July 6, 1917 What This War Hath Wrought

July 6, 1917

The word came in this morning. Conscription, after an all-night sitting by Parliament, was affirmed. Shannon heard the news from the Station Master at Canoe Lake. It hadn’t been printed in the papers yet, but once the vote was passed at 5 o’clock this morning, the news raced like wildfire through the town. The Canoe Lake Station telegraph received the message: “Jul-06, Conscription affirmed by Parl. 5am”, but the stories came in by train. Someone said that after the vote, they sang “God Save the King” and the many of the members retired to the Chateau Laurier to a hearty breakfast to celebrate the occasion. Some celebration. I also couldn’t help to think of the irony. The very room in the Victoria Memorial Museum where the vote was made is the very same room where my painting once stood when it was the National Gallery.

The bill would gain royal assent at the beginning of August. That will mean compulsory service for all unmarried men between twenty-five and forty-five. I had less than three weeks to decide my own fate, otherwise my fate would be decided by the Empire and Dominion.

I was down at the dock this morning with my canoe. Another day of oppressive humidity and no breeze. All the guests at the lodge were waving their paper fans, complaining about the heat and the humidity. I couldn’t bear it any more, so I went down by lake. I took my cup of tea along and sat on the dock and tried to enjoy the breeze from the lake.

I felt lonely and forlorn today. I havn’t heard anything from Winnie. Lowrie told me that he had delivered the message to Winnie in Huntsville. Lowrie did not know the content of the message, not that it was difficult to surmise, but he told me that Winnie would do her best to do what I asked. That means I should be seeing her in South River next Saturday. I am also thinking about my good friends and compatriots: Harris in Barrie, Lismer in Halifax, MacDonald in Toronto, and Jackson and Varley overseas. The war had torn our group apart, and now the machine is determined to get even more from us. The war is going to tear me apart.

I recall reading once in Thoreau that men lead lives of quiet desperation. The silence that now is on the lake is an expression of that quiet desperation. I stayed on the dock for the better part of the morning and then I took my canoe up Potter Creek. I went again to Joe Lake Dam to fish. I want to catch the Big Trout before I never have a chance again.

What this War has wrought we’ll never fully know.

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