Section 1: Introduction

The history of the military profession in Canada is inextricably linked to the history of the nation itself. With roots in the historical fighting traditions of the First Nations and the military traditions of New France and the British colonial militias, the first regular units of what constitutes today’s Canadian Forces were formed shortly after Confederation. These units — schools of artillery in Kingston and Quebec — provided the Canadian militia with the initial professional competence needed to secure the new nation against potential threats, including those posed by its far larger and more powerful neighbour, the United States of America.

Although such threats have changed over time, the defence of Canada and its interests remain the primary focus of the Canadian military profession and the volunteer professionals who serve in uniform. Indeed, the fundamental purpose of the Canadian profession of arms is the ordered, lawful application of military force pursuant to governmental direction. This simple fact defines an extraordinary relationship of trust among the people of Canada, the Canadian Forces as an institution and those members of the Forces who have accepted the “unlimited liability”Footnote 1  inherent in the profession of arms. At the same time, armed conflict continues to become more complex, characterized by highly nuanced political situations, sophisticated weaponry, revolutionary information technology and unprecedented public scrutiny — all of which combine to increase the demands placed on the military professional.

The requirement for trust between the Canadian Forces and the Canadian people, together with the complex environment of modern armed conflict, makes it imperative that all members of the country’s military share a common understanding of the concept of military professionalism and how it applies to Canada and its citizens. Equally important, the success of the Canadian Forces in armed conflicts depends upon its members having a common understanding of the military ethos and embracing both a collective and individual identity as members of the Canadian profession of arms. This chapter addresses that shared understanding by describing the theoretical framework of military professionalism and defining its salient characteristics.  

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