Up to the outbreak of the present war Canada has not spent ten million a year on national defense. That is—for the security of peace for a century, she has spent less than one dollar and fifty cents per head a year. A year ago naval bills were rejected. To-day there are few people in Canada who would not acknowledge that Canada is spending too little on defense. Stirred profoundly but, as is the British way, saying little, the Dominion is setting herself in earnest to the big new problem. To the European War, Canada has sent sixty thousand men; and she has promised one hundred thousand more. A nation that can unpreparedly deliver on such promises to the drop of the hat can take care of her defense, and that may be Canada’s next national job.
Would any power have an object in crippling Canada? The question is answered best by another. If Suez were cut off and Canada were cut off, where would England look for her food supply? And if it were to the advantage of a hostile power to cripple Canada, could she be conquered? Any one familiar with Canada will answer without a moment’s hesitation. She could be attacked. Her coastal cities could be laid waste as the cities of Belgium. To reach the interior of Canada, an enemy must do one of three things, all next to impossible: penetrate the St. Lawrence—a treacherous current—for a thousand miles exposed to submarine and mine and attack from each side; cross the United States and so violate American sovereignty, cross the Rockies to reach inland. Any one of these feats is as impossible as the conquest of Switzerland or the Scottish Highlands. Canada could be attacked and laid waste; she could be financially ruined by attack and set back fifty years in her progress; but she could no more be conquered than Napoleon conquered Russia. The conquest would be at a cost to destroy the conqueror, and the conqueror could no more stay than Napoleon stayed in Moscow. Canada has a vast, an illimitable back country—the area of all Russia; and to the lakes and wild rivers and mountain passes of that country her people are born and bred. To her climate her people are born and bred. The climate would take care of the rest. You can’t exactly despatch motors and motor guns down swamps for a hundred miles and over cataracts and through mountain passes on the perpendicular. Canada’s back country is her perpetual city of refuge. Nevertheless, the day of dependence on false security is past. National status implies national defense, and at time of writing the indications are that the whole military system of the Dominion will be put on a new basis, training to patriotism and defense and service from the public school up through the university.
“Then what becomes of your co-eds and woman movement?” a militarist asked.
The question can be answered in the words of a great doctor—more men die on the field of battle from lack of women nurses than ever die from the bullet of the enemy. The time seems to have come for woman’s place on the firing line. That womanhood which gives of life to create life now claims the right to go out on the field of danger to conserve and protect life; and in the embodiment of military training in public education that, too, may be part of Canada’s new national defense.