A Decade of Turbulence


A Unified Militia

Gunner and officer, Halifax Garrison Artillery, 1868

Caption: Gunner and officer, Halifax Garrison Artillery, 1868

On July 1, 1867, Canada East and Canada West became the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. United with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, they officially became a new country, Canada, the first autonomous state in the British Empire, maintaining a significant political link with Great Britain. The Militia Act, which was passed in 1868, ratified the unification of the militias of the two of the federal government. Headquarters was located in Ottawa and military districts were created in the provinces. Districts 1 to 4 covered Ontario, 5 to 7 Quebec, 8 New Brunswick and 9 Nova Scotia. 131 These changes did not alter much for the Ontario and Quebec militiamen, because they were subject to the same regulations and kept their uniforms and their battalions retained their designations. But for the 2,717 volunteers of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia the changes were considerable. Their laws and regulations were replaced by the statutes and regulations of Canada, which in general they welcomed because the new provisions were more favourable to them than the old ones. The only problem was battalion numbering. Some Maritime battalions had to take numbers secondary to those of Ontario and Quebec even though they were the older units. 132

The Canadian Volunteer Militia officially had 37,170 men, 21,816 in Ontario and 12,637 in Quebec, and cost the Treasury $1 million a year. It consisted largely of infantry, rifle, cavalry and artillery units, in addition to naval units. There were a few in Ontario from 1862 to 1870 and there was one corps of the Sea Fencibles of Saint John, New Brunswick, from 1833 to 1867. But the most important unit of its type was without a doubt the Nova Scotia Naval Brigade. Established in April 1866, with some 550 men, it consisted of several companies of volunteer seamen in the main ports of the province. These companies were disbanded, however, towards the end of 1868 with the exception of one in Halifax, and this 122-man naval brigade was eventually incorporated into the garrison artillery of the city in 1871. All these troops wore the navy uniform. Finally, from 1869 to 1874 there were two volunteer marine companies wearing the scarlet uniform on the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec, one at Bonaventure and the other at New Carlisle. This was the first and only time that Canada had marines.