The Canadian Forces, as they are known today, were formed by the unification of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Navy, and Canadian Army into a single command structure in 1968 to save on non-essential costs like overlapping training, supply and administrative structures. This had elicited some resistance from Canadian soldiers, but over time, they accepted it — mostly. The unified administration and training ultimately worked out after initial teething troubles, but the idea of trying to create a single service identity and uniform with no distinction between army, navy and air force never really caught on with the troops. Gradually, the services reasserted some of their former identities, with Maritime Command regaining the use of naval rank titles after a few years, followed by the readoption of separate dress uniforms for the (still lower-case) army, navy and air force in the 1980s (though the new Distinct Environmental Uniforms were more of a palette swap of the Unification uniform with some differences in detail rather than a return to the services' former uniforms).
By the 2000s, the terms "Canadian Navy," "Canadian Army" and "Canadian Air Force" started creeping into semi-official use for recruiting posters, websites and such, in place of the official Maritime Command, Land Forces Command and Air Command (which had never been popular with servicepeople or gained much recognition with the public). Then in August 2011, the names of the elemental commands were changed back to the Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Navy, and Canadian Armynote . Reactions were just as mixed as after unification: the return to tradition led some to rejoice, while others complained that it reinforces Canada's connection to the British monarchy (which is seen as being detrimental to national identity). Either way, most civilians don't really care, accountants are annoyed at having to spend huge sums of money on new uniformsnote and updating all the stationery, while many servicepeople are just happy to be able to officially call themselves Army, Navy and Air Force again within the unified structure of the CF, royal titles or not.
Until the 1860s, Canada was defended by British soldiers, in addition to any ad hoc militias formed by its own citizens. By the 1860s, however, the cost of maintaining a standing army in Canada was taking a toll on both Britain's treasury and Britain's patience. One of the major factors that led to Confederation was in fact the need for a stronger defense of the North American colonies, something which had become painfully apparent in the Fenian invasions coming from the U.S. After Confederation, fencible regiments were developed throughout the rest of the 19th century, until when Canada sent its own military units in the Boer War. A national navy would follow in 1910, motivated in part by the need to save British resources for its naval competition with Imperial Germany.
World War I was when the Canadian army began Taking levels in Badass, as it turned in an impressive performance at places like Passchendaele, Ypres, and of course Vimy Ridge, a performance that was integral to Canada's development both as a nation and on the world stage. The "Hundred Days Offensive" is sometimes called "Canada's Hundred Days" as the Canadian Corps was used as "The Shock Army of the British Empire" in the attacks that pushed the Germans back over the Hindenburg Line. Canadian soldiers later made their Badass Army reputation clear in World War IInote and the Korean War. Since then, though, they are usually deployed in UN peacekeeping, and that made some Canadian soldiers unhappy. Currently serving with their U.S. allies in The War on Terror in Afghanistan, they also served in Bosnia and the First Gulf War. To this day the Canadian forces have a reputation for punching above their weight and can be downright scary in joint-forces training exercises.
Since the British monarch is also the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II is also (technically) the commander-in-chief of the Canadian Forces. However, since Canada is a sovereign nation, the Governor General — who is the Queen's representative — carries out most royal duties in her name. In practice, both are no more than figureheads, and all military decision making either goes to Parliament or the Department of National Defence.
In spite of the unification, the Canadian Forces still possesses highly distinct military branches, all with their own separate roles and duties. In addition to the usual ground, air, and naval components, there is also Canada Command (analogous to the Northern Command in the States), Expeditionary Force Command (which coordinates almost all actions outside of the country), Special Operations Command (in charge of elite commando and counter-terrorist teams), Operational Support Command (handles logistics, medical care, and policing duties) and the Information Management Group (which specializes in electronic and cyber warfare). Aside from these primary forces, there's also the Reserve Force, which is split into a number of sub-components like the Primary Reserve and the Canadian Rangers.
Another British-like note is the regimental system in the Army. Although the Canadian Army doesn't encourage the extreme loyalty to "The Regiment" that the British Army does, the system of named regiments with strong identities is strong in Canada and soldiers are proud of their regimental histories.
As is the case in the United States, service is voluntary and more or less follows the same rules. Conscription has been introduced in the past, but is almost impossible to bring into the picture; the last two times it's been tried during the World Wars, rioting ensued (mostly by French-Canadians in Quebec) and the party in power got voted out. During World War II, a decidedly odd system in which conscripted soldiers were kept in Canada and only volunteer soldiers were sent to fight was implemented. Volunteer soldiers derisively called these non-combat conscripts "Zombies".note It wasn't until 1945 that any conscripts were sent into combat, and the war ended before most of them actually reached the fighting. Today, with separation a definite option, the federal government even mulling over using conscription would be enough of a provocation for Quebec to immediately declare independence. Then again, the idea of conscription would probably elicit the same reaction in the rest of Canada as well.
One interesting trait of the Canadian Forces is that they've done very good work with at times very crappy equipment. In World War I, the first Canadian troops were sent into combat with rifles that tended jam in mud or even disassemble when fired, and poorly stitched boots that tended to fall apart at the slightest wear. Early in the war, they were also issued the MacAdam Shield Shovel, which was designed to be a both a trench-digging tool and a shield from enemy fire, but somehow failed to do either effectively (admittedly, the "sight hole" significantly reduced its effectiveness as a shovel). Yet in spite of these difficulties, Canadians still pulled off victories at places like Vimy Ridge and Ypres. In World War II, the Canadian Army was smart enough to take "Hobart's Funnies," a variety of specialized tanks, when offered and used them to good effect on Juno Beach on D-Day. More recently, the Canadian Forces had to make do with antiquated junk like the Sea King helicopters (that required up to 24 hours of maintenance for every one hour of flight time), although they continued to serve in the first Gulf War and in the Yugoslavian conflict.
Good years or bad, the Canadian military has tended to use their own variants of equipment used by the Americans or British, possibly with modifications to better suit geographical or personnel requirements. However, some equipment (such as the LAV III armoured vehicle or the McMillan Tac-50 anti-materiel rifle) is standard-issue in the Canadian military, and otherwise unavailable or in limited use in those two countries.
The current standard issue weapon is the C7 Rifle, an M16 variant which is modified for better reliability and is commonly equipped with the C79 optical sight. It is supplemented by the C8 Carbine, a carbine version similar to the M4.
The backbone of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps is the LAV III, a 8x8 wheeled armoured vehicle derived from the Swiss MOWAG Piranha, which is also the base for the US military's LAV-25 and Stryker-series. When the Cold War came to a close, it was decided that existing Leopard C2 battle tanks (a later variant of the German Leopard I tank) would have been replaced by up-armoured LAV III variants armed with 105mm guns, on the premise that lighter, air-mobile vehicles would be better at responding to low-intensity combat environments that were predicted to define the future of warfare. However, the invasion of Afghanistan and the extensive guerilla warfare that took place in the aftermath proved that heavy armour was still very much needed, which led to the German Leopard 2 being acquired on loan from the Bundeswehr, and later purchased surplus from the Netherlands.
In the air, the CF-18 (derived from the carrier-based US F-18 Hornet) serves as the primary fighter craft of the Royal Canadian Air Force. With most airframes having accrued thousands of flight hours during their thirty years of service, the Canadian military is understandably looking for replacements. Previously, the leading and most controversial contender was the US F-35A, which caused some political problems, both because of the cost (which had been grossly understated by the party in power) and ongoing developmental issues that have plagued the aircraft for years. Currently, Canada is seeking to purchase 16 F/A-18 Super Hornets as a "stop-gap measure", and considering that Ottawa probably does not want to pay for a mixed fleet, more F/A-18s will likely supplement and eventually replace the CF-18s. When not bumming rides off of its allies (as was often the case during the early years of Afghanistan operations), C-130 Hercules and a handful of C-17 Globemasters provide transport capabilities.
At sea, the Canadian military has fifteen surface combatants and four submarines (more on them later), in addition to roughly two dozen support vessels, namely minesweepers, support tankers, and patrol boats. It also utilizes aircraft for a variety of supporting roles, though they are operated by a separate air force division. Although larger and more capable than many other naval forces in other countries, the Royal Canadian Navy is actually quite small, given the fact that the country is surrounded by three major oceans and has by far the largest coastline in the world. Like the Air Force, the Navy is currently undergoing major equipment updates, with both its logistical ships and surface warships set to be replaced over the next few decades.
Many Canadians bemoan the lack of presence of the Canadian military in fiction, having to endure being compared to their rivals to the south. This is mostly true, but it is just about the same for a large number of other countries and their militaries as well.
In any case where Canada is attacked by an outside enemy like the Russians with Rusting Rockets, their numbers, less than a hundred thousand full time troops and paid reservists, wouldn't be enough to stop them. So that, along with the fact that a very large portion of Canada's population lives along the U.S.-Canada border, is why the cooperation between the U.S. and Canadian Armed Forces is important, and NORAD is just one visible proof of that. That being said, Canada is also in a nifty defensible position, being bordered by two oceans, an icy Grim Up North, and also being really, really big, meaning that no invasion force could muster the logistics to occupy the whole country. And then there's the snow and cold. You see, General Winter does not just fight for the Russians.
The Canadian armed forces contributed heavily to the creation during World War II of the 1st Special Service Force, also known (and appears in the movie entitled) The Devil's Brigade, the ancestor to most North American special service forces.
Note that the chinook is the name of a mountain wind that can cause drastic temperature changes, most commonly happening in the Pacific Northwest, so the phrase "Canucks with Chinooks" might in Real Life be mistaken as referring to Calgary (In the U.S., it's more commonly called a foehn wind, or a Santa Ana in Los Angeles). It is also the name of the Boeing CH-47 "Chinook" heavy lift helicopter, used by the Canadian Forces since 1974. note
- During World War I on the Western Front, German soldiers were so terrified of Canadian soldiers, that they coined a new word to describe them: Sturmtruppen, AKA Storm Troopers. They knew from experience that wherever the Canadian troops were, it was expected there would be an offensive attack. So to surprise the Germans for the Battle of Amiens, the British armies secretly moved all four Canadian divisions to Amiens, using false radio unit to make the Germans believe that they were at Ypres. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George said this about the Canadians:
Whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line, they prepared for the worst.
- Canada does not have nuclear weapons. However, Canada does have two major advantages in that area: first and foremost, they live right next to the United States, which has a few. Second and less well-known, Canada has the ability to create state-of-the-art nuclear weapons on very short notice. The CANDU nuclear reactor design (the Canadian standard nuclear power plant) can be converted to create weapons-grade material in short order, and Canada has both the parts and the know-how to create their own weapons in a pinch. The fact that they almost certainly will not need to because of their neighbor means that Canada can avoid all the unpleasantness and expense involved in nuclear weapons, however.
- It seems that whenever the Canadians and Australians team up, they always end up being badass together. So far, they have done so twice, in Battle of Amiens and in The Battle of Kapyong
- The Canadian military entry into World War II is generally considered the start of true Canadian independence. While Confederation actually occurred in the late 19th century, Canada was still beholden to Britain, such that when Britain declared war in World War I, Canada was automatically at war as well. World War Two, however, had Canada enter the war independently, with Parliament specifically debating and declaring war several days after Britain (their actual entrance into the war was never really doubted, though). As only nations can declare formal war on other nations, it was the biggest step towards independence since Confederation, and Canada has generally been considered its own nation ever since.
- As mentioned above, Devil's Brigade did exist, with American and Canadian soldiers teaming up in World War II.
- The Canucks certainly proved their mettle storming Juno Beach on D-Day, the second most difficult landing of Operation Overlord behind that of Omaha Beach.
- By the end of the first day, the Canadians had penetrated further into France than the rest of the Allied forces. Yes, the Canadians landed at the second-most heavily defended beach and advanced the furthest.
- There is a reason why Canada's Hundred Days are named so. 4 Canadian divisions engaged/defeated 47 divisions of the German army (which at the time was about a quarter of their forces fighting in the Western Front).
- Operation Anaconda in 2002 had the record for the longest combat killed was broken by Canadian sniper Rob Furlong at 2,440 meters (1.51 miles), exceeding the previous record set by Carlos Hathcock. ** This was later beaten by a British sniper, but was reportedly reclaimed once again by a JTF 2 sniper in 2017.
- The Canadian Forces is amongst the most gender-integrated militaries in the world. Women can — and do — serve in all positions, including front-line combat and, since 2002, submarine crews.
- The Canadian military is the first adopter of digital camouflage, namely the CADPAT (Canadian Disruptive Pattern), which was adopted in 1997.
- Joint Task Force 2 is the Canadian equivalent of Delta Force, and was deemed to be sufficiently badass to be asked to join the United States' Tier One of special forces during the Afghan War. It is also among the more secretive special forces in the world: very little information about its capabilities or any actions undertaken made public.
- If you look closely enough, Canada also has other special ops forces to spare. Alongside JTF2 are the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR), Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit (CJIRU), and 427th Special Operations Aviation Squadron (427 SOAS). As with JTF2, very little information about these units is known outside of their apparent functions, which apparently involve providing "support" or responding to specific threats.
- The constant troubles the Canadian Navy have with its submarine fleet has pretty much reached running gag levels. There was a time when the West Edmonton Mall had more functional submarines than the entire navy. They wouldn't be much use in a war either: for the ten-odd years they've been in service with the Canadian navy, none of them were equipped to fire the torpedoes that were in stock.
- Not to mention that the navy itself isn't particularly big - British Columbia's official ferry fleet has more ships.
- Which is sort of hilarious in hindsight since at the end of World War II Canada had the third largest navy in the world.
- And specialized in sub hunting. For the most part, Canada's subs aren't intended to ever see combat and are really there to keep the surface fleet's hunting skills sharp. During the early Cold War it was the Canucks who taught the Americans how to hunt Russian subs.
- No one makes this joke anymore, mostly because the subs at the West Edmonton Mall aren't functional anymore.
- During the Cold War, the Canadian brigade in West Germany hosted the biennial Canadian Army Trophy tank gunnery competition, which was a "tank gunnery Olympics" for NATO forces in the country. The competition was cancelled when Canadian forces left Germany following the end of the Cold War. The 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group was the best equipped of Canada's formations at the time it left Germany, but was still notably unable to participate in the first Gulf War due to the inferiority of its equipment and Canada's lack of heavy lift aircraft/sea transport ability.
- When the first post-World War II Olympics were held in St. Moritz, Switzerland in 1948, the RCAF Flyers, an amateur team composed of serving members of the Air Force, were chosen to represent Canada in men's ice hockey, making the RCAF the only air force in the world to win an Olympic gold medal in hockey.
- The Canadian CRV7 is one of the most powerful folding-fin aircraft rockets in the world, not to mention the most powerful one of its caliber. Compared to the Hydra 70 commonly utilized by the American military, its rocket motor produces almost twice the amount of thrust, providing sufficient kinetic energy to pierce tank armour with practice rounds. Most unguided rockets are about as accurate as fireworks; the CRV7 on the other hand, can beat most aircraft autocannons when it comes to hitting its marknote , and at significantly longer range than other rockets.note
- Canada was the first country to adapt the FN FAL Battle Rifle. They had developed their variant referred to as the C1A1 Battle Rifle. (Which was copied into the British and Australian L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle.) Like the L1A1, it was designed with imperial measurements instead of metric measurements. It can only fire in semi-automatic and it can be fed stripper clips. They also developed the C2A1, which was used by the Canadian Navy that can fire in full-auto. It was replaced with the Colt C7, which was a Colt AR-15 made under a license.
- Canadian special forces boast three of the top five longest-ranged confirmed kills via sniper rifle, including the top spot (as of the time of this writing) at 3,450 meters, a shot which took ten seconds to hit the target and had to be adjusted for the curvature of the Earth.
The Canadian Military in Fiction
- It Could Happen Here: The Canadian forces do come into play in the narration sequences when your character is trying to gain access to the country during the American refugee crisis. Another episode mentions separatist forces being armed by them, although this is never confirmed.
- Red makes fun of it in a bit from The Red Green Show when discussing what to do with a missile.
Harold: What about the Canadian Air Force?Red: Harold, it's after six. He's gone home.
- The Canadian forces had their campaign in Call of Duty 3 and Call of Duty: Roads to Victory.
- Canadian soldiers are mentioned in Modern Warfare, mostly serving in Task-Force 141 along with their allies in NATO. There are even a few seen in-game, though none are major characters. They also apparently lent support to the U.S. during the Russian invasion, but that was all off-screen.
- The WWI film Passchendaele, starring Paul Gross.
- The probably anachronistic group of Canadian commandos in the short story "Floating Home" from Rock, Paper, Cynic.
- The Canadian Forces are a playable faction in the Battlefield 2 mod Project Reality, and they even have Chinooks.
- Some think that Cadia (supposedly homeworld of the most badass Imperial Guard regiments) from Warhammer 40,000 is named after Canada. The average Guardsman's accent in Dawn of War seems to support this hypothesis, along with the world's regiments favouring aggressive assault tactics similar to Canadians in World War 1.
- ...what? Their accents don't sound like anything you'll find in Canada. England, maybe.
- Actually, their accents sound like Canadians trying to do English accents. Relic Entertainment, the Canadian based company that developed Dawn of War, regularly uses the Vancouver based Ocean Group to do voice overs for their games. On another note, Usarker Creed, the General leading most of Cadia's forces during the 13th Black Crusade, was at least partially based off of real life Canadian General Arthur Currie.
- ...what? Their accents don't sound like anything you'll find in Canada. England, maybe.
- The Devil's Brigade, which is based on the Real Life unit made of American and Canadian soldiers. It was amusing to see that the Americans were an unruly Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits compared to the organized and polished Canadians.
- The Brylcreem Boys, a Second World War film about Allied and German pilots imprisoned in the same POW camp in the neutral Republic of Ireland. A Canadian pilot and his Luftwaffe rival vie for the affections of a local woman. As the film takes place in spring/summer 1941, the only American character was a Royal Air Force volunteer.
- The Wars, by Timothy Findley, is one of the most noteworthy Canadian novels about World War I.
- In Legends of the Fall, the three Ludlow brothers go off to fight in World War I at the behest of the youngest. As the United States has not yet entered the war, they cross the border to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.
- The Great Escape, the famous film starring Steve McQueen, was actually based off of a real life prison breakout of primarily Canadian and English pilots. Wally Floody, a former miner turned pilot from Canada, and one of the real escape members, was one of the main advisers on the film, offering his personal experience to enhance the authenticity of the film.
- Kenneth Macksey's novel First Clash has the 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group conducting a delaying action against a Soviet tank division to buy time for the American VII Corps to reorganize their defence.
- This is written as a novel but was used as a textbook actually, and has bulleted key takeaway points at the end of each chapter.
- Combat Mission: Shock Force added the Canadian Forces as a playable faction in the NATO expansion pack.
- Tom Clancy's works:
- Red Storm Rising makes a brief reference to Canadian tactical fighters transiting through Keflavik, Iceland along with their American counterparts to reinforce NATO forces in Europe shortly before World War III kicks off.
- Clancy also briefly references the Canadian Forces in Executive Orders and Rainbow Six.
- The Rainbow Six Siege FPS received an update that included the addition of two playable "Operators" from JTF 2.
- Minor Canadian characters often crop up in Derek Robinson's novels.
- The New Meat in the Toronto SWAT team in Flashpoint is a former member of JTF2, and at least one subject was former Canadian Army.
- The 1980s Cold War Canadians are a playable faction in Wargame: AirLand Battle.
- Storming Juno, a "docudrama" about the storming of Juno Beach by Canadian troops. Very Loosely Based on a True Story.
- Man of Steel features Canadian personnel serving in NORAD.
- Hyena Road is a film depicting Canadian Forces in Afghanistan uncovering a human trafficking operation.
- According to an E-book in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Canada has significantly expanded its armed forces by 2027, which has possibly made Canada into a major power on the North American continent. During the Black Mesa Commute at the beginning of the game, a Canadian general (as shown by his uniform decorations) is encountered discussing the progress of a prototype military augmentation that Sarif Industries is designing.
- The Cold War gone hot World War III Real-Time Strategy games Wargame: AirLand Battle and Wargame: Red Dragon feature the Canadian Forces as a playable faction (they were absent in the original installment, Wargame: European Escalation). By the time Red Dragon comes around, the Canadians have become a military power on par with the Germans and the French.
- Among the NATO/BLUEFOR nations, Canada has a wide selection of specialist vehicles and fast tanks, along with the fastest transports in the game. All this adds up to make them a good raiding/harassing force and a headache for PACT/REDFOR on their own, but when combined with their coalition partners ANZAC (elite infantry and recon) and the UK (heavy tanks and artillery), they become and absolute nightmare. On their own, this same speed and versatility allows them to use flexible defensive formations to similarly devastating effect.
- They have some showing in the Company of Heroes series. The first game has the 4th Canadian Division aid the Americans in the Falaise Pocket, though they appeared identical to American units. Opposing Fronts has the British forces be able to choose the Royal Canadian Artillery Support doctrine for battle, and the British campaign has the player take control of some Canadian infantry in attacking Carpiquet - they were identical in use to the normal British units, but had differently-accented lines. In Tales of Valor, a Canadian brigade attacks Trun in the Falaise Pocket campaign section of the game.
- The Normandy '44: European Theater mod has the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division doctrine of the British forces you can choose, with further sub-doctrines accompanying them including the 2nd Armoured Brigade, the 1st Polish Armoured Division/79th Armoured Division, or 2nd Canadian Infantry Division and 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division.
- They show up in Robert Graves' World War I memoir, Goodbye To All That, set mostly in France, where they become very unpopular with the British soldiers, due largely to their much better pay.
- The Canadians are featured as a playable unit in Verdun, specializing with gas artillery. This is historically accurate as Canada has the record for most gas attacks called in during the war. Their description noted that the Germans considered them a dangerous threat.