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Canadian Forces

Canadian Forces

The tri-service badge
Military Manpower
(males age 15-49)
8,417,314 (2004 est.)
Fit for military service
(males age 15-49)
7,176,642 (2004 est.)
Total active troops 63,700 (Ranked 60th)
Military expenditures
Dollar figure
$12.9 billion
(13th in 2004)[1]
Percent of GDP
1.1% (128th in 2003)
Military strength
Land Force Command
Main Battle Tanks 114 Leopard MBT
Infantry fighting vehicles 600
Armoured Personnel Carriers 1,000
Maritime Command
Fleet Submarines 4
Destroyers 3
Frigates 12
Coastal Defence Vessels 12
Operational Support Ships 2
Air Command
Fighter 115
Patrol 21
Transport 53
Helicopter 128
Trainer 64
Unmanned 6

The Canadian Forces (French: Forces canadiennes) are the combined armed forces of Canada. The operational elements of Canadian Forces are: Land Force Command (LFC) or the army; Maritime Command (MARCOM), or the navy; Air Command (AIRCOM), or the air force, Canada Command (CANCOM), responsible for all operations within Canada, formed on June 28, 2005; Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM), responsible for operations outside of Canada, and Canadian Special Operations Command (CSOFCOM), responsible for special forces and secret deployments of the Canadian Forces, which were both formed on February 1, 2006.

The Canadian Forces was formed on February 1, 1968, when the Canadian government merged the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force into a unified structure. Canada remains one of the few modern military forces in the world to be organized like this.

The Commander-in-Chief of Canadian Forces is Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada. Also, the Governor-General of Canada, being the Queen's representative in Canada, has the powers of the Commander-in-Chief of Canadian Forces. Under the Westminster system's parliamentary custom and practice, however, the Prime Minister of Canada holds de facto decision-making power over the deployment and disposition of Canadian forces. The military head of the Canadian Forces is the Chief of Defence Staff (Canada). The Cabinet officer in charge of the Canadian Forces is the Minister of National Defence (MND), who answers to the Prime Minister.

The Canadian Forces are headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario. Canadian Forces serve in NATO exercises, and in support of United Nations peacekeeping efforts.



Early days

Canadian troops in colonial times served as regular members of British forces and in local militia groups. After Confederation in 1867, Canada's forces remained under British command until the turn of the 20th century. Canadian militia defended their homeland in the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and in the Fenian Raids. Several Canadian units were raised to serve under British command in the Second Boer War.

The Canadian Forces date to the War of 1812 when Canadian militia units were formed to assist in defending British North America from the invasions by the United States. The land forces were known by the traditional name Militia until 1940, when for the first time Canadian Army was bestowed. The title was changed after Unification as the land forces became part of the Canadian Forces. The land forces became known as Force Mobile Command, and later as Land Force Command. The Royal Canadian Navy was created in 1910 and the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1924.

Canadian soldiers, sailors and aviators came to be considered world class professionals through conspicuous service in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.



Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan

The Canadian Forces or its component regiments have served operationally in the War of 1812, the Fenian Raids (1866-1871), North-West Rebellion (1885), the Second Boer War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the First Gulf War, and have contributed to UN and other peacekeeping missions and undeclared wars, notably the Suez Crisis, Cyprus, Croatia, Bosnia, and the War on Terrorism (Afghanistan). Canada is a charter member of NATO and a member of the North American Air Defence treaty (NORAD).

Battles which are particularly notable to the Canadian military include the Battle of Vimy Ridge in World War I and, in World War II, the Dieppe Raid, the Battle of Ortona, the Normandy Landings, the Battle of the Scheldt, the Battle of Britain, the Battle of the Atlantic, and the strategic bombing of German cities. At the end of World War II Norway and the part of the Netherlands North of the rivers Rhine and Lek were liberated almost solely by the Canadian Forces from the Nazi-German occupying forces. After restoring law and order they left the countries within several months.

Since 1947, the CF has undertaken 73 operations worldwide. In 2002, nearly 3000 Canadian troops were on active duty in 11 additional operations including the international war on terrorism in Afghanistan and the NATO stabilization force (SFOR) in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Canadian regular and reserve troops are a visible and respected force at home as well. In 2001 alone, the Canadian Forces responded to more than 8,000 search and rescue incidents and helped to save more than 4,500 lives.


Postwar developments

At the end of World War II, Canada possessed the third-largest navy and fourth-largest air force in the world, as well as the largest volunteer army ever fielded (conscription for overseas service was introduced only near the end of the war, and only 2400 conscripts actually made it into battle). Defence spending and personnel remained high during the early years of Cold War, but began to decline in the 1960s and 1970s as the perceived threat from the Warsaw Pact diminished. Throughout the 1990s, successive budget cuts forced further reductions in the personnel, number of bases, and fighting ability of the Canadian Forces. Sizable Canadian air and land forces were maintained in West Germany under NATO command from the end of World War II until the early 1990s. Criticism has been mounted at such budget cuts as military spending has shrunk to only 1.4% of GDP; many argue that these cuts have prevented the Canadian Forces from modernisation.


Modern reorganization

Unlike the armed forces of Canada's closest allies -- the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and New Zealand -- the Canadian Forces is a single organization with a unified command structure. "The March 1964 White Paper on Defence outlined a major restructuring of the separate services. The White Paper described a reorganization that would include the integration of operations, logistics support, personnel and administration of the separate services under a functional command system."[2]

On February 1, 1968, Bill C-243, The Canadian Forces Reorganization Act became law and the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) were combined into one service - the Canadian Forces. While Unification was ostensibly undertaken for cost savings, it has also been suggested that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Defence Minister Paul Hellyer did not care for the traditions behind each service and that the new Canadian Forces (in Canada's post-war modernist fashion) was easily translated to French and eliminated inconvenient monarchist references during a contentious period in Canadian history. The reorganization has been criticized, for example by J. L. Granatstein in Who Killed the Canadian Military?

The Canadian Forces remains a single service, but each member belongs to one of three "environments": navy, army, or air. The environment is usually determined by the individual member's trade: for example, a pilot is automatically in the air environment. However, for environmentally non-specific or "purple" trades, such as medical technician or military police, the environment is assigned more or less at random. The environment remains unchanged throughout the member's career, regardless of the member's unit or base.

On February 1, 2006, CF added two more commands to the existing structure:

  • Canadian Expeditionary Force Command
  • Canadian Special Operations Command


Land Force Command (LFC)

A Leopard tank from The Royal Canadian Dragoons A Leopard tank from The Royal Canadian Dragoons
Main article: Canadian Forces Land Force Command

Canadian army brigades are administered through four geographically determined area commands:

  • LF Atlantic Area based in Halifax
  • LF Quebec Area based in Montreal
  • LF Central Area based in Toronto
  • LF Western Area based in Edmonton.

In each command (except Atlantic), regular force troops comprising a mechanized brigade group (CMBG) are supported by reserve forces in nine brigade groups. Regular forces in the Atlantic command are based in the Combat Training School at CFB Gagetown.

Today, Land Force Command (army) consists of three field-ready brigades:

  • 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in Edmonton, Alberta,
  • 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in CFB Petawawa, Ontario, and
  • 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in CFB Valcartier, Quebec (the francophone brigade).

Each brigade contains one regiment each of artillery, armour, and combat engineers and three battalions of infantry (all scaled in the British fashion), as well as a service battalion (logistics), a headquarters/signals squadron, and several minor organizations. A tactical helicopter squadron and a field ambulance are collocated with each brigade but not part of the brigade's command structure.

Major training establishments and non-brigaded troops exist at CFB Gagetown and ASU St-Jean (now attached to CFB Montreal.) Well-known regiments in the army include Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) and Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in 1 Brigade, The Royal Canadian Regiment in 2 Brigade, and the Royal 22e Régiment or the "Van Doos" in 5 Brigade. Each area also has an Area Training Centre.


Maritime Command (MARCOM)

HMCS Victoria HMCS VictoriaHMCS Algonquin HMCS AlgonquinHMCS Toronto HMCS Toronto
Main article: Canadian Forces Maritime Command

Canada's naval forces involve 35 ships and submarines plus many more supply and support vessels, making MARCOM one of the largest naval forces in the world. The ships are deployed in two fleets, Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) at CFB Esquimalt on the west coast, and Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT) at CFB Halifax on the east coast. There is no permanent naval presence on the Arctic coast at this time.

MARCOM participates in NATO exercises, and ships are deployed all over the world in support of the Canadian military and in conjunction with multinational deployments.

The Canadian fleet comprises:

Class Type Number Dates Details
Halifax Frigate 12 1992 The backbone of MARCOM, the 12 Halifax class frigates carry the Sea King helicopters of the Air Force Command, as well as anti-submarine and anti-aircraft missiles.
Iroquois Destroyer 3 1972 Area-air-defence and command-and-control destroyers with Sea King helicopters, refitted in the 1990s from anti-submarine role
Kingston Patrol 12 1995 Used for coastal surveillance as well as: general naval operations and exercises, search and rescue, law enforcement, resource protection and fisheries patrols
Protecteur Auxiliary 2 1968 Used for supply and medical support
Victoria Submarine 4 1990 Diesel-electric hunter-killer submarines (SSK) with long-range patrol capability
Orca Patrol 8 2007 Training and inshore patrol


Air Force Command (AIRCOM)

Main article: Canadian Forces Air Command
CF-18A Hornet CF-18A HornetCH-149 Cormorant CH-149 Cormorant

Canada's air force is deployed at 13 bases across Canada under the overall direction of 1 Canadian Air Division and constitutes the Canadian NORAD Region. Major air bases are located in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador while administrative and command-control facilities are located in Winnipeg and North Bay. A Canadian component of the NATO Airborne Early Warning Force is based in Geilenkirchen, Germany. Wings vary in size from several hundred personnel to several thousand.

Principal aircraft include:

  • 115 McDonnell-Douglas CF-18A/B tactical fighter bombers
  • 18 Lockheed CP-140 'Aurora' long-range patrol aircraft
  • 3 CP-140A 'Arcturus' long-range patrol aircraft
  • 28 Sikorsky CH-124 'Sea King' maritime helicopters
  • 15 CH-149 AgustaWestland 'Cormorant' search and rescue helicopters
  • 86 CH-146 Bell 'Griffon' tactical transport helicopters
  • 32 CC-130 Lockheed 'Hercules' combat transports
  • 5 CC-150 'Polaris' Airbus A310 long range transports
  • 6 CC-115 Dehavilland 'Buffalo' short range transports
  • 6 CC-144 Canadair 'Challenger' jet transports (4 VIP/2 utility)
  • 4 CC-138 Dehavilland 'Twin Otter' short range transports
  • 22 CT-114 Canadair 'Tutor' jet trainers
  • 24 CT-156 Raytheon 'Harvard II' trainers
  • 21 CT-155 BAE 'Hawk' jet trainer
  • 4 CT-142 Dehavilland Dash8
  • 4 CT-133 'Silver Star'


Canada Command (CANCOM)

This command is responsible for dealing with domestic terrorism and natural disasters. Created in 2005, it was made necessary after the events of September 11, 2001. Headed by Vice Admiral Jean-Yves Forcier and works closely with the United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States military.


Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM)

This command is responsible for overseas deployments and involve elements of the naval, land and air units. It is headed by Major General Michel Gauthier.

Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM)

Under the a transformed CF structure, Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) is responsible for the planning, and conduct of all Canadian Forces (CF) international operations, with the exception of operations conducted solely by the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM).

CEFCOM will bring together, under one operational command, maritime, land, air and special operations forces assets to conduct humanitarian, peace support or combat operations wherever they are required internationally.

The creation of CEFCOM is based on the new international security environment. Understanding that security in Canada ultimately begins with stability abroad, CEFCOM will allow the CF to specifically meet and manage threats to Canadian security as far away from our borders as possible.

Headquartered in Ottawa, CEFCOM will also be responsible for setting standards to ensure units and personnel selected for deployment are fully qualified and ready to conduct overseas duties.

The organizations under command of CEFCOM include:

· a Standing Contingency Task Force (SCTF) capable of rapidly responding to international crises. This high-readiness task force will be comprised of maritime, land, and air elements organized under a single integrated command structure. It will be ready to deploy within 10 days’ notice and will provide an immediate CF presence to work with security partners to stabilize a situation or facilitate the deployment of larger, follow-on forces should circumstances warrant;

· Mission-Specific Task Forces (MSTFs) task-tailored to meet mission-specific requirements drawing upon any CF capability and could be deployed as a follow-on force to the SCTF or as stand-alone contribution. The MSTF will also be capable of lead-nation status in multinational peace support operations for limited periods; and

· the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). An enhanced DART, or its component parts, will continue to provide humanitarian support and disaster relief to overseas missions, as directed.

CEFCOM will help ensure the Canadian Forces are more:

· relevant in the new international security environment, by providing a force better suited to adapt its capabilities and force structure to deal with threats that arise from the kind of instability found in failed and failing states around the world;

· responsive, by enhancing their ability to act quickly in the event of international crises. The CF will arrive on the scene faster, move more effectively within theatre, and increase it’s capability to sustain deployments; and

· effective, by providing the ability to deploy the right mix of forces – maritime, land, air and special operations forces – to the right place at the right time, in order to produce the desired result.

The Commander of CEFCOM is Major-General Michel Gauthier. Reporting directly to the CDS, he is responsible for the conduct of all international operations – humanitarian, peace support and combat – and has the necessary authorities to perform these responsibilities.


Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CSOFCOM)

This command is responsible for secret and elite commando unit deployments. The 750 personnel force is headed by Colonel David Barr.


Canadian Forces reserve force

The CF reserve force is comprised of the Primary and Supplementary Reserves, the Canadian Rangers and the Cadet Instructor Cadre and is represented, though not commanded, at the national level by the Chief of Reserves and Cadets (a Major General or Rear Admiral).

Primary Reserve

Reserve infantrymen train in urban operations circa 2004. Reserve training focuses on real world situations and the needs of the Regular Force who rely on the Reserves for augmentation on operational deployments. Reserve infantrymen train in urban operations circa 2004. Reserve training focuses on real world situations and the needs of the Regular Force who rely on the Reserves for augmentation on operational deployments.

The primary reserve is comprised of citizen soldiers, sailors, and aircrew who train and are posted to CF operations or duties on a casual or on-going basis. Each reserve force is operationally and administratively responsible to its corresponding environmental command. Reservists number approximately 23,000 (all ranks, all services). The CF maintains a "total force" policy as outlined in the 1994 Defence White Paper, where reservists are (in theory) trained to the level of and interchangeable with their regular force counterparts. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the reserves to sustaining CF operations, particularly following the defence budget cuts and increased operational tempo of the 1990s.

Naval Reserve The Naval Reserve (NAVRES) has divisions (shore-based training locations known as NRDs) located in 24 cities across the country. Full-time training is conducted year-round with regular-force counterparts at the three Fleet Schools and personnel frequently deploy on regular-force missions to supplement ships' crews. The Naval Reserve supplies all personnel (except two regular force electricians) for the 12 Kingston-class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDVs), which are used for patrol, minesweeping and bottom-inspection operations. The Naval Reserve has a funded manning level of 4,000, though it currently opts to retain only 3,400 and use the excess money to train individuals to a relatively high standard.

Air Reserve The Air Reserve is organized into flights or squadrons, integrated into "total force" Wings, at locations across the country where personnel conduct training and support Wing operations. Units are specialized in various areas of surveillance, engineering, and airfield construction. Personnel also conduct further training at AIRCOM bases and can deploy with regular force AIRCOM crews around the world in support of CF missions. Unlike the Naval and Land Force Reserves, the Air Reserve is composed principally of former members of the regular force, though this does not reflect any official policy.

Army Reserve The reserve element of Land Force Command is known as the Army Reserve, and is often referred to by its former name, the Militia. It is organized into under-strength brigades (for purposes of administration) along geographic lines. The Army Reserve is very active and has participated heavily in all Canadian army deployments in the last decade, in some cases contributing as much as 40 per cent of each deployment in either individual augmentation, as well as occasional formed sub-units (companies). Reserve regiments have the theoretical administrative capacity to support an entire battalion, but typically only having the deployable manpower of one or two platoons. They are perpetuated as such for the timely absorption of recruits during times of war. Current strength is approximately 15,000, and DND committed to an increase to 18,500 in 2000.

Communication Reserve The Communication Reserve is the primary reserve element responsible to the regular forces of the now defunct Canadian Forces Communication Command (now DND's Information Management Group). Communication reserve units are organized according to geographical region into Communication Groups (similar to the Army brigades). These Groups are divided into Communication Regiments (battalions), Squadrons (companies), and Troops (platoons), located in urban centres across the country. "Comms" reservists are involved in radio communications, data transmission, and installation and maintenance of tactical cable networks. The website for the Communication Reserve is here .

Health Services Reserve The 1500-strong Health Services Reserve provides essential health services in the Canadian Forces. Health services reservists serve the Canadian Forces in a wide range of health care professions, including medicine, nursing and social work. Reserve paramedical personnel who are not civilian trained and employed are trained, as a minimum, to the level of emergency medical responder (EMR).

Supplementary reserve The supplementary reserve is part of the CF reserve and comprises a voluntary call-up list for former CF regular- and reserve-force personnel who can be considered for reactivation in the event of a national emergency.

The Canadian Rangers The Canadian Rangers are part of the CF reserve, provide surveillance and patrol services in Canada's Arctic and other remote areas, and are an essential component to Canada's exercise of sovereignty over its territory.

Cadet Instructors Cadre Cadet Instructors Cadre (CIC) personnel are commissioned officers who are instructors in the various Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, Royal Canadian Army Cadets and Royal Canadian Air Cadets corps across the country.


Current deployments

As of July 2005, Canadian Forces are in operations throughout the world, as part of Canada's obligations to NATO and the United Nations, as well as in support of its international allies.

Current deployments are:

Country Dates Deployment Details
Central Asia 2001- 950 (2200 by March, 2005) troops in Afghanistan Canadian contributions to Operation Enduring Freedom and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan
Balkans 1990s ~100 Part of NATO force in Bosnia
Golan Heights ~200 Part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force

As well as these deployments, small detachments of Canadian military are based in different countries for assistance and logistical work.


Canadian Forces bases

CFB Goose Bay CFB Goose Bay

The Canadian Forces have a number of active installations across the country with some being branch-specific. There are also a number of facilities which have closed in various defence cutbacks since the 1970s.

Further information: Canadian Forces Base, and [[]], and [[]], and [[]], and [[]], and [[]], and [[]], and [[]], and [[]]



  • CFB Edmonton, Alberta
  • CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick
  • CFB Kingston, Ontario
  • CFB Montreal, Quebec
  • CFB Petawawa, Ontario
  • CFB Suffield, Alberta
  • CFB Shilo, Manitoba
  • CFB Valcartier, Quebec



  • CFB Esquimalt, British Columbia
  • CFB Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • CFS St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
  • CFMETR, Nanoose Bay,British Columbia


Air Force

  • CFB Bagotville (3 Wing), Quebec
  • CFB Comox (19 Wing), British Columbia
  • CFB Cold Lake (4 Wing), Alberta
  • CFB Gander (9 Wing), Newfoundland
  • CFB Goose Bay (5 Wing), Labrador
  • CFB Greenwood (14 Wing), Nova Scotia
  • CFB Moose Jaw (15 Wing), Saskatchewan
  • CFB North Bay (22 Wing), Ontario
  • CFB Shearwater (12 Wing), Nova Scotia
  • CFB Trenton (8 Wing), Ontario
  • CFB Winnipeg (17 Wing), Manitoba

Air Command and CF Northern Area also maintain a chain of Forward Operating Locations at various points across northern Canada, capable of supporting fighter operations. Elements of CF-18 squadrons periodically deploy to these FOLs for short training exercises or Arctic sovereignty patrols.


All services

  • NDHQ Ottawa, Ontario
  • Camp Mirage, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • CFS Alert, Nunavut
  • CFS Leitrim, Ontario
  • CFB Borden, Ontario
  • CFNA HQ Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
  • CFNA HQ Yellowknife, Northwest Territories



Main article: Uniforms of the Canadian Forces
The CADPAT uniform is mostly worn by Land and Air Force personnel. The old style OD nametapes have been replaced with CADPAT tapes for wear on camouflage clothing. Also shown is the CF green beret. The CADPAT uniform is mostly worn by Land and Air Force personnel. The old style OD nametapes have been replaced with CADPAT tapes for wear on camouflage clothing. Also shown is the CF green beret.

Although each element (land, sea, and air) wears distinctive uniforms, the CF as a whole has been reduced to two orders of dress: No. 3 Service Dress and No. 5 Operational Dress. No. 4 Base Dress (Garrison Dress in the Army) was eliminated to reduce the number of uniforms members had to ship or pack when going on postings or taskings; either Operational Dress or Service Dress is substituted as appropriate to the situation. No. 1 Ceremonial and No. 2 Mess Dress are normally not provided out of public funds. Generally speaking, Operational Dress is now the daily duty uniform across the CF unless Service Dress is prescribed (such as at National Defence Headquarters, on parades, at public events, etc); for occasions of greater formality or dignity, Service Dress can be modified to suit the occasion.


Service Dress

For all elements, Service Dress consists of a tunic with rank insignia, accoutrements, ribbons, brass buttons with regimental or branch insignia, etc; uniform trousers with belt; long-sleeved shirt and tie; ankle boots or shoes; and appropriate headgear with branch or regimental device. Environmental distinctions are as follows.

  • Army. Rifle-green tunic, trousers, service cap (officers only), beret (except as notedbelow: see Beret), tie, belt, and slip-ons. Linden green shirt.
  • Air Force. Postman blue tunic, trousers, service cap (officers only), wedge cap or beret (universal), and slip-ons. Black necktie and belt. Light blue shirt.
  • Navy. Black ("navy blue") tunic, trousers, tie, belt, and slip-ons. White-topped service cap (universal). White shirt.
Note: There is also a white naval uniform, colloquially called an "ice cream suit", which consists of a white tunic with stand-up collar, white trousers, and white shoes. This uniform is optional for summer wear and must be purchased at the member's expense.
  • Rank Insignia is worn on the upper arms of the tunic for all ranks up to Sgt/PO2; on the forearms for all ranks from WO/PO1 to CWO/CPO1; and on the cuffs of all officers. Rank insignia is also worn on all slip-ons worn by Navy and Air Force personnel, but only by Army officers; Army NCMs wear miniature metal rank insignia on the shirt collar and plain epaulets.
  • Undress ribbons are worn over the left breast pocket of the tunic; qualification badges (such as a paratrooper's "wings" or submariner's "dolphins") are worn above the top row of ribbons. Command badges (worn by Army personnel, or by non-Army personnel in Army units or formations as ordered) are worn centred on the pleat of the right breast pocket.
  • Collar badges. Army personnel also wear collar badges (usually a miniature regimental or branch device but sometimes a separate pattern, depending on unit) on the lapels of the tunic. These badges are known colloquially as "collar dogs".
  • Shoulder badges. Brass regimental or branch shoulder titles are worn on the shoulder straps of the DEU/ceremonial dress. By regulation, only numerals and letters may be worn on these titles, the only exception being the Calgary Highlanders and Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) who wear a special badge in the shape of an oak leaf, as a commemorative of the Battle of Kitcheners' Wood (22 April 1915).
  • The National Identifier is the word "CANADA" in an arc, in gold thread on the environmental background, worn on the upper sleeve near the shoulder seam. This is universal, except for Air Force NCMs, whose device also includes a gold eagle in flight. Slip-ons bear the title "CANADA", except for the Army, which may wear approved regimental or branch titles.

For less formal occasions, or when dictated by weather or other concerns, the uniform can be modified as follows:

  • removal of tunic, substitution of short-sleeve shirt (same colour), worn open-necked, with ribbons and qualification wings over the left breast pocket and name tag over right breast pocket
  • replacement of tunic with V-neck sweater (same colour as tunic) with shoulder straps; slip-ons as per shirt; short- or long- sleeved shirt (open-necked or with tie); shirt otherwise as normal

There also exists Ceremonial Dress (e.g., the scarlet tunics and bearskin caps of the Canadian Grenadier Guards), worn on formal and solemn parades and ceremonies, such as change of command parades, remembrance ceremonies, royal ceremonies, etc.; and Mess Dress, or Mess Kit (e.g. dinner jackets, waistcoats or cummerbunds, box spurs, etc), for formal or ceremonial dinners (such as mess dinners). These uniforms generally conform to the traditions of a particular regiment or branch; they are not universally worn, however, as they are generally not provided at public expense. For these occasions, some minor additions or modifications are made to the Service Dress uniform:

  • Ceremonial Dress. Replace undress ribbons with full medals. Add white web belts, gloves, bayonet frogs and rifle slings, pistol holsters, etc (for NCMs) or black Sam Brown belts with swords and scabbards (for officers).
  • Mess Dress. Replace undress ribbons with full medals. Replace shirt and tie with white dress shirt and black bow tie (males) or an approved Mess Dress blouse with gold buttons (females).


Operational Dress

Army and Air Force. For daily wear in the Army and Air Force, this is the Temperate Weather (TW) Canadian Disruptive Pattern (CADPAT) uniform. It consists of a shirt, trousers, combat boots, beret (see below), and olive-drab (army) or dark blue (air force) crew-neck T-shirt. The uniform is well-fitted but comfortably loose, with numerous and voluminous pockets, and drawstrings to adjust the fit. The shirt is worn outside the trousers, and the trouser cuffs are bloused over the boots. The shirt has an epaulet for a slip-on in the centre of the chest; this slip-on bears the rank of the bearer and an appropriate national, branch, or regimental title embroidered on it. The name tag is attached via Velcro fasteners, and bears the member's name, and environmental symbol (crossed swords for Army, eagle for Air Force). Embroidery thread for insignia etc is tan for Army and dark blue for the Air Force. The national identifier is the Flag of Canada, in full colour for garrison wear or in olive drab for operational wear.

During exercises and operations in the field, blue T-shirts are replaced with olive drab, and berets are replaced with more suitable (and camouflaged) headgear such as field hats helmets, balaclavas, etc. CADPAT is also available in an Arid Region (AR) pattern, for use in environments such as Iraq or Afghanistan. As well, for winter or arctic operations, there are camouflaged (i.e. white) accoutrements and coverings for clothes and equipment.

All personnel including recruits are now receiving an initial issue of the CADPAT uniform, with the olive-drab uniform officially replaced Forces-wide.

Navy. The Naval version of Operational Dress is the Naval Combat Dress (NCD). It consists of a black zip-up jacket, trousers, and beret; medium blue shirt (optionally, a white crew-neck T-shirt may be worn underneath); and boots. Dress slip-ons are worn on the jacket and shirt. Black ball caps with ship's name and designation have been approved for shipboard wear.



The beret is still the most widely worn headgear, and is worn with almost all orders of dress with the exception of the more formal orders of Naval and Air Force dress (i.e. Ceremonial, Mess, and Service Dress). The colour of the beret is determined by the wearer's environment, branch, or mission, as follows:

  • All army — rifle green (except as noted below)
  • Armoured — black
  • Airborne — maroon
  • Military police — red
  • Navy — black
  • Air force — postman blue
  • Search-and-rescue technicians — orange
  • Special Operations Regiment — tan
  • United Nations missions — U.N. blue

Soldiers in Highland, Scottish and Irish regiments generally wear alternate headdress, including the glengarry, balmoral, tam o'shanter and caubeen instead of the beret. Approximately 1/3 of the Infantry Regiments in the Canadian Forces are designated Scottish, Highland or Irish, not because of the ethnic composition of Canada (though certainly reflecting the strong Scottish communities in Canada) as much as the belief, at the time the Regiments were raised, that units wearing the kilt and boasting pipe bands would be easier to recruit for.

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