PRB 99-11E




Prepared by:
Corinne McDonald
Political and Social Affairs Division
29 November 1999





   A. Role
      1. Augmentation
      2. Mobilization Base
      3. Community Link

   B. Mobilization Strategies
      1. Force Generation
      2. Force Enhancement
      3. Force Expansion
      4. National Mobilization

   C. Organizational Structure
      1. Primary Reserve
         a. Naval Reserve
         b. Militia (Land Force or Army Reserve)
         c. Air Reserve
         d. Communication Reserve
      2. Supplementary Reserve
         a. Supplementary Ready Reserve (SRR)
         b. Supplementary Holding Reserve (SHR)
      3. Cadet Instructors’ Cadre (CIC)
      4. Canadian Rangers

   D. Operational Issues
      1. Recruiting
      2. Training and Equipment
      3. Deployment
      4. Funding
      5. Pay and Benefits
      6. Promotion
      7. Attrition
      8. Costs
      9. Relations with Regular Force






Armed Forces throughout the world are structured around defence strategies that seek to address both external and internal pressures on a country’s national security.(1) These pressures change with the international security environment, new means of warfare, and evolving societal values. Consequently, the structure of armed forces also changes with time.

Governments in Canada have struggled over the years to define both the structure and role of the military. Part of this challenge has been to find an effective and efficient balance between "regular" and "reserve" components in the midst of deep cuts to defence spending and a constantly changing strategic environment. Lately, this has been a recurrent theme in Canadian defence policy.

This paper examines the history and current status of the reserves in the Canadian Forces. It provides basic information on the role, mobilization strategies and organizational structures of the reserves, in particular the Militia, as well as an overview of several operational issues related to their administration. Finally, the paper details a number of options for restructuring the Canadian Forces and, more specifically, the role of the reserves in implementing Canadian defence policy.


Canada’s reserve forces represent a tradition of part-time military service that goes back to before Confederation. Based initially on the principle of levée en masse,(3) militia service was compulsory for all able-bodied males between the ages of 16 and 60 from the early 1600s until 1855, when a large part of the British Army withdrew from Canada. Subsequently, the Militia Bill of 1855 officially established a small body of volunteer active Militia not to exceed 5,000 cavalry, artillery and infantry troops. By 1866, however, as a result of tensions between America and Britain following the Civil War in the United States, the active Militia had expanded to 33,000 to serve as a deterrent force.

Following Confederation, the first Federal Militia Act (1868) was adopted. While it retained the principle of a levée en masse using untrained civilians, it placed greater emphasis on a core of volunteers - the Militia. As a new country, Canada was forced to meet its own defence costs, and the expenses of equipping, administering and training the Militia were far less than those for developing a comparable standing army. With the 1883 Militia Act, Canada added additional units to the "active" Militia - that is, the small permanent force whose primary task was to train organized volunteer regiments (the "sedentary" Militia) in the event of a mobilization. During the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902), Great Britain paid the costs of 8,372 men from the Canadian Militia who volunteered to fight - effectively Canada’s first expeditionary force.

By 1914, Canada had developed two separate mobilization plans. One, which would provide for territorial defence, involved the complete mobilization of the Militia with civilian augmentation. The other sought to develop an expeditionary force for the dispatch of troops and reinforcements overseas. With the outbreak of war in Europe, however, these plans were abandoned. Many of the Militia’s best soldiers volunteered for service overseas in the early stages of the war. By 1917, the number of casualties had forced the introduction of conscription.

After 1919, with the end of World War I, "war weariness and budgetary constraints led Canada once again to revert to a large and relatively untrained Militia of some 50,000 officers and men, and a tiny permanent force (some 4,500 in 1939) that trained the Militia."(4)  Policymakers, more concerned with demobilization, largely ignored mobilization planning in the immediate postwar period. In addition, the effects of the 1930s Depression raised economic and social issues above defence; money could not be spared to train or equip the armed forces. Despite these realities, Canada developed the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve and the Auxiliary and Reserve Air Force, and numbers were raised from pre-war levels to 10,000 regulars and 120,000 Militia.

Canada continued to depend heavily on the mobilization of reserves and civilians to meet wartime needs, with defence planning focused predominantly on the preparation of an expeditionary force. During the Second World War, the Canadian forces grew from 7,945 regulars in 1939 to a total force of 838,119 by mid-1945. Although the overwhelming majority of these were civilians with no military training, this expansion would not have been possible without the contribution of the reservists.

Following World War II, Canada became a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and entered into a number of military alliances, such as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which required the establishment of a comparatively large, permanent regular force in all three services, as well as reserves. Faced with the possibility of yet another major war in Europe, reserve personnel made up the majority of Canadians who fought in the Korean War; regular forces were saved for Europe. For the first time in Canadian defence, "[t]he focus had shifted from the reserves to the regulars, although the Militia’s role was still the mobilization of a larger force for prolonged or large-scale conflict."(5)

The onset of the Cold War (or the "Long Peace") brought the threat of nuclear war. Within NATO countries, there was an increasing emphasis on the need for a "ready force" or "forces-in-being" - perceived as basically regular, full-time professional soldiers immediately available for war. Such high levels of readiness were not possible from a part-time reserve force. It was also assumed that any nuclear war would be short, giving insufficient time to mobilize, train and equip a reserve force at combat-capable levels. In these circumstances, planners did not conceive of the reserves as a "ready" force and consequently, in 1956, assigned them (primarily the Militia) a new primary task - "national survival" or civil defence in the event of a nuclear war. By the mid-’60s, neglect and reductions had led to the demoralization of reserve forces; they were without any real sense of purpose and had little in the way of meaningful resources.

A Departmental Review in 1969 suggested that focusing solely on "forces-in-being" would not be sustainable in the long term because of the high costs of maintaining expanded, standing armed forces which were in any case insufficient to meet non-nuclear wartime needs. At the beginning of the 1970s, the White Paper Defence in the 70’s reconsidered the role of the reserves, whose total forces had been reduced to fewer than 21,000. The White Paper outlined this role as being to support, augment, reinforce and expand (in an emergency) the regular force and affirmed that reserves would continue to be employed for internal security contingency plans.

Like the forces in other NATO countries, the Canadian Forces first attempted to adopt the concept of "Total Force" in the late 1970s; this was the most significant change in Canadian defence policy since the unification process of the late 1960s. By the early ’80s, however, the theory had yet to be put into practice.(6)  Regular and reserve structures had not been integrated and the reserves remained well below their establishment strengths. The 1987 White Paper on defence policy, Challenge and Commitments, reaffirmed the Total Force concept, whereby reserve and regular forces were to be integrated. It also called for (among other things) the revitalization of the Reserve Force and assigned new tasks and expanded roles to the naval, air and land reserves. The end of the Cold War in 1989, together with the national debt crisis in Canada, increased pressure to reduce defence expenditures. This, combined with the fact that Canada had over-committed itself for international peacekeeping, led to an increased use of reservists in operations.

Despite reservists’ increased exposure to operations, a detailed study by the Auditor General’s office in 1992 painted a bleak picture of the readiness, equipment, and training of the Reserve Force as well as the lack of departmental planning on its behalf. The Auditor General recommended a review of the roles and cost-effectiveness of the reserves and pointed out the inadequate promotion policies, training standards and levels of readiness. The Department of National Defence agreed that there were some serious problems, but claimed that reforms were already underway. However, in his 1994 follow-up (paragraphs 2.192 to 2.219), the Auditor General reported that the Department had done little on issues other than training.

Also in 1994, Canadian defence policy (including the issue of the reserves) underwent a thorough review by a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons. In Chapter IV of its report, the Committee called for "a significant rationalization, reorganization and retasking of the Reserve Forces."(7)  The subsequent Defence White Paper (1994) reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to the Total Force concept, but noted that the new strategic situation and demands placed on the ready-response capabilities of both the reserves and the Regular Force required modification of the plans for mobilization. As a result, the White Paper detailed a new four-stage national mobilization plan. It also announced a reduction of both the Regular Force and the Primary Reserve and recommended a thorough examination of all elements of the Primary and Supplementary Reserves with a view to streamlining both organizations.

On 5 April 1995, the Minister of National Defence established a Special Commission on the Restructuring of the Reserves (SCRR) to respond to two fundamental imperatives:

First, the 1987 White Paper on defence called for the establishment of a Total Force in Canada […]. By 1995 this integration process had not been fully realized. Secondly, the 1994 White Paper on defence called for a reduction in the cost and number of reservists while increasing their overall efficiency, thus echoing the 1992 Auditor General’s Report. Moreover the 1995 budget imposed further financial constraints on the Canadian Forces.(8)

The Special Commission - composed of the Right Honourable Brian Dickson (Chairman), Lieutenant-General Charles H. Belzile (Retired), and Professor Jack Granatstein -held public hearings throughout Canada before presenting its report, with 41 recommendations, to the Minister of National Defence on 3 October 1995. One of the major recommendations was that the mobilization plan outlined in the 1994 Defence White Paper be amended so as to define more clearly the role that reserve units would be expected to play at various stages. Most of the other major recommendations dealt with the Militia, since the Special Commission found few problems with the Naval, Air and Communication Reserves.

In late 1995, the Special Commission’s report was reviewed by both the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs (SCONDVA) and the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. The former committee presented its report to the Minister of National Defence in January 1996, calling for most of the SCRR’s recommendations to be implemented, with some modifications. The latter committee tabled its report on 14 December 1995. Like the House committee, it accepted most of the SCRR’s recommendations with some modifications. Critics of the Special Commission had been quick to point out that its report did not provide any estimate of costs or anticipated savings; among other recommendations, SCONDVA called for an analysis of these costs and other effects of implementation.

At a SCONDVA meeting on 7 May 1996, then Minister of National Defence (MND) David Collenette announced that, of the 41 SCRR recommendations, the Department of National Defence agreed to implement all but two. A recommendation concerning job protection legislation (Number 41) was rejected on the grounds that implementing such legislation would be difficult. The other rejected recommendation (Number 17) called for all military personnel to be enrolled in the Supplementary Ready Reserve upon their honourable departure from the Regular Force; this was rejected as being contrary to Canadian tradition. According to the Minister, some of the remaining recommendations, in particular those involving the Militia, would require additional study or modification. By October 1996, the Minister had announced that the Militia would be restructured to implement the Total Force concept and to address chronic administrative and command deficiencies.

On 14 October 1997, MND Art Eggleton established a "Monitoring Committee on Change in the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces" (MCCDND). The MCCDND serves as a window through which the Canadian public can follow the Department’s progress in the implementation of recommendations accepted from various commissions, inquiries and panels, including the Special Commission on the Restructuring of the Reserves. The Committee has a two-year mandate, during which it is to produce four semi-annual reports for the Minister, who will then make them public. The first report - essentially a work plan - was delivered in March 1998. According to the Monitoring Committee’s November 1998 interim report, "[t]he implementation of recommendations relating to the reserves has been slow. A considerable amount of work remains to be done, for example, in connection with the implementation of the Total Force concept, and regarding the definition of the role of the reserves in the new four-stage national mobilization plan."(9)  The Committee’s most recent review reports that, in spite of the Department’s assertion that it has acted on recommendations to address problems with the reserves, many plans for change do not meet the original requirements, have not yet been implemented fully, or have been delayed.(10) A final report card is to be delivered in the fall of 1999.


Unlike many nations, enlistment in Canada’s Reserve Force is strictly voluntary. Reservists are citizens who devote a portion of their spare time to military service and in doing so play a vital role in linking the Canadian Forces with Canadian society. Moreover, reservists provide skills and knowledge that the Regular Force cannot cost-effectively maintain, thus allowing the CF to become more efficient in the use of its human resources. The link between the two components is further strengthened by former Regular Force members who have chosen to continue to serve as members of the Reserve [and vice versa].(11)

   A. Role

Under the Total Force concept, both the Regular and Reserve Forces support the ongoing peacetime tasks and activities of the Canadian Forces. The 1994 Defence White Paper defined the primary role of the Reserve Force as augmentation, sustainment and support of deployed forces. In some cases, the Reserve Force also undertakes tasks that are not performed by the Regular Force. According to the findings of the Special Commission on the Restructuring of the Reserves, the Primary Reserve is currently to perform three distinct roles: "to serve as the basis for augmenting the Regular Force in the first and second phases of mobilization ... as the basis for full-scale mobilization [and] … as the link between the military and the community at large."(12)

      1. Augmentation

The Reserve Force is responsible for augmenting the Regular Force for operations in the first and second stages of mobilization (see below). Typically, this means that reservists take part, often on an individual basis, in peacekeeping missions and assist with natural disasters and national crises (e.g., the Oka incident in 1990). By augmenting regulars in their operational commitments, reservists receive training that they cannot obtain within their units and are able to hone skills necessary for the later stages of mobilization.

      2. Mobilization Base

Canada follows the NATO definition of mobilization:

The act of preparing for war or other emergencies through assembling and organizing national resources; the process by which the armed forces or part of them are brought to a state of readiness for war or other national emergency. This includes assembling and organizing personnel, supplies and material for active military service.(13)

When mobilization of armed forces beyond simple augmentation of the Regular Force is required, the Reserve Force serves as the primary base for trained personnel.

      3. Community Link

The last, and to some the most important, role of the Reserve Force is to serve as a link between the Canadian Forces (CF) and the community at large. Reservists have become the de facto ambassadors of the CF to the public because of their dispersed locations. They are a force for national unity and a reminder to local communities of the work of the Department of National Defence and the services it provides. Through the Reserve Force, the CF can participate in and garner the support of local communities and maintain a presence throughout the country.

   B. Mobilization Strategies

In his article on Canadian military mobilization, Peter Dawson observes that:

Few states possess the resources to maintain standing armed forces in peacetime, on a scale sufficient to support protracted or large-scale military action. It would make neither military nor economic sense to use wartime standards to determine peacetime needs. Peacetime levels are based on certain commitments and on the need to maintain a ‘training base’ (for later expansion), to deploy forces rapidly in an emergency, and to uphold the deterrent value of the forces. Wartime levels are determined by most of the above, plus the need to increase existing commitments, to replace losses, and to expand to meet new commitments.(14)

Such an approach is reflected in the 1994 Defence White Paper, which announced the Canadian government’s intention to introduce a new four-stage framework for mobilization planning (detailed below) and made up of force generation, force enhancement, force expansion and national mobilization. This framework provides for "a graduated and orderly transition from routine peacetime operations to higher levels of involvement, which ultimately could include the total mobilization of the nation."(15)

The Special Commission on the Restructuring of the Reserves approved the revision of DND’s mobilization plans in accordance with this new framework but observed that the Reserve Force’s structures and tasks would also need to be adjusted to conform to the four phases. Furthermore, the process would need to give priority to the fundamental role of the Reserve Force as a mobilization base for war.(16)

In November 1998, the Committee monitoring the implementation of change in the Department wrote that it was not convinced that mobilization planning had received sufficient priority. Although the Minister had directed the Department of National Defence "to draft and implement a national mobilization plan ‘with all dispatch’," several deadlines for doing so had not been met.(17) For example, the Minister had decided that stages 3 and 4 of the mobilization scheme should be amended immediately to define clearer roles for the Reserve Force (especially the Militia) as the basis for recruitment, training and the provision of formed units required in the event of a major conflict. Plans for the revision of stage 3 were to have been completed by April / May 1998 and for stage 4, by June 1998. By November 1998, neither commitment had been fulfilled. On 18 March 1999, the Vice Chief of Defence Staff issued an "action directive" which seemed "to abandon development of a national mobilization plan per se" and provided "a rather sparse framework of vague intentions."(18)

The Monitoring Committee stressed in its 1998 Interim Report that the "absence of a plan creates uncertainty for the Reserves. The Reserves are, by virtue of Government policy, the basis for national mobilization, or stage 4: in practice, however, the Department has paid attention to their augmentation role almost exclusively … and fails to mention the Militia’s primary role: to be the basis of national mobilization."(19) This vagueness with respect to the national mobilization role of the reserves continues and, furthermore, their specific role in the other stages of mobilization continues to be ill-defined. Responding to the Department’s insistence that it cannot plan force structures until operational situations and other factors are known, the Monitoring Committee suggests that the Department "identify likely ‘situations’ and … devise methods, processes and, most importantly, force structures, to respond to them."(20)  This would include a clear role for the reserves at all stages.

The following descriptions of the four stages of mobilization are taken primarily from the 1994 Defence White Paper:(21)

      1. Force Generation

The first stage of a response to any crisis of emergency is force generation which includes all measures needed to prepare elements of the Canadian Forces to undertake, sustain and support new operational tasks. These functions will be undertaken within the existing resource framework of the Canadian Forces and will include the training and preparation of volunteer reservists, often on an individual basis, to augment the Regular Force.

      2. Force Enhancement

In the second stage of mobilization, force enhancement, the operational capabilities of the existing forces are improved through the allocation of more resources. Such action will be undertaken without permanent change in the structure or roles of the Canadian Forces, although the formation of temporary units or specialist elements may prove necessary. This level of mobilization would be similar to action taken in response to the 1990 situation in the Persian Gulf and all current peacekeeping commitments. Once again, the Reserve Force is expected to provide personnel, predominantly on an individual basis, to augment Regular Force units.

      3. Force Expansion

The third stage, force expansion, involves the enlargement of the Canadian Forces - and perhaps selected elements of the Department of National Defence - to meet a major crisis or emergency. It would likely involve permanent changes in the roles, structure and taskings of the Canadian Forces and could call for the formation of new units, the enhancement of existing facilities and the procurement of additional equipment. This stage would include structural and role changes similar to those undergone by all elements of the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence in 1950-1952 when Canada provided armed forces to the United Nations multinational force in Korea and to the then newly formed NATO in Europe. In stage 3, selective activation of reservists individually and in units would be effected by call-up under the terms of an order in council.

      4. National Mobilization

Finally, while a major global war is highly unlikely at this time, it remains prudent to have "no-cost" plans ready for total national mobilization. This fourth stage could touch all aspects of Canadian society - including reserves, as well as civilians without military training - and would only come into effect with the proclamation by the Governor-in-Council of a war emergency under the Emergencies Act. The SCRR reported that, "surprisingly, there is no detailed plan in existence for a stage 4 national mobilization."(22)

   C. Organizational Structure

As detailed in the National Defence Act, the Reserve Force is one of the three components of the Canadian Forces.(23) The Reserve Force is composed of officers and non-commissioned members who are enrolled for other than continuing, full-time military service when not on active service - that is, generally on a part-time basis. The Reserve Force is divided into four sub-components:

  • the Primary Reserve;

  • the Supplementary Reserve;

  • the Cadet Instructors’ Cadre (or List); and

  • the Canadian Rangers.

The following descriptions were compiled using various recent Department of National Defence sources.

      1. Primary Reserve

As indicated in the Minister’s address to the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs in November 1996, the planning level for the Primary Reserve Force is 30,000 personnel. Currently, the Primary Reserve consists of approximately 31,600 officers and non-commissioned members who have agreed to train and perform duties as required.

There are three classes of service under which a Primary Reservist may be employed:

  • Class A: This class involves short periods of reserve service with a maximum continuous duration of 12 consecutive calendar days including weekends and holidays. Duty normally takes place at the reservist’s home unit. The member is paid a per diem rate from the reserve budget.

  • Class B: This requires service of 13 consecutive days or longer, normally performed away from the reservist’s unit, in support of Regular and Reserve Force activities. A longer-term Class B enables reservists to serve for periods in excess of six months to a year or longer alongside their Regular Force counterparts. The reservist on Class B is paid at the same rate as that which applies to Class A service, and from the same budget. Class B annotated "A" service involves service in established positions in support of Primary Reserve or Cadet activities. The annotation "A" indicates that these positions must be filled by reserve personnel and that they are authorized for continuous service 365 days per year. These members are paid on the same basis as Class B reservists.

  • Class C: This class entails full-time reserve service in a Regular Force position, normally for a period in excess of one year, with entitlement to all Regular Force benefits. Members on Class C service are not restricted in the length of time they may serve, so long as the position is vacant, funding is available, and filling the position can be justified. The governing factor for Class C is the non-availability of a Regular Force member to fill the position. Class C reservists are paid at the regular rate of pay from the Regular Force budget.

The Primary Reserve - subdivided into four main elements - consists of:

  • the Naval Reserve,

  • the Militia (Land Force or Army Reserve),

  • the Air Reserve, and

  • the Communication Reserve,

as well as approximately 250 positions assigned to the National Defence Headquarters’ Primary Reserve List (rather than to a reserve unit).

         a. Naval Reserve

The planning strength of the Naval Reserve is between 4,000 and 5,000 personnel, with a current level of approximately 4,000.

The Naval Reserve’s mission is to provide Maritime Command with trained personnel for the staffing of combat and support elements. In addition, Naval reservists are primarily responsible for providing trained crews for the 12 Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDVs), which undertake surveillance missions, fisheries protection, drug interdiction, environmental monitoring, apprehension of illegal immigrants, and search and rescue. In addition, the Naval Reserve is responsible for Harbour Defence, Naval Control of Shipping (NCS), Mine Countermeasures, and Administrative and Logistic Support or "augmentation of the fleet."

The Naval Reserve consists of 24 divisions spread across Canada under the command of the Chief of the Maritime Staff. The divisions - sometimes referred to as "stone frigates" (static units named as ships but housed in buildings) - enable the Canadian Forces to maintain a naval presence throughout Canada, thereby fostering community and public relations.

According to the Special Commission, the Naval Reserve is in "good order, thanks to the assignment of specific tasks to the reserve, especially the manning of MCDVs. This role has had a positive impact on morale and training. Naval reservists are generally satisfied that they are needed and that they can meet their commitments."(24)

         b. Militia (Land Force or Army Reserve)

The Militia structure, aligned under the Land Force Command’s geographic area concept, is now organized into ten Canadian Brigade Groups (to be reduced to nine by November 1999),(25) commanded by an officer of the rank of colonel, under the Chief of the Land Staff. This change eliminates the former "District" structure. Other changes include the retention of four existing Area Headquarters, which will be reorganized and renamed Divisional Headquarters.

There is currently a total of 133 Reserve units in 115 locations across the country. For the purposes of restructuring, each Militia unit’s viability will be assessed on the basis of operational requirements; capacity to recruit and retain effective strength; capacity to train individually and collectively; Regular Force support; cost effectiveness; historical performance and battle honours; and footprint and link to the community.(26) Total Army Establishments (TAE) involving common rank structures for Militia and Regular Force units will be implemented and new Contingency Support Wing (CSW) units will be reviewed so that redundant Militia units can be considered for CSW roles. This restructuring will take place according to plans developed by the Land Force Command and is intended to create a more cohesive army structure with less infrastructure and overhead.

Current personnel levels stand at approximately 24,000 - including non-effective personnel and those undergoing release from the service - making the Militia the largest element of the Primary Reserve. For the first time in many years, the number of personnel in the Militia exceeds that of the regular army. According to DND’s Performance report for the period ending 31 March 1998, plans call for Militia numbers to be eventually reduced to 18,500 (with the capacity to expand to 20,500).

The mission of the Militia is to enhance the war deterrence capability of the Canadian Forces and to support the Regular Force in ongoing peacetime tasks - including periodic operational deployments, peacekeeping and aid to civil power operations (emergencies) - by providing trained individuals, sub-units and units to augment the Regular Force component. Deployments might involve elements of the armoured corps, artillery, engineers or infantry, as well as service battalions and medical companies. The Militia can also serve as a mobilization basis.

With its small regular army and a vast, sparsely populated landmass, Canada can only maintain an army presence in many communities through the Militia. Support is provided to activities that build citizenship and advance national unity, including ceremonial representation for events such as Remembrance Day.

         c. Air Reserve

The role of the Air Reserve is to enhance the national emergency capability of the Air Force and to support the regular component in ongoing peacetime tasks under the command of the Chief of Air Staff.

The Air Reserve planning level allows for an increase to 2,500 personnel for fiscal year 1998-1999 and 3,000 personnel for 1999-2000. As of 31 May 1998, the total strength of the Air Reserve was 1,785 personnel.

The Air Reserve is an integral part of the Total Air Force; most reserve units have been consolidated with their Regular Force counterparts into integrated units. Air reservists are now employed on almost every type of aircraft in the Canadian Forces inventory. The Air Reserve component of these units keeps the cost affordable, while the mix of regulars and reserves allows the optimization of readiness and sustainment levels needed to fulfil the Air Force mandate. Many air reservists have assisted in recent UN, NATO and domestic operations - including search and rescue, light transport and maritime surveillance - providing relief to Regular Force support personnel and air and ground crews.

         d. Communication Reserve

The Communication Reserve’s annual average strength stands at approximately 1,900 personnel organized into 23 units within five regional groups. According to the DND/CF Information Kit available from the Department’s website, militia field signal squadrons are to be re-established and the Communication Reserve reduced to 1,500.

The role of the Communication Reserve is to provide individual and sub-unit support to augment and sustain combat-capable Information Management and Information Operations. For example, it provides personnel to augment the Regular Force units of Communication Command and Land Force Command and takes part in peacekeeping/making and civil emergency operations. The Communication Reserve also supports other Regular and Reserve Force units during exercises and operational deployments. It is equipped with strategic communications equipment and the vehicles necessary for training and deployment.

The Special Commission affirmed that the Communication Reserve "is in good shape and is well advanced towards the implementation of Total Force" and recommended that the signal component be transferred to the Land Force Command.(27)

      2. Supplementary Reserve

According to the Special Commission, "considerable numbers of skilled personnel can be found in a restructured Supplementary Reserve." Consequently, it recommended "that all honourably released personnel be automatically transferred to the Supplementary Reserve […which] can make a significant and essential contribution to national mobilization."(28)  The Minister did not accept this recommendation.

The Supplementary Reserve comprises some 15,000 officers and non-commissioned members, who may be retired members of the Regular Force, the Primary Reserve or the Cadet Instructors’ Cadre. Members are not required to perform duty or training except when on active service. They provide a pool of personnel with previous military training who could be recalled in an emergency. Civilian specialists are also enrolled when there is a defined need.

The Supplementary Reserve is further divided into:

  • the Supplementary Ready Reserve; and

  • the Supplementary Holding Reserve.

         a. Supplementary Ready Reserve (SRR)

The SRR is composed of personnel who have current military qualifications, are medically fit, and are immediately available for duty. SRR personnel are former Regular Force or Primary Reserve members, qualified members of other Reserve Force sub-components, and selected personnel without previous military experience who possess special skills or expertise for which there is a military requirement. These reservists have volunteered to report for duty during times of national emergency or mobilization, prior to being placed on active service by the Governor-in-Council.

         b. Supplementary Holding Reserve (SHR)

The SHR includes former members of any component or sub-components of the Canadian Forces, and selected personnel without previous military experience who possess special skills or expertise. These members have no current military qualifications nor are they deemed to be immediately available to undertake duty in time of national emergency, should they be called up to active service by order of the Governor-in-Council.

      3. Cadet Instructors’ Cadre (CIC)

The Cadet Instructors’ Cadre (also known as the Cadet Instructor List or CIL) consists of approximately 6,500 officers who have undertaken to perform military duty and training as required but whose primary duties are the supervision, administration and training of Sea, Army, and Air Cadets. Annually, from September to June, as many as 62,000 cadets aged 12 to 18 parade and train on a weekly basis. More than 20,000 cadets attend summer camps each year. Although CIC officers are members of the Canadian Forces, the cadets they oversee are not. The Special Commission stated that the CIC was doing "first-class work."

      4. Canadian Rangers

Formed in 1947, the Canadian Rangers in all ranks now number almost 3,000. The Rangers are organized into five Patrol Groups consisting of 130 patrols located across British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland.

These volunteers are prepared for service in the event of an emergency, but are not required to undergo annual organized military training in order to be considered effective. They are obliged to serve only when placed on active service. Rangers must be in good health and must be able to live effectively off the land. Their role is to provide a military presence in the sparsely settled northern, coastal and isolated areas of Canada that cannot conveniently or economically be covered by other elements of the Canadian Forces.

Rangers usually function as individuals and, in conjunction with their civilian occupations, report any suspicious or unusual activities in their respective areas. They also collect detailed local information that may be of assistance in their other tasks, or of value to the Canadian Forces. According to the Department, "[t]hese tasks are generally performed without pay. The appropriate rate of Reserve pay is paid for local training exercises, ground search and rescue and participation in other Canadian Forces exercises where they act as guides, advisors and survival instructors."(29)  In an emergency, Rangers assist in immediate local defence until other forces arrive.

The Special Commission "[found] the Canadian Rangers to be doing valuable work, and commend[ed] both its enhancement program and the Junior Rangers program trials."(30)

An additional program of note is the Bold Eagle Program which, originating in Saskatchewan and later extended throughout the Prairie provinces, represents an attempt to recruit Aboriginal Canadians into the CF Reserve.

   D. Operational Issues

According to the Minister’s Monitoring Committee on Change in the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces:

Current reform of the Reserves provides a good spot-check of the Department’s implementation of the Total Force concept, which has been in place since the 1987 White Paper on Defence. Presently, the Navy and Air Force appear to be functioning well as Total Force commands, but this does not appear to be the case for the Army, where leadership seems reluctant to accept the broad ramifications of Total Force.(31)

      1. Recruiting

While recruitment in the reserves was previously undertaken by individual reserve units, responsibility for recruiting was transferred to local Canadian Forces Recruiting Centres (CFRCs) in the late 1980s. Currently, these CFRCs select and enrol personnel for both the Regular and Reserve Forces. The recruiting process for all services of both forces is identical, using the same requirements and the same standard.

As Canada is an increasingly urban country, with between 78% and 85% of the population living in major urban centres, recruiting in smaller rural areas has become more difficult. To address this, CFRCs send mobile recruiting teams into remote areas and to individual armouries. Detractors of this process argue that it somewhat ignores the potential in rural parts of Canada, but others counter that this imbalance is addressed by efforts like the Rangers. Furthermore, under the current recruitment system, local militia units are still largely responsible for attracting recruits; the CFRC tends to handle only the paperwork - for interviews, documentation, medicals and the recommendation of a military occupation code. According to the Special Commission, this centralization "should produce savings, and it is appropriate in the Total Force context that attempts are made to minimize the differentiation between the regular and the reserve components."(32)

Unfortunately, the downside to the process is that bureaucratic delays - such as conducting a reliability check within the department before a recruit is enrolled - can take at least six months. As a result, many promising candidates abandon the process for other opportunities. For the local reserves, this is a source of continued frustration and personal embarrassment over which they have little or no influence or control, given the autonomy of the CFRCs. The Special Commission heard numerous complaints about this; many reserve Commanding Officers argued that recruiting "should be returned to the armoury floor." The Commission was not convinced that this would be an appropriate solution, however. Instead, it recommended that the Department of National Defence consider adopting a policy of "conditional enrollment" and endeavour to complete the process "within one month."(33)

A second recruitment issue facing the Reserves is the trend within government, including the Regular Force, to contract out short-term specialist services to civilians. According to the Special Commission, this gives rise to two inter-related sub-issues. First, reserve units could, if advised of the Regular Force’s specialist needs, target their recruitment appropriately. Second, the Regular Force could look first to reserve units before recruiting specialists directly from the civilian world. The Special Commission recommended that these outcomes could be facilitated by the harmonization of military and civilian trade standards.(34)

Accordingly, the Minister has adopted a number of policies seeking to ensure that the Regular Force will attempt to meet its specialist needs first with reservists, to assist the Reserve Force to target recruitment of required specialists, and to harmonize civilian and military qualifications under the Canadian Forces Military Equivalencies Programme (CFMEP). CFMEP is a CF-wide umbrella program granting partial or full CF qualifications for recognized civilian qualifications and experience. Guidelines are being developed for assessing potential equivalencies and it was planned that the necessary policy and program would be implemented by April 1999. Difficulties with administering proper data and management systems for the reserves, however, mean that the necessary systems for administering this will not be operable until 2003. The Monitoring Committee reports that progress in this (and other) area(s) of administration "appears to be slow" and that, unless attitudes and institutions change, "reserve issues in the personnel area of the Department remain low in terms of priorities."(35)

      2. Training and Equipment

Under the Total Force concept, the Canadian Forces have established the principle that Regular Force and Reserve Force members should be trained to the same standard or occupational specifications for the same tasks. Furthermore, given the increased emphasis on the augmentation role of the reserves, the quality of training is critical. According to evidence presented to the Special Commission, it is possible for reserves to achieve effectiveness "roughly equivalent" to that of regular forces, "at least after their three months’ work-up training."(36)   However, many argue that there are too few days available for reservists to train, largely because of budget constraints.

Moreover, it appears that the current training system is not flexible enough to meet reservists’ special needs. For example, it was said that the courses offered by the Regular Force to upgrade a reservist’s technical and leadership skills were too long, especially for those with full-time jobs. To address this problem, the Commission recommended that these courses be broken into smaller modules offered in shorter segments.

According to one of the Commission members, the reserves need both to "rethink the individual training system" and "refocus on team learning."(37) Possibilities for improving the efficiency, cost-value and effectiveness of reserve training include: using standard training packages, simulators and modular training aids; exploring the potential for distance education, employing inter-active video teaching systems and specialized computer software for individualized training; and ensuring the availability of sufficient weapons and other equipment, high technology instructional facilities and qualified instructors (who could be drawn from the local community). Such improvements do not come cheaply, but many have argued that the cost of not modernizing the reserve training support system would likely be greater.

Finally, more frequent common training periods integrating both Regular and Reserve Force components at all levels could result in better training that would be more cost-effective, as equipment and expertise would be shared. This is important to the effective implementation of the concept of Total Force, whereby regulars and reservists would serve and work together in all units and at all levels of headquarters.

According to the findings of the Special Commission, "one of the principal problems affecting the reserves was the ease with which one could, with impunity, avoid attending regular training sessions or, alternatively, simply leave the reserves after a short period of time." This perceived lack of commitment on the part of some reservists can contribute significantly to inefficient training, particularly in the Militia, as it means that basic training must be repeated, leaving little or no time remaining for more advanced and stimulating work. (Ways to address attrition in the reserves are discussed below.)

Even with better training, however, the reserves can be neither more credible nor more effective without proper equipment. The Special Commission was told "that some soldiers had never seen, let alone trained on, the type of military hardware they are expected to handle proficiently."(38)  The establishment of Militia Training Support Centres (MTSCs) in each of the five Command Areas following the 1987 White Paper has significantly improved the quality and efficiency of training and has addressed, to some degree, problems with or lack of equipment. Given current budgetary constraints, additional arrangements, such as common training periods and pooling of equipment between units within the same geographic area, could address these shortages at the local level.

In response to these recommendations, the Minister of National Defence has agreed to make courses more accessible to reservists by carving them into two- to three-week segments, where possible. The Minister has also decided to further integrate regulars and reservists by requiring that they serve in each other’s formations. To facilitate this, the administrative membrane that divides the Regular Force and the Reserve Force will be made more permeable, allowing consecutive and uninterrupted service between the two components. Finally, the CF will identify equipment required for training and make pooling arrangements so that units can have access to that equipment on a regular basis.(39)

      3. Deployment

In much of the world, it is common practice for armed force reserves to be "composed of regular citizens who have other full time occupations but who are trained and equipped so that they can be deployed if they are needed."(40) This is not the case in Canada where, except by an order in council, the reserves, though trained, cannot be deployed unless they volunteer. Thus, service as a Primary Reservist in Canada can be consensual or obligatory. A member of the Primary Reserve may be employed with another sub-component of the Reserve Force or with the Regular Force on a voluntary basis. At the same time, according to the National Defence Act, Primary Reservists are liable to be called for obligatory service and training in the following circumstances:

  • active service anywhere in or beyond Canada may be required by the Governor-in-Council at any time by reason of an emergency for the defence of Canada or in consequence of international obligations undertaken by Canada;

  • in the event that the Governor-in-Council declares that a national disaster exists or is imminent;

  • in any case in which a riot or disturbance of the peace is beyond the powers of the civil authorities to suppress, reservists may be called out in aid of the civil power (in such an event, a provincial Attorney General must formally requisition the aid of the reserve in writing to the Chief of Defence Staff or his designate);

  • for a training period (not exceeding 15 days for Class B and 60 days for Class A); and

  • in any other circumstances prescribed as necessary by the Governor-in-Council.(41)

With particular regard to deployment of the Militia on United Nations operations, the Chief of the Land Staff (CLS) released a policy statement on 8 May 1998 authorizing deploying commanders to include up to 20% reservists in their unit(s). The Armed Forces Council eliminated this maximum limit in September 1998, but confirmed that 20% was still to be used as a planning figure.(42)

Since 1991, Canada’s operational commitments have received a very positive response from reservists and the target of 20% for reserve participation in any overseas commitment has at times been exceeded. For example, reservists comprised over 40% of the battle strength in Canada’s early deployments to the former Yugoslavia and one of every six land force personnel deployed overseas since 1991 has been a reservist. Reserves have also been active in national emergencies such as the Manitoba floods in 1997, when they made up some 10% of the total military personnel deployed.

The CLS statement also gave deploying commanders discretion, based on mission success and the welfare of unit personnel, to use formed reserve elements (i.e., sections or platoons) and to employ qualified junior reserve officers in command positions. In using reservists, commanders are to take a number of factors into account, including "incremental costs of reserve augmentation, time available to bring reservists to a ready state, and the ability of the field force to sustain itself without augmentation."(43)  While this implies potentially increased roles for the reserves in operational missions, the discretionary nature of a commander’s decisions on the size and role of the reserve contribution will not necessarily encourage the use of formed Militia elements. The Minister’s Monitoring Committee has expressed concern that, "by not dedicating a pre-determined status to the Militia for operational deployments, commanders have little motivation to include formed Militia elements [platoons or sections]."(44)  The Monitoring Committee has since argued that by including formed elements in at least the first and second stages of mobilization (generation and enhancement), the Department could, among other benefits, create "a planning and deployment regime [that] would enhance reserve leadership and training."(45)

A final related issue involves post-deployment treatment. Some have expressed concerns that reserves participating in operational missions have on their return not received treatment comparable to that of their regular counterparts. As a result, the Special Commission recommended that, following deployment, "[s]ufficient time must be allowed for an orderly transition for the regular to the reserve unit, for adequate medical and dental assessments, and for a proper evaluation of the individual’s susceptibility to post-traumatic stress syndrome."(46) The Department has accepted this recommendation without modification.

      4. Funding

The 1999 Defence Planning Guidance indicates that, in contrast to the Regular Force, which is allocated definite personnel levels, Reserve Force levels remain dependent on funding. Such ad hoc funding compromises the capacity of the reserves to fulfil their three roles. Furthermore, the future ability of the reserves to provide high quality personnel for augmentation purposes (which is their predominant role at present) depends directly on their ability to recruit, train, advance and retain personnel. All of these activities have been harmed by cutbacks. Thus, it is difficult to hold reserve units accountable for the resulting command and control deficiencies. The Minister’s Monitoring Committee has suggested that ensuring that the Reserve Force remains effective will require it to be included at the front-end of the overall budget process.(47)

The Minister of National Defence has acknowledged that the allocation and control of Militia funding (in particular) needs to be assessed, given that the Regular Force tends to pass cuts through to the reserves without being fully aware of their effects. In response, the Minister has accepted the Special Commission’s four recommendations in that area. First, every Militia unit is to be guaranteed funding - which must be devoted entirely and directly to training - of four training days per month for each of its effective members between September and May. Second, the Department will "quantify" the level of funding necessary to exercise command, control and administration of units and units will be funded accordingly. Third, any delegation of tasks (such as collective training) to units will be accompanied by the necessary funds. Finally, reserve units will be delegated with increased authority and flexibility to manage the operations and maintenance costs of their units and their infrastructure.(48)

Unfortunately, the Monitoring Committee remains unconvinced that the Army will be able to implement these budget-related recommendations. Further uncertainty regarding Reserve Force funding may compromise the ability of many units to remain viable according to DND standards, so that even units steeped in historical prominence and battle honours may become vulnerable to being disbanded or amalgamated.(49)

      5. Pay and Benefits

A recurring complaint heard by the Special Commission related to the pay system for the reserves: "reservists frequently went unpaid for many months, or … when they were paid, the amount was inaccurate and had to be reprocessed."(50) The Commission made several recommendations to address this situation, one of which was that the Department totally integrate the pay and personnel systems for the Reserve and Regular Forces, a recommendation that it is currently implementing.

The Special Commission’s report reaffirmed the Department’s position that pay for reservists should continue to be slightly less than Regular Force pay (about 85%). The rationale for this discrepancy is that Regular Force personnel must be available to be deployed at any time to operations within and outside Canada. However, despite the 85% rule, the Commission also noted several inequities in reserve pay scales, which varied not only according to rank and pay categories, but also according to the number of hours on duty. For example, reserve corporals received 67.7% of the Regular Force pay rate, whereas entry-level reserve privates received more than their Regular Force counterparts. In light of this disparity, the Special Commission recommended that the Department ensure that the 85% guideline be treated as a minimum for the pay rate for each rank.

In 1997, the Department established a multi-phased Revised Pay System for the Reserves (RPSR), reaffirming its commitment to bring pay for all reserve ranks into line with the 85% rule. Further wage-comparability adjustments formerly restricted to Regular Force members now apply to reservists: pilots, medical and dental officers and lawyers get extra pay, and holiday and specialist pay are being introduced for all members of the reserves. The RPSR first became operational in the Land Force Atlantic Area and was expected to be in place throughout the country by the end of 1997.

In addition to dealing with pay disparities, the Department was to adopt a Reserve Integrated Information System Project (RIIP) which would maintain data concerning personnel and training management, budget control, and logistic support for the reserves. However, RIIP has been cancelled and is to be replaced by Peoplesoft, a human resource software package currently used by other Government of Canada departments. This integrated pay system for the Regular and Reserve Forces is set to be on-line by April 2001.(51)

Over the years, the benefits program for reservists has been improved extensively. According to the Special Commission, "[t]here is a common perception among reservists that their benefits are significantly out of step with those afforded regular members of the Canadian Forces."(52)  For the most part, however, reservists’ benefits have been comparable to those of regular members since the introduction of a new benefits package in 1990. This includes Provincial Health Insurance Coverage and participation in four group insurance plans: the Group Surgical Medical Insurance Plan, the Canadian Forces Dependants’ Dental Care Plan, the Reserve Long Term Disability plan, and the Reserve General Officers’ Insurance Plan. There are also the Reserve Term Insurance Plan (RTIP) which provides life insurance coverage, and the Canadian Forces Reserve Dental Care Plan. More recently, the right to non-duty travel on Service air flights and additional health benefits have been extended to reservists. These benefits include the Public Service Health Care Plan, the Service Income Security Insurance Plan, and Long Term Disability and Maternity Leave/Allowance benefits.(53)

The area of pension benefits is one where reservists’ benefits have differed notably from those of the Regular Force members.(54)  Reservists are not covered by the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and do not qualify for any kind of pension following their service with the Reserve Force. Furthermore, unlike regular CF members, reservists can have their reserve service recognized for the purpose of an elective contribution to the pension plan only if they serve for a continuous period of at least six months. In an attempt to address this issue, the Department created the Reserve Force Retirement Gratuity (RFRG) in September 1997. In essence, the RFRG (which does not apply to the 5,000 officers of the Cadet Instructor Cadre) is not a pension, but rather a form of severance pay based on the regular CF severance package. This package is retroactive to April 1997 and allows a reservist with 30 years and more of service to receive seven days’ pay per year of service to a maximum of 210 days. Persons with at least 10 but fewer than 20 years of service can receive 3.5 days’ worth of pay per year. Reservists with less than 10 years of service do not qualify for this benefit.

Any reservist who suffers an injury, disease or illness during reserve service will be paid while in hospital or while waiting to return to civilian employment. In cases of a serious disability, this compensation can cover the period until the payments of a disability pension under the Pension Act begin. Such compensation is paid at the rate of pay at the time of the injury or illness leading to the disability.

Finally, in the mid-1990s, it was recognised that some personnel involved in peacekeeping operations needed help to deal with critical incident stress. Measures were taken to prepare personnel more adequately prior to deployment. Many returning reservists who had previously not had access to services for coping with critical incident stress are now part of a program designed to contact all individual peacekeepers on a regular basis after they have been deployed.

      6. Promotion

There is very little discussion in the literature of the promotion system within the Reserve Force. However, two areas of concern that affect rank appear to recur. The first is the lack of availability and access to the technical and leadership training necessary for advancement. Many reservists’ progress through the ranks appears to be impeded by their inability to attend training offered by the Regular Force. Solutions for this, such as making training more flexible, have already been discussed above.

The second issue hinges on the fact that many reservists are reduced by a rank while on operational missions such as peacekeeping duties. Currently, Class "C" reservists are paid the existing Regular Force rate for which they qualify according to Regular Force standards. This is not necessarily the rate applicable to the reservist’s substantive rank. While many reservists accept the rationale that this treatment is based on the fact that they have less experience than regulars for filling a particular position, the Special Commission maintained that such reductions constitute discrimination. The Minister’s Monitoring Committee has reported that the Assistant Deputy Minister for Human Resources is reviewing this policy. If it is amended, reservists on Class "C" service will not be required to drop their rank in order to fill given positions.(55)

      7. Attrition

Although Canada’s rate of attrition in the military is roughly comparable to that of other countries - between 25% and 30% annually - attrition is considered a problem in the Canadian reserves, especially within the Militia. Part of this can be explained by the fact that around 35% of reservists are high school and college students whose attrition levels rise once their education is completed. As well, as with any volunteer organization, dissatisfied members are likely to vote with their feet. These departures can be costly to the Canadian Forces, since low retention rates bring the obvious and recurring cost of continually having to train new personnel.

The most frequently cited reasons for leaving the reserves include conflicts with a civilian job, educational and/or family commitments, and, on a positive note, the decision to join the Regular Force. Most reasons are beyond the control of the Canadian Forces, with the exception of the lack of job security. This is a major obstacle for reservists, who must request leave from their civilian work for annual training courses or deployment. The Canadian Forces Liaison Council or CLFC (formerly the National Employer Support Committee) has attempted to persuade corporations and businesses to add job security to the contracts of their reservist employees. Unfortunately, the moral suasion of the CFLC has not significantly improved such voluntary support for reservists by employers. The government has attempted to lead the way by including special provisions for its employees who serve with the Reserve Force. The Special Commission recommended that the government go further by enacting some form of legislation - such as that in Australia, Britain and New Zealand - to protect reservists’ civilian jobs; however, this suggestion was rejected by the Minister of National Defence as being too difficult to implement. Alternatives might include providing tax incentives or other bonuses to businesses who employ and guarantee the job of a reservist.

Other concerns leading to attrition include problems with the pay system, the lack of guaranteed minimum days of employment, and unclear or unenforceable training obligations. Members of the Militia also cite the lack of a defined role and inadequate training equipment.(56)  Many of these issues are currently being addressed by the Department, as described elsewhere in this document.

      8. Costs

It is extremely costly to maintain regular armed forces, not just in Canada, but throughout the world. Thus, a fundamental tenet supporting the use of the Reserve Force is that "the cost to the country and its taxpayers is less than having a standing contingent of full-time Regulars."(57)  The country still has guaranteed personnel with military training who can be deployed on operations when and for as long as they are needed and can then be removed from the full-time payroll and returned to their civilian employers and part-time reserve service.

However, according to the 1992 Auditor General’s Report, the Department of National Defence "[did] not know the true costs and capabilities of the Reserves or how they compare with Regular Forces, because its accounting and management information systems [could not] readily produce the necessary data."(58)   According to the Department’s 1998-99 Report on Plans and Priorities, "[t]he Primary Reserve accounts for approximately 9.6% of the total Defence Services Program"(59) with a total actual expenditure in 1997-1998 of $978,464,000. Recent changes to reporting provide greater clarity on the make up of the total costs of the Primary Reserve. Nonetheless, the 1995 Special Commission reaffirmed that the Department’s budgeting process was unable to distinguish all items intended for reserve use and had particular difficulty with evaluating the operational or capital costs shared with the Regular Force. While precise accounting has not so far been possible, the issue is currently being addressed by the Reserve Advisor to the Chief of Land Staff.(60)

Notwithstanding its inability to establish the "precise total cost of the reserve," the Special Commission concluded that reservists are a "good bargain."(61) By contrast, while it is true that individual reservists receive less pay than their Regular Force counterparts, the Auditor General "could find no analysis to support the Department’s assumption that, collectively, Reserves cost significantly less than Regulars for a comparable level of capability"(62)  (emphasis added). Although some dispute these figures, the Auditor General’s report further concluded that, according to a case study, maintaining Regular Force units was less than 10% more expensive than maintaining their Militia counterparts; reserve units are not as cost-effective as Regular Force units; and, when operational readiness is included in the calculation, the Regular Force outstrips the Reserve Force. Thus, it might be difficult to determine "the actual costs of realigning the regular/reserve mix."(63)

One known cost, according to the Special Commission’s Report, is that basic military training for each Militia recruit costs approximately $20,000. The costs in the other services are similar. Given that number, and the knowledge that reserve costs are increased by attrition and the consequent need to retrain, the Special Commission recommended that a system of bonuses be developed to encourage longer service with the reserves. For example, a lump sum of $2,000 could be payable upon completion of a three-year term. The Commission argued that this would represent "a clear saving: the cost of the bonus is substantially less than the cost of training a new recruit."(64)

      9. Relations with Regular Force

Tensions between the regular and reserve components of the Canadian Forces (particularly in the Land Force) began when "permanent force" Army units were demarcated from Militia units. This distinction was further exacerbated by the concept of a "30-day war syndrome" whereby it was established that soldiers in Militia units could not meet appropriate standards for deployment within a 30-day timeframe. Militia units were hence not viewed as useful for combat purposes and resources were directed to the development of regular forces. Consequently, the Militia’s capability further degenerated, real differences "became chronic," and two separate cultures emerged.(65)

Despite the fact that the Regular and Reserve Forces now increasingly work together on operations, this separation persists today. According to the Special Commission, it "remains a major impediment to the ideal of Total Force."(66) Interestingly enough, it appears that, while the Naval and Communication Reserves and the Air Reserve have mostly overcome these divisions, the gap between regulars and reserves is most pronounced in the Land Force.(67)  Most observers agree that reconciliation between the reserve and regular components of the Air Force and Navy has been possible because of the development of distinct yet complementary roles for each component of those services; this has not been achieved in the Land Force.

Defenders of the Regular Force cite recent audits of Land Force elements in the United States and Canada that reveal significant weakness in the abilities of reserve officers.(68)  They point out that the reserves have traditionally had lower individual physical and training standards, thereby endangering unit efficiency and morale; moreover, Militia officers and non-commissioned members (NCMs) tend to be viewed as "militarily inferior," with lower levels of discipline and inadequate experience.(69)  To be fair, regulars have an edge over reservists in terms of the amount of time they can devote to training and all things military. Indeed, "the ability to be "professional" at any task … is directly proportionate to the amount of time awarded to it."(70) However, according to Major General S.T. MacDonald, while there is a difference between reservists and regulars on the day a unit comes together for its initial three-month pre-deployment training, there is no appreciable difference at the end of that three months. Differences may remain in terms of experience, but in terms of standards and battle task skills, reservists and regulars are "comparable," particularly at the lower levels of non-commissioned members.(71)

One can appreciate that a unique understanding of local communities and traditions is possessed by the reservists. By the nature of their ability to lead "double lives," reservists are well-organized and effective time-managers, well equipped to deal with day-to-day issues. As a result, according to the Special Commission, "[t]he Militia […] resents what it sees as the condescending attitude of regulars […] And it holds that the Militia have been maltreated or misused by regulars."(72)

This tension between CF components, which has developed over several decades, will take time to change. Reconciliation might be facilitated by increased permeability between the Regular and Reserve Forces. The Special Commission observed the benefits of contact between the two, finding that, "after an initial period of mutual accommodation, regulars and reservists treated each other, at least at the lower rank levels, as if they were one and the same, all genuine members of Total Force."(73)   Thus, each of the regulars and the reservists can come to know and increasingly accept the limitations and strengths of the other. According to the Minister’s Monitoring Committee, "[t]he Director General (Reserves and Cadets) reports that cross-posting between the Regular and Reserve Force is an established policy."(74) This effort recognizes that "mutual respect comes from working together to a common goal, as much as possible to a common standard, and as much as possible with a common set of [but not identical] compensations and benefits in place."(75)  It be hoped that the development of identical training and equipment standards, qualifications and benefits will put Reserve and Regular Forces on a more equal footing and contribute to more unified armed forces.


In the past, Canadian defence policy has mobilized regular full-time armed forces, primary active reserves, secondary reserves and civilians in various configurations to respond to crises, both internal and external to the country. Certain benefits and limitations characterize each of these sectors, depending on the situation in which they are placed.(76)

The Regular Force is fully capable of meeting expanded peacetime commitments. In time of war, regulars require little mobilization and can achieve necessary strengths through augmentation of their numbers and appropriate deployment. The relatively small size of the Regular Force, however, limits the scope of its operations. In wartime, Canada would have to go beyond the augmentation and deployment of the Regular Force in order to mobilize adequate numbers of personnel.(77)

The benefit of involving Primary Reserves lies in the speed with which they can be mobilized for service. In addition to the augmentation of the Regular Force, some mobilization of the Primary Reserves is essential for situations of home defence requiring a lower training standard than is necessary for regular forces. For wartime activities, however, the Primary Reserves will often require training, equipment and experience if they are to be used for immediate expansion of the regulars. In this scenario, it is the regular force that "is committed to battle" and the Primary Reserves that are "capable of preparing … to sustain fighting elements and to expand … through further mobilization."(78)

The Supplementary Reserves have significant military training and experience. Their potentially high numbers reflect attrition from both the Regular Force and the Primary Reserve components of the armed forces, and they incur costs only through maintenance of an accurate and current list. However, as is currently the case in Canada, "[t]his list has often been neglected, and its members do not receive instructions for mobilization."(79)  Otherwise, the Supplementary Reserves would provide a significant, well-trained and inexpensive base for mobilization.

Finally, the Canadian civilian population with no military experience represents the largest resource in the event of a national mobilization. However, variables limiting the use of civilians include "the length of time needed to train them, the disruption of the work force, the uncertain supply of volunteers, and the political risks of conscription."(80)

In every country in the world, "the proportional allocation of population in the above categories differs."(81)  Each state gives different weight to the various components that can serve for mobilization and defines the values that will confine its options. Nonetheless, many options do exist. There is a wide variety of possible force configurations, beginning with the basic battalion with "a minimum ratio of 10% full-timers to 90% part-timers."(82)

In Canada, peacetime conscription - the norm in most NATO states (although many are now moving away from it) - is not an option. Rather, Canadians have opted for a relatively small, all-volunteer force. Recent strategic, geopolitical and financial realities have meant that it is less and less possible to meet all personnel requirements through the Regular Force. The current ratio of active regulars to reservists in Canada is approximately 2 to1. If one includes the supplementary forces in this calculation, the ratio of regular to reserve drops to 1.4 to 1. The current trend in Canada is shifting increasingly toward greater use of the Reserve Force, particularly the Primary Reserve, to achieve a Total Force structure.(83)

Some would argue for a reversal of this trend, citing the fact that reservists "still fall very short of the equal partnership envisaged by government officials," that "combat reservists and regulars are not interchangeable, nor are they equals," and that over-reliance on reserve units "would be foolhardy" in a time when rapid deployment remains a requirement. These proponents of a larger standing army (and, one can assume, air force and navy) maintain that reserves are inadequate "[i]f Canada wants a well-trained, well equipped, world class [force] that can serve … on a full time basis."(84)

Others call for a return of the army "to a territorial configuration [with] the militia [as] a fundamental and irrevocable cornerstone,"(85) asserting that "[r]educed manning and readiness levels in … the Regular Force are givens" and that the reservists are the only option to fill the capability gap.(86) Advocates of the reserves would be quick to point out that "Canada’s reserves are now providing good return for the relatively low investment by the Canadian Government in defence budget"(87) and that "[r]eserves give greater flexibility, more [and] longer term options to government."(88) They would also be sure to assert that the reserves provide the only visible presence of the Canadian Forces in most of Canada and, beyond their military value, serve the more general objective of national unity.

Somewhere between these two perspectives falls the effort to restructure the reserves, and indeed the entire Canadian Forces, into a configuration that will best respond to Canada’s defence needs within current fiscal and social confines. Efforts will seek to preserve tradition as much as is possible and to ensure that all members of the Canadian Forces receive proper treatment. According to the Special Commission, "regulars and reserves must serve together in headquarters and in units, and … the possibility of a career pattern permitting greater movement between the Regular and the Reserve Forces [must] be explored."(89)  Inequities and inefficiencies must be addressed and balanced against cost and operational effectiveness. Both Regular and Reserve Forces must remain flexible enough to adapt to inevitable changes.(90)


The Special Commission on the Restructuring of the Reserves wrote that "Canada is an unmilitary nation. Though Canadians have a proud record of service in war and, more recently, in peacekeeping operations, there is no doubt that, wartime aside, the public is now and has been remarkably uninterested in the Canadian Forces."(91) This lack of public interest, combined with the Canadian tradition of avoiding high defence spending in peacetime, has expressed itself in recent years in the form of massive cuts to the defence budget. Restructuring the Canadian Forces in this context is inevitable.

Historically, the Canadian army, in particular, has always taken the shape of some variant of the "Total Force" concept. It has consisted of a partnership between both permanent and reserve components, in varying strengths and capabilities "depending on the world situation and our national agenda."(92) Indeed, just like the regulars, the reserves have been and continue to be a vital component of the Canadian military.(93)

All commentators agree that the Government of Canada must define more clearly its expectations for the various stages of mobilization and the relative importance of the components of its armed forces. Only with an effective mobilization strategy will Canada be sufficiently prepared to defend its national security.


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Canada, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada. National Defence Estimates: Performance Report for the Period Ending March 31, 1998. Annex A (Reserve Force)

Canada, Office of the Auditor General. 1992 Report of the Auditor General. "Chapter 18: Department of National Defence - The Canadian Forces Reserves."

Canada, Report of the Special Joint Committee on Canada’s Defence Policy: Security in a Changing World. Publications Service, Parliamentary Publications Directorate, 1994

Canada, Special Commission on the Restructuring of the Reserves. Report. Canada Communication Group - Publishing, Public Works and Government Services, Ottawa, 1995, 124 p.

Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies (CISS). Jim Hanson and Peter Hammerschmidt (eds.). The Past, Present and Future of the Militia. CISS Annual Spring Seminar 1998

Chisholm, Col. R.W. "Citizen Soldiers." Forum 8:23-31, Fall 1993.

Conference of Defence Associations (CDA). Institute for Security and Defence. XII Annual Seminar: The Future of the Reserves (Seminar Proceedings). January 1996.

Electronic version

Dawson, Peter F. "Canadian Military Mobilization." Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 16, No. 1, Fall 1989, p. 37-57

Gervais, LGen J.C. "Moving Slowly toward Total Force." Forum 7(2):12-14, June 1992

Gibb, Darren. "Summary of the Report from the Special Commission on the Restructuring of the Reserves." Canadian Defence Quarterly, 25(3):15-18, March 1996

Huddleston, LGen. D. "Canada’s Air Reserve: A Continuing Success Story." Forum 7(3):13-16, September 1992

Lockhart, Lt.-Col. A.R.W. "Conference of Defence Associations, Task Force Study of Reserves in the Total Force." Forum 7(4):12-14, January 1993.

Meighen, Michael. "Revitalizing the Reserves: Let’s Get Going." Defence Associations National Network, National Network News, Vol. 4, No. 2, April 1997.

Electronic version

Michaud, Commodore J.-C. "La Réserve Navale Canadienne: Une partie constituante essentielle…" Forum 8:30-34, Spring 1993

Nixon, Buzz. "A Never-Ending Study: The Reserves." Defence Associations National Network, National Network News, Vol. 4, No. 3, July 1997.

Electronic version

Reserves 2000. "Canada’s Army of the Future - a New Concept." Defence Associations National Network featured article.

Electronic version

Stewart, MGen (Ret) R.I. "Army Regular and Militia as a Team?" Defence Associations National Network, National Network News, Vol. 4, No. 1, January 1997.

Electronic version

Thompson, Roger. "Teaching Reservists to Fight." Forum 8:32-35, Fall 1993

Thompson, Roger. "Total Force Army or Total Farce: A Critical View of Canada’s New Military Structure." Forum 7(2):15-16, June 1992

Watson, Laurie. "Canada’s Reserve: A Tale of Woe." Forum 7(1):18-19, February 1992

Willett, T.C. A Heritage at Risk: The Canadian Militia as a Social Institution. IUS Special Editions on Armed Forces and Society No.1, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1987, 269 p.

Willett, Terence C. "The Reserve Forces of Canada." Armed Forces and Society 16(1):59-76, Fall 1989

Note: Additional sources of information on the Canadian Forces Reserves current as of September 1996 are included on an electronic list at

(1)  See Peter F. Dawson, "Canadian Military Mobilization," Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Fall 1989), p. 38. According to Dawson, "[e]xternal factors largely determine the demand for, rather than the supply of, forces. They involve the nature, strength, and direction of threats against which the use of force is anticipated." These include the type of threat, the variety of responses required, the time available between the manifestation of the threat and the requirement for forces to be mobilized, and the gap between peacetime and wartime strength requirements. Dawson claims that, of these, the most important is change in the perception of threat. Alternatively, "[a]lthough internal factors affect requirements by influencing foreign policy, their impact is largely on the supply side - the ability to meet needs." Internal factors include economic costs (defence spending), public opinion (on the need for defence), and internal politics; the most important of these is cost.

(2) Dawson provides a detailed version of the history of the reserves in Canada up to 1989 and includes analyses of the factors that have influenced the various approaches to Canadian defence.

(3) "Levée en masse" refers to a situation in which every citizen, "though effectively untrained in formal military operations, was expected and required to defend both […] home and […] community against the enemies that threatened the tiny colonies." Canada, Special Commission on the Restructuring of the Reserves: Report, Canada Communication Group - Publishing, Public Works and Government Services, Ottawa, 1995, p. 10 [hereafter SCRR].

(4) Ibid., p. 11.

(5) Dawson (1989), p. 46.

(6) One definition of the Total Force concept is: "A force composed of two mutually supporting and complementary components (Regular and Reserve) which together can provide one integral operational army during emergencies and wartime": Col. R.W. Chisholm, "Citizen Soldiers," Forum 8:23-31 (Fall 1993), p. 24.

According to the 1987 White Paper on defence: "The Canadian Forces are a unified force of maritime, land and air elements. Their structure is based on a Total Force concept that integrates full- and part-time military personnel to provide multi-purpose, combat-capable armed forces. Under the Total Force concept, Regular Forces are maintained to provide the Government with a ready response capability; Reserve Forces are intended as augmentation and sustainment for Regular units, and, in some cases, for tasks that are not performed by Regular Forces […]. The concept also provides the framework for training and equipping the Reserves."

(7) Canada, Report of the Special Joint Committee on Canada’s Defence Policy: Security in a Changing World, Publications Service, Parliamentary Publications Directorate, 1994, p. 36.

(8) SCRR, p. 10.

(9) Canada, Department of National Defence, Minister’s Monitoring Committee on Change in the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, Interim Report - 1998, Chapter 1, p. 2; electronic version [hereafter MCCDND (1998)].

(10) Canada, Department of National Defence, Minister’s Monitoring Committee on Change in the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, Interim Report - 1999, Chapter 8 (The Reserves and Cadet Issues), passim; electronic version [hereafter MCCDND (1999)].

(11) DND Backgrounder, The Reserves, 9 December 1993, p. 2.

(12) SCRR, p. 18.

(13) MCCDND (1999), p. 103.

(14) Dawson (1989), p. 37.

(15) 1994 Defence White Paper, p. 44.

(16) SCRR, p. i.

(17) MCCDND (1998).

(18) MCCDND (1999), p. 103-104.

(19) MCCDND (1998).

(20) MCCDND (1999), p. 104.

(21) 1994 Defence White Paper, p. 44.

(22) SCRR, p. 20.

(23) The other two are the Regular Force and the Special Force. "The Regular Force is defined as a component of the Canadian Forces ‘that consists of officers and non-commissioned members who are enrolled for continuing, full-time military service.’ The Special Force is a component of the Canadian Forces which the Governor-in-Council may establish in an emergency or in response to Canada’s international commitments, as occurred, for example, in the Korean conflict." See ibid., note 3, p. 13.

(24) SCRR, p. i.

(25) The Special Commission recommended in 1995 that the "Militia districts be disbanded and replaced by seven Militia Brigade Groups, with Land Force Atlantic Area having one brigade group and the other areas each having two. Each brigade group would be responsible for the training and administration of nine to eleven units." Ibid., p. ii.

The proposed number of Militia Brigade Groups was one of the most controversial issues discussed during the examination of the Special Commission report by SCONDVA. The Committee’s own report called for the replacement of the Militia Districts by nine rather than seven Militia Brigade Groups, arguing 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 Western Canada.

(26) MCCDND (1999), p. 105.

(27) SCRR. p. ii.

(28) Ibid., p. i.

(29) Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, National Defence Estimates: Performance Report for the Period Ending March 31, 1998, Annex A (Reserve Force), p. A-5 [hereafter PWGSC, Performance Report FY98].

(30) SCRR, p. iii.

(31) MCCDND (1998).

(32) SCRR, p. 52.

(33) Ibid.

(34) Ibid., p. 52-53.

(35) MCCDND (1999), p. 110-111.

(36) SCRR, p. 55.

(37) Lt.-Gen. C.H. Belzile, "Single Force, Multiple Problems," Forum 8, Fall 1993, p. 15.

(38) SCRR, p. 56.

(39) MCCDND (1998).

(40) Buzz Nixon, "A Never-Ending Study: The Reserves", Defence Associations National Network, National Network News Vol. 4, No. 3, July 1997; electronic version

(41) SCRR, p. 60-61.

(42) MCCDND (1999), p. 102.

(43) MCCDND (1998).

(44) Ibid.

(45) MCCDND (1999), p. 102.

(46) SCRR, p. 19.

(47) MCCDND (1999), p. 107-108.

(48) MCCDND (1998).

(49) Ibid.

(50) SCRR, p. 65.

(51) MCCDND (1999), p. 112.

(52) SCRR, p. 62.

(53) DND Backgrounder, The Reserves, p. 2.

(54) PWGSC, Performance Report FY98, Annex A (Reserve Force), p. A-5.

(55) MCCDND (1998).

(56) SCRR, p. 57.

(57) Chisholm (1993), p. 31.

(58) OAG, 1992 Report, para.18.30.

(59) Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, National Defence 1998-99 Estimates: Part III - Report on Plans and Priorities, Part 11, p. 127.

(60) MCCDND (1998).

(61) SCRR, p. 15.

(62) OAG, 1992 Report, para. 18.30.

(63) LGen J.C. Gervais, "Moving Slowly toward Total Force," Forum, Vol. 7, No. 2, June 1992, p. 13.

(64) SCRR, p. 57.

(65) Belzile (1993), p. 13.

(66) SCRR, p. 15.

(67) Ibid.

(68) Roger Thompson, "Teaching Reservists to Fight," Forum, Vol. 8, Fall 1993, p. 33.

(69) SCRR, p. 16.

(70) Chisholm (1993), p. 24.

(71) SCONDVA, 9 December 1997, Evidence, electronic version,

(72) SCRR, p. 16.

(73) Ibid., p. 55.

(74) MCCDND (1998).

(75) SCONDVA, 9 December 1997, Evidence, electronic version.

(76) Dawson (1989), p. 38-39 and 52-54.

(77) Ibid., p. 52.

(78) Ibid., p. 55.

(79) Ibid., p. 53.

(80) Ibid., p. 54.

(81) Ibid., p. 39.

(82) Belzile (1993), p. 15.

(83) DND Backgrounder, The Reserves, p. 6.

(84) Thompson (1993), p. 35.

(85) Belzile (1993), p. 13.

(86) Laurie Watson, "Canada’s Reserve: A Tale of Woe," Forum, Vol. 7, No. 1, February 1992, p. 19.

(87) Chisholm (1993), p. 31.

(88) Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) Institute for Security and Defence, XII Annual Seminar: The Future of the Reserves (Seminar Proceedings), January 1996; electronic version (see Klepak’s presentation at

(89) SCRR, p. iii.

(90) For example, according to a DND document, "Land Force Reserve Restructure (LFRR) Commander’s Planning Guidance" (4 February 1999), p. 11-12, "[u]nit identity need not be lost due to a change in unit role. Re-roling or conversion of units to new roles (such as infantry to armour or air defence) is not new to the Reserves. As much as possible, unit identity and insignia will be retained, even if the unit is converted to a new role in a different branch."

(91) SCRR, p. 10.

(92) Gervais (1992), p. 14.

(93) DND Backgrounder, The Reserves, p. 6.