A Decade of Turbulence

Canadians Abroad

Ethnic Tensions Within the Militia

The people of Canada supported a wide range of political leanings and sympathies. Although the Fenian movement was clearly unsuccessful in attracting nationals of Irish descent, from the 1850s on there were some ethnic tensions between Irish and British volunteer militia companies. In 1856 the Governor General made it clear that he would not permit any intrigue and that he expected complete harmony within the ranks of the volunteer companies. The following year the Adjutant-General confirmed that the Irish company in Kingston would be entitled to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in uniform, just as a Scottish company "or any other company has to observe the festival of their patron saint," adding that "intolerant feeling" 133 among the Kingston volunteers would have to end. Tensions continued, not only between the Irish and the British, but also among Scottish, English and French Canadians. But the firm position of the authorities concerning ethnic or racial outbursts prevented any serious incident from occurring within the Canadian volunteer forces.