Recruitment, Retention, Reconstitution

  • National Defence is prioritizing efforts to enact meaningful culture change, to grow the Canadian Armed Forces, and to ensure that our forces reflect Canada’s diversity.
  • I am pleased to report that we will launch a new retention strategy in 2022 to retain members, including from underrepresented groups.
  • This will be complemented by efforts to maximize the staffing of recruiting centres and training schools, while redesigning basic training with a focus on professional values, resilience, and military skills to build more inclusive teams.
  • Additionally, National Defence is reviewing its training at every level to ensure we remain ready to excel at operations at home and abroad.
  • Through these efforts, we will create a more diverse, modern, and agile Canadian Armed Forces that will attract talented Canadians for years to come.

If pressed on recruitment and retention of women:

  • Military service places unique demands on families and women, which is why we recently announced new options for compassionate family-related leave, as well as measures to enhance women’s health and health care.
  • We are also conducting focused engagement activities with communities across Canada to increase enrolment of women in the Defence Team.
  • Additionally, we are prioritizing women applicants for all CAF enrolment programs, including at military colleges.
  • We have also made our ranks more inclusive: French versions of all ranks now have official Gender Inclusive equivalents, so that members can be addressed in a way that they feel best represents their gender identity.

If pressed on privatization:

  • Strategically partnering with the private sector enables our National Defence personnel to focus on their core functions.
  • National Defence takes all possible measures to ensure the health and safety of all employees and contractors.
  • National Defence will continue to consult public sector unions on partnerships with the private sector.

If pressed on relevancy of vaccination requirements:

  • The COVID vaccine has served to limit viral transmission, and has also been highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths among those who have received their full primary series (defined as a first and second dose of COVID-19 vaccine).
  • As a result of the high CAF vaccine uptake, very few members have been hospitalized and operational capability has been maintained throughout the pandemic.

Key Facts

  • In 2021-2022 (as of March 8, 2022) 6,891 individuals joined the Regular Force and Primary Reserve, 15.98% of whom were women.
    • 2020-2021 intake: 4,262 individuals.
    • 2019-2020 intake: 10,270 individuals.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces’ Regular Force needs ~ 6,600 Regular Force members to meet the operational readiness target. 
  • ~ 6,300 persons per year must be recruited and trained to account for annual attrition forecast.
  • Canadian Armed Forces Employment Equity Plan 2021-2026 recognizes the LGBTQ2+ community as a designated group.
  • New promotion and selection process: National GO/FO selection boards now feature procedural improvements including mandating that one voting member be from an Employment Equity group.
  • Ongoing recruitment initiatives:
    • Targeted engagement with communities across Canada to increase representation of under-represented groups.
    • Programs to increase Indigenous representation.
    • Prioritizing women applicants at military colleges and all CAF enrolment programs.
  • Indigenous representation:
    • Goal: 3.5% by 2026
    • Current: 2.7% (as of March 4, 2022)
    • The Canadian Armed Forces is making efforts to increase Indigenous participation in the military through the Canadian Armed Forces Aboriginal Entry Program, which provides three weeks of hands-on military training and lifestyle experiences.
    • The Canadian Armed Forces offers five Indigenous Summer Training programs nation-wide, which combine military skills training and Indigenous cultural teachings.
    • The Canadian Armed Forces offers an Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year, which is open to Indigenous Peoples across Canada. It involves an academic year in a university environment, for educational and leadership experience at Royal Military College (RMC) Kingston.
  • Canadian Armed Forces vaccination rates (among Regular Force and eligible Reserve Force):
  • 97% have received at least one dose
  • 96% have received at least two doses
  • 64% have received all three doses (full primary series + booster)
  • The Canadian Armed Forces currently has a 98% vaccination rate.
  • To date (19 April 2022), 114 members have been released from the Canadian Armed Forces for non-compliance with a further 373 in the process of being finalized.
  • 97 Regular Force members have been approved to release voluntarily with the main reason attributed to vaccination requirements.

Mental Health and Suicide

  • National Defence offers a wide range of programs and services to meet the needs of our members, including in-house mental health clinics and referral options to over 4,000 mental health care providers.
  • This includes dedicated specialist mental health professionals at 31 of 37 Canadian Armed Forces Health Services Centres, a 24/7 phone referral service for access to counselling, and peer support for those coping with operational stress.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces Chaplain Service also provides personal support and can refer members to social workers, psychologists, or other medical services.
  • The Road to Mental Readiness Program has also expanded programming for specific high risk occupations such as search and rescue technicians and health services personnel.
  • In addition, civilian members of National Defence have 24/7 access to the Employee Assistance Program, including crisis and suicide intervention.
  • We are committed to ensuring our military personnel and civilian employees have access to the robust, high quality mental health care and services they need and deserve.

If pressed on suicide prevention:

  • We recognize the lasting and tragic effect that the loss of a military member to suicide has on their families, friends, colleagues, and the entire Defence Team.
  • The Canadian Armed Forces Suicide Prevention Action Plan is centred on training and support programs and services.
  • These programs and services are aimed at promoting resilience through spirituality, physical fitness, financial support, counselling, awareness, and specific services for deployed personnel.

Key Facts

  • 31 out of 37 Canadian Armed Forces healthcare clinics offer specialized in-house mental health care.
    • All 37 clinics have continued providing primary care and other clinical services during the pandemic.
  • 7 Operational Trauma and Stress Support Centres: Provide assistance to serving members and their families dealing with stress or injury arising from military operations.
  • Canadian Forces Health Services recently hired a psychologist who is dedicated to suicide prevention.
  • Mental health readiness training is now a consistent part of a military member’s career, including during Basic Training.
  • The number for the Canadian Armed Forces Member Assistance Program is 1-800-268-7708.
  • This program is a 24/7 bilingual telephone and face-to-face service that is voluntary, confidential, and available to CAF members and their families who have personal concerns that affect their well-being and/or work performance.


  • In 2020, there were 14 deaths by suicide in the Regular Force, and 2 in the Reserve Force.
    • 2019: 17 deaths by suicide in the Regular Force, and 3 in the Reserve Force
  • The collection and analysis of the 2021 suicide numbers is being finalized and will be available in the Annual Suicide Mortality later this year.

Culture Change and Sexual Misconduct

  • One of my top priorities as Chief of the Defence Staff is to foster a healthy, inclusive, and respectful workplace where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
  • To help National Defence advance this work, Budget 2022 recently announced $73.4M in funding over the next six years, and $14.8M ongoing, for personnel, culture change, and inclusivity initiatives.
  • This funding will help National Defence advance key initiatives that are critical to enact meaningful culture change, support our personnel, and promote trust and inclusivity in our institution.
  • These initiatives include strengthening leadership in the Canadian Armed Forces, entrenching ongoing engagement and consultation on culture change, and enhancing restorative approaches to harm and misconduct, such as coaching services.
  • In addition, the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre is continuing to expand its services, and will further develop programs and improve processes to meet the needs of those affected by sexual misconduct.

If pressed on additional initiatives

  • We will also be publishing a revised military ethos called Trusted to Serve, which will focus on emphasizing character as a vital consideration when choosing future leaders.
  • In addition, we are updating our dress instructions to be gender-inclusive to allow our members to represent their authentic selves while in uniform, while adhering to the core mandate of safety and operational readiness.
  • We are also incorporating and measuring inclusive behaviours through the respective performance management processes for military members and public service employees.
  • We attracted more than 9,000 personnel located across Canada through our Defence Team Conduct and Culture Consultation and we are reflecting their lived experiences and suggestions in our priorities and approach.

Key Facts

  • The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) offers the following services to Canadian Armed Forces members, Department of National Defence public servants, and former Canadian Armed Forces members:
    • A 24/7 support line where clients can receive bilingual and confidential support, information, and referrals from public service counsellors.
    • The Response and Support Coordination program which provides ongoing support, accompaniment, advocacy, and personalized case management services by Response and Support coordinators.  
  • The 24/7 support line and Response and Support Coordination program have been expanded as follows:
    • Hiring additional counsellors to manage the expected increase in calls to the 24/7 support line;
    • Expanding the footprint, including hiring of new staff, of the Response and Support Coordination program to five regions across Canada. Services have already been expanded to Quebec and the Pacific, with Ontario, Atlantic, and Prairies to follow.
  • The SMRC’s toll-free support line number is 1-844-750-1648.
  • In fiscal year 2021-2022, 1,558 total contacts were made to the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre.
  • Former Supreme Court Justice Arbour: Currently conducting an independent external comprehensive review of National Defence to identify the causes for the continued presence of harassment and sexual misconduct within the organization.
    • Justice Arbour provided interim recommendations to National Defence on October 20, 2021.
    • Building on recommendations 68 of the Justice Fish report, Justice Arbour recommends that “all sexual assaults and other criminal offences of a sexual nature under the Criminal Code, including historical sexual offences, alleged to have been perpetrated by a CAF member, past or present (‘sexual offences’) should be referred to civilian authorities.”
    • The final Arbour report is expected to be delivered to National Defence on May 20, 2022.
    • Bill C-77 has been implemented with a Coming into Force date of June 20, 2022.   

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