A major effect of the Fenian Raids (1866-1870) was to illustrate the need for the establishment of a permanent military force for Canadian security. Consequently, the Canadian Parliament passed the first federal Militia Act in 1868. George-Étienne Cartier drafted and introduced the legislation. While a conscription (mandatory enlistment) provision was in place, the Active Militia was to be raised on a volunteer basis with an initial strength of 40,000. The Active Militia was required to drill from 8 to 16 days a year. A reserve militia was also established that included all males between the ages of 18 and 60 years of age, but this was essentially a "paper" force.

By February 1869, the Active Militia numbered 37,170 officers and men. When examined on a province-by-province basis, Nova Scotia had 928 militia members; New Brunswick, 1,789; Quebec, 12,637; and Ontario, 21,816. The Reserve Militia theoretically numbered 618,896: Nova Scotia possessed 68,948 reservists; New Brunswick, 53,833; Quebec, 202,579; and Ontario, 293,536.

According to provisions contained within the British North America Act, the British government retained the command of all Canadian militia forces, and the 1868 federal Militia Act confirmed this point. Under this law, the adjutant-general must be a field officer of the British regular army. In 1868, General Frederick Middleton was appointed to this position.


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