A Decade of Turbulence

An Anglophile Militia

The Price Of Exclusion

Title page of Major L.T. Suzor's 'Code Militaire,' 1864

Caption: Title page of Major L.T. Suzor's 'Code Militaire,' 1864

But the total imposition of the British model on all Canadians was a mistake. Any truly national army must show respect for the heritage of its people; otherwise it will be perceived negatively by that part of the population that cannot find a place for itself and its traditions. This, unfortunately, is what happened in Canada. Not only were non-British military traditions rejected out of hand, but, even more pernicious, statistics show that the system either kept servicemen who were not English Canadians out of the high command or totally assimilated the few Francophones who reached those heights. The Anglophile senior officers were afraid that a two-headed army would be created. Their decisions excluded from the militia approximately a third of the able-bodied population, which amounted to an incredible waste of Canadian military potential. It was as if the German Swiss cantons had decided to do without the military support of the Francophone cantons - which would have spelled disaster for their national defence.

Canada paid the political and military price for having excluded a significant portion of its population from an institution as fundamental as the national army. The corollary of such a policy was clearly a lack of national cohesiveness and considerable wrangling over the objectives of the armed forces, each group immediately accusing the other whenever problems arose. And that is precisely what happened only three years after Confederation.