A Semi-Autonomous Defence (1871-1898)

The Defence of Canada by Canadians

The British Withdrawal from Canada

In Canada the pivotal year of 1871 was marked, from a military standpoint, by the pacification of the border with the United States, which has endured to this day. This new state of affairs brought stability to Britain's finances both through the cancellation of plans to build fortifications in Canada against a potential American invasion and through the departure of British troops from Canadian soil, except for Halifax, which continued to occupy an important place in British naval strategy.

Thus, from 1871 on, Canada somewhat unwillingly shouldered full responsibility for its own defence. It had been doing so increasingly since 1855, as we have seen, and the British North America Act of 1867 included a section on "Militia (Military and Naval Service) and Defence." Why the urgency? In 1867, the possibility of attack from without - that is, from the United States - was quite real and had to be taken into account. The threat posed by violent domestic movements also had to be weighed, along with possible threats to the sprawling British Empire of which Canada was ultimately a part. The latter two options tended to predominate up until 1945, although the vision of the strategists of 1867 did not extend this far into the future.