Canadian casualties had been quite high during the final stages of the war, particularly amongst the infantry. October 1944, for example, registered almost 6,400 Canadian casualties during the liberation of the port of Antwerp in Belgium. The high number of casualties provoked the greatest political crisis of the war. The conscription crisis had taken a long time to erupt, but it eventually came to dominate the national political agenda.

In October 1944, Colonel Ralston, the Defence Minister, returned from Europe after reviewing the Canadian troops and announced that the army faced a shortage of manpower. He recommended that the home-defence conscripts be sent to the theatres of war. The government split on the question and Ralston was forced to resign. General McNaughton, who believed he could get the conscripts to volunteer for service, replaced him. He could not and was defeated in a by-election when he sought a seat in Parliament.

King felt he no longer had any choice, but to send the approximately 13,000 conscripts overseas. He was able to maintain the support of many Quebec Liberals because they realized the Prime Minister had done all that he could. King would not allow the country to divide along French-English lines as it had in 1917.


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