The Reserve Force

Reserve pay, benefits in relation to COVID -19

Review CANFORGEN 059/20 – Reserve Pay, Benefits in relation to COVID-19 for new guidance and information on Class A, B and C service, pay, benefits and leave.

Download the CAF mobile application to access CANFORGENs outside the DWAN: Apple / Android.

Reservists: Who are they and what do they do?

The Reserve Force is an integral component of the Canadian Armed Forces. Reservists are primarily part-time service positions. They may volunteer for full-time employment or deployment on operations. They typically serve one or more evenings a week and/or during weekends at locations close to homeFootnote 1 . Reserve units are located in hundreds of communities across Canada and the world. The majority of Reservists hold civilian jobs or are students enrolled in post-secondary programs. For these reasons, they are sometimes referred to as citizen soldiersFootnote 2 .

The Reserve Force has four sub-components:

The Reserve Force has four sub-components: Primary Reserve, Canadian Rangers, Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service and the Supplementary Reserve.  

How are members of the Reserve employed?

Reservists can be employed on three classes of service (Class “A”, Class “B”Footnote 3  and Class “C”), and they may serve on more than one type of service at various times throughout their time in the Reserve Force. Access the description of the Types of Reserve Service at About the Reserve Force.

The pay rates and information about the military factor can be accessed at the Military pay page.

The Primary Reserve Force

Who are members of the Primary Reserve?

The Primary Reserve is largely comprised of part-time soldiers, sailors, airmen, and airwomen who work in armouries. They are members who have other full-time civilian employment or who attend school, and who dedicate themselves to the military on a part-time basis. The Primary Reserve has approximately 28,500 members.

Primary Reservists serve in communities across Canada. Though Reserve units are supported by a Canadian Armed Forces base or wing, many are not physically close to those establishments or the services that are provided by them.

The Primary Reserve is made up ofFootnote 4 :

  1. the Naval Reserve (approximately 4,000 reservists in 24 Naval Reserve Divisions);
  2. the Canadian Army Reserve (approximately 19,000 part and full-time reservists in 185 units located in 86 cities);
  3. the Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve (approximately 2,000 employed in total force establishments throughout Canada);
  4. Military Personnel Command, which includes the Canadian Forces Health Services Reserve (16 Reserve Field Ambulances across Canada and the 1 Canadian Field Hospital Ottawa) and the National Defence Headquarters Primary Reserve List (PRL) (approximately 1,500 members);
  5. the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command Reserve; and
  6. the Judge Advocate General Reserve (approximately 60 legal officers employed on Class “A” and short term class “B” in various supporting legal roles).

The Canadian Rangers

The Canadian Rangers provide a military presence in sparsely settled northern, coastal, and isolated areas of Canada. This provides a CAF presence in areas which cannot conveniently or economically be covered by other elements of the CAF. Canadian Rangers participate in Canadian sovereignty operations, often help with ground Search and Rescue and assist with natural disasters response in sparsely settled regions of Canada, upon requestFootnote 5 . There are approximately 5,000 Canadian Rangers, divided in 190 patrols across five Canadian Ranger Patrol Groups. Each patrol consists of a minimum of eight Canadian RangersFootnote 6 . Consult our Canadian Rangers page for more information.

The work of the Rangers in Northern Ontario was recognized last year [in 2019] by the award of national honours. 3CRPG received a prestigious and rarely awarded Canadian Armed Forces Unit Commendation for saving lives. Two Rangers were awarded the Order of Military Merit, the military equivalent of the civilian Order of Canada. Six members of the headquarters staff received senior Canadian Army commendations for helping to save lives.Footnote 7 

The Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service

The Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service (COATS) includes officers of the Cadet Instructor Cadre as well as CAF members whose primary responsibilities include the supervision, administration, and training of Cadets and Junior Canadian Rangers. COATS has approximately 8,000 members. These members are not required to serve in any other capacity.

COATS trains more than 52,000 CadetsFootnote 8  between 12 and 18 years of age when they participate in authorized activities including cadet summer training. 

Supplementary Reserve

The Supplementary Reserve “is comprised of Canadian Armed Forces members who: have previously served in the Regular Force or another sub-component of the Reserve Force; or did not have previous military experience when they enrolled but who do have special skills or expertise for which there is a military requirement”Footnote 9 . The purpose of the Supplementary Reserve sub-component is to augment the Regular Force and the other sub-components of the Reserve Force.

The Commander, Military Personnel Command, commands, controls and administers the Supplementary Reserve sub-component. The Supplementary Reserve has about 6,700 of membersFootnote 10 , Footnote 11 . Members of the Supplementary Reserve Force are not required to undertake military training or duty unless they voluntarily transfer or are placed on active service, in times of national emergencyFootnote 12  , Footnote 13 .FootnoteFootno.

Members of the Reserve Force participate in domestic and international operations

International Operations

Members of the Primary Reserve have made important contributions to CAF Operations, and continue to participate very actively on the international front.

Primary Reservists who voluntarily apply and are selected for an international deployment are generally sent to support Regular Force capabilities. Reservists have participated in international operations in the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa, and in humanitarian crises such as in Haiti and the Philippines. 

Domestic Operations and Exercises

Members of the Primary Reserve and Canadian Rangers may be called upon to serve, with consent, in domestic operations such as providing security at events, search and rescue missions, and responding to natural disasters. Since 2000, 8,692 Reserve Force members have served on domestic operationsFootnote 14 . Examples include:

International Reserve Partnerships

Review the International Reserve Partnerships page for information on the three International Reserve Programs: National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC), Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR), and Reserve Forces Foreign Service Arrangements (RFFSA).

Where can I enroll in the Reserve Force? 

Consult the recruiting site under “Reserve Careers” at https://forces.ca/en/careers/reserve. You can also talk to a Recruiter at https://forces.ca/en/talk-to-a-recruiter/.

Where do I find Reserve Force jobs?

Reserve Force employment opportunities are published on the Reserve Force Jobs page http://armyapp.forces.gc.ca/reo-oer/en/index.aspx.

For more information on the Reserve employment, see Canadian Forces Military Personnel Instruction 20/04 “Administration Policy of Class “A”, Class “B” and Class “C” Reserve Service” which is available only on the Defence Information Network Intranet site. If you do not have access to the internal network, you may contact our office to obtain a copy of the instruction.

Supporting Reservists and Employers

Reservists who are deploying on operations or attending annual or military skills training may require assistance in dealing with their employer or educational institution for time away from work or studies. The reservist’s first point of contact is always their Chain of Command, and then their Reserve Unit's Military Leave Representative.

There are two programs to support their deployment:

Additionally, the Canadian Forces Liaison Council (CFLC) is available to help employers, administrators of educational institutions, and serving Reservists. The CFLC helps encourage civilian employers and educational institutions to grant Reservists leave for their military related service, on a voluntary basis and without penalty. This helps Reservists make important contributions to Canadian Armed Forces capabilities.

For more information on job protection legislation for Reservists passed by the federal government, all provinces and territories in June 2012 visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/services/benefits-military/supporting-reservists-employers/job-protection-legislation.html.

Reservist DemographicsFootnote 15 

Reserve Composition
Male 23168
Female 4532
Reserve Composition
Under 40 years old 70.50
40 years old and older 29.50
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