Zépherin Lessard, Royal Canadian Army, Fernie, BC, ca. 1917

Contributed by Madeleine Paré Roy through Franco-American Collection

Zépherin Lessard, Royal Canadian Army, Fernie, BC, ca. 1917

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Zépherin Lessard (b. 4/5/1893) was a Franco-American from Lewiston who served in the Canadian army. Most French Canadians did not enlist in Canada's armed forces, since most regiments were dominated by English-speaking officers. The Canadian government was hesitant to create entirely French-speaking regiments or mobilize those which already existed. Furthermore, French Canadians generally felt little loyalty to Great Britain or even to France. Riots broke out in Québec when conscription was introduced to Canada in 1918.

Zépherin's enrollment in the Royal Canadian Army was a result of the Canadian Conscription Act, and the suspicion that French Canadians were draft dodgers. While visiting relatives in Canada in 1917, Lessard, a resident of Lewiston but a Canadian by birth, was drafted into the Canadian army. In May of 1918, he wrote to his father André from British Columbia:"They caught me with no papers on me and they left me no choice by to enlist. I don't care, because I would have had to join the Army later anyways."

A few months later, he wrote the following from Britain: "I have to tell you that I've changed a lot since I'm in the army. t's a good place for a man to change. We attend Mass every Sunday. The whole company went to confession before leaving Canada, then we had a special Mass in the open air."

The photograph may have been taken at Fernie, British Columbia, where Lessard received basic training.

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About This Item

  • Title: Zépherin Lessard, Royal Canadian Army, Fernie, BC, ca. 1917
  • Creation Date: circa 1917
  • Subject Date: circa 1917
  • Town: Fernie, Lewiston
  • County: Androscoggin, East Kootenay
  • State: BC, ME
  • Media: Photographic print
  • Dimensions: 12 cm x 17 cm
  • Local Code: 2013.32.1
  • Object Type: Image

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For more information about this item, contact:

Franco-American Collection
USM, 51 Westminster Street, Lewiston, ME 04240
(207) 753-6545

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