THE RESERVE FORCE OF THE
Prepared by Michel Rossignol
Political and Social Affairs Division
10 May 1996
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1994 DEFENCE WHITE PAPER
SPECIAL COMMISSION ON THE RESTRUCTURING OF THE RESERVES
OF 7 MAY 1996
THE RESERVE FORCE OF THE CANADIAN
Over the last
decade, the Reserve Force of the Canadian Forces has been undergoing a significant
transformation amid a constantly changing strategic situation and deep cuts in military
spending. This paper briefly examines the major developments that have shaped the current
roles and structure of the reserves and the issues involved in the latest phase of the
The 1987 White
Paper on defence policy, Challenge and Commitments, called for, among other things,
the revitalization of the Reserve Force of the Canadian Forces. In the 1980s, most NATO
countries undertook to strengthen their reserve forces not only because reservists could
reinforce and support the regular forces, but also because they were less costly.
The 1987 White
Paper assigned two tasks to the Naval Reserve, the control of shipping and maritime
coastal defence, including the clearing of naval mines. The revitalization plan included
the construction of 12 Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDVs), a number of which have
already been delivered to the navy. The Air Reserve was encouraged to play a greater role
within Air Command.
It was the
Land Force, and especially its reserve component, the Militia, however, that underwent the
most significant changes as a result of the new policy. Like other NATO countries, Canada
adopted the Total Force Concept, whereby reservists and Regular Force personnel serve in
the same unit. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Canada reorganized the regional
structure of the army to facilitate the integration of Regular Force and Militia units.
The Land Forces structure in Canada was divided into four Areas (Western, Central, Quebec,
While still in
the implementation phase, the Total Force Concept faced its biggest test during
Canadas involvement in United Nations operations in the former Yugoslavia. In the
1980s, Canada had earmarked 2,000 soldiers a year for peacekeeping operations around the
world; however, by 1993, it was deploying this number of soldiers in the former Yugoslavia
alone, while also meeting many other peacekeeping commitments. Canada had little choice
but to use reservists to bolster Regular Force units, especially because it believed it
desirable to replace units in the field every six months or so.
The use of
reservists in the former Yugoslavia was not without difficulties. Although reservists had
served in other UN operations, Parliamentarians and journalists were concerned about their
involvement in such a difficult situation. There were also reports of tensions between
Regular Force personnel and reservists. In general, however, there were no major problems
with the use of the reservists, who acquitted themselves well in the tasks at hand.
Department of National Defence was scrambling to train reservists for operations in the
former Yugoslavia and to implement the Total Force Concept, the Office of the Auditor
General undertook a detailed study of the Reserve Force. The result, Chapter 18 of the
1992 report, painted a bleak picture of the Forces readiness, equipment and
training, as well as departmental planning on its behalf.
General recommended a review of the roles of the Reserve Force and its cost-effectiveness
and pointed out problems with promotion policies and training standards. Concerns were
raised about the level of readiness, with the media paying considerable attention to a
survey in which unit commanders had predicted that fewer than half of the reservists would
show up for a combat assignment outside Canada. The Department agreed that there were some
serious problems, but argued that reforms were already underway.
In Chapter 2
of his 1994 Report (paragraphs 2.192 to 2.219) the Auditor General did a follow-up of the
recommendations in his 1992 Report. It was reported that the Department had accepted the
1992 recommendations concerning the recruitment of reservists and had improved training,
but had not done much on other issues.
Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on Canadas Defence Policy
examined the reserves, among many other issues, during 1994. In Chapter IV of its report,
the Committee called for "a significant rationalization, reorganization and retasking
of the Reserve Forces" and a bolstering of "their training and equipment to
allow them to provide more effective support to the Regular Force, both in Canada and
overseas" (page 36).
In Chapter V,
the Special Joint Committee recommended that "the Reserve Forces, and particularly
the Militia, be refocused, as part of the Total Force concept, as a genuinely useful
supporting role, drawing to a much greater degree on civilian skills" (page 50). The
Committee also called for more study of the framework governing the employment and
benefits of reservists.
THE 1994 DEFENCE WHITE PAPER
Defence White Paper reaffirmed commitment to the Total Force Concept, but noted that the
new strategic situation and the demands placed on the ready-response capabilities of both
the reserves and the Regular Force necessitated modifications to the mobilization plans.
The White Paper also announced reductions in the strength of the Primary Reserve, from
29,400 in 1994 to 23,000 (14,500 of these to be Militia) in 1999, but claimed that the
improved quality and overall ability of reserve units would compensate for these
It was noted
that the Supplementary Reserve composed of former military personnel would no longer be
funded. As for the Militia, the white paper pointed out that, while efforts would be made
to maintain the traditions and effectiveness of Militia regiments, local communities would
have to take more responsibility to help sustain traditions and activities.
In view of the
current strategic and fiscal situation, the White Paper called for a more thorough
examination of the Primary and Supplementary Reserves. In early 1995, the Minister of
National Defence announced the establishment of the Special Commission to Examine the
Restructuring of the Canadian Reserves, which was slated to report by the end of October
THE SPECIAL COMMISSION ON THE
RESTRUCTURING OF THE RESERVES
Commission, composed of the Right Honourable Brian Dickson (Chairman), Lieutenant-General
(Retired) Charles H. Belzile, and Professor Jack Granatstein, held public hearings
throughout Canada before presenting its report, which contained 41 recommendations. One of
its major recommendations was the amendment of the mobilization plan outlined in the 1994
Defence White Paper in order to define more clearly the role reserve units would be
expected to play. Most of the other major recommendations dealt with the Militia, the
Special Commission finding few problems with the Naval Reserve and the Air Reserve.
In response to
concerns about the 1994 White Papers proposed reduction of the number of Militia
personnel to approximately 14,500 by 1999, the Special Commission pointed out that this
was a paid ceiling and that actual numbers could be higher. The report recognized that
some Militia units might be eliminated or amalgamated as a result of the restructuring.
The Special Commission did not recommend which units should be eliminated or retained, but
did establish criteria that should govern decisions on these issues.
recommendation called for the four Land Force Area Headquarters to be maintained but
reorganized as Divisional Headquarters. The Special Commission also proposed that the
existing Militia districts within the Areas should be replaced by seven Militia Brigade
Groups (two per Area except for the Atlantic Area, where there would be only one).
number of Militia Brigade Groups was one of the most controversial issues during the
examination of the Special Commission report by the Standing Committee of the House of
Commons on National Defence and Veterans Affairs in late 1995. The Committee presented a
report to the Minister of National Defence in January 1996 which called for the Special
Commissions recommendations to be implemented, with some modifications, notably the
replacement of the Militia Districts by nine rather than seven Militia Brigade Groups.
believed that, because of population distribution and geographic considerations, both the
Western and Central Areas should have an extra Brigade Group. The members of the Reform
Party on the Committee issued a separate report calling for the Western Area to be divided
into two Areas, one for British Columbia (with one Brigade Group) and one for the rest of
recommendations, the Committees report called for an analysis of the costs and the
effects of implementing the Special Commissions recommendations. The Committee also
recommended keeping in mind the importance of maintaining a strong Militia presence in
rural areas, when the viability of units was being determined.
Commissions recommendations were also examined by the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology, which tabled its report on 14 December 1995.
Like the House committee, the Senate committee made recommendations concerning pay and
other administrative problems in the reserves and agreed with the Special
Commissions recommendations on the restructuring of the Militia. It also supported
the Special Commissions recommendation that the Supplementary Reserve should be
STATEMENT OF 7 MAY 1996
On 7 May
1996, at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the House of Commons on National Defence
and Veterans Affairs, the Minister of National Defence, David Collenette, announced that
most of the recommendations made by the Special Commission on the Restructuring of the
Reserves would be implemented. Only two recommendations were not accepted by the Minister
and the Department. Number 41, concerning job protection legislation, was rejected mainly
because of the difficulties involved in implementing such legislation. Number 17, which
called for all military personnel to be enrolled in the Supplementary Ready Reserve when
they left the Regular Force, was rejected as being contrary to Canadian tradition.
Some of the
recommendations to be implemented will first require additional study or modification.
This is notably the case for the recommendations concerning the restructuring of the
Militia, including one calling for Militia districts to be replaced by Brigade Groups. The
Department will determine over the summer how these recommendations will be implemented
and the Minister expects to announce in September 1996 what this will mean in terms of
armoury closures and the elimination of units. He expressed the hope, however, that as few
Militia units as possible will be so affected.
In response to
concerns expressed by the Special Commission and the parliamentary committees that the
23,000 paid ceiling for the 1999 Primary Reserve, set by the 1994 Defence White Paper,
would be too low, the Minister announced that the planned paid ceiling would be higher.
Pending the completion of the planning, the exact paid ceiling for 1999 remains to be
determined; however, the Minister has suggested that, with increased efficiencies, it
could be as high as 30,000.
As part of his
announcement, the Minister also reaffirmed the White Papers commitment to increase
the level of support to the Cadet organizations, with the current strength to be increased
from 53,000 to 60,000 Cadets. A national program of Young Rangers for the northern
communities was also announced.