The Canadian Cadet Movement can trace its roots to June 3, 1861 when the Militia General Order authorized the formation of the “Trinity College Volunteer Rifle Company”. The order was Issued just 2 months after the start of the civil war in the United States, and 6 years before Confederation, making this the first volunteer militia rifle company in a Canadian school.

Support for the cadet movement grew with the Red River Rebellion of 1869-70 and the North-West Rebellion (Riel Rebellion) of 1885. During this period, the government increased support to schools providing military training and on July 25, 1879 issued Militia General Order number 18 authorizing the formation 74 “Associations for Drill in Educational Institutions”. These Drill Associations were for young men aged 14 and over who were still in school and are recognized as the official founding of the Cadet Movement.

Unofficially, girls have also participated in the Canadian Cadet Movement almost from the beginning. Often these were “sister” groups to an existing Drill Association, but on 30 July 1975, the Canadian parliament amended the relevant legislation changing the word “boys” to “persons”. Finally, this allowed girls full participation, and support, in the Canadian Cadet Movement.