The Issues Crystallize

The Militia Council

Canadian Control of the Militia

Dundonald was the first commander since Wolseley to arouse the militiaman's enthusiasm. Soon, however, things would turn sour between the Earl and Frederick Borden. Dundonald had taken up one of Hutton's habits and was speaking publicly about the militia and its problems. Even though his 1902 report had not been made public, it had largely been accepted, whereas the 1903 report was revised by the minister. Dundonald grew annoyed at delays, especially when it came to creating the central camp, and at the constant political intrusions into his world.

Dundonald, who cultivated relations with the Conservative opposition, ended his career, lamentably, over a patronage matter. In June 1904 he was shocked when the acting minister, Sidney Fisher, crossed out the name of a Conservative chosen by Dundonald to command a new regiment in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. The major-general protested publicly, and on 14 June an order in council dismissed him from his post. Before leaving the country, he took advantage of the election campaign to get up on any platform that would have him and deliver stinging attacks on the outgoing Liberal regime. These goings-on would not hurt Wilfrid Laurier's team, which was returned to power, but they did bring the public to the realization that Dundonald had been right on the issue that ended in his dismissal.

The circumstances surrounding Dundonald's departure augured well for a reform that had been gathering momentum for years, one that would replace the General Officer Commanding with the Canadian minister of militia and defence as the government's principal advisor on military matters. Borden, who had already set in motion a review of the Militia Act, now brought it to a vote, and the new system came into effect in November 1904. An order in council immediately established the Militia Council (similar to the British Army Council), to include the minister, his deputy minister and the departmental accountant, along with the chief of the general staff, the adjutant-general, the quartermaster-general and the master general of ordnance. Though less powerful than the General Officer Commanding had been, this Council would in fact be more influential. The minister was its unchallenged master. He could vet the agenda for discussion and was better informed about his department's requirements. As for the military members, they were finally made aware of the minister's problems. The first Chief of the General Staff, Brigadier-General P.H.N. Lake, was of British origin. Others of his ilk would follow, but the function would very soon be reserved for native-born Canadians.