Armed forces are composed of the combined land, naval and air forces prepared to engage in a nation's defence or in warfare. Canada's indigenous armed forces have evolved from the earliest militia through the establishment of the regular army, navy and air force to the modern Canadian Forces.

Militia and Army

Militias, part-time forces based on the adult male population, date from the early Middle Ages - in England from the Anglo-Saxon fyrd (the national militia before the Norman Conquest). By the 18th century the few milices left in France were almost exclusively ceremonial, but in New France the system was revitalized to meet aboriginal and foreign threats to the colony. By Confederation, the name "militia" covered both part-time and regular forces, and it continued to do so until the Second World War. In 1883, the permanent forces were designated Permanent Active Militia (PAM) and later the Permanent Force, while part-timers were designated between the wars as Non-Permanent Active Militia (NPAM). In the Cold War, the NPAM units were designated a Reserve Force. Until unification of Canada's forces in 1968, the Canadian Army consisted of an Active Force and militia units. In 1669 Louis XIV directed that the militia system should be adopted throughout New France. Governor Frontenac appointed a capitaine de milice or capitaine de la côte in each parish, and required all males aged 16-60 to train for 1 or 2 months annually. The honorary capitaines de milice were generally respected by the habitants, and served in both military and civil roles. Younger members adopted the strenuous skills of their aboriginal allies and specialized in swift movement through the forests, and surprise attacks on New England settlements. Clergy and officers from France deplored the cruelty of la petite guerre; practitioners insisted that it was inherent in Native belief systems and traditions. In American colonies, militia service was a universal obligation for males, 16 to 60, but colonial militia provided a recruiting base for recruiting soldiers to meet specific requirements in return for pay.

Along with the Troupes de la Marine, or colonial regular troops raised by France's Minister of the Navy and Colonies, the militia protected the colony until the Seven Years' War brought regular regiments from both England and France. The militia also provided corvée labour to build roads, bridges and fortifications. When General James Wolfe landed near Québec in 1759 the militia was called out in a levée en masse, and several thousand militiamen were incorporated into the regular army that Montcalm had brought from France; however, he did not drill them to fit the tactics of their new comrades. Nor was there manpower to replace their labour on the farms they left behind, aggravating acute food shortages in New France. After the capitulation of Montréal in 1760, the British completed the disarmament of the miliciens of New France but they used the militia captains in the administration of the country. They called up a few hundred miliciens for service during Pontiac's revolt in 1763 and when the Americans invaded Québec in 1775.

In Nova Scotia capitaines de la milice were appointed as early as 1710, and the British created a militia in Halifax in 1749. The chief source of support for the British garrisons in the Maritimes during the American Revolution was regiments raised and paid, as in the American colonies. Regiments raised for service in their colony of origin were termed "fencibles."

In 1793, such provincial regiments were raised in Montréal and Québec. Disbanded in 1802, these Lower Canadian regiments were replaced in 1803 by 1200 militiamen in service battalions. In 1791 Upper Canadian Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe raised a permanent corps of veterans, the Queen's Rangers, for defence and public works. The corps was disbanded in 1802 and replaced in 1811 by a fencible battalion. Simcoe also attempted to establish a compulsory militia based on county boundaries, but there was no provision for training it until 1808.

During the War of 1812, as in the Seven Years' War, militia were primarily assigned to transport and labour duties. Some militia served alongside British regulars and provincial regiments. Although well-trained regulars played the decisive role in saving Upper Canada, localism naturally exaggerated the role of Canadian militia in repelling the invaders (see Voltigeurs). Militia volunteers aided in suppressing the 1837 rebellions in both Upper and Lower Canada and some companies were kept together for several years. With the unification of the Canadas in 1841 the British government raised the Royal Canadian Rifles from its pensioned veterans to serve as garrisons. Veterans had less temptation to desert to the United States.

In 1855 the Militia Acts adopted by the United Canadas retained the principle of compulsory enrolment in the Sedentary Militia but introduced the American idea of volunteer units paid for their days of training. The voluntary principle proved popular in Canada West and many historic militia units date from this period. It was less successful in Canada East and compulsory enrolment survived in theory, if not in practice, for 2 more decades.

When the American Civil War raised fears of an American attack on Canada, an attempt to introduce compulsory training failed, a shock to the British who were struggling to reinforce their endangered colony. By 1863, Parliament had increased the size of the volunteer militia that could be paid to train to 10 000 and the number that could be trained but not paid to 35 000. None were trained in the Canadas before the Civil War ended. In 1866, 20 000 volunteers faced Fenian raiders and two militia battalions were defeated at Ridgeway on 2 June.

After Confederation a Militia Act in 1868 authorized 40 000 volunteers in cavalry, infantry, rifle and artillery units who were to train annually for 8 to 17 days at a cost of $1 million a year. In 1870, 2 militia battalions from Ontario and Québec accompanied British regulars sent to suppress the Red River Rebellion. In 1871, as the last British garrisons left Canada, artillery batteries comprising full-time volunteers formed artillery schools to replace the British at Kingston and Québec. A British General Officer Commanding (GOC) was appointed to the militia in 1874, and the Military College was opened in 1876 at Kingston. In 1883, a third artillery school was opened at Esquimalt, BC. A cavalry school at Québec, infantry schools at Fredericton, St-Jean, Toronto, and later at London, and a mounted-infantry school at Winnipeg were the beginnings of a Permanent Force (PF) of 850-1000 members.

With a core of PF units under the command of a British GOC, Major-General Frederick Middleton, almost 8000 volunteers helped suppress the Métis-First Nation North-West Rebellion in the spring of 1885. Middleton's success added to the militia's prestige and silenced critics of its training, equipment and organization. Middleton's energetic successor, Major-General Ivor Herbert, GOC 1890-95, reformed the PF; he expanded headquarters staff, sent officers to England for training and sought to enhance the militia's popularity in Québec. Herbert was terminated amid the 1895-96 Venezuela crisis, when the US threatened war with Britain over the determination of Venezuela's boundary with British Guiana. Ottawa's reaction to the crisis was to buy a few new British rifles, the long Lee-Enfield.

In 1898, the Laurier government sent 200 PF volunteers as a Yukon Field Force to help police and customs officers maintain order during the Klondike gold rush. When the force returned in 1900, the Laurier government had responded to a British invitation by sending 1000 men to the South African War. Militia volunteers, supplemented by regulars, formed a special service battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) under PF officer Lieutenant-Colonel W.D. Otter. The regiment left Québec at the end of October 1899. A second contingent drew heavily on the permanent staff of the cavalry school and on the North-West Mounted Police to form two battalions of Canadian Mounted Rifles. Most members were recruited from the West. Another regiment, also mainly raised in the West at the expense of Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona, drew 600 Canadians to the South African War. Canada also raised a third battalion of the RCR to relieve the British garrison in Halifax for war service.

Compared to its British model, the Canadian Militia was riddled with political patronage. All but one of its British commanders had their Canadian careers curtailed by quarrels with the minister of militia. Sir Frederick Borden, Laurier's minister of militia and defence 1896-1911, was no exception, but he was anxious for reform. In 1904, he replaced the British GOC with a Militia Council and the way was cleared for a Canadian chief of the general staff. The first was Otter in 1908. Ancillary corps were added: Medical, Army Service Corps, Ordnance, Engineers, Signals, and a Canadian Corps of Guides, since Canada lacked any systematic maps for its border regions. The militia was re-equipped with the Canadian-made Ross rifle.

In 1909 Canada and other dominions agreed at an imperial (defence) conference to standardize organization, regulations and equipment on British models and to accept imperial general staff officers. By 1914, a Conservative government elected in 1911 had completed a defence expansion. Canada's PF numbered 3000 and there were almost 60 000 partially trained militia. All but Saskatchewan enforced cadet training for boys and sometimes girls in their high schools. A mobilization plan had already been prepared. But instead of using this during World War I, Minister of Militia Sir Samuel Hughes created a 30 000 member Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) by appealing for volunteers. The resulting flow of volunteers allowed Canada to build an army corps of four infantry divisions on the Western Front, with a fifth division committed to the defence of England. By mid-1917, the Canadian Corps was commanded by a Canadian, Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie, and it was staffed by Canadians in all but a few key positions.

The capture of Vimy Ridge in April 1917 gave the Corps a proud achievement, but replacing the 10 000 casualties forced Canada's government to reconsider its promise never to conscript soldiers for overseas service. By winning a brutally divisive election in December 1917, Borden's Union government found an additional 100 000 soldiers under the Military Service Act (MSA) and a series of victories by the Canadian corps helped bring the First World War to an end on 11 November 1918.

After the war, two of the Corps's most distinguished battalions joined the RCR, and the total PF establishment was raised to 10 000. Actual allowed strength remained around 4000. Ottawa saw no need to purchase tanks or other modern weapons and militia units were largely self-financed and self-equipped by generous officers. At the height of the Depression only a few more than 2000 men went to camp, and then for only 4 days.

The deteriorating international situation and the obvious imbalances in militia organization led to reorganization in 1936. Non-Permanent Active Militia (NPAM) establishment was reduced from 15 divisions, or 134 000 men, to 7 divisions with 86 557. Some cavalry regiments were designated as "tank" regiments though no tanks were purchased, and by 1939 the number of artillery units had been increased from 97 to 155. The militia began to get new uniforms and equipment to replace WWI issue, and for the first time volunteers even received a pair of service boots.

In World War II Canada fielded an army of 3 infantry and 2 armoured divisions as well as 2 independent armoured brigades. Nearly 750 000 men and women served in the Canadian Army. In June 1940 the National Resources Mobilization Act authorized the government to requisition Canadians' services for home defence. In November 1944, after heavy casualties in Italy and Northwest Europe, the NRMA was amended to permit conscription for overseas service. Only about 2500 conscripts actually served in operational units during the last months of the war in Europe.

The Canadian Army establishment was fixed in 1946 at 25 000 members of the PF. In 1951, Canada authorized formation of an infantry brigade to join United Nations forces in the Korean War, where almost 22 000 Canadians eventually served. In 1952, the Canadian Army's establishment rose to 52 000 to meet Canada's commitment of a brigade to NATO. In the 1950s the militia's 6 divisions were renamed the Reserve Force, but its assignment at the end of the decade to security duties and civil defence, along with the disbandment of some long-established units, weakened morale.

In 1956, Canada's Army found a new role. American condemnation of the British, French and Israeli invasion of Egypt threatened to rip NATO apart at a time when the Soviet Union had threatened London and Paris with a nuclear attack. To enforce a rapid armistice and terminate the conflict, Lester Pearson proposed a Peacekeeping force to separate the opponents with minimum loss of face. Canada promptly offered an infantry battalion, the Queen's Own Rifles, as a neutral force to separate the sides. Egypt's President Nasser rejected the Canadian offer of such British-seeming troops. Ottawa hid its humiliation and instead offered signals and logistic support to the force. A Canadian aircraft carrier delivered 1000 administrative troops to Egypt. A Canadian, Lieutenant-General E.L.M. Burns, took command of the entire United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF). Soon, Canadians would provide army signallers to help control violence in the Congo, more troops to separate Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and other soldiers and equipment wherever peacemaking seemed possible, and often when it was not.

Peacekeeping was popular with most Canadians and, since it usually suited Canada's allies, it gave Ottawa an excuse not to get involved in its allies' wars, notably in Vietnam. It was service with sufficient danger to sustain Army morale without exhausting its strength. Meanwhile, the continuing NATO commitment allowed a brigade of soldiers to train and be equipped for the most technologically advanced forms of land warfare. Peacetime land forces comprised 3 mechanized brigades stationed primarily at Petawawa, Ont; Valcartier, Qué; and Wainwright, Alta.

See also Regiment.


Indigenous naval forces in North America can be traced to the colonial period. Until the late 19th century, armed flotillas met specific colonial, provincial or national needs, both on the coasts and on the Great Lakes. Anglo-German naval rivalry nourished the idea that the fisheries-protection vessels of the Department of Marine and Fisheries should become a separate organization, and on 29 March 1909 Parliament approved expenditure on a Canadian naval service to co-operate with Britain's Royal Navy. On 4 May 1910 the Naval Service Act brought the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) into being. The navy was a major political issue, and it suffered severe setbacks under Conservative rule between 1911 and 1914. Divided between Halifax, NS, and Esquimalt, BC, it was directed from a distant headquarters in Ottawa. L.P. Brodeur, the first minister, George J. Desbarats, deputy minister, and Rear-Admiral Charles E. Kingsmill, RN (retired), director, were transferred from the Department of Marine and Fisheries; they understood the navy's problems, but the naval staff sometimes failed to appreciate the fleet's needs, and often it could not explain them to government.

After WWI, Conservative and Liberal administrations alike starved the navy. Commodore Walter Hose, director of the naval service 1921-28 and chief of the naval staff (CNS) 1928-34, had to resist efforts by the militia to subordinate and even disband it. Forced to close the Royal Naval College of Canada in 1922, Hose established the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1923. Rear-Admiral Percy Nelles, CNS 1934-44, built on this foundation when international tension in the late 1930s at last, and almost too late, aroused Ottawa to the need for an effective navy.

In both world wars, U-Boat threats in the western Atlantic led to the unexpected growth of the RCN. In 1917-18 this simply meant diverting to Canada's East Coast resources previously allocated to the Royal Navy. In 1941 it meant creating a major oceanic fleet through a massive program of shipbuilding and recruiting. Anticipated commitments in the Pacific compounded the problem in 1943. The RCN grew from 13 warships and about 3000 men in 1939 to 365 warships and 100 000 personnel in 1945. At first expansion diluted efficiency, especially in the navy's main function, convoy escort.

Partly because Naval Service Headquarters mounted skilful shore-based control of shipping, radio-intercept and intelligence operations, and partly because Canada provided half the escorts on the North Atlantic routes (see Battle of the Atlantic), Britain and the US agreed to establish a new theatre of operations, the Canadian Northwest Atlantic. On 1 May 1943 Rear-Admiral L.W. Murray became the theatre's commander in chief, an appointment unique in Canadian history. From 1943 to 1945 the RCN became the third-largest navy among the Allies, and satisfactorily carried out a wide variety of operations in many theatres.

Canadians often saw the RCN as a pale imitation of the RN; Prime Minister Mackenzie King suspected that the Canadian service was a mere instrument of the British Admiralty. Nevertheless, to preserve a continuing oceanic fleet, in 1945 his government approved a small permanent navy of 2 aircraft carriers, 2 cruisers and 12 destroyers. However, there was no rush to join the regular navy and it was necessary to extend the service of some reserve personnel who had joined during the war. Relations between officers and men soured under the pressures of adjustment to peacetime. After 3 mutinies in 1949, Rear-Admiral E. Rollo Mainguy presided over a commission that eloquently urged casting off certain inappropriate British customs. Its report, which was received with mixed feelings by the naval profession, became the RCN's Magna Carta.

In the Korean War, 1950-53, the RCN kept a force of 3 destroyers in Korean waters. By 1964, fed by Cold War tensions, the navy comprised 1 aircraft carrier (the Bonaventure), 22 Canadian-designed and Canadian-built destroyers, 17 ocean escorts of WWII vintage, 10 coastal mine sweepers and 21 500 personnel, committed for the most part to antisubmarine operations in NATO. Unification followed in 1968. Bitter opposition came from naval officers, many of whom resigned; Rear-Admiral W.M. Landymore was so vocal and indiscreet that he was dismissed.

The hardening of the Cold War in the wake of the hostilities in Korea fostered a defence budget boom and new challenges for the navy, which included the growing antisubmarine role that would dominate its Cold War commitments as part of Canada's contribution to NATO and continental defence. New ships such as the St. Laurent class antisubmarine destroyer escorts (DDEs) were introduced, along with their follow-on classes Restigouche and Mackenzie. The WWII era aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent was replaced by the more modern Bonaventure in 1957, which was scrapped after its refit by Pierre Trudeau's Liberal government in 1968. The navy also had a limited role in the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Minister of National Defence Douglas Harkness, without approval from PM Diefenbaker, ordered RCN destroyers to relieve coastal US navy ships in the blockade of Cuba.

In the early 1960s, the RCN introduced the use of ship-launched Sea King helicopters. With the unification of the Canadian forces, the RCN was replaced by Maritime Command (MARCOM), which also assumed the RCAF's antisubmarine squadrons.

The 1970s saw the navy continue its role in antisubmarine warfare, though it dwindled in size and was compromised by increasing maintenance and fuel costs for the aging ships. In 1976, a limited rebuilding program was begun for patrol frigates and Lockheed Aurora patrol planes, but the navy continued to "rust out" through the 1970s. As both Soviet and American incursions into arctic waters provoked concern about Canadian sovereignty, plans were proposed to create modern frigates and a nuclear powered submarine fleet to enhance the navy's ability to assert power in the Arctic. Public outcry dashed these plans in the 1980s.

On 1 Aug 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. In response to the ensuing diplomatic tension, Canada's initial contribution to the conflict mirrored that of its last serious military engagement in Korea 40 years earlier. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney offered the destroyers HMCS Terra Nova and Athabaskan, along with the supply ship Protecteur, to the region as part of a US-led move to pressure Iraq out of Kuwait. The ships and their crew of 1000 were hurriedly prepared for the first serious naval engagement since 1953, leaving for the Gulf on 24 Aug 1990 to participate in the blockade of Iraq, where they performed well despite the aged naval assets.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, Canada ended its contribution to NATO forces in Germany. Some of the money released from this commitment was parleyed into a modernization programme for the navy, although the programme to replace the aging Sea King helicopters was scrapped by Jean Chrétien's Liberal government in 1993.

The end of the Cold War shifted the navy's focus from antisubmarine operations to other domestic and international tasks. Among them were two domestic enforcement missions. In late July 2000, the American cargo vessel GTS Katie had been hired to ship Canadian military personnel and materiel back from the Balkans in the wake of the NATO victory against Serbia's invasion of the largely Albanian province of Kosovo in the spring of 1999 (Operation Allied Force). When the Katie sailed off its agreed course, the navy conducted Operation Megaphone, a boarding mission to secure Canadian interests. The navy also conducted enforcement missions against Spanish ships accused of over-fishing in the Grand Banks (Operation Ocean Vigilance, 1995-1997).

Abroad, the Canadian navy also participated in humanitarian relief efforts in East Timor (Operation Toucan), escort missions for aid deliveries to Somalia (Operation Deliverance and Relief, 1992-1993), peace enforcement operations in Haiti (Operation Forward Action, 1993-1994), UN sanction enforcement on Iraq (Operation Tranquility, 1995; Operation Prevention, 1997; Operation Augmentation, 1998-2005; and Operation Determination, 2002) as well as UN sanction enforcement on Serbia (Operation Sharp Guard, 1993-1996).

The threat of international terrorism in the wake of attacks on the US on 11 Sep 2001 saw the Canadian navy active on the world stage. As part of Operation Apollo, from October 2001 to December 2003, the HMCS Halifax and, later, the HMCS Calgary, as well as nearly 4000 sailors, served in the Arabian Gulf Region, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, conducting boarding parties, as well as providing logistics, support and reconnaissance efforts. At its peak, the Canadian Naval Task Force contribution to Op Apollo was 1500 personnel and six warships. While deployed, the Canadian navy conducted force-protection operations, fleet-support operations, leadership interdiction operations and maritime interdiction operations. By the end of Op Apollo, 18 of Canada's 20 ships had been deployed, and Canadian naval boarding party personnel had hailed more than 10 000 ships and conducted more than 260 boardings, nearly 60 percent of the entire coalition fleet's boardings.

After the end of Op Apollo, the Canadian navy became engaged in Operation Altair as part of the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, contributing such ships as HMCS Toronto and Winnipeg in the Persian Gulf, with the primary roles of surveillance patrols and maritime interdiction operations.

The navy has also maintained roles outside of the war on terror. Since 2008, Canada has begun to increase its naval role in NATO's anti-piracy effort off the Horn of Africa (Operation Ocean Shield, 2007-2009, Operation Sextant, 2009-). The Canadian navy continues to maintain a role in relief efforts. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the US in the summer of 2005, the Canadian army and navy contributed to the relief with ships HMC Ville de Québec, Athabaskan and Toronto deployed to the region. The Canadian navy also contributed to the post-earthquake relief efforts in Haiti (Operation Hestia) in 2010.

Air Force

The Royal Canadian Air Force was formed on 1 April 1924, and lost its distinct identity with the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces in 1968. Before 1914 military aviation in Canada did not exist. J.A.D. McCurdy and F.W. "Casey" Baldwin, members of Alexander Graham Bell's Aerial Experiment Association, carried out flight trials of the Silver Dart and Baddeck I in August 1909 at Petawawa, Ontario, but aroused little interest in the Department of Militia and Defence. Military and naval aviation underwent extraordinary development after WWI began, but the reluctance of the Canadian government to develop a distinct air force persisted until late in the war. Over 20 000 Canadians served as pilots, observers and ground support staff in the British Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Naval Air Service and, after 1 April 1918, the Royal Air Force.

The publicity given to Canadian participation in the air war, and especially to the exploits of such outstanding fighter pilots as W.A. Bishop, W.G. Barker, Raymond Collishaw and D.R. MacLaren, helped to build pressure for the establishment of a distinctly Canadian service. So did the fact that German long-range submarines were a threat to shipping on Canada's East Coast. The Borden government accordingly authorized the creation of 2 small forces: the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service, for coastal defence, and the Canadian Air Force, which was intended to work with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on the Western Front. Both organizations were short-lived, the RCNAS being disbanded in December 1918 and the CAF in mid-1919.

Before the fledgling CAF was dissolved, steps had already been taken to formulate a national aviation policy. An air board, chaired by Minister of Customs A.L. Sifton, was appointed in June 1919 and given the task of advising government on future aviation policy. This board laid the foundation for the development and regulation of civil aviation and, on the assumption that military aviation strength really depended upon a strong commercial sector, envisaged the formation of only a small, temporary military air force. The Canadian Air Force was thus established in April 1920, but it was soon clear that something more permanent was required.

Under the National Defence Act of 1922 the Air Board was absorbed by the new Department of National Defence, and its civil and military air arms were united under the director of the CAF, who reported to the army chief of staff (later chief of the general staff). The CAF was now a permanent force. Not until November 1938 did the air force's senior officer become chief of the air staff, directly responsible to the Minister of National Defence. In 1923 the CAF was designated "Royal," and on 1 April 1924, when the King's Regulations and Orders for the Royal Canadian Air Force came into effect, it adopted the RAF ensign, motto, uniforms and rank structure, and even the same official birthdate.

Despite these colonial trappings, the RCAF was a Canadian service. Until the early 1930s about half the RCAF's manpower performed civil air operations. The bulk of the RCAF's duties included forest spraying and fire patrol, fisheries and customs surveillance on both coasts, mercy flights and aerial photography (which contributed greatly to the mapping and Geological Survey of remote areas). Aircraft, such as the Canadian Vickers Vedette flying boat, were designed for such missions.

In 1928 the force purchased a few Siskin fighters and Atlas army co-operation aircraft from Britain to replace its long-retired military aircraft. No further important purchases were made during the Great Depression. For the first half of the interwar period, therefore, Canada had a military flying service in name only, although connections with the RAF, through exchanges, a liaison staff and the posting of Canadian officers to British staff schools, ensured a degree of professionalism and some acquaintance with air doctrine.

When WWII began in 1939, the RCAF had no first-class aircraft or other equipment, with the exception of some Hawker Hurricanes. Nevertheless, a framework for future expansion had been established. Western and Eastern Air Commands were responsible for coastal air defence, and Training Command was centred at Trenton, Ontario. Eight Permanent Active Air Force squadrons and 12 Auxiliary Active Air Force squadrons had been organized.

The key to wartime expansion was the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This vast program graduated 131 553 aircrew by its close, of whom 72 835 were Canadian. Despite the Canadian government's commitment to training Commonwealth aircrew, it did not accord the RCAF an independent status commensurate with that of the Canadian Army during the war. Although the BCATP Agreement contained a British undertaking that Commonwealth aircrew "shall ... be identified with their respective Dominions," the Canadian government failed to provide financially for the ground crew needed to support Canadian aircrew overseas, or for full financing of Canadian aircrew serving abroad, or even for the support of Canadian air units overseas. As a result, Canadian pilots, navigators, air gunners and other aircrew found themselves dispersed throughout the RAF, rather than being concentrated in RCAF groupings. Minister for National Defence for Air C.G. Power, with the assistance of the RCAF senior officers, prevailed upon the RAF to permit the formation of more RCAF squadrons as the war progressed.

Of 250 000 men and women in the wartime RCAF, 94 000 served overseas. Most airmen flew with the RAF, but 48 separate Canadian squadrons took part in operations around the globe, from No. 1 (later 401) Squadron's participation in the Battle of Britain to 435 and 436 (Transport) Squadrons' missions in India and Burma during the final days of the conflict with Japan. 417 Squadron and 331 Wing fought in North Africa, and the former went on into Italy.

Canadian squadrons played a part in all RAF operational home commands. They formed a group of their own, 6 Group (RCAF) in Bomber Command, and contributed half the strength of the RAF's 83 Composite Group in the Second Tactical Air Force. Airmen such as C.M. "Black Mike" McEwen, G.E. Brookes, and George "Buzz" Beurling carried on the tradition of Bishop, Barker, Collishaw and MacLaren.

From the beginning, the RCAF was deeply involved in the Battle of the Atlantic. Squadrons from East Coast bases carried out convoy duties and antisubmarine patrols, flying Lockheed Hudsons and Venturas, Catalinas, Cansos and Liberators. RCAF squadrons participated with American forces in the defence of Alaska against Japanese incursions. In addition, the RCAF flew on antisubmarine duties in the Far East.

Bomber Command was the largest RAF operational command. Into it were poured thousands of Canadian BCATP graduates to take part in the massive area-bombing campaign. Canadians were involved from the start, but the first Canadian unit was 405 Squadron, which was operational in mid-1941 and was part of the elite Pathfinder group. In January 1943, 6 Group became operational, commanded first by Brookes and then by McEwen. Wing Commander J.E. Fauquier was the leading Canadian bomber pilot. Casualties were heavy; of the more than 17 000 fatalities suffered by the RCAF during WWII, nearly 10 000 were sustained in Bomber Command.

By late 1946 RCAF numbers had dwindled to 13 000. The permanent force resumed such duties as transport, search and rescue, and survey patrols. Jet flight did not enter the service until 1948, when some British Vampires were purchased. In the Korean War, Canada's official air contribution was limited to the transport duties of 426 Squadron, although some RCAF pilots flew with the US Air Force. The Cold War threat reversed the trend towards reducing the RCAF's size. In February 1951 the Canadian government committed an air division of 12 fighter squadrons to Europe as part of its NATO involvement. In 1958 Canada and the US joined in the formation of the North American Air Defence Command (NORAD); in addition to substantial home defence commitments, this new orientation in Canadian defence policy meant that a Canadian became deputy commander. The first to serve was Air Marshal C.R. Slemon.

Canadian air defence in the post-1945 period relied heavily upon foreign-produced aircraft, a policy underlined by the cancellation of the Avro Arrow in 1959. The tendency to respond to outside initiatives, a long-term characteristic of the RCAF, did not end with the disappearance of the force when the armed services were unified in 1968. In today's Canadian Forces, signs of the RCAF remain, as in its numbered squadrons and in the less tangible, but no less real, air force spirit.

See also Snowbirds.

Unification and After

The Canadian Forces Reorganization Bill, proclaimed 1 February 1968, abolished the RCN, the Canadian Army and the RCAF, and created a single service, the Canadian Armed Forces, with regular and reserve components and the potential for a special force to meet NATO, United Nations or other external commitments. The experiment of unification was unique to Canada and was not imitated by other countries. Within a decade the 3 service identities had re-emerged to some degree.

Integration had been a recurrent policy since the establishment of a single National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ) in 1922. Under Brooke Claxton, Minister of National Defence 1946-54, Canada's military colleges and systems of military law had been unified, as had other aspects of military administration. During the years of John Diefenbaker's Conservative government (1957-63), medical, legal and chaplains' services were integrated.

The armed forces expected major changes when the Liberals returned to power in 1963. Military leaders could not escape some responsibility for the indecision and confusion in defence policies which had helped bring down the Diefenbaker government. The Glassco Royal Commission (1963) was highly critical of inefficiency and triplication of administration. It seemed reasonable to blame administrative waste for part of the rapid decline of capital spending in the defence budget, from 42.4% in 1954 to 18.9% in 1962. In Opposition, the Liberals had dropped their earlier arguments against nuclear warheads, but promised a searching review of defence policy and an easing out of alliance roles involving nuclear arms.

Toronto businessman Paul Hellyer had been defence critic in Opposition, and as minister of defence he first undertook the promised policy review. When his report appeared in March 1964, adjectives such as "mobile,""flexible" and "imaginative" and an emphasis on Prime Minister Lester Pearson's favourite accomplishment, peacekeeping, did not conceal a continuing commitment to NATO, to continental air defence and to domestic security. Almost overlooked was the one-line promise of "a single unified defence force."

Unification had not been Hellyer's policy initially. The idea grew on him as he tried to deal with 3 service chiefs, each struggling for his own service. The Glassco Commission had found over 200 interservice committees, few of them collaborating. In future, Hellyer believed, the services would have to work closely together. His first step, approved by Parliament on 7 July 1964, was full integration of National Defence Headquarters under a single Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS). Staff functions were divided among 4 branches: operations, personnel, logistics and finance. There was little criticism. Even the services welcomed a streamlined headquarters if it would fulfil the promise of badly needed new equipment.

On 7 June 1965, navy, army and air force commands were replaced by 6 functional commands, most of them with regional responsibilities. Maritime Command took over the RCN's ships and the RCAF's antisubmarine squadrons on both coasts. Mobile Command at St-Hubert, Québec, was to control the army's brigade groups and militia and the RCAF's ground-support squadrons. Training Command and Material Command integrated tri-service functions, while Air Defence and Air Transport commands passed unaltered from the RCAF. Communications Command was added later; Canada's ground and air forces in Europe reported directly to Ottawa. On 1 May 1966 camps, stations and the navy's land-based "ships" became 39 Canadian Forces Bases. Unified training schools and a single pay system took shape.

Many senior officers now expected a breathing space, but Hellyer's commitment to unification was undiluted. Institutional changes had gone far to make unification natural. When senior officers protested, Hellyer regarded their opposition as verging on a challenge to civil supremacy over the military. Politicians, editors and cartoonists often ridiculed the officers' objections. The public was reminded that several who resigned in protest enjoyed generous pensions. By appointing General Jean-Victor Allard as CDS, Hellyer secured an enthusiast for unification and for eliminating many British features of the forces.

Although debate over the Reorganization Bill was prolonged and sometimes rancorous, the legislation passed the Commons with NDP and Social Credit support. Within a year, members of the Canadian Forces began to appear in new green uniforms modelled on those of the US Air Force, with rank badges recognizable to American as well as Canadian personnel.

The public spectacle of integration and unification overshadowed government efforts to find new roles and equipment for its revamped military organization. Instead of reducing international roles to fit reduced strength, the government committed major forces to peacekeeping in Cyprus in 1964 - a "brief" task that lasted 30 years. The search for a non-nuclear role in NATO led to a promise to send forces to Norway if NATO's northern (and non-nuclear) flank was threatened.

The ill-equipped Canadian brigade group in Germany did not receive armoured personnel carriers until 1967 or modern tanks until 1977. When air force advisers asked for American-built F-4 Phantoms, the government chose the CF-5, a cheaper, less sophisticated aircraft. A navy program of 8 general-purpose frigates was cancelled and replaced by construction of 4 helicopter-equipped destroyers for antisubmarine work and a costly refit of the single aircraft carrier, the Bonaventure.

Well aware that public opinion and most colleagues favoured defence cuts, Hellyer negotiated a fixed budget of $1.5 billion a year for his department. His drastic reorganization, with the accompanying drop in personnel, was a trade-off for modernization. Inflation ate up most of the savings. A destroyer worth $20 million in 1960 cost $50 million by 1967. Canadian apathy regarding defence spending grew with the decade and with criticism of American involvement in Vietnam. Domestic concerns, inflation, unemployment and Québec separatism preoccupied Canadians.

On 26 June 1968, Canadian voters gave their confidence to a new Liberal leader, P.E. Trudeau, who promised systematic policymaking and a cure for the "strategist's cramp" that had bound Canadian defence since WWII. On 3 April 1969 the new prime minister proclaimed new defence priorities: surveillance of Canadian territory and coastlines (protection of sovereignty); defence of North America in co-operation with the US; fulfilment of NATO commitments; and performance of any international peacekeeping roles Canada might assume.

The list turned Hellyer's 1964 priorities upside down. Peacekeeping, the justification for Hellyer's unification, was lowest; "surveillance" was now on top. Hellyer's successor as Minister of National Defence, Léo Cadieux, went to Brussels to warn of drastic cuts in Canada's NATO force. In August 1969 Canada's NATO contingent of 10 000 was halved and the remaining ground forces were transferred from British to American command. In Parliament, Cadieux announced that Armed Forces strength would fall from 110 000 to 80-85 000. Bonaventure, newly refitted, was scrapped. Five regular regiments vanished from the active list. Most CF-5 fighters went into storage.

The new policies were costly and military leaders took the blame. Disposal of the costly aircraft carrier, the mothballing of an experimental hydrofoil and delivery of the now-inappropriate new destroyers made Maritime Command look foolish. One consequence of criticism was a 1972 policy of "civilianization" in NDHQ.

The government's policies, summarized in Defence in the Seventies (1970), elaborated the military role in ensuring Canadian sovereignty, not merely in the Arctic and on the oceans but in Aid to the Civil Power. This last was a historic but half-forgotten role for Canadian forces, but urban violence in the US and potential peacekeeping roles had justified planning and training. In October 1969 troops were rushed to Montréal when rioting accompanied a police strike.

A much more massive intervention occurred during the October Crisis: on 14 October 1970 troops were ordered to Ottawa to protect public buildings and prominent figures. On October 16 Prime Minister Trudeau proclaimed the War Measures Act, and more than 10 000 troops in battle order were soon deployed in Montréal, Québec and Ottawa. It was a dramatic and dangerous exercise of power. Some officers recognized that such activity posed great danger for the Armed Forces as an institution. The troops were fortunate that they could withdraw as early as November 12 without suffering or inflicting casualties.

The October Crisis heightened awareness of the importance of making the Canadian forces more representative of an essentially bicultural nation. The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism had demonstrated that the Armed Forces remained typical of federal institutions which frustrated French-speaking Canadians. Outside of a few army units, the forces operated almost entirely in English. Few French Canadians had ever reached the highest ranks. In 2 world wars, unilingualism of the forces had contributed to bitterly divisive conscription crises. The Trudeau government was determined to make federal agencies effectively bilingual, and the Armed Forces were an obvious place to start.

New policies included expansion of language training, recruiting and promotion policy to achieve proportional representation through the rank structure, separate training for French-speaking personnel covering most of the 300 specialist trades, and French-language ships, flying squadrons and ground-force units. The program, coinciding with sharp reductions in overall strength, a weak budget and allegations of political interference, was acutely unpopular with the English-speaking majority. The French-language units often made the Armed Forces look as divided as the country they served. Time, patience and new generations of personnel were expected to gradually make bilingualism, like unification, seem more natural.

Both experiments had been easier because it was unclear how Canadian forces could be used in a world that seemed to be moving towards détente. But in the 1970s the world began to appear more dangerous. The creation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its power to raise oil prices revealed unexpected vulnerability among Western industrialized countries. The growth of a powerful Soviet fleet with a potential global reach added to a threat hitherto limited to massive armoured forces and powerful missile batteries.

The Canadian government, seeking to improve commercial relations with Europe, discovered the cost of the 1969 decision to halve the NATO contingent: not only could the remnant not be removed, but its obsolete tanks and aircraft had to be replaced to assuage the anger of NATO partners. Despite painful and costly delays, Canada began re-equipping (see Armaments). During the 7-year process of choosing a maritime patrol plane, the price rose from $300 million to more than $1 billion. The search for a new fighter airplane led to the McDonnell Douglas F-18D, essentially an unproven aircraft. The decisive consideration was the amount of business the deal would distribute to Québec and Ontario industries. While the aging ships and aircraft of Maritime Command spent long periods in harbour awaiting repairs, delivery dates for 6 patrol frigates receded into the late 1980s and the 1990s.

The reluctant commitment to re-equip reflected a belated realization that Canada's influence in the world was not improved by the debilitated state of its Armed Forces. Purchases of German Leopard tanks and American aircraft served as much a diplomatic as a military purpose. Even domestic opinion appeared to support a modest strengthening of the forces. Before the 1979 election, the Trudeau government promised to add 4700 men and women to a uniformed strength that had fallen to 78 000 and to add a capital-spending program equal to at least 20% of the defence budget. The commitment was endorsed by Joe Clark's Conservative government, which won the election. Clark's government also established a task force to report on the possible unscrambling of unification.

The task force reported to a renewed Liberal government. Unification was not to be undone. Its original rigour had already begun to fade. The functional commands had been modified by 1975 to restore a shadow of the original 3 services: Maritime Command, Mobile Command and Air Command. Officers in charge, isolated in Halifax, St-Hubert and Winnipeg, were granted improved access to NDHQ. Distinctions developed in the training and career planning of members of each command, but it took the 1984 victory of the Conservatives and a new minister, Robert Coates, to revive 3 separate service uniforms though with common badges and rank insignia.

When Coates resigned in 1985, his interim successor, Erik Nielsen, was preoccupied by government cost-cutting. Only in the summer of 1986 did National Defence receive an effective full-time minister, Perrin Beatty. In June 1987, he delivered the Conservatives' long-promised white paper on defence.

For the most part, the paper reflected trends in Defence Policy developed through the 1980s. Like many of their European allies, many Canadian leaders regarded the aggressive, confrontational style of Ronald Reagan's White House with some alarm. Yet it had been apparent to Liberals and Conservatives alike that Canada had to renovate its conventional military strength in order to influence Washington and show solidarity with the Europeans. Reagan's first visit to Ottawa in March 1981 was the occasion for the third renewal of the NORAD agreement; his first lengthy meeting with Brian Mulroney, at Québec in March 1985, occasioned announcement of a substantially improved and modernized North Warning System which would be capable of tracking the new threat of Cruise missiles.

The Beatty white paper of 1987 reiterated Canada's commitment to both its military alliances and its traditional search for peace. After a 1986 exercise confirmed that it was impractical, Canada abandoned its commitment to share in the defence of Norway but promised the same forces.

The main thrust of the new policy, however, was a renewed emphasis on the defence of Canada and particularly northern air space and sea lanes. Beatty's proposal to modernize the Canadian navy with a dozen nuclear-powered submarines, capable of operating under arctic ice, was a bold bid to move Canada's fleet from the 1950s to the 1990s. The audacity of the proposal and its projected cost provoked opposition.

By 1989 Perrin Beatty's nuclear submarine program had been sunk by public outcry, masking more discreet opposition from Washington. And by 1990 the Cold War foundations of postwar Canadian defence policy had collapsed as completely as the Berlin Wall. The priorities of a new defence policy were home defence - largely interpreted as aid or assistance to the civil power; continental defence in co-operation with the United States; and upholding international peace and security.

Most countries reduced defences after 1990, but Canada's commitment to international peace and security, shared with other liberal democracies, added to its defence burden. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 led to the first UN peacemaking operation since the Korean War, with the United States and its NATO allies providing most of the force. Canada's contribution to the 1990-91 Gulf War included 2 destroyers and a supply ship in the Persian Gulf and a squadron of 24 CF-18 fighters based at Qatar. Canadian soldiers guarded the camp, and a Canadian field hospital arrived as fighting ceased. All 2400 Canadians who served in the Gulf returned alive after 12 days of fighting. The cost of the deployment was taken from a shrinking defence budget.

In the autumn of 1991, Beatty's successor, William McKnight, announced that armed forces strength would be significantly reduced, from 83 000 to 75 000 regulars and 30 000 reserves at a cost of $12 billion. Modernization of the North Warning System would continue, and the Canadian forces would officially integrate regulars and 30 000 reservists as a "Total Force." After 1991 warnings and after toying with leaving behind a symbolic contingent, the Mulroney government closed Canada's 2 military bases in Germany in 1993. Units in Europe came home to be disbanded as a deficit-cutting measure.


Though ships and aircraft provided Canada's front line in the Gulf War, the chaotic post-1990 world placed most of its stress on Canada's shrinking army. During August and September 1990, most of the 5th Mechanized Brigade from Valcartier was deployed to support Québec police at Oka against the defiant Mohawks of Kanesatake and Kahnewake.

After weeks of brutal civil war between Serbs and Croats, Ottawa agreed on 24 February 1992 to send 2 battalions, 1200 troops, from its brigade in Germany as part of a UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) to intervene between the warring sides in the former Yugoslavia. After the UN insisted on placing UNPROFOR headquarters in Sarajevo, the city exploded as the heart of a murderous struggle between Bosnian Serbs and Moslems. Major-General Lewis Mackenzie, the Canadian deputy commander, found himself trying to limit the slaughter in the newest Yugoslav civil war, while both sides used him and his men as targets to win media attention.

With Canada's forces over-stretched, Prime Minister Mulroney announced at the end of 1992 that, after 30 years and 24 dead, Canada's commitment to a UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus would end. Another commitment promptly took its place. In Somalia, in the strategic Horn of Africa, clan warfare and mass starvation followed the collapse of the Siad Barre regime. When Washington decided to intervene, Ottawa sent Canada's airborne battalion as part of another US-led peacemaking operation. Garrisoned at Belet Huen, Canadian troops experienced heat, boredom and nightly thefts. The torture and murder of a young intruder on 16 March 1993, videotaped by one of those involved, grew into a national scandal, exposing serious problems with leadership, discipline and morale. Junior ranks, directly involved, were punished while senior officers seemed to be immune. Eventually the Somalia affair, with its cruelty, cover-ups and lack of accountability, besmirched the benign peacekeeping image of the Canadian Forces and cost 2 Chiefs of Defence Staff their jobs. Meanwhile, when their humanitarian intervention turned the warlords into patriots fighting an imperial invasion, the Americans counted their losses and withdrew.

In Rwanda, in central Africa, rival Hutu and Tutsi factions had ended their cruel civil war with a UN-brokered peace. When the Hutu president was killed, Major-General Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the UN's tiny supervisory force, warned that trouble was imminent. After the Somalia mess, UN members in New York were indifferent. On 7 April 1993, Hutu militias set out to slaughter half a million people, including 10 Belgian paratroopers. Other contingents fled, leaving Dallaire with a small battalion of Ghanaians to do what he could for terrified survivors.

Liberals in Power

Elected on 25 October 1993, a new Liberal government promptly cancelled a multi-billion dollar order for 50 EH-101 helicopters, launched a judicial inquiry into the Somalia Affair and announced $1.6 billion in defence cuts. The National Defence College and 2 of 3 cadet colleges were closed, including the main source of francophone officers at St-Jean, Qué. A score of bases, from the Annapolis Valley to the BC interior, but chiefly in cities, were shut down and, where possible, sold. Most of the air force's CF-18s were mothballed. A commission under retired Chief Brian Dickson set out to shrink the 201 historic but under-strength militia units. Gender equity policy-makers ordered the forces to ensure that 25% of the members of combat units be women. In September 1994 a government defence policy paper promised a balanced force, able to "fight alongside the best against the best," but anti-deficit policies cut the forces to 60 000 regulars, 23 000 reservists, and 20 000 civilian employees, and the defence budget, by the end of the century, to under $10 billion.

Like other public employees in the 1990s, Forces members found promotions stalled, salaries frozen and workloads increased. Service morale suffered. When old videos of Airborne Regiment hazing got international play in January 1995, an embarrassed government ordered the unit disbanded. No commander dared intervene. The magazine Esprit de Corps denounced senior officers as self-serving and greedy. A parliamentary commission learned that lower-rank pay was so low that some married soldiers sought part-time jobs or visited food banks to feed their families. After 2 years of delays and hearings about alleged cover-ups, the Somalia Commission had become a media circus. When it sought an extension in October 1996 new Defence Minister Doug Young wound it up, removed the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jean Boyle, and sought other advice on how to improve Canadian Forces morale and efficiency. Young restored navy, army and air force headquarters, brought them back to Ottawa and cut the number of generals from 83 to 70.

The Somalia commissioners were indignant and their report denounced just about everyone associated with National Defence. The Commission's 160 recommendations would have civilianized most of the procedures of military law and forced service commanders to act under continuous civilian oversight. Action was accelerated when the first woman infantry captain and the first woman fighter pilot revealed their experiences of sexual harassment. Other women felt emboldened to tell their stories of sexual assault, abuse and failure to find redress. New procedures for grievances were devised to bypass the rank structure, and special indoctrination in ethics became policy. By the end of 1997 most of the Commission's recommendations had been accepted. The Canadian Forces acquired an ombudsman, a "snitch line" for anonymous complaints but not an inspector-general, authorized to report problems directly to Parliament. Commanders emphasized ethics and accountability and ordered their staff to recruit the required quota of women.

Canadian Forces' operational effectiveness diminished through the decade. Once their initial defects were corrected the navy's new Halifax-class frigates were close to "state of the art" and an extra 6, added to the class to create jobs in New Brunswick, was a long-term asset. However, cancellation of new helicopter purchases left the frigates without their best antisubmarine weapon and forced air force pilots to fly 1960s-vintage Labrador and Sea King helicopters. Canadian fighter pilots flew 1970s vintage fighters kept only partly compatible with their US Air Force partners in air defence. The army's 1970s-era Leopard tanks were obsolete and experience in Bosnia showed that the Cougar, a wheeled tank-trainer, provided little protection to its crew. In 1997 the government finally authorized new search-and-rescue helicopters very much like those they had cancelled in 1993. They also agreed to buy 4 second-hand British submarines, but dickered so long that seawater immersion forced additional costly refits in Canada. Not even violent peacekeeping made the army a priority, although a "clothe the soldier" program promised new helmets and all-weather combat clothing.

Time, and assistance during natural disasters, partially improved the Canadian Forces' image. In March 1995 a Canadian warship seized a Spanish trawler for over-fishing in international waters. The "Turbot War" gave Canadians an argument for a modern navy. In June 1996 sudden floods hit Québec's Saguenay valley. The air base at nearby Bagotville offered immediate help. In the spring of 1997, 8600 men and women were deployed to Manitoba to protect homes, farms and businesses from the rampaging Red River. Almost 20 000 regulars and reserves mobilized in January 1998 after a 5-day ice storm toppled Hydro lines and left millions of people in eastern Ontario, southern Québec and the Maritimes without heat or light. A post-crisis survey found that 96% of those affected reported "undiluted admiration" for the Canadian Forces. Their reward was a modest increase in the Defence share of the 1999 federal budget to cover about a quarter of the funds needed for an $800 million pay raise for the lower ranks. The rest would be found somewhere in a $9938 million defence budget by deferring equipment replacement and reducing full-time strength below the 60 000 ceiling.

Despite warnings of over-strain caused by that ceiling, Ottawa continued to accept almost every international security commitment it could not hope to meet adequately, from Haiti, where a battalion-sized force from Valcartier inherited an American operation in 1995, to Cambodia, where 200 Canadians shared an Australian-led operation to create conditions for free elections. Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy's crusade against personnel mines gave Canadian combat engineers a special role in dangerous de-mining operations around the world, and his determination to defend human rights, even in the face of national sovereignty, made Canada's last war of the century inevitable, protecting Albanian Kosovars from Serb threats of genocide in 1999. Meanwhile, some 800 Canadians worked 24/7 to save fellow citizens in need of search and rescue.

Peacekeeping in the former Yugoslavia was not what Lester Pearson had ever envisaged. It included Canadian CF-18s mustered at the northern Italian base of Aviano. Costly technical upgrades to make them interoperable with the US Air Force allowed the Canadian fighter-bombers to fly 10% of NATO missions in the Kosovo War without losses. Pressed for ground troops, Canada supplied almost the only elements that could still measure up "alongside the best," as it had promised in 1994: Coyote reconnaissance vehicles, Griffon helicopters and de-mining engineers. At the end of 1999, a mere company of French-speaking troops and the aircraft to deliver them was all Ottawa could find to support an Australian-run operation to restore peace and order to an East Timor ravaged by Indonesian militia. More soldiers probably could not have been found.

As Canadians welcomed the new millennium, all that remained of the Canadian Forces, regulars and reservists, went on stand-by alert for the consequences of a predicted massive computer breakdown, forecast as the Y2K emergency. Overtime pay was not provided.

Canada's "Modern" Forces

Canada's land defences depend on a small mechanized brigade stationed in 3 of its 4 major regions, each capable, with substantial militia reinforcements, of expanding to a division. Atlantic Canada depends on troops at the main land forces base at Gagetown, New Brunswick, to provide a core for its militia. Most of the equipment required for modern war would have to be purchased.

The navy has 5 destroyers, 12 large and relatively new patrol frigates and 12 new coastal patrol and minesweeping vessels, to be crewed by reservists. Four conventional submarines, acquired from the Royal Navy, help the navy maintain an antisubmarine capability that would otherwise disappear.

The air force depends on its CF-18 fighters for combat capacity. Based at Bagotville, Qué, and Cold Lake, Alta, the aging aircraft require increasing maintenance and costly modernization to be compatible with the US Air Force fighters who share continental defence responsibilities. Aging but efficient Lockheed Auroras conduct infrequent Arctic and coastal patrols. Cancellation of the EH-101 helicopter contract in 1993 cost $500 million in penalties and helped the government cut a growing federal deficit. However, Canada's patrol frigates are only effective against submarines with a sea-borne aircraft aboard. Face-saving required that the EH-101s acquired much later as search and rescue helicopters be renamed the Cormorant. Although the patrol frigates were designed for the EH-101, the urgent need for a helicopter led the government to order a model from Sikorsky that has developed significant safety problems, revealed by a fatal crash off Newfoundland in 2009.

Though security threats seemed invisible at the beginning of the new millennium, they arrived with a vengeance on 11 Sept 2001. The destruction of New York's World Trade Center and the crashing of a passenger aircraft into the Pentagon provoked the United States to declare a War on Terror. When Afghanistan's Taliban government refused to surrender the al-Qaeda sponsors of the 9/11 bombing, NATO remembered that an attack on one member was an attack on all. Even the United Nations authorized a police action against Afghanistan.

Hard-pressed or not, the Canadian Forces could not escape involvement. As in the earlier Gulf War, the Navy was quickest to respond with Operation Apollo, despatching a task group of four ships to the Persian Gulf to help isolate Afghanistan and prevent the flight of al-Qaeda agents. At a time when Ottawa was desperate to restore ties with Washington, the navy's rapid reaction was a major national asset. So was the availability of Joint Task Force 2, a highly trained special force created from remnants of the former Airborne Regiment and trained to counter aircraft hijackers. In Afghanistan, it was a compatible ally for US Special Forces who played the major role in dispersing the Taliban government and reviving its major domestic enemies, the Northern Alliance. Canada also provided a battalion of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry to help guard the airfield at Kandahar. It suffered 12 casualties when an American fighter/bomber mistakenly attacked one of its night training exercises.

Once Afghanistan's Taliban regime ended, US interest shifted dramatically to an older enemy and former ally, Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Though Britain and other NATO members supported the second Gulf War, Canada's government nervously refused to go along. An invitation from the Pentagon to allow a Canadian general, Rick Hillier, to take command of NATO forces in Afghanistan seemed almost too good to be true and was enthusiastically accepted by Liberal defence minister John McCallum. In turn, Hillier soon realized that his problems centred on Afghanistan's Pashtun-speaking provinces where the Taliban movement had its deepest roots. Existing NATO forces included major contingents whose presence was constrained by caveats banning dangerous service. The obvious answer was to involve Hillier's fellow Canadians in what he called "heavy lifting." Late in 2005, with Hillier back in Ottawa as chief of the defence staff, the Paul Martin government agreed to transfer its combat forces from the relative safety of their camp at Kabul to where they were needed at Kandahar Airfield.

Afghanistan was not violent peace-keeping. It was an outright war against an enemy trained by a largely successful war against Soviet forces in the 1980s, and well provided with the weapons and munitions from that war plus tons of the chemical fertilizers easily turned into explosives for suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) concealed along roadsides. Because it was war, Canadian soldiers had a claim on the best available weapons and vehicles. Because of an environment of extreme heat and cold plus constantly blowing sand, mechanical equipment soon wore out. Missions against Taliban incursions led to violent firefights. Canadians needed artillery and, as an armoured corps officer like Hillier appreciated, even obsolete Leopard tanks provided firepower and protection. A squadron of tanks was imported by air, with Canada chartering ex-Soviet heavy-lift aircraft at a million dollars per flight.

With British troops committed to neighbouring Helmand Province, and a cadre of Americans in other southern provinces, the Canadians could concentrate on their own province as well as supporting their allies. A succession of battalions from the mechanized brigades in Canada served for 6 months per rotation. While Canada's contribution soon numbered 2000 personnel per rotation, barely half were available for service "outside the wire." Occupying a region of small villages would demand far more troops than Canada could provide. Returning to Kandahar or the few Forward Operating Bases (FOB) at nightfall left villagers at the mercy of Taliban sympathisers eager to denounce collaborators with the alien and non-believing invaders.

As Canadian casualties mounted to 133 dead and twice as many mutilated in body or mind, Canadian voters became as disillusioned with their Afghanistan commitment as American voters had become with the Iraq war. The new Conservative government of Stephen Harper pledged that Canada would cease its military commitment by 2011, though it would continue efforts at economic and social development. Giving an enemy notice could only encourage the Taliban to sustain their hopes and to bide their time. For Canada's soldiers, it constituted notice of an imminent setback and of the benefits of avoiding undue risk. It also invited thought about what would befall Afghans after their departure.

Obviously, Afghanistan's government in Kabul would have to defend itself. While Canadians devoted increasing manpower and resources to tutoring Afghan National Army (ANA) units deployed with them, the process was complicated by low morale. Fighting in Kandahar and its neighbouring provinces imposed heavy casualties on Afghan soldiers. If a soldier wanted to escape death or disablement, his obvious choice was to desert or not re-enlist. Ideally, the front-line units would have been rotated with those in safer provinces, but NATO's multinational structure left training to national contingents, most of which were barred by caveats from serving in more dangerous regions.

After years of failure and frustration in Iraq, a "surge" of reinforcements joined with hard-earned experience, and some internal diplomacy, helped Americans curb their enemies and prepare to withdraw. Would similar tactics work in Afghanistan? Could American President Obama's administration disappoint many of its supporters by sending the thousands of additional troops a "surge" strategy demanded?

A Conservative government in Ottawa promised to make up for years of Liberal government neglect and cheeseparing. While Canadian naval combat groups had proved useful and politically effective in the Persian Gulf, Canada's 2 logistics ships were badly overdue for replacement. The Navy also needed heavy-duty icebreakers to meet the new government's priority for Arctic sovereignty. Icebreakers were promised but when commodity prices soared and the cost of steel burst through price estimates, Ottawa ordered construction to halt. Arctic surveillance dropped discreetly over the horizon, as it always had.

Afghanistan may have provided the Army with its long-delayed inventory of vehicles and weapons but the cost was heavier than the toll of dead and disabled. Service in Afghanistan left widespread incidence of what doctors had once described as shell shock but now termed "occupational stress disorder" as a predictable consequence of living with danger.