The Militia of Lower Canada

Still a Viable Institution

In Lower Canada, the Francophone population appeared to have a more respectful and pragmatic view of the militia, because it still played an important social role. It was mandatory to be part of the militia, but being an officer or a non-commissioned officer was always considered an honour. Moreover, many of the French-Canadian elite had an officer's commission.

Of course during the 1820s militia exercises and tasks could be no more than tedious duties like those performed in the other colonies. But the militia gatherings still resembled shooting competitions and were generally held on May 1, as they had been under the French regime. The gatherings ended with a proper party given by the captain (see Canadian Military Heritage, Volume 1). On St. Peter's Day, the militiamen assembled after Mass at the doors of the church. The captain then had them shout, "Vive le roi!" and "Le pays était sauf, la paix assurée." 90

Many French-Canadian militiamen thus continued to practise their shooting and relations with officers were cordial. The organization was relatively egalitarian and did not really have volunteers in the British or American sense of the word; being a part of the militia was considered a community duty. Except in some staffs and a few city companies, French-Canadian militiamen, officers and soldiers were all considered equal and did not see the need to wear the uniform.