Frequently Asked Questions
Need a straight answer to your simple question? Start here!
For the answers to your general questions about the Department of National Defence (DND)/Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), please refer to the following topics.
1. What is the goal of DND and the CAF?
The fundamental goal of DND and the CAF is to protect Canada, and Canadian interests and values, while contributing to international peace and security.
2. What does the CAF do to achieve this goal?
The CAF defends Canada by:
- Patrolling our coasts;
- Monitoring our skies;
- Leading search and rescue missions, and;
- Assisting civilian rescue authorities with disaster relief (forest fires, floods, avalanches, hurricanes, etc.).
The CAF contributes to the defence of North America by:
- Working with the United States at the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) to monitor and defend continental, airspace and ocean areas.
The CAF contributes to international security by:
- Participating in operations around the world. CAF personnel are currently deployed overseas on operational missions. On any given day, one third of the deployable force are preparing for, engaged in, or returning from an overseas mission.
DND/CAF employment opportunities
3. I would like to join the CAF. What are the basic requirements?
To enrol in the CAF, you must:
- be a Canadian citizen for both the Regular Force and the Reserve Force;
- be at least 17 years old for the Regular Force - candidates for the Reserve Force may be as young as 16;
- have passed Grade 10 or, if you live in Quebec, Secondary IV;
- have been clear of judicial obligations for at least six months;
- pass aptitude and physical fitness tests; and
- satisfy the medical requirements.
For details, and for more information related to enrolment, such as information on career opportunities with the CAF, terms of service and more, please visit the Canadian Armed Forces jobs or call the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre at 1-800-856-8488.
4. What job skills can I learn in the CAF?
The CAF has more than 100 occupations, and many involve job skills that are highly valued in both military and civilian life.
For detailed information on military occupations, please visit the Canadian Armed Forces jobs or contact the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre at 1-800-856-8488.
5. How do I get a post-secondary education subsidized by the CAF?
If you want the CAF to put you through school, you must be qualified and prepared to serve in the CAF both while you study and after graduation.
The CAF has a variety of education programs for officers and non-commissioned members. In some, officer candidates and serving officers attend the Royal Military College of Canada or a civilian university to earn a degree; in others, non-commissioned members in highly specialized technical occupations complete college diploma courses.
For details, read through the “Paid education and other benefits” section of the Canadian Armed Forces jobs or contact the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre at 1-800-856-8488.
6. I would like to work for DND as a civilian. Where do I apply?
Civilian employees of DND are Public Servants recruited through the Public Service Commission of Canada in accordance with the requirements of the Public Service Employment Act. DND civilian job opportunities are posted on the Public Service Commission website. You may write to DNDRecruitment-RecrutementMDN@forces.gc.ca to inquire about DND civilian job opportunities in your area.
7. What is the relationship between DND and the CAF?
DND and the CAF share a unique relationship in the Government of Canada; DND/CAF have complementary roles to play in:
- Providing advice and support to the Minister of National Defence, and;
- Implementing Government decisions regarding the defence of Canadian interests at home and abroad.
In most respects, DND is an organization like other departments of the Government of Canada. It is established by a statute, the National Defence Act, which sets out the Minister of National Defence’s responsibilities, including the Minister’s responsibility for both the Department and the CAF. In other words, DND exists to carry out the work assigned to the Minister of National Defence, so the department's relationship with the CAF is that of a support system.
Under the National Defence Act, the CAF are an entity separate and distinct from the Department. The CAF are headed by the Chief of the Defence Staff, Canada’s senior serving military officer, and are comprised of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force. The Chief of the Defence Staff is responsible for the conduct of military operations of all three components of the CAF, and to ensure that the CAF is always ready to carry out the tasks that Parliament assigns through the Minister of National Defence.
8. What does the Royal Canadian Navy do?
The Royal Canadian Navy is the maritime component of the CAF. It protects Canada’s interests by:
- Safeguarding our maritime approaches;
- Exercising sovereignty over our waters;
- Protecting our offshore natural resources;
- Supporting search and rescue missions, and;
- Supporting international operations helping to maintain global stability.
The Royal Canadian Navy is headed by the Commander Royal Canadian Navy who maintains combat-capable, multipurpose maritime forces designed for the above-mentioned duties.
For more information please visit the Royal Canadian Navy website.
9. What does the Canadian Army do?
The Canadian Army is the land component of the CAF. It protects Canada’s interests by:
- Providing land surveillance and combat-ready forces;
- Providing assistance to civil authorities when needed to maintain public order and security;
- Assisting with natural disasters including earthquakes, floods, storms, forest fires and other emergencies, and;
- Supporting international operations helping to maintain global stability.
The Canadian Army is headed by the Commander of the Canadian Army who ensures that combat-capable, multipurpose land forces are maintained for the above-mentioned duties.
10. What does the Royal Canadian Air Force do?
The Royal Canadian Air Force is the air component of the CAF. It protects Canada’s interests by:
- Defending Canadian airspace;
- Conducting maritime and northern patrols;
- Supporting search and rescue missions;
- Airlifting military personnel and supplies, and;
- Supporting international operations and helping to maintain global stability.
The Royal Canadian Air Force is headed by the Chief of Air Staff who, as commander of the Air Force, maintains a combat-capable, multipurpose Air Force for the above-mentioned duties. The Chief of Air Staff may also be referred to as the Air Force Chief of Staff.
CAF leadership and personnel
11. How do I tell the difference between commissioned officers and non-commissioned members of the CAF?
Look at the sleeves of the uniform tunic (the jacket of the dress uniform) and the shoulders of other uniform clothing (shirt, sweater, windbreaker or overcoat).
Officers up to the rank of Colonel or Captain (Navy) have narrow gold rings around the cuffs of the uniform tunic and gold bars on the shoulders of other uniform clothing. General officers and flag officers wear a single wide gold ring on the cuffs of the uniform tunic and maple leaves on the shoulders of all uniform clothing.
Non-commissioned members up to the rank of Sergeant or Petty Officer 2nd Class wear chevrons on the sleeves of the uniform tunic and on the shoulders of other uniform clothing. Warrant Officers and senior Petty Officers wear crowns on their cuffs of the uniform tunic and on the shoulders of other uniform clothing.
12. How many CAF members and DND employees are there?
We are the only department where military members work alongside civilians (non-military members). The Defence Team is comprised of over 100,000 employees, including:
- 68,000 Regular Force members
- 27,000 Reserve Force members
- 24,000 civilian employees
13. What does the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada do?
The Governor General is the representative of the Queen in Canada. As such, the Governor General of Canada is also the Commander-in-Chief of Canada, and therefore plays a significant role in encouraging excellence and recognizing the important role of Canada's military at home and abroad.
As Commander-in-Chief, the Governor General performs many duties, including:
- Appointing the Chief of the Defence Staff on the recommendation of the Prime Minister;
- Acting on recommendations from the Minister of National Defence regarding the appointment of Royal Colonels-in-Chief of Canadian Regiments;
- Awarding military honours;
- Approving new military badges and insignia;
- Presenting new colours to the Canadian Armed Forces regiments;
- Signing Commission Scrolls, and;
- Visiting Canadian Forces personnel, at home and abroad.
14. What does the Minister of National Defence do?
The Minister of National Defence is a federal Cabinet Minister who has management and direction of the CAF and all matters relating to National Defence.
The National Defence Act sets out the Minister’s responsibilities, which include:
- Construction and maintenance of defence infrastructure and works needed to support the CAF across Canada;
- Research relating to defence and security science and technology, providing equipment and technology advantages needed to defend Canada’s interests; and
- The Minister of National Defence is also Lead Minister for Search and Rescue within the federal government.
Read more about the Minister of National Defence in our “About Us” section.
15. What does the Deputy Minister of National Defence do?
It is the role of the Deputy Minister to articulate a corporate vision for the Department. The Deputy Minister of National Defence is the Minister's most senior civilian advisor on all departmental affairs of concern to the central agencies of the federal government (such as the Privy Council Office, Treasury Board and the Public Service Commission). The Deputy Minister of National Defence’s responsibilities include:
- Formulating advice for the Minister on policy matters;
- Carrying out the Minister's duties when the Minister is absent;
- Administering DND's finances;
- Sitting on a number of interdepartmental and intergovernmental committees;
- Overseeing issues affecting Canada’s international defence relations, and;
- Directing DND's civilian employees.
Read more about the Deputy Minister of National Defence in our “About Us” section.
16. What does the Chief of the Defence Staff do?
The Chief of the Defence Staff is the senior member of the CAF, and the senior military advisor to the Minister of National Defence. The Chief of the Defence Staff has direct responsibility for the command, control and administration of the CAF. This means the Chief of the Defence Staff is responsible for:
- The conduct of military operations of all three components of the CAF (Army, Navy, Air Force);
- The readiness of the CAF to carry out the tasks Parliament assigns to DND, and;
- All CAF personnel matters.
Read more about the Chief of the Defence Staff in our “About Us” section.
Contacting CAF members
17. How should I write to CAF members serving overseas?
Open messages to CAF members serving overseas can be posted electronically through our website. Please look for the Canadian Forces Message Board.
To send a letter to a general address (addressed to "Any Soldier", "Any Sailor" or "Any Air Force Member"), use a postcard and one of the addresses on the Canadian Forces Message Board on our website.
To send personal mail to a specific CAF member, please ensure you follow the instructions, and comply with the guidelines, determined by the Canadian Forces Postal Services. Look for more information on the Canadian Forces Message Board on our website or send your inquiries regarding the Canadian Forces Postal Services to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
18. How can I find a retired CAF member?
The best way to find a veteran is through a veterans' organization. Canada's largest veterans' organization is the Royal Canadian Legion, which publishes Legion Magazine, where you will find several public service columns including "Last Post", an obituary column that is now backed by a searchable database on the Legion website, and "Lost Trails", which appears only in the print version of the magazine. For instructions on placing a "Lost Trails" notice, pick up a copy of Legion Magazine, or contact the editor by fax at 613-591-0146 or by mail at the following address:
86 Aird Place
Kanata, ON K2L 0A1
More information about veterans may be found on the Veterans Affairs Canada website.
CAF activities in Canada and abroad
19. Does Canada have a special force to deal with terrorist threats?
In 1993, the CAF assumed responsibility for the conduct of counter-terrorism operations, always acting under the authority of the Solicitor General of Canada. The CAF unit assigned to this task is called Joint Task Force 2. All other information about Joint Task Force 2 is classified.
20. Where can I get information on past and current CAF operations?
Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) is responsible for conducting full-spectrum CAF operations at home, on the continent of North America, and around the world. You may find information on current, recurring and past CAF operations in the Canadian Joint Operations Command section of our website.
21. What do CAF members do in Canada?
The regular duties of CAF members serving in Canada range from administration, health care, construction and maintenance to search-and-rescue operations, patrolling our airspace and territorial waters, and maintaining readiness for combat duties. CAF members in Canada also perform tasks assigned at the request of civil authorities; for example, supporting drug-interdiction operations by law-enforcement agencies, and conducting rescue and recovery operations in the aftermath of major natural disasters.
22. Why does Canada participate in overseas operations?
While Canada does not face any direct military threats, instability in other parts of the world can threaten:
- Human rights and other democratic values;
- The well-being of our allies, and;
- Canada's security, prosperity and interests.
CAF tradition and heritage
23. What are the origins of the CAF?
The CAF of today draws on the traditions and heritage of colonial militias dating back to the earliest French and British settlements in North America. The oldest CAF units are in the army Reserve, and the army uses two criteria to determine the age of a unit: the date of its formation as a regiment, and the length of its unbroken service from that date.
The Regular Force (originally called the Permanent Active Militia) began on October 20, 1871 with the formation of two independent garrison batteries of artillery designated A Battery and B Battery. These units were formed in response to the British government's decision to withdraw most of its forces from Canada after Confederation, which left the Dominion government in need of professional soldiers to maintain the armament of Canada's two great fortresses: Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario and the Citadel in Québec City. Regular infantry and cavalry regiments soon followed, formed in the 1880s as schools of instruction for the "Non-Permanent Active Militia", or Reserve.
Canada's navy originated with the Naval Service Act of 1910. The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) acquired its first warships, the cruisers HMCS Niobe and HMCS Rainbow, in the same year. The Canadian air force was formed in 1920 as the Canadian Air Force (a Reserve organization), and received Permanent Force status and Royal designation (RCAF) on April 1, 1924.
On February 1, 1968, the Canadian Forces Reorganization Act took effect, amalgamating the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force to form the CAF as we know it today.
25. Where can I get historical information about military operations or units?
The Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH) is a good source for that kind of information. The inquiries Section at DHH has one Historical Research Officer and a staff of volunteers who answer questions from the public. Please complete the online form, or send your request in writing either by fax to 613-990-8579 or by mail to the following address:
Directorate of History and Heritage
National Defence Headquarters
101 Colonel By Drive
Response time varies by the type and subject of the inquiry, and by the researchers' workload.
To conduct your own research, you may visit the Directorate of History and Heritage on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30p.m. at the following location:
Colonel C.P. Stacey Building
2429 Holly Lane
26. How do I find out what a certain unit did during the First World War or the Second World War?
The best way to find out what a specific unit did at war is to read the official histories of Canada's participation in war, and a history of the unit if one exists. Canada has a rich literature of regimental and corps histories dating back more than a century, and more recent historians have also focused on individual warships, Air Force squadrons, and bases and their supporting communities. For a comprehensive guide to this literature, see The Canadian Military Experience, 1867-1995: A Bibliography / Bibliographie de la vie militaire au Canada, 1867-1995 by Owen A. Cooke (Ottawa, 1997, ISBN 0-660-60164-8).
The most detailed source of information about a specific unit deployed in a theatre of operations is its war diary (for all Army units and formations, and post-1968 Air Force squadrons), log (for HMC ships) or Operational Record Book (for Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons). The original file copies of these documents are held by the Directorate of History and Heritage until they are no longer required for research; at that time, they are transferred to the Library and Archives Canada, where they are available to the public.
Library and Archives Canada is the federal government department that preserves and makes accessible the documentary heritage of Canada. It also serves as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions. Please visit Library and Archives Canada website for more information or call 1-866-578-7777.
War diaries from the First World War and Second World War may be viewed in the consultation room of the Library and Archives Canada, at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A ON3. Some of the war diary collection may be made available through interlibrary loan.
The Directorate of History and Heritage holds microfilm copies of the Air Force Operational Record Books, which are available to researchers on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the following location:
Colonel C.P. Stacey Building
2429 Holly Lane
27. I'm having a hard time finding badges for Army units that no longer exist. Can you help?
No. DND/CAF clothing stores stock only insignia in current use.
Collecting military memorabilia is such a popular hobby that people all over the country sell badges, buttons and articles of uniform from every period of Canadian history. You are most likely to find these items sold by dealers in antiques and collectibles, many of whom operate on the Internet.
28. I used to be a CAF member. How do I obtain my records?
Service records of retired or released CAF members are kept at DND for only a few years before they are sent to Library and Archives Canada. So if you recently retired or have recently been released from the CAF, and suspect your records might not yet be held at Library and Archives Canada, you may contact the DND Directorate of Military Careers Administration to obtain your records by dialling 1-866-240-6726.
29. I'm looking for information about a retired relative's CAF service. Where should I go?
Your relative's CAF service is documented in his or her military personnel records (also known as service records), which are available at Library and Archives Canada at the following sub-site: Genealogy and Family History. You may call Library and Archives by dialing 1-866-578-7777 for assistance.
Please note that access to military personnel records maintained by Library and Archives Canada is governed by the Privacy Act, which is intended to protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by a government institution.
30. Where on your website can I find information about military pensions?
For information useful to serving and retired CAF members alike, please contact the CAF Pension Services directly by telephone at 1-800-267-0325 or by e-mail at one of the following addresses:
- If you have questions pertaining to Pension Entitlements on Release, please send an e-mail to: email@example.com
- If you have questions pertaining to Survivor Benefits, please send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you have questions pertaining to Pension division or support (ie pension splitting due to marital breakdown or providing support payments from pension) please send an email to: email@example.com
- All other pension related questions can be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
When making a pension inquiry about detailed information specific to yourself, be prepared to provide the following information:
- Pension number;
- Service number;
- Release date, and;
- If relevant, other names you have been known by (e.g., maiden name).
31. I am recently retired from the CAF. Where can I get help in obtaining civilian employment?
Help may be obtained through services offered by the CAF and by Veteran Affairs Canada.
CAF Second Career Assistance Network
The CAF offers services which help retiring and recently retired CAF members make the transition to civilian life though the Second Career Assistance Network Programme.
The transition through the Second Career Assistance Network may involve counselling, education and accreditation for a career change. To learn more about the Second Career Assistance Network, please talk to your local Personnel Selection Officer about attending a seminar.
CAF members should access the Second Career Assistance Network early and periodically during their careers. They are strongly encouraged not to wait until their last year of service to take advantage of Second Career Assistance Network services.
New Veterans Transition Advisory Council
Veterans Affairs Canada is partnering with corporate Canada to help releasing CAF personnel and Veterans find civilian jobs. The new Veterans Transition Advisory Council will bring together industry leaders and government with the goal of helping Veterans transition into meaningful jobs in the private sector.
To help support this, Veteran Affairs Canada has created an e-mail address to receive and distribute private sector job opportunities for Veterans: email@example.com
Note: The firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address is intended only for accepting and distributing employment opportunities from organizations.
- If you are interested in a civilian job after releasing from the CAF, you are encouraged to raise it in your transition interview, or speak to your Veteran Affairs Canada case manager.
- If you are interested in hiring Veterans, you are encouraged to e-mail your job opportunities to email@example.com.
For more information, please call Veteran Affairs Canada toll free at 1-866-522-2122.
32. I would like to reserve a plot in the National Military Cemetery. How do I apply?
All current and former CAF members (Regular and Reserve Force) who have been honourably discharged are eligible for burial in the National Military Cemetery (NMC). Canadian veterans of the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War, including merchant mariners, are also eligible. For more information, please contact the Manager of the National Military Cemetery.
33. Can I buy used military goods or equipment directly from DND?
No. DND and the CAF are not authorized to sell anything to the public.
All military goods and equipment that are declared surplus are turned over to the Crown Assets Distribution Centre for disposal.
34. I have a product that I think might interest DND. Whom should I contact?
If you have goods or services to offer to the Government of Canada (which includes DND), visit the Buy and Sell Contracts Canada website for information on government purchasing, and how to contact a materiel manager. For specific information, or to register as a potential supplier, call InfoLine Contracts Canada at 819-956-3440 or toll-free line at 1-800-811-1148, or write to Client Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
35. What makes a website official?
An “official” website is a DND/CAF product, created, maintained, authorized and supported by a DND organization (e.g., a branch or directorate) or a CAF unit or formation (e.g., a regiment, a battalion, a ship, a squadron, a wing, a base, a brigade). An official site must comply with all government-wide and departmental policies relevant to publishing in general and the Internet in particular, and the person at the head of the sponsoring organization (Commanding Officer, Director-General, Director) is responsible for the website and all its content. The ownership (Crown or commercial) of the server that hosts the site is irrelevant to its status.
Sites created and maintained by DND employees, CAF members or other individuals associated with DND and the CAF, but not authorized and supported by a DND/CAF organization, are not official websites and must not be presented as such.
36. I'm thinking of putting up a website of DND/CAF interest, but it will not be an official site. Is there anything in particular that I should take into consideration?
With a website, you will be in an excellent position to support the CAF and promote understanding of CAF operations and activities.
The consideration of greatest importance to you, as a user of DND/CAF information, should be information security. Many eyes watch the World Wide Web. Before you post any text or image on your site, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it contain classified or designated information?
- Would it threaten the security of CAF operations?
- Could it put CAF members, DND employees, or their families at risk?
- Would it infringe on any individual's privacy rights?
- Does it identify you or anyone else as someone who has access to sensitive information?
If you answered “yes” to any of these five questions, do not post the item on your site!
Intellectual property rights are also important. Millions of images and text products are under Crown or other copyright so, for your own sake, read copyright notices carefully, and obey them.
37. Am I allowed to post information acquired in the course of my DND or CAF career?
This is where an unwary person could get into trouble. During your DND or CAF career, you will come into contact with a great deal of information that is definitely not for publication. The Access to Information Act forbids publication of certain facts (e.g., equipment specifications, radio frequencies) and information from certain types of documents (e.g., Treasury Board submissions, minutes of some meetings). The Privacy Act requires you to obtain permission from the person concerned to release personal information.
Intellectual property rights are also important. Millions of images and text products are under Crown copyright, and may not be reproduced by a non-government publisher without official permission. Remember, as the owner and maintainer of a website, you are a publisher.
Assess each document and piece of information on its own merits, preferably in consultation with a Public Affairs Officer. If you are still serving, also consult your supervisor.
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