Publication Year


ISBN: 9781771131797-02

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A Mixed Blessing

The Pacifist Sects of Upper Canada and Exemption from Militia Duty, 1793–1867

From: Worth Fighting For


This chapter provides an overview of colonial militia laws regarding accommodation for those settlers of Upper Canada who were Quaker, Mennonite, or Tunker. By charting the methods by which the colonial government offered militia service exemptions, from a 1793 act to the first militia law passed by the Dominion of Canada in 1868, it emphasizes the long struggle the pacifists undertook to secure such exemptions free of penalty. The chapter identifies moments when the usually apolitical Quakers, Mennonites, and Tunkers protested the terms of exemption under which they suffered and petitioned for better accommodation; demonstrates that accommodations were often a mixed blessing because legal gains secured were regularly accompanied by other unpalatable conditions; and highlights the colonial legacy that informed the federal accommodation of pacifism in the first militia law enacted for the entire Canadian nation after Confederation.



Ross Fair

Ross Fair is an adjunct professor in the Department of History at Ryerson University, where he serves as Academic Coordinator, Continuing Education. His academic interests focus on pre-Confederation Canada, particularly Upper Canada and early Toronto. His work has appeared in the Canadian Historical Review, Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, Ontario History, and elsewhere.