Threats Internal and External

Assistance to the Civil Authorities

Between 1867 and 1898 the militia acted on 67 occasions to support the civil authorities and twice in penitentiaries. Called on by local authorities, soldiers responded with varying degrees of good grace, since each had to abandon his occupation and renounce his wages for an indeterminate period of time. What is more, up until 1879, when the Canadian government began to fully and quickly reimburse communities for their costs, citizen soldiers knew that some of the towns requesting assistance would be unable to pay them. So long as the police were not formed into solidly structured forces, militiamen would be called in to restore order, and they would be uneasy in the role.

The annual militia report for 1878 listed the difficulties connected with these ad hoc interventions: "Unrest often occurs every year. The militia lack the necessary knowledge, the police are too weak, militiamen are forced to fight people from the same part of the country: a permanent military force is required."

The practice of casting votes by a show of hands caused 13 actual or apprehended riots between 1867 and 1883, 11 of them in Quebec. Amendments to election laws would put an end to militia activity in this area. However, quarrels over language, religion and education, along with annual Orange parades, also served as pretexts for calling in the troops. The hardest events to control were strikes. Raised on the spot, the control party was often made up of men living near the site of the demonstration or related to the people they had to fight. As a rule, militiamen were called in after an initial violent outbreak against persons or property. In over 90 percent of cases their presence alone prevented things from getting out of hand. The lack of real police forces created the need for these militia actions. 34