M965.199.3350 | To Which Voice Will He Listen?
To Which Voice Will He Listen?
April 28, 1942, 20th century
Ink, crayon, graphite and opaque white on card
38.7 x 28.3 cm
Gift of Mr. John Collins - The Gazette
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Cartoon (19139) , Drawing (18637) , drawing (18379)
Keys to History
On April 27, 1942, the government held a plebiscite to release it from a 1940 election pledge to avoid conscription. The vote divided Canadians. The people of Quebec voted 71.2 percent against releasing the government from its commitments not to impose conscription. The eight English-speaking provinces ("the rest of Canada") voted 80% in favour of the release. In Canada as a whole the vote was 63.7% in favour. The wording of the plebiscite was deliberately chosen to allow the government some leeway. In the interest of keeping Canada united, King interpreted the results as "not necessarily conscription, but conscription if necessary." The National Resources Mobilization Act (NRMA) gave the government the power to conscript men for the defence of Canada. King introduced a bill to amend the NRMA to make conscription for overseas service possible. He also promised Quebec supporters that it wouldn't necessarily be introduced.
This cartoon by John Collins shows Prime Minister King reading a "summary" of the plebiscite question and listening to the voice of the people. The original question was "Are you in favour of releasing the Government from any obligation arising out of any past commitments restricting the methods of raising men for military service?"
The government had already implemented military service for men serving within Canada. The plebiscite would allow the government to conscript for overseas service.
King announced the decision to hold a plebiscite on January 22, 1942. The vote took place on April 27.
Most English Canadians felt that conscription was necessary; most Quebeckers, including 85% of French-Speakers, opposed it.