A Semi-Autonomous Defence (1871-1898)

The Defence of Canada by Canadians

The Regular Cavalry And Infantry

In the meantime, however, the Militia Act underwent a number of changes, the most important of which were the amendments of 1883. A central section of the act reads as follows:

It being necessary in consequence of the withdrawal of Imperial regular troops, to provide for the care and protection of forts, magazines, armaments, warlike stores and such like service, also to assure the establishment of Schools for Military Instruction in connection with corps enlisted for continuous service, it shall be lawful for Her Majesty to raise... one troop of cavalry, three batteries of artillery (of which two shall be `A" and "B" Batteries of artillery now embodied) and not more than three companies of infantry - the whole strength of which several corps shall not exceed seven hundred and fifty men. 2

Thus it was that a cavalry school corps appeared in Quebec City (to become the Royal Canadian Dragoons) along with another infantry corps (the Royal Canadian Regiment), which would maintain companies in Fredericton, Saint John and Toronto. These formations would have an approximate strength of one commanding officer, three officers and 150 non-commissioned instructors and men. In 1885 a mounted infantry school was established in Winnipeg; it would later take the name Lord Strathconas Horse.

This restructuring exercise gave the permanent force a stable nucleus, a fact the minister of the day, Adolphe Caron, tried to downplay, emphasizing instead the instructional duties performed by these regular soldiers. Caron explained that this move would help strengthen the civil government, thus enabling it to enforce its laws, forestall domestic disturbances and repel potential attackers. It can be seen that between 1867 and 1883 the main focus of the defence programme shifted from external to domestic threats.

In 1886, following the problems with Louis Riel in the North-West, the Militia Act was amended once again to raise the number of infantry companies from three to five and the total strength of the regular force from 750 to 1,000 men.