In 1867 the four existing provinces of Canada - Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick - were united into one dominion of the British Empire. Later Manitoba (1870), British Columbia (1871), Prince Edward Island (1873), Alberta and Saskatchewan (1905) joined the other provinces. By 1911 Canada had a population of 7.2 million. A quarter of Canadians were French-speaking and most of these lived in Quebec Province.
The French-Canadian, Wilfrid Laurier, the leader of the Liberal Party, became prime minister in 1896 and he held office for fifteen years. Robert Borden, the leader of the Conservative Party, replaced Laurier in October, 1911.
In 1914 Canada had just over 3,000 regular soldiers. Based at harbour fortifications, the Canadian Army was backed up by a militia of local volunteers. Expecting a war in Europe, during the summer of 1914 the Canadian government asked for volunteers to join a Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF).