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National Resources Mobilization Act (NRMA)

Passed in 1940, the National Resources Mobilization Act (NRMA) allowed conscription for service in North America. In peacetime, Canadians had never had obligatory military service and the public was deeply divided regarding the issue of military conscription for overseas service. The government had promised there would be no conscription for overseas service but, facing much pressure from the military’s forecasts of shortages of men, it decided to hold a referendum on the issue in 1942. Most of English Canada viewed overseas conscription as a necessary evil, but most French-Canadians were against it. The issue sparked a political crisis. Many French-Canadian leaders argued it was a ploy to assimilate francophones and use them as cannon fodder. At that time, Canada’s military services operated in English only, followed British traditions and were an English-Canadian preserve. Although the army made some efforts to create a few francophone regiments and the air force established a francophone squadron during the war, the result of such policies in the services, as historian Jean-Yves Gravel put it, was that without basic equality, the nation could not expect equal sacrifice. However, in spite of the negative attitude toward francophones prevalent in Canada’s armed forces, one serviceman in five was a French-Canadian during the Second World War. Some others preferred to volunteer in the British or American services.

Obligatory overseas conscription was finally enacted in December 1944. There were about 63,000 NRMA conscripts, English and French, disdainfully nicknamed “zombies” by volunteers, now liable to be sent overseas. There ensued protests in army bases right across the country, thousands of would-be draftees vanished and the few thousands sent over to Europe did not make promising candidates to face the battle-hardened German Army. Canada's resolve had been shaken by the NRMA with little gained in the crisis, and the majority of the services until the end of the war consisted of over a million volunteers, out of a total population of eleven million Canadians..


The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was formed in April 1949 by ten European nations, the United States and Canada. Its original purpose was to create a military alliance to counter the perceived threat of the "Soviet Block" countries in Eastern Europe and coordinate a common command structure. Canada contributed air and land forces that were posted in Germany from 1951 to 1993, until after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989.

Naval Brigade (Canadian)

Volunteer militia for naval service. In Canada, units were raised from in 1862. During the period of the Fenian Raids, there were seven companies in Ontario, mostly consisting of yachtsmen and professional sailors. They used small steamers and schooners mounted with light arms. In 1866, the Dunsville Naval Brigade saw action against the Fenians on the vessel W.T. Robb. These companies in Ontario were disbanded shortly thereafter. In early 1867, a large Naval Brigade was organized in Nova Scotia from volunteer seamen, fishermen ‘and other persons accustomed to vessels or boats’. Approximately 554 men divided into ten companies and were enrolled at Halifax, Liverpool, Lunenburg, Digby, Shelburne, Port Mulgrave and Arichat. The numbers later decreased until the last companies in Halifax merged with the volunteer artillery. The officers and men serving in the Naval Brigade companies had naval style uniforms and were well drilled with muskets and cutlasses.

See also: Sea Fencibles

Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO)

Serviceman holding any army rank from corporal to staff sergeant (to flight sergeant in the air forces). Lance Corporal is an appointment, not a rank.


The North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) was a joint Canada-United States air command formed in 1958 to to intercept Soviet aircraft on possible nuclear bombing missions against North America and, if warranted, launch the bombers of the US strategic air force on a similar retaliatory mission against the Soviet Union. The previous system, involving commands split between the RCAF and the United States Air Force, raised fears of failing to react efficiently when under attack. In the interest of rapid and effective retaliation, NORAD placed Canada’s air defences at the disposal of the American commander of NORAD. In the early 1950s, the idea of a single command had been unacceptable to both sides. In 1957, the appointed deputy commander of American air defence HQ at Colorado Springs was a Canadian officer, and this structure was maintained for NORAD. Before the 1960s and advent of long range ballistic missiles that could be fired from submarines, North American early warning systems depended on the DEW, Mid-Canada and Pine Tree lines of radar stations built across Canada.

See also: DEW Line, Mid-Canada Line, Pine Tree Line