Canada's Reserve Force

The Reserve Force is composed of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members who are enrolled for other than continuing, full-time military service when not on active service.

The Reserves play three key roles in the CAF:

  • Strategic – Integrated across the spectrum of institutions;
  • Operational – trained and ready to respond; and
  • Canadian Forces presence and community connection

The Reserve Force is based on a long standing model that serves both as a strategic and operational resource for the CAF by providing depth and breadth to CAF capabilities, a vital link to communities and to Canadians. While Regular Force members are enrolled for a specified term of service, members of the Reserve force are enrolled for an indefinite period of service and as such volunteer to keep themselves ready for duty if and when necessary.

The Reserve Force is comprised of four sub-components: the Primary Reserve (P Res), the Canadian Rangers, the Cadet Organization, Administration and Training Service (COATS) and the Supplementary Reserve. It is important to note that only the Primary Reserve and Canadian Rangers have a role related to CAF operations. The Reserve Force represents a rich heritage and tradition of service to Canada with its presence in local communities throughout the country. A sustainable Reserve Force, trained and equipped to meet the needs and operational challenges of the Department of National Defence (DND) and CAF, is a critical enabler to CAF strategic and operational success.

Primary Reservists and COATS are recruited through CAF recruiting centres manned by both Regular and Reserve Forces personnel. Attraction is accomplished through a combination of national advertising and local initiatives. Some processing is devolved to P Res units. Following a pilot recruiting process, the Environments took back the responsibility for recruiting effective 1 April 2017.

Canada’s Defence Policy Strong, Secure, Engaged, issued in June 2017, announced that the P Res strength would grow to 30,000 in conjunction with the 71,500 Regular Force personnel. Included in this growth were significant efforts to optimize Reserve participation in future missions through the advent of new and emerging capabilities (i.e. Cyber) as well as the modernization of personnel policies in order to create more flexible conditions of employment to better leverage the Reserve Force in delivering the CAF mission.

The Primary Reserve

The Primary Reserve (P Res) is a force that consists of predominately part-time professional CAF members, located throughout Canada, ready with reasonable notice to conduct or contribute to domestic and international operations to safeguard the defence and security of Canada. This force is fully integrated into the CAF chain of command.

The P Res is also a diverse military community and its management has the responsibility of the environmental Force Generators (Navy, Army, Air Force, Health Services, Judge Advocate General and Special Operations Forces). Specific tasks, roles and missions flow from the Force Generators and employment and training models as well as the degree of integration varies by environment. However, common to all is the contribution to the Defence Mission and the delivery of CAF capabilities.

In the 2017-18 Departmental Plan (DP), the P Res was established at 27,000 with a growth target planned to 28,500 by 2019. The total strength as of 31 March 2018 was approximately at 27,200 with an average paid strength of 21,885. The future transition to aligning Regular and Reserve Force establishment models will create the conditions to eliminate distinct counting methodologies. This will provide the CAF leadership with a clearer assessment of the level of readiness of the Primary Reserve to meet the operational demands of the CAF. There are routinely 4,000 P Res members on permanent full-time positions employed across the spectrum of CAF institutions from Primary Reserve units to Strategic Headquarters. The balance of employment positions has shifted to favour part-time service. Permanent full-time positions have been decreased and aligned to support the priorities of Reserve Force Generation, Support to operations, Reserve Professional Development and Support to the Institution.

The P Res sub-component consists of the following elements:

  • The Naval Reserve (NAVRES);
  • The Canadian Army (CA) Reserve;
  • The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Reserve;
  • Military Personnel Command (MILPERSCOM) Reserve which includes: the CAF Health Services Reserve, MILPERSCOM Primary Reserve List (PRL) and the National Defence Headquarters PRL;
  • The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command Reserve (CANSOFCOM); and
  • The Judge Advocate General (JAG) Reserve.

The Primary Reserve contributes to the overall CAF capability to deliver strategic effects in the defence of Canadian interests both at home and abroad. It consists of professional, well-trained and predominantly part-time CAF members who contribute to the defence and security of Canada by maintaining directed levels of readiness.

Informed by experience gained in multiple domestic and expeditionary operations, the Primary Reserve has proven to be an integral component of the CAF. The ongoing review and refinement of the roles, missions, and operational tasks within each of the services has ensured that Primary Reservists are well prepared, trained, developed, and equipped to work seamlessly alongside the Regular Force in providing the capabilities necessary to achieve operational success at home and abroad. As with all CAF members, Primary Reservists have a responsibility to train and to maintain their personal fitness and readiness. Individual training is normally conducted on a scheduled, part-time basis to meet trade or general specifications or to maintain skills (such as annual weapon qualification or first aid certification). Extensive training exercises are carried out annually as an opportunity for collective training. Courses are structured to accommodate demands of a civilian career/school and family and innovative methods of training delivery have been utilized to facilitate training and professional development. Courses have been modularized into shorter blocks whenever possible and distributed learning is used when feasible. Generally, Reserve personnel do not normally perform the same wide variety of tasks expected of a member of the Regular Force as they are not trained to the same breadth, nor are Reservists expected to be at the same level of readiness as their Regular Force counterparts. However, many of the occupational specifications are now the same for both and P Res personnel are trained to the same standard. This integrated/common training has a positive impact on employment on operations, component transfers and has resulted in a more integrated CAF.

In international operations, the role of the P Res is to augment, sustain and support deployed forces. P Res personnel comprised up to 20% of deployed forces during recent international operations. With respect to domestic operations, the P Res provides the personnel for coastal, air, and arctic operations and the Territorial Battalion Groups. A significant number of Reserve units are located in metropolitan areas and add to the ability for the CAF to respond to a domestic crisis should CAF support be solicited by the Provinces. P Res domestic operations response has included Disaster Relief Assistance, Search and Rescue, Security and Sovereignty Operations, Support to law-enforcement and Support to major events. The CAF’s integrated approach to delivering operations ensures a continuing ability for Reservists to gain operational experience thereby further enhancing the CAF overall level of responsiveness.

Progress has been steady to improve care of Reserve ill and injured members and their families as well as access to a wide range of DND/CAF and Veterans Affairs Canada programs and services. Work continues on the integration of Reserve Force considerations to harmonize policies and programs across the CAF improving and updating internal management policies and directives pertaining to the Primary Reserve.

Reserve contributions to operations and connections with Canadians are critical to the nation and to the environments and communities in which they serve. We must ensure that we attract, develop, support and retain a ready, capable, motivated and relevant P Res force as both a strategic and operational resource for Canada and the CAF well into the future. The Primary Reserve will provide continued support to deployed operations and have demonstrated leadership and professionalism by continuing to respond when called upon for operations, emergencies and exercises at home and around the world.

Primary Reserve elements

The Naval Reserve

The Naval Reserve (NAVRES) generates trained sailors for employment at sea and ashore, and is completing its evolution to a high skill, high output strategic augmentation role in order, providing a sustainable strategic source of personnel for CAF operations. To ensure the provision of qualified naval reservists for increasing employment opportunities at sea and ashore growth objectives, occupation structures, and employment models continue to be evolved to achieve the agile and responsive integration of personnel required to deliver Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and CAF-wide effect.

As part of its evolution, NAVRES continues to progress implementation of Strong, Secure, Engaged within the framework of the RCN Strategic Plan. Over the past year, efforts have been focused on a number key initiatives, with the following milestones being achieved:

  • Initiative 74 – Increase size of the Primary Reserve. NAVRES achieved overall growth of 5% in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017-18.
  • Initiative 75 – Assign new roles. The RCN’s Naval Security Team continued progression to final operational capability, with operational deployments in spring 2018.
  • Initiative 76 – Enhance existing roles. RCN has mandated expansion of employment across all RCN surface platforms. NAVRES expanded intelligence support to the RCN’s Intelligence Enterprise through the conduct of intelligence analysis by part time Reservists based in their home units.
  • Initiative 77 – Reserve Force to deliver select expeditionary missions in a primary role. Laid groundwork and completed preparation for Naval Security Team deployment to Fiji, under Operation PROJECTION, to take place in summer 2018.
  • Initiative 81 – Offer full time employment to Reservists in first four years of service. Prepared and administered 1,581 offers for full time employment under this initiative, with an acceptance rate of approximately 85%.

In addition to directly supporting Canada’s Defence Policy - Strong, Secure, Engaged, efforts have also been dedicated to implementing the structures, and processes required to support the range of activities that deliver the key outcomes of sustained Growth, Individual Readiness, and sustained levels of Employment. Progress towards these outcomes has been achieved through a variety of initiatives, including:

  1. a significant overhaul of the recruiting process to support growth;
  2. increased component transfer from the Regular Force;
  3. development and implementation of individual readiness standards, tiered to align with CAF and RCN requirements; and
  4. evolved internal organizational and establishment structures.

Throughout these efforts, emphasis will remain on a traditional model of part-time reserve service while enabling periods of full time service as a member`s availability allows, thereby fostering close alignment with CAF direction on employment of the Primary Reserve.

In addition to these activities, through its 24 nationally distributed Naval Reserve Divisions, NAVRES has provided the RCN representation at numerous CAF appreciation events and conducted multiple attractions and local leadership engagement activities, supporting the CAF and RCN’s strategic communications, recruitment and outreach efforts. The strength of the Naval Reserve had grown to 3,368 by the end of FY 2017-18.

The Army Reserve

Canada's Army Reserve is organized into 123 units, located in 117 cities and communities across the country. The role of the Army Reserve is a part-time force that provides local engagement and a responsive integrated capability, at home or abroad, in support of the Army mission.

The strength of the Army Reserve was 19,084 part and full-time Reservists by the end of this reporting period. The Army Reserve continues to provide formed capabilities at the unit, sub-unit and sub-sub-unit level as well as individual augmentation to the Regular Force, for domestic and international operations.

Domestically, the Army Reserve trains through Territorial Battalion Groups (TBG), Domestic Response Companies (DRC) and Arctic Response Company Groups (ARCG). These capabilities represent the force employment framework through which the Army Reserve will leverage existing unit structures and capacities to conduct domestic operations as directed.

Internationally, the role of the Army Reserve has expanded to force generate specialized or Corps specific Mission Tasked (MT) sub-sub units to integrate into Regular Force units for operations.  Additionally the Army Reserve will continue to provide individual augmentation on operations to staff and headquarters positions as needed to support the Army mission.

The Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Reserve is employed in total force RCAF establishments throughout Canada, working side-by-side with members of the Regular Force and other departmental employees. RCAF Reservists receive the same training as their Regular Force counterparts and Air Reservists maintain their occupational skills through a combination of specialized training opportunities and routine support of daily Air Force operations. The close integration of the RCAF Reserve into total force establishments provides a surge capacity to ensure that the RCAF is able to deliver strategic effects for the CAF. 

The RCAF Reserve Strategy 2025, released in 2017, outlines the path to return to a viable and sustainable RCAF Reserve force. To date, the Strategy has reinvigorated recruiting of unskilled direct entry persons, stabilized strength, and has begun to shift the structure and management of positions to engender flexibility to match retention of personnel departing the regular force. These skilled individuals provide a continuing basis of mentorship, a cadre to train new regular and reserve personnel and depth to under strength regular force trades, while being available to maintain main operating base functions while active duty personnel are deployed. The current focus is to expand recruiting, and the training capacity for reservists, with a view to ensuring greater absorption and timely progress to reach trained effective strength. The emphasis on recruiting has seen an increased intake of both skilled and unskilled personnel, however, we anticipate a continued period of high attrition over the next five to seven years due to an aging workforce reaching compulsory retirement age. 

Progress continues with the development of a new RCAF occupation that will provide critical, non-technical support to the conduct of air operations – more specifically, supporting: aircraft maintenance functions, search and rescue operations and force protection requirements. This new occupation is designed to stimulate the interest of unskilled Canadians towards an Air Force career by offering opportunities in the field of aviation with minimal investment in training. In addition to this occupation development, the RCAF Reserve will examine the potential for cooperative partnerships with education institutions as another opportunity for diversifying intake. The RCAF Reserve remains aligned with RCAF priorities and CAF requirements. The ongoing efforts will see the RCAF Reserve achieve a sustained strength from 2,050 at the end of this reporting period to approximately 2,400 members by 2025.

The CF Health Services Reserve

The CF Health Services Reserve (H Svcs Res), is organized into two functional groups – 14 Reserve Field Ambulances (Res Fd Ambs), and the 1 Canadian Field Hospital Detachment Ottawa (1 Cdn Fd Hosp Det Ott) with a total strength of 1,379 at the end of fiscal year 2017-18.

Res Fd Ambs force generate trained personnel to support, augment and sustain the CF Health Services Group (CF H Svcs Gp); provide health services support to the Primary Reserve; and conduct community outreach activities. 1 Cdn Fd Hosp Det Ott specialist clinicians provide depth and breadth to the H Svcs Gp clinical capability on international operations and in military clinics within Canada. 

Within the CF H Svcs Gp HQ, the efforts of the Directorate of H Svcs Res (D H Svcs Res) are in support of  Res Fd Ambs and 1 Cdn Fd Hosp Det Ott as the lead for the strengthening the Health Services Reserve Initiating Directive (ID). Over the next three years, the H Svcs Res mission and tasks will be validated and the organization, training and structure will be modernized to achieve a more flexible, responsive, and integrated FG capability to support CF H Svcs Gp tasks within domestic and expeditionary operations.

Total Force healthcare-focused international collective training opportunities continue to build readiness, interoperability with allies, and the domestic and international operational response capability to meet Defence imperatives. Domestically, H Svcs Res members train in partnership with Canadian Army Reserve Canadian Brigade Groups (CBGs) to prepare for the Artic Response Company Group (ARCG) and TBG tasks. H Svcs Res contribution to expeditionary operations is targeted at 10% of CF H Svcs Gp missions. The CF H Svcs Gp is conducting a trial of an updated P Res Medical Readiness Assessment Tool as a means of indicating the medical readiness status for domestic deployment/ training and short term employment of P Res members to the chain of command. 

The Judge Advocate General Reserve

At the end of FY 2017-18, the Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) has achieved a Primary Reserve List (PRL) fill rate of 78%, with P Res members occupying 52 out of 67 positions. During the reporting period, reserve legal officers provided legal support to CAF units as well as to domestic and international operations. The JAG PRL is supported by two P Res clerks.

The Supplementary Reserve

The Supplementary Reserve (Supp Res) is a sub-component of the Reserve Force comprised of CAF members who have previously served in the Regular Force or a sub-component of the Reserve Force. The Supp Res provides a cadre of personnel who are not required for annual training, but who may choose to return to service voluntarily or, under specific conditions, may be placed on active service to augment the Regular or Reserve Force. This sub-component provides the CAF with additional capacity where and when needed.

The Supp Res Instruction (CAF Mil Pers Instr 02/15) limits the period of service to 5 years in line with current skills maintenance protocols. The Supp Res consisted of 7,798 members by the end of FY 2017-18.

Canadian Rangers

The Canadian Rangers (CR) are Reservists, who provide a military presence in remote, isolated, and coastal communities of Canada, report unusual activities or sightings, and conduct surveillance or sovereignty patrols as required. Canadian Rangers contribute to the Government's sovereignty and security objectives in the North by providing a military presence in those sparsely settled northern, coastal and isolated areas of Canada which cannot conveniently or economically be covered by other elements of the Canadian Armed Forces. Canadian Rangers also support the Junior Canadian Ranger (JCR) youth program, sponsored by the CAF for youths 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities.  The CR has grown to 180 Patrols and their strength was approximately 5,000 nationwide during FY 2017-18. An analysis of the CR is currently underway under the auspices of the Government of Canada’s Northern Strategy. The goal is to identify potential growth, and to determine if there is a need for increased capabilities within this sub-component of the Reserves. 

Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service

The Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service (COATS) is composed of Cadet Instructors Cadre (CIC) officers, General Service Officers and Non Commissioned members whose primary duty is the supervision, administration and training of cadets 12 to 18 years of age.

The COATS mandate is to ensure the safety and welfare of cadets while developing in them the attributes of leadership and citizenship, promoting physical fitness and stimulating their interest in the sea, land and air activities of the CAF. COATS personnel are not subject to Universality of Service and have a unique training and career progression structure. They are not employed in any other CAF capacity beyond the Cadet Program and may serve until age 65.

Employer Support for the Reserve Force

Members of the Reserve Force must balance the demands of military service, family, and their civilian careers or studies. In concert with a network of volunteers from across Canadian businesses, academic institutions and industries, the CAF has developed a comprehensive set of employer support programs, information packages, policies and recognition for employers and educational institutions to ensure that Reserve personnel are available for military service without penalty to their civilian career or educational pursuits. Employer support is an important force enabler for the CAF and was proven critically important in the last two decades where there has been a high proportion of Reservists serving on domestic and international operations.  

As the number of Reservists on domestic and international operations increases, employer support and engagement programs evolve to meet the new challenges. Employer Support Programs have expanded to include Canadian Rangers and COATS and our partners include academic institutions, small and large businesses and corporations, industry and organizations across Canada. 

In the past ten years, we have enhanced our employer support tools beyond programs and information to include federal and provincial job protection legislation for Reservists, employment programs and an employer compensation program.

In 2016-17, a new program entitled the Compensation for Employers of Reservists Program (CERP) was introduced. This program provides compensation in the form of grants to eligible civilian employers and self-employed Reservists, in order to offset costs incurred to their businesses while a Reservist employee is deployed on a named operation. The CERP is designed to augment and strengthen the suite of existing employer support and engagement programs that contribute in sustaining and enhancing a robust and effective CAF. 

Canadian Forces Liaison Council

The Canadian Forces Liaison Council (CFLC) is a Canada-wide network of more than 120 senior civilian business executives and educational leaders who volunteer their time and effort to promote the primary Reserve Force by highlighting the benefits of Reserve Force training and experience to the civilian workplace. Supported by a full-time secretariat and a national network of Reserve officers, CFLC assists individual Reservists as well as Reserve units in matters related to employer support.

The mandate of the CFLC is to enhance the availability of Reservists for their military duties by obtaining the support and co-operation of organization leaders in Canada. By increasing the pool of trained and available Reservists for operations, CFLC’s programs directly contribute to the operational readiness of the CAF, while fostering a culture of national support for the CAF as a whole. The CFLC National Council comprises 15 national, provincial and territorial chairs who coordinate and guide strategic programming of the organization in accordance with departmental objectives and initiatives.

The Council has encouraged civilian employers and educational institutions to grant Reservists military leave on a voluntary basis, without penalty, to participate in their military activities, duties and training. To achieve its mandate, CFLC facilitates visits of civilian employers and educators to bases and training establishments, in addition to organising targeted outreach with civic, business and industrial leaders across Canada. These longstanding programs have been refined over time, and are designed to provide participants a clear understanding of the requirements of Reservists, while also highlighting the many tangible benefits employers receive from their Reservist-employees. The CFLC also serves the entirety of the Reserve Force through a national network of liaison officers who directly support the Environmental Commands. This is done through reserve unit visits, providing employer support training to key unit personnel, and directly supporting individual Reservists on a case-by-case basis, through advice and guidance on employer support issues.

There are currently six core employer support and engagement programs. The ExecuTrek and the Outreach programs generate awareness and education of employers, academic leaders and other organizations of the value of Reserve service. The Reserve Assistance Program (RAP) and Reserve Unit Support Program (RUSP) that support Reservists in engaging employers when there may be challenges regarding a Reservists request for military leave for operations or training. The Awards and Recognition Program recognizes Canadian businesses and academic institutions who demonstrate outstanding support to their Reservist-employees. Finally, the Compensation for Employers of Reservists Program (CERP) helps employers claim financial support if they allow a Reservist to deploy on a domestic or overseas operation.

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