge a law designed specifically to prevent immigration from India by assembling potential immigrants at Hong Kong before crossing the Pacific. The politicians, press, and as far as could be told, the residents of British Columbia, were outraged.[33]

The Komagata Maru incident prompted the Vicar of Montreal’s Christ Church Cathedral to preach a sermon questioning how Christians could reconcile the exclusion of Asiatics with their professed doctrines.[34] The Reverend Herbert Symonds, was well known for his liberal views, but he was not the only one to protest government policies. The Montreal Witness was consistently sympathetic to the “Hindus,” questioning the exclusionist policy and the government on humanitarian grounds. One editorial asked, “Is it possible that if we could see the events of our time through the eyes of historians writing in 2014 we should find the most significant thing to be seen in the world today is the Komagata Maru…is it possible that the assumption of white superiority is already out of date?”[35]

The Komagata Maru

A hunger strike, angry public meetings in Vancouver, and an appeal to the courts kept the standoff on the front pages. After the Appeals Court upheld the 1908 statute, an attempt to board the ship was “repulsed by a shower of coal, iron bars, clubs and pieces of machinery.” The Prime Minister, Robert Borden[36] then decided to send the militia and HMCS Rainbow as “extreme measures were now necessary.” On 23 July, the day of the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia, the Sikhs decided to avoid further violence and return to Hong Kong. Borden and his wife promptly left Ottawa for a Muskoka vacation. The Prime Minister, an avid golfer, was on the greens when Austria declared war. He did not return to Ottawa until summoned on 31 July.[37] By then the Minister of Militia, the irrepressible Sam Hughes[38], had decided to ignore existing mobilization plans and raise an expeditionary force for rapid deployment overseas. Measures outlined in a War Book, prepared in response to advice from the Committee on Imperial Defence, were being implemented and both Militia and Permanent-Force soldiers were moving to guard places that might be liable to sabotage.[39]

Prime Minister Robert Borden in 1914.

Borden had long been devoted to the idea that Canada should have a voice in Imperial foreign policy without ever explaining how this might be achieved. The basic absurdity of the position was cruelly evident during the first days of August. The British Cabinet was involved in a serious internal crisis that was not fully resolved until the German invasion of Belgium. No consideration was given to consulting Canada, and no attempt was made to provide the Dominions’ with information about British intentions. Two days before the British cabinet decided on war, the Canadian government offered “a considerable force for overseas service” with volunteers enlisting as “Imperial troops.” [40] Neither the possible violation of Belgium neutrality nor any other specific issue was discussed. Borden’s cabinet and caucus had framed their view of international relations through the lens of the naval race and Anglo-German rivalry for so long that no thought was required. As for Borden’s “voice,” the cabinet and later parliament learned that “Canadians have nothing whatsoever to say as to the destination of the troops once they cross the water, nor have we been informed as to what their destination may be”[41]

Left without guidance from their government Canadians learned about events in Europe from the daily newspapers. The initial reports from Vienna and Berlin explained the content and purpose of the Austrian ultimatum and the crisis atmosphere created by the forty-eight hour time limit. It was evident that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was determined to go to war and although no one knew the details of the “blank cheque” provided by Berlin, commentators assumed that Vienna would not have acted on its own. On 24 July, an editorial in The Star warned that “we may find ourselves listening to the thunder of Armageddon before we had time to realize its approach…”[42] The editors still believed that Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, who had successfully mediated previous conflicts would find a way to prevent war. But when the Austrian ultimatum expired on 25 July, news that Russia would stand by Serbia and a report from Berlin that Germany would support its ally made a European war seem inevitable.

– WAR –

The question of Britain’s involvement in the war was first discussed on 28 July. The next day The Star proclaimed that if Britain acted “Canada is ready to do her duty.” La Presse, Le Canada, and La Patrie joined The Star in featuring bold war-related headlines. Other newspapers and public opinion leaders were more cautious. A lead article in The Montreal Witness warned against “the jingo press howling for blood.”[43] The Christian Guardian and Presbyterian Record, the leading Protestant weeklies, went to press before the violation of Belgium neutrality and Britain’s declaration of war. As a result, their issues, dated 5 August, maintained their commitment to what imperialists called the “peace school of thought”[44]

All the daily newspapers reported the German ultimatum to Belgium,[45] requiring free passage through the kingdom to attack France, in return for a guarantee of post-war independence. King Albert and his cabinet rejected this pro forma offer and prepared to defend the frontier forts. The majority of the British cabinet including the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary favoured war in support of France, but it was the ultimatum to Belgium that persuaded a large majority in the country and parliament that war was both inevitable and necessary. When Germany failed to heed the demand to withdraw its troops from Belgium, Britain and thus Canada was at war.

The German Emperor, his Chancellor, Bethman-Hollweg, and the German General Staff were gambling on a plan that called for rapid destruction of the French army before turning east to deal with the Russians. No one in Berlin was willing to raise questions about the weakness of their Austro-Hungarian ally, the possibility of effective Belgian resistance, logistical problems in an advance beyond Paris, or the significance of British intervention which was bound to include a naval blockade. The war would be won, and won quickly—any other outcome was unthinkable. The decision-makers in Paris and St. Petersburg reacted to events according to equally well-established, unexamined assumptions. Despite much pre-war discussion on the possibility of a German advance through Belgium, the French Commander in Chief, Joseph Joffre, was determined to take the offensive and force the enemy to conform to his plan to recover Alsace-Lorraine. The Czar’s semi-trained, poorly-equipped armies began a general advance with no clear idea of how an offensive strategy could be transformed into operational success. The British Army, commanded by men of limited experience and less understanding of industrialized warfare, sent six of its seven regular army divisions to France with only the vaguest instructions about their role.[46]

Historians now debate the question of just how much enthusiasm for war ordinary citizens demonstrated in early August noting, for example, that the crowds who filled the streets of London on 3 August, were there because it was a “fine August bank holiday.” News of the war and the sound of a military band drew people to Buckingham Palace, but there was little evidence of war fever.[47] In Montreal signs of popular enthusiasm were first evident on the night of 3 August after news of the British ultimatum reached the city. According to The Star, a crowd of “thousands” marched through the west end singing and cheering. They invaded the Windsor and Ritz Carlton hotels, and demonstrated their support in front of the French consulate by singing La Marseillaise. The Royal Highland Regiment added to the drama by parading north from their Bleury street armoury to the “weird, wild, strains of bag pipes.” The next morning many of those who did not need to be at work gathered in front of newspapers bulletin boards waiting for definite word of war. The Grenadier Guards announced that they would parade their band, guaranteeing another raucous evening.[48]

The commanding officer of the 65th Carabiniers Mont Royal struck a more cautious note. Lieut-Col. J.T. Ostell, who had joined the regiment in 1881 as a bugler and served during the Northwest Rebellion, told a Star reporter that “we are prepared to do our duty,” but “the Canadian military has much work to do here in Canada…Canada’s highest duty it seems to me is to be prepared to feed Great Britain.”[49] Nevertheless, the 65th organized a parade for the night of 5 August, attracting large crowds.


There were other, different reactions to the prospect of war. The usual Sunday meeting of socialists in Philips Square featured speakers who denounced the coming conflict as “a war of the capitalists…who desired larger markets.” A “great demonstration” to be held in honour of Jean Jaurès, the assassinated French socialist leader, was announced.[50] Elsewhere in the city, all Catholic parishes followed the Archbishop’s instructions to include “prayers for times of calamities” in the mass. If the city’s Irish Catholics were hesitant John Redmond’s decision to agree to suspend the implementation of Home Rule for the duration of the war and his speech in the British House of Commons[51] promising support for the war effort removed any doubts.

The Anglican Bishop, John Farthing led prayers for peace, but his sermon included words of support for Christian men “who must take up arms to defend the weak” and if necessary, go to war “to relieve those oppressed.” Ministers at St. James Methodist and other non-conformist churches stayed with their anti-war traditions, praying for peace.[52] The weekly edition of The Montreal Witness appeared on 4 August with a series of commentaries on the war which the editor assumed had become a reality. John Dougal agreed that “Britain must fight,” but described the war as a “midsummer madness…nothing but the very highest sense of duty could be an excuse for joining in the war.” An editorial on “Power of the Press” argued that the conflict between Austria and Serbia “is largely a newspaper war…newspapers the world over, living by sensation…have not ceased in each country to exasperate the people of rival countries…peace and prosperity are too humdrum and do not make news that will sell extras.”[53] Once the war began the Witness provided extensive coverage of all aspects of the war as did the other mass circulation newspapers. French and English.

One voice was missing from the discussion. Henri Bourassa was in Alsace on the last stage of a European trip that included the study of minority language practices in Wales, Belgium, and German-occupied Alsace-Lorraine. His investigation was cut short when his host, who planned to flee to France, reminded the Canadian journalist that he was a British subject and faced internment. Bourassa escaped this fate, arriving without his luggage in Le Havre on 9 August. Omer Heroux, who had been left in charge of Le Devoir, suggested that Canadian troops should defend their own territory and concentrate on raising wheat to export to England. The next day his editorial focused on the Ontario school question, arguing that Ontario had established a regime analogous to that imposed by the Prussians in Poland. The repeal of Regulation 17 was, he declared, the best method of promoting “la rapprochement necessaire entre Anglo et Franco-Canadiens.” Heroux did not suggest that such a rapprochement would lead the nationalists to support Canadian participation in the war.[54] Henri Bourassa’s first public statement after returning from Europe praised the unity of the French people, the patriotic response of the clergy, and the revival of the Catholic faith evident in the “full confessionals.” The article, in the form of an interview with Omer Heroux, included the comment that “In France and England one has the sense that it is a peoples’ war…”[55]

Bourassa’s first signed editorial, 8 September, surprised his admirers by its apparent endorsement of limited Canadian participation.[56] He clarified his position in a commentary on the British White Paper. To Bourassa Edward Grey[57] was praiseworthy because he had pursued British interests and had been willing, Bourassa believed, to sacrifice France if the Germans respected Belgian neutrality. Canadians too, he argued, should follow Grey’s example and pursue their national interest, not that of Great Britain. Le Canada’s editor, Fernand Rinfret, responded immediately, “profoundly deploring” Bourassa’s views and offering his own detailed analysis.[58] This debate was far too complex to attract much interest or have any effect on recruiting, though it did mark the beginnings of Bourassa’s efforts to limit Canadian participation in the war without openly opposing enlistment.

All the city’s newspapers carried news of the battles fought in Belgium. The burning of Louvain and its historic library[59] was widely reported but the deliberate massacres of Belgian civilians was not yet known.[60] The siege of Antwerp, 28 September to 10 October[61] prompted fears of an invasion of England though the Standard quoted the Times of London which claimed the loss of the city was “always reckoned upon” reminding readers that the British navy will see that they will make no effective use of the sea route.[62]

Louvain after its destruction.

Le Canada and the other mainstream French-language dailies could not ignore Bourassa but they were far more interested in promoting enlistment and the work of the Comité de secours national de France established on the outbreak of war. Raoul Dandurand, the President of the Montreal branch of the Comité France-Amerique (CFA). Dandurand was a prominent member of the business community as well as a Liberal party Senator. He led an energetic campaign to encourage his compatriots to raise funds to assist the displaced women and children of France and to inspire French-Canadian support for the French war effort. The women’s section of the CFA established a parallel organization L’Aide à la France under the leadership of Madame Marie Thibaudeau and Anne-Marie Huguenin the editor of the women’s pages of La Patrie.[63] Thibaudeau sought the support of Archbishop Bruchesi who encouraged his fellow Bishops and parish priests to assist L’Aide à la France as a work of Christian charity.[64]

The fate of Belgium was a common and recurring theme in all the city’s newspapers. Stories of Belgian bravery and German ruthlessness did more to make the war seem real than accounts of great battles. The Honourary Belgian consul in Montreal, Clarence de Sola[65], a prominent member of the business community, and Gustav Francq,[66] the Belgian-born labour leader, helped to make sure that the plight of Belgium and its people was not forgotten. The arrival of a Belgium delegation in Montreal, sent to North American to win moral support and raise funds for Belgian relief, produced an exceptionally strong response. The Monument National was filled to capacity on 24 September to hear the Belgian Minister of Justice, Henri Carton de Wiart, deliver an impassioned address in his native language. He denounced Germany’s violation of Belgian neutrality and the campaign of terror conducted by the German army. Describing the burning of Louvain to an audience that had just learned of the shelling of the Reims Cathedral roused intense feelings, keeping the issue of Belgium and its refugees in the centre of public discourse.[67]

Belgium’s cause was increasingly linked with the actions of Cardinal Mercier, Belgium’s Roman Catholic Primate, who publically resisted the German occupation of his country. Mercier, who was in Rome for the Papal Conclave that elected Benedict XV when the war began, was shocked by the pro-German sentiments of those who surrounded the new Pope. He returned to Belgium via London where he was received by the King and embraced by the leaders of all political parties. Addressing “50,000 London Irish”, with John Redmond at his side, Mercier’s declaration “God Save Ireland, God Save Belgium” was greeted with thunderous applause.[68]

Cardinal Mercier

Clarence de Sola, the Honorary Consul was also the President of the Zionist Federation of Canada and a member of the city’s most prominent Jewish family. His father Abraham and brother Meldola both served as Rabbis at Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, the oldest in Canada.[69] Clarence de Sola was fully behind the war effort as were other members of the Sephardic Jewish community, a position not easily shared by the more recent Jewish immigrants who had fled Eastern Europe in the wake of Russian pogroms. For them the British alliance with Czarist Russia raised questions that were not easily answered.[70]

The Canadian Jewish Chronicle carried one of many stories on “the dangers of blood pogroms” in Russia on 31 July and on 7 August reported the vehement protest of the London Jewish Chronicle “against England associating with Russia”. However opinion among Jews in both England and Canada quickly changed and both communities debated the issue of establishing a separate “Jewish Brigade” to support the Allies or encouraging Jews to enlist in established units.[71]

Montrealers of all backgrounds responded to appeals to assist Belgian refugees, creating relief committees and raising funds. English-speaking Montrealers contributed generously to Belgian relief, but the campaign to raise money for the families of those who volunteered for overseas service soon took precedence. Montreal’s Members of Parliament included two unusual back benchers, Robert Bickerdike[72], a Liberal who was devoted to the cause of prison reform and the abolition of capital punishment, and Herbert B. Ames, a Conservative social reformer and author of The City Below the Hill. Ames had expected to be included in Borden’s cabinet, but the Prime Minister opted for his friend, George Perley,[73] the member for Argenteuil as the protestant counterpart to C.J. Doherty, the Irish Catholic M.P. from Montreal St. Anns. Independently wealthy and very ambitious, Ames moved to revive an organization created during the Boer War, the Canadian Patriotic Fund, which was to become a nation-wide organization, raising millions of dollars to assist the families of men who had volunteered.

Archbishop Bruchesi offered a personal donation of $1,000 to the Patriotic Fund and tried to rally French Canadians behind the war effort. In a widely published public letter he argued that “Britain is engaged in a terrible war, which it tried to avoid by all possible… we owe her our most whole-hearted co-operation…” He asked for victory for the Allies “who defend at the cost of their blood the sacred causes of justice and honour”.[74] Bruchesi also agreed to obtain the support of the other Quebec bishops for a joint pastoral letter to be read in all parish churches on 11 October. A special collection was arranged with half the proceeds going to the Patriotic Fund. Not all the bishops shared Bruchesi’s commitment to the Allied cause and the letter on “the duties of Catholics in the present war” reflected the new Pope’s determination to remain neutral and focused on the responsibility of loyal subjects to their sovereign rather than the “sacred causes” pursued by Britain and France.[75]

Montreal’s Church leaders, both Protestant and Catholic, paid little attention to the fate of people classified as “enemy aliens” due to their birth in Germany or the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Under the provisions of the War Measures Act the government was free to regulate most aspects life in Canada and on 15 August 1914, subjects of enemy countries were forbidden to leave Canada. During the fall of 1914 unemployment and growing fear of sabotage prompted a second Order-in-Council requiring all enemy aliens to register and carry identification cards. Those “considered dangerous or indigent along with those who failed to register” were to be interned as “prisoners of war.”

Most of Canada’s “enemy aliens” were to be found in western Canada where Ukrainians with the misfortune to be born under Austrian rule had settled in large numbers. Montreal, with perhaps 12,000 immigrants from enemy countries, was also thought to be a problem area. The first 364 men from the city to be interned were regarded as prisoners of war and sent to Petawawa where the military base had been converted to an internment camp. The American Consul General in Montreal, who as a representative of a neutral power was made responsible for Austro-Hungarian interests, estimated that in February 1915 that there were “9,000 men, 500 women and 1500 children” in the city who were largely destitute as a consequence of both discrimination and lack of work. Four thousand of these registered with the Consulate seeking assistance.[76]

New internment camps at Kapuskasing and Spirit Lake in Northern Quebec were built in 1915. Spirit Lake, which housed most of the internees from Montreal, could accommodate up to 1000, both single men in ten 30×78 foot bunkhouses. A high wire fence surrounded the encampment “in the interests of the prisoners on account of the peril to those who attempt” to escape. Families and married couples lived nearby in a second encampment. The American Vice Consul and a representative of the Roman Catholic Ukrainian Church who visited Spirit Lake in 1915 both reported favourably on conditions in the camp, a view not always shared by those who had to live there.[77]

Camp Spirit Lake during the winter

– Mustering –

The popular French-language press focused on events in France and Belgium, and the departure of their reservists assembling in Montreal. On 3 August, La Presse reported that the French consul had received numerous requests from French Canadians who wanted to enlist in the mother country’s army. Two days later, with a drawing of the Union Jack and the Tricoleur prominent on the front page, La Presse suggested that French Canadians regiments be authorized to enroll under the flag of France, greatly increasing their enthusiasm to serve in the military and their effectiveness as a fighting unit. This “magic effect” would be produced if orders were given in French instead of English. The editors were convinced that Great Britain would grant this “exceptional authorization,” the problem was with the Minister of Militia and the Canadian government.[78]

This proposal was made in the context of the long, unhappy relationship between the Militia Department and French Canadians. Well before Sam Hughes[79] became the Minister in 1911 the militia, above the regimental level, functioned in English offering few concessions to Canadians whose first language was French. The Royal Military College was resolutely unilingual, and apart from a few candidates from bilingual, essentially assimilated families, French Canadians avoided the college. Since English-speaking cadets were not required to gain fluency in the other official language, RMC graduates had little contact with French Canadian regiments. A 1912 list of the 271 Permanent Force officers who were at least in theory professionally trained and capable of providing instruction and leadership included just 27 French Canadians, 20 of whom were below the rank of Lieut-Colonel.[80]

Hughes compounded the situation. Despite his oft-repeated demands for military preparedness and willingness to continue building armouries in communities that might favour Conservative candidates, French-Canadian regiments were left to wither away. One exception was the 65th Carabiniers Mont-Royal, a regiment that had served in the Northwest Rebellion. The 65th had its own armoury on Pine Street and included a number of prominent Montrealers among its officers. It especially benefited from the patronage of Sir Rodolphe Forget, the Honorary Colonel. Forget and his father, Louis-Joseph, were wealthy members of the financial elite and prominent Conservatives. As a Member of Parliament, Rodolphe Forget might have expected special consideration for his regiment instead of the hostility exhibited by Sam Hughes. The Minister’s decision to forbid the Carabiniers to continue the tradition of carrying arms in the annual Corpus Christi procession, June 1914, created a completely unnecessary conflict that played out in Quebec as another example of Orange Ontario bigotry.[81] The city’s other French-Canadian regiment, the 85th had a much lower profile, sharing the Craig street armoury with English-language artillery batteries.[82]

The contrast between the status of the city’s two French Canadian regiments and the extraordinary number of prestigious, well-organized Anglo-Celtic units could not have been much greater. At the top of the list was the 5th Royal Scots, or Royal Highlanders. Closely tied to the Scottish Presbyterian community, the Highlanders drew their officers from among the wealthiest, most influential families. The Grenadier Guards, who had moved into a splendid, new armoury facing Fletcher’s Field and the mountain in April 1914, were, along with the Victoria Rifles, close competitors for recruits and the favours of the establishment. Two cavalry regiments, the 6th Duke of Connaught’s and the 17th Duke of York’s Hussars, as well as the Montreal Artillery Brigade, also attracted large numbers from an English-language community that was deeply involved with the militia.[83]


Montrealers were also drawn into the excitement generated by the news that Hamilton Gault, one of the very wealthiest men in the city, had obtained permission to raise a regiment of veterans of the British army living in Canada. The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was to mobilize at Landsdowne Park in Ottawa with Lieut-Col. Frank Farquhar D.S.O., a British army officer in command and Gault, who provided $100,000 to equip, feed and maintain the regiment, as Second-in-Command.[84] More than one hundred other Montrealers joined the battalion, including Talbot Mercer Papineau[85], an American-educated lawyer who was the direct descendant of Louis-Jospeh Papineau and first cousin to Henri Bourassa. Papineau was one of the ten percent of the regiment’s volunteers born in Canada.[86]

At the Royal Highlanders armoury there were far more volunteers than could be processed and a similar situation existed at the other English-language units, Major Andrew McNaughton told a reporter that “recruits were applying by the hundreds” to join the artillery, but the Montreal Field Batteries “were already above war strength.” Officers and men “were wildly enthusiastic” and only those who had seen actual service would be considered.[87] New instructions from Ottawa limited the number of men “rural regiments and those from small cities” could enlist to 125 officers and men. Officers from this vaguely defined category were told that they “must be prepared to accept rank in the contingent junior to that at present held by them in the militia.” The situation in larger centres was dealt with by allocating quotas. The Highlanders were allowed to recruit a full battalion, but the other three principal infantry regiments were informed that each was to contribute one third of the number required to form a second battalion.[88]

This decision ended any possibility of including a French-Canadian battalion in what was to become the 1st Canadian Division. The commanding officer of the composite battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Meighen was bilingual, but his second-in-command, William Burland, and the Adjutant, A.P Holt, were drawn from the English-speaking upper class and spoke little French. This left the two companies allotted to the 65th Regiment isolated in what was now called the “Royal Montreal Regiment.”[89] The 85th Regiment received even less consideration. According to the list of those from Montreal who volunteered to serve in the first contingent, 251 men were from the 85th, but by 3 September the number training at Valcartier was down to 7 officers and 143 men. All were serving in the 12th Reserve Battalion, which included men from twenty-one Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island regiments. A month later when the contingent sailed, just seventy-one men from the 85th were still with the Battalion. The others had been dispersed to other units, medically rejected, or had simply gone home without attesting for overseas service, severely limiting the pool of reinforcements for the two French Canadian companies in 14th Battalion.[90]

The decline in the number of French Canadians at Valcartier was proportionate to the overall pattern, as more than 5000 men were struck off strength before the contingent sailed. The largest number, 2,164, were declared medically unfit, an indication of the chaos created by Hughes’ decision to rush the enlistment process. Another 1,530 left the camp in September with “no reasons stated.” The Minister’s insistence that married men could only serve with their wives permission led to 379 men returning home while another 282 left at their own request.[91] A steady influx of new volunteers replaced those who left Valcartier bringing the total in camp to over 33,000 not counting the Princess Patricias. Hamilton Gault was determined to keep his elite battalion as far away from Sam Hughes and Valcartier as possible and when the British Admiralty refused to allow the PPCLI to sail independently Gault arranged to use the militia camp at Lévis away from the chaos unfolding across the river.[92]


A debate over exactly how many French Canadians enlisted in the first contingent developed quickly in 1914 and continued to produce controversy throughout the war. The issue was complicated by Sam Hughes who declared that French Canada had done its duty, suggesting with typical hyperbole that more than 2000 French Canadians had volunteered. Jules Fournier[93], who opposed sending any Canadians to Europe, calculated that since eighty percent of the recruits were British-born, almost half of the Canadian-born recruits must be French Canadian.[94]

Numbers aside, what really mattered was the absence of a distinctly French-Canadian unit in what became the 1st Division. Throughout 1915 stories about the experience of the Canadian Division established an image of heroic battalions linked with specific cities, towns, or regions. The role of Montreal’s 13th Royal Highland Battalion at Second Ypres won enormous prestige for the regiment while the less dramatic accounts of the 14th Royal Montreal Regiment included only passing reference to the French Canadian companies. Once the 22nd “French Canadian” battalion reached the frontlines in late 1915, Quebec newspapers sought out stories. But until the Battle of Courcelette in September 1916 there was not enough blood or glory for the journalists to celebrate in lead stories.

French Canadians who supported participation in 1914 were well aware of the problem that the makeup of the first contingent posed for voluntary enlistment. La Presse, which had tried hard to promote battalion status for the 65th, began a campaign to persuade the government to establish a purely French Canadian battalion to serve in the second contingent. Dr. Arthur Mignault,[95] the medical officer of the 65th, who had made a fortune selling patent medicine, and Lorenzo Prince, the editor of La Presse, organized a bi-partisan committee of notables and arranged a meeting in Ottawa with the Prime Minister. Borden, who had allowed his militia minister complete freedom to recruit and (dis)organize the first contingent, approved the proposal after Arthur Mignault offered to contribute $50,000 to recruit and equip the regiment.[96] Neither the Prime Minster nor Sam Hughes seemed the least bit embarrassed at their own failure to take such an obvious initiative. The 22nd “French Canadian” Battalion began recruiting in October in the aftermath of the German advance, the Battle of the Marne, the withdrawal to the River Ainse, the siege of Antwerp, and the “Race to the Sea.” These events were reported in as much detail as the censors would permit.

Despite broad public support and a further increase in unemployment due to “the uncertainties of war,”[97] recruiting Canadian-born volunteers was a considerable challenge in 1914. Fully two thirds of the first contingent was born in the United Kingdom, and only the Royal Montreal Regiment could claim to include more Canadians as a result of its Carabinier companies.[98] The composition of the second contingent proved to be similar with more than sixty percent born in Britain. Raising a full, Canadian-born battalion, 1100 men, required considerable effort. La Presse, and to a lesser extent La Patrie, provided free publicity for the 22nd Battalion, including a coupon for readers, to use as the first step to enlistment. The climax of the campaign came on 13 October with a vast assembly at Parc Sohmer, featuring patriotic music and emotional appeals from Sir Wilfrid Laurier and other prominent figures. Laurier avoided the typical British Empire rhetoric arguing that French Canadians should fight for eternal France, “La France existe toujours” he declaimed urging young men to volunteer.[99] This unofficial recruiting drive came to an end on 19 October when authority to mobilize the battalion was finally received. The departure of the Royal Canadian Dragoons as part of the first contingent freed up their barracks at St. Jean and the 22nd moved in.

The campaign to enroll and retain enough volunteers to constitute a French-Canadian battalion has been thoroughly documented by Jean-Pierre Gagnon in his “socio-militaire” study, La 22e battalion (Canadian-français) 1914-1919. Gagnon notes that by 30 November there were 34 officers and 937 men in the battalion, but after 200 men were struck off strength as “unsuitable” the campaign for volunteers continued. The 22nd was also plagued by absence without leave and the outright desertion of more than 100 men.[100] Georges Vanier,[101] who joined the battalion as a lieutenant recalled that with the approach of Christmas and New Year’s, “most of our men gave themselves leave…the climax came on New Year’s Day when family spirit was so strong that practically everyone went home.”[102]

The 22nd was not alone in struggling to enroll and retain active service volunteers. Military District 4, centred on Montreal, was required to raise a second battalion for the new contingent as well as an artillery brigade and a number of ancillary units such as a sixty-man ammunition park. Given the large numbers of men who were said to have enrolled in the city’s militia regiments, observers assumed that the 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles) could pick and choose. Initially Lieut-Colonel J.A. Gunn insisted that recruits were to be 5.7” tall with a 37 inch chest,[103] but it soon became apparent that the supply of such men was limited. The “Vics” found that many of those who had signed up to serve in the militia were unwilling or unable to go overseas. On 30 October the Victoria Rifles had enlisted just 189 men. The 5th Royal Scots provided 220 more, and the 53rd Sherbrooke Regiment, an English-language unit, another hundred.[104] Further volunteers came forward slowly and as late as 22 January 1915. Lieut-Colonel Gunn noted that there were still “vacancies for 100 soldiers.” He hoped “they would come forward soon as the time for departure of the second contingent approaches.”[105]

The Militia Department tried to raise a third Quebec battalion for the Second Contingent, from Military District 5, centred on Quebec City. Hughes believed that no French Canadian was qualified to lead the battalion the battalion and he appointed Lieut-Colonel F.W. Fisher, a Grenadier Guards officer who was currently commanding the Westmount Rifles. Fisher was told to recruit two companies for the 23rd Battalion in Eastern Quebec and two in Montreal but it was soon evident that Quebec City and district would produce few volunteers. The French Canadians who came forward were needed to complete the ranks of the 22nd Battalion and the 23rd quickly became a Montreal-based English-speaking battalion. Two thirds of the five hundred men recruited in Montreal were Canadian-born but drafts of men from western Canada, largely British immigrants, were required to bring the 23rd to full strength.[106]

The challenge of securing recruits for active serve was complicated by the ambitions of various members of the Anglo-Celtic elite who lobbied for the right to create new militia regiments. The suburban City of Westmount supported the 58th regiment, Westmount Rifles quickly attracting a cadre of officers and senior NCOs. A third cavalry regiment, the 13 Scottish Light Dragoons, also competed for recruits in Montreal alongside the two Hussar regiments. The new units were told that no arms or equipment would be available until the second contingent had sailed, but recruiting continued.[107] Irish Catholic community leaders were also determined to demonstrate their support for the war effort, establishing the 55th Irish Canadian Rangers as a militia regiment for home service. They lacked weapons, uniforms and experienced officers, but Lieut-Colonel H.J. Trihey,[108] their commanding officer, was a local hero who had captained the Montreal Shamrocks to two Stanley Cups. With C.J. Doherty, the Minister of Justice as Honorary Colonel, and Father Gerald McShane, the pastor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, offering strong support the regiment drew over 500 recruits in the fall of 1914.[109]

Montreal’s major university was also determined to participate on its own terms. McGill had established the first Canadian Officer Training Corps (COTC) unit in 1912 and in the first months of the war McGill students and recent graduates flocked to the colours providing many of the junior officers for the Montreal regiments. The university also formed a provisional battalion, enlisting 350 undergraduates who continued to attend classes while training under the command of Professor Auckland Geddes, a veteran British officer.[110] The McGill medical faculty was equally committed to the war. Most of the medical officers serving with the 5th Field Ambulance, a militia unit mobilized as part of the first contingent were from McGill. Later, Dr. Herbert Birkett, the Dean, who had recently retired from the Canadian Army Medical Corps, proposed the formation of what became No 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill). It took the intervention of Sir William Osler[111] to persuade the British War Office to accept the offer and the unit, 33 doctors, 73 nurses and 205 other ranks, reached France in June 1915.[112]

A parallel effort to establish a French Canadian hospital was initiated by La Presse in September 1914. The newspaper sought contributions from the 1200 municipalities in the province for a 1200 bed hospital in Paris administered by the French Red Cross. The campaign failed to attract significant support[113] and in March 1915 Arthur Mignault won Ottawa’s approval for a hospital which he would command. Mignault recruited the medical staff from Montreal hospitals and on 6 May 1915 No. 4 Stationary Hospital embarked for England. Mignault succeeded in transforming the hospital into a larger, general hospital and persuading the Prime Minister to offer it to the French government. No. 8 (French Canadian) General Hospital opened in a Paris suburb in November 1915 receiving its first patients, French soldiers wounded at Verdun, in March 1916.[114]

Montrealers responded to the initial challenges of the war in ways conditioned by their pre-war identity and experience. British-born, including large numbers of recent arrivals, rallied to the defense of their homeland seeking to enlist in whatever units would accept them. Large scale unemployment in the aftermath of the boom years no doubt contributed to this rush to the colours as did the general belief that the war would be brief and glorious. English-speaking Montrealers, with the exception of those involved in the militia, were far more cautious and relatively few enlisted in the ranks. French Canadians who volunteered to serve in the first contingent found themselves isolated and ignored in a unilingual army that stressed its British Imperial connection. Once the opportunity to serve in a French language unit was made available a battalion, made up exclusively of men born in Canada, was quickly recruited and Montrealers could imagine that a new entente cordiale was being forged in their city.


[1] Meteorological data from; The Montreal Standard describes preparation for St. Patrick’s Day which “will be the greatest in history in view of the possibility of early Home Rule,” Montreal Standard, 14 March, 1914. All newspapers reported on the snow and work for the unemployed at $2.00/day

[2] Labour Gazette, 15 January, 1914, p.804. 418,838 immigrants reached Canada in 1913.

[3] R.S. Gourlay “Presidential Address,” Industrial Canada, November 1913, p.465.

[4] Quoted in the Montreal Standard, 2 May, 1914, p.10

[5] Sir Wilfrid Laurier used this figure in the House of Commons basing it on reports from the Labour Gazette and other sources. See Canada, Debates of the House of Commons, 3rd Session, 12th Parliament, vol. 1, p. 18.

[6] Labour Gazette, 15 January 1914, p.804

[7] Michel Gauvin, “The Municipal Reform Movement in Montreal, 1886-1914” (M.A. Thesis, University of Ottawa, 1972); See also, The Canadian Engineer January to March 1914 which provides a detailed account of the water issue.

[8] The articles appeared in Le Devoir on 11, 12, 13 and 14 March 1914.

[9] Byron Lew and Bruce Cater, Canadian Immigration to the US. 1900 – 1930 Table I. See also Yves Roby, Les Franco-Americains De La Nouvelle-Angleterre (Silley: Septentrion, 1990).

[10] Marilyn Barber, “The Ontario Bilingual Schools Issues: Sources of Conflict,” The Canadian Historical Review 47, no. 3 (1966): 227–48.

[11] Chad Gaffield, Language, Schooling, and Cultural Conflict: The Origins of the French-Language Controversy in Ontario (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1987).

[12] Arthur Choquette, Language and Religion: A History of English-French Conflict in Ontario (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1975), pp. 261 – 264.

[13] Barber, “The Ontario Bilingual Schools Issues: Sources of Conflict,” p. 243.

[14] Franklin A. Walker, Catholic Education and Politics in Upper Canada Vol 2 (Toronto: Federation of Catholic Education Association of Ontario, 1976), p. 229.

[15] Réal Bélanger, Henri Bourassa (Quebec: Laval University, 2013), pp. 323-328.

[16] Franklin A. Walker, Catholic Education and Politics in Upper Canada Vol 2, pp. 281 – 282.

[17] Le Devoir, 14 March 1914

[18] The Montreal Star, 24 March, 1914; The Montreal Star, 29 March, 1914

[19] All newspapers provided coverage of the campaign. The quotation is from The Montreal Gazette, 25 March, 1914

[20] The Montreal Star, 3 April 1914; The Montreal Star, 11 April 1914

[21] The Martin quotations are from The Montreal Gazette, 3 April, 1914.

[22] La Patrie, 4 Mach, 1914. The estimate of 13,000 is from the Star, 6 April, 1914

[23] Marilyne Brisebois, “La Fédération Nationale Saint-Jean-Baptiste et La Constitution d’un Réseau Catholique Feminin Transnational 1907 – 1920,” Histoire Sociale/Social History 49, no. 98 (2016): 105–24. See also Danyèle Lacombe, “Marie Gerin-Lajoie’s Hidden Crucifixes Social Catholicism, Feminism and Quebec Modernity” (M.A. Thesis, University of Alberta, 1998).

[24] Paul-André Linteau, Histoire de Montréal Depuis La Confederation (Montreal: Boréal, 1992), pp. 466-467.

[25] Carol Lee Bacchi, Liberation Deferred?: The Ideas of the English-Canadian Suffragists (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983). The minutes of the MSA are available online Archives de Montréal

[26] The Montreal Gazette, 8 April, 1914

[27] All newspapers reported the results of the election on 7-8 April, 1914

[28] Le Devoir, 8 April 1914

[29] Even the New York Times, 28 June, 1914 carried the story. The Standard, 2 May 1914, p.7 ran a feature article on the redesigned park

[30] The quotations from the newspapers, The Montreal Gazette, 26 March, 1913, The Montreal Herald, 26 November, 1913, The Montreal Star, 29 November, 1913, are available online as part of the database created by the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative-Concordia University, See also, Lorne Huston, “The 1913 Spring Exhibition on the Art Association of Montreal: Anatomy of a Public Debate,” Journal of Canadian Art History 34, no. 1 (2013): 13–55. See also Lucie Dorais, Morrice and Lyman in the Company of Matisse (Toronto: Firefly Books, 2014). Lyman’s paintings can be viewed online though few of those reproduced are pre-1913.

[31] The Gazette 27 March 1914, La Presse 26 March 1914

[32] Labour Gazette, May 1914, p. 1383-84, June 1914 p. 20

[33] The most recent account of the Komagata Maru is Hugh Johnston, The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: The Sikh Challenge to Canada’s Colour Bar (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1989).

[34] Richard Virr, Symonds, Herbert DCB Online. Symonds sermon was reported in The Montreal Star, 6 July, 1914, p.2;

[35] The Montreal Witness 24 July 1914, p. 2

[36] Robert Craig Brown, Borden, Robert Laird, DCB Online

[37] Borden Diary 23-31 July 1914 (Online Memorial University)

[38] Robert Craig Brown, Hughes, Samuel, DCB Online

[39] G.W.L. Nicholson, Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), pp. 9-24.

[40] Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Governor-General,  in A. F. Duguid, Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919, vol. 2 (Ottawa: Ministry of National Defence, 1938), p. 16.

[41] Duguid, vol.2, Appx 29, p. 47.

[42] The Montreal Star, 24, 25 July, 1914, p. 1

[43] The Montreal Witness, 27 July 1914, p. 1

[44] Christian Guardian 5 August 1914 p. 1, Presbyterian Record 5 August p. 1

[45] For the text of the “Request for Free Passage” and Belgian reply, see 

[46] Keith M Wilson, ed., Decisions for War, 1914 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995) devotes a chapter to the actions of each belligerent. Among the hundreds of books examining the outbreak of war see Fritz Fischer, Germany’s Aims in the First World War (New York: W. W. Norton, 1967); Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 (New York: Random House, 2013); Roger Chickering, Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914-1918, Second Edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

[47] Adrian Gregory, The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 13.

[48] The Montreal Star, 4 August, 1914, p.4

[49] The Montreal Star, 3 August, 1914, p 6

[50] The Montreal Star, 3 August 1914, p. 7

[51] Joseph Finnan, John Redmond and Irish Unity, 1912-1918 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2004). See also David Howie and Josephine Howie, “Irish Recruiting and the Home Rule Crisis of August-September 1914,” in Strategy and Intelligence British Policy during the First World War, ed. M. L. Dockrill and David French (London: Hambledon Press, 1996), pp. 1–22.

[52] The Montreal Star, 3 August, 1913, p 16

[53] The Montreal Witness, 4 August, 1914, p.1

[54] Le Devoir, 5 August 1914, p. 1

[55] Le Devoir, 22 August, 1914, p.1

[56] The full text of the editorial, translated into English, is reproduced in Pierre Anctil, ed., “Do What You Must” : Selected Editorials from Le Devoir under Henri Bourassa, 1910-1932 (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 2016).

[57] Detlev Mares, Grey, Sir Edward, International Encyclopedia of the First World War 

[58] Le Devoir, 12-14 September, 1914; Le Canada, 14-18 September, 1914. Bourassa was wrong about Grey’s policy but could not know this at the time. Brenton McNab the former editor of the Montreal Star also criticized Bourassa’s article in a letter to the Winnipeg Tribune which was translated and published in La Patrie. 2 January 1915 p. 11.

[59] The Destruction of Louvain, 1914,

[60] There is extensive coverage of the nature of the war in Belgium in all newspapers. The burning of Louvain was widely reported, but the deliberate massacres of Belgian civilians was not yet known. See John Horne and Alan Kramer, German Atrocities: A History of Denial (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), and Alan Kramer, Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)., especially chapter 1 “The Burning of Louvain.”

[61] The Siege of Antwerp,

[62] Standard, 10 Oct p. 1

[63] Anne-Marie Huguenin (Madeleine) Canadian Encyclopedia 

[64] Alban Lachiver, “Le Soutien Humanitaire Canadien-Français à La France En 1914-1918,” Guerres Mondiales et Conflicts Contemporains, no. 179 (1995): 147–73.

[65] Gerald Tulchinsky, De Sola, Clarence Isaac. DCB Online

[66] Gustav Francq

[67] One member of the delegation spoke briefly in English, otherwise the language of the evening was entirely French. La Presse 25 Sept 1914.

[68] Quebec Chronicle 14 September 1914, p. 1

[69] Gerald Tulchinsky, de Sola, Clarence DCB Online

[70] On 31 July 1914 the Canadian Jewish Chronicle carried one of many stories on events in Russia reporting the “dangers of bloody pogroms”. On 7 August the newspaper reported on the “vehement protest” of the London (England) Jewish Chronicle, “against England associating with Russia of all nations.”  

[71] The debate which was resolved in favour of assimilation was discussed at public meetings and reported in the Canadian Jewish Chronicle 7, 14 August and the Montreal Star 14 August p. 8.

[72] Jack Jedwab, Bickerdike, Robert. DCB Online

[73] Desmond Morton, Perley, Sir George DCB Online

[74] Le Devoir 15 September 1914 cited in René Durocher “Henri Bourassa, les évêques et la guerre de 1914-1918” Historical Papers/Communications Historique (1971) 253. See also Le Canada 15 September 1914

[75] The Pastoral letter was published in the provinces newspapers on 12 October 1914. See John F. Pollard, The Unknown Pope : Benedict XV (1914-1922) and the Pursuit of Peace (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1999).

[76] Peter Melinycky, “Badly Treated in Every Way: The Internment of Ukrainians,” in The Ukrainian Experience in Quebec, ed. M. Diakowsky (Toronto: Basilian Press, 1994). Accessed online at See also W.D. Otter, Internment Operation, 1914 – 1919 (Ottawa 1921).

[77] Melinycky, “Badly Treated”, Note 41, By November 1916 the release of internees reduced the Spirit Lake Camp population to 275 men. See also

[78] La Presse, 3 August, 1914; 5 August, 1914 cited in Pierre Vennat, Les Poilus Quebecois de 1914-1918, vol.1, p.19-20.

[79] Robert Craig Brown, Hughes, Sir Samuel DCB Online

[80] Desmond Morton, “French Canada and the Canadian Militia, 1868-1914,” Histoire Sociale/Social History Vol 2 No 3 (1969).

[81] Jack Jedwab, Forget, Rodolphe DCB online; The Story of the dispute over the Corpus Christi procession was widely discussed in the newspapers.

[82] A further example of Hughes’ failure to respect the traditions of the Quebec militia occurred at the Trois Rivierés summer militia exercises when the 85th honour guard for an open-air mass was ordered to return their rifles to the tents before the mass would proceed. See, “Encore Une Affaire a la Sam Hughes,” Le Devoir, 30 June, 1914.

[83] Militia Regiments as distinct from the numbered Battalion authorized by the Militia Department for overseas service.

[84] Lt. Col. Hamilton Gault, DSO,

[85] Sandra Gwyn, Papineau, Talbot Mercer. DCB Online

[86] Jeffrey Williams, First in the Field: Gault of the Patricias (St. Catherines: Vanwell Publishing Ltd., 1995), p. 64.

[87] The Montreal Star, 5 August, 1914. P.2

[88] Duguid, p.36, Appx 45

[89] R. C. Fetherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment, 1925-1945 (Westmount: Royal Montreal Regiment, 1927).

[90] My thanks to Alex Maavara and Brendan O’Driscoll for developing a database tracking those Montrealers listed in The Call to Arms: Montreal’s Roll of Honour, European War, 1914 by checking names on the attestation papers and the sailing list for First Contingent. All statistics are from that database.

[91] Duguid, Vol 2, Appendix 94, p. 62. See also Nic Clarke, Unwanted Warriors: The Rejected Volunteers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2015).

[92] Williams, First in the Field Gault of the Patricias, p. 69.

[93] Laurent Mailhot, Fournier, Jules. DCB Online.

[94] L’Action, 26 September, 1914, p.6


[96] Pierre Vennat, Les “Poilus” Québécois de 1914-1918 (Du Meridien, 1999), vol. 2, pp. 29 – 41.

[97] Labour Gazette, August 1914, p.343-344

[98] War Diary, Royal Montreal Regiment, 25 January, 1915

[99] Le Canada 26 Oct 1914 p. 4

[100] J. P. Gagnon, Le 22e Battalion (Canadian-Français) 1914-1918 (Ottawa: Laval University Press ; Department of National Defence, 1986), pp. 56-61.

[101] “George Vanier” Library and Archives Canada

[102] Robert Speaight, Vanier: Soldier, Diplomat and Governor General: A Biography (London: Collin & Harvill Press, 1970), p. 35.

[103] R. C. Fetherstonhaugh, ed., The 24th Battalion, C.E.F., Victoria Rifles of Canada 1914-1919 (Montreal: Gazette Printing Company, 1930), p. 8.

[104] The Montreal Star, 30 October, 1914

[105] The Montreal Star, 22 January, 1915

[106] Based upon a review of the attestation papers of the 23rd Battalion. Just 201 of the 1078 recruits listed Montreal as the address for next of kind. 23rd Battalion Nominal Roll. My thanks to Mike Kelly for creating the data-base on the 23rd Battalion.

[107] The Montreal Star, 22 Sept 1914, p. 6

[108] “The Irish Champion” Patriots, Crooks and Safety Firsters

[109] Robin Burns, “The Montreal Irish and the Great War,” Canadian Catholic Historical Association 52 (1985): 67–81. Proposals to establish both a Jewish and Welsh battalion were announced, but common sense prevailed as community leaders urged enlistment in existing units.

[110] R. C. Fetherstonhaugh, McGill University at War, 1914-1918, 1939-1945 (Montreal: McGill University, 1947), pp. 5 – 7.

[111] Charles C. Rolland, Osler, Sir William DCB Online

[112] R. C. Fetherstonhaugh, ed., No. 3 Canada General Hospital (McGill) 1914-1919 (Montreal: Gazette Printing Company, 1928), pp. 4 – 6.

[113] Michel Litalien, “Un Projet Trop Ambitieux? L’Hôpital La Presse Ou l’échec d’une Aide à La France, 1914-1915,” Bulletin d’histoire Politique 17, no. 2 (2009): 75-97.

[114] Michel Litalien, Dans La Tourmente : Deux Hôpitaux Militaires Canadiens-Français Dans La France En Guerre, 1915-1919. (Outremont: Athena, 2003), pp. 38-46. . George Desrosiers, Archambault, Gustave. DCB Online.

One thought on “Chapter II – 1914

  1. Fascinating recounting of the mobiilization efforts.

    It is inaccurate to suggest that Frank Meighen (later General and Croix de Guerre) could not speak French; he was quite bilingual and lauded by Le Devoir and other papers (along with Guy Drummond) as being one of the handful in the officer class who spoke French fluently and showed empathy for French-Canadians soldiers.


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