- May 13th, 2017
Canada has never had a large army outside of both World Wars, and it certainly doesn’t have one now. But, in terms of its proportion to our population and general readiness, it has never perhaps been so skeletal as it is now.
At the start of WW-1, Canada had a regular Army of 3,000 and 70,000 citizens dabbled in the militia – Our population in 1913 was 7,632,000, of whom 96 out of every 10,000 did some soldiering.
Things weren’t much better on the eve of WW-2; 4,169 regulars and the Militia numbered 51,418. In 1938 we had 11,152,000 people, of whom 50 out of 10,000 were in our Army.
Today we have (on the books) 21,600 in the Regular Army and 26,000 Primary Army Reservists. With a population of 36,540,000, only 13 out of 10,000 Canadians are soldiers.
It gets worse. Except perhaps our secretive JTF-2 – which is not exclusively an Army unit – and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR), no Regular ‘Combat Arms’ unit is near its authorized strength. That is even more true for the Army Reserves.
We have the skeleton of a large field force of four divisions – but only three weak Regular brigades and 10 Reserve brigades clapped together from a mishmash of understrength units. But with troops not just in the combat arms units, but also in the Divisional and Brigade HQs, the support bases, the training centres, on course, and what-have-you, everybody is severely understrength.
The equipment is good – usually – but Ottawa never buys enough and there are huge holes in the inventory; including things that Ottawa thinks would be bad optics for an Army of “peacekeepers”. Our formations are scantily equipped and could not go toe-toe with the best in the World, like our great-grandfathers and grandfathers did.
The raw stuff of our soldiers are good, being very much like those great-grandfathers and grandfathers who cracked the Hindenburg line and bloodied the Waffen-SS. But there are not enough of them, and Ottawa also skimps on the fuel, field rations and ammunition needed to get in a lot of really good training.
Somebody in our current government wants to bring back the “glory days” of peacekeeping (which was never what the public thought it was) and further tax our enfeebled Army with a new mission in African – perhaps Mali. This will dwindle more of the equipment and precious human capital off the bones of the Army, and the butterfly of beautiful baby-blue UN expectations is going to collide with the windshield of reality … the mission will probably mean killing Jihadis (which is ‘peacekeeping’ too!)
But if our government wants to get some international credit for deploying military force again, could we please get some meat back on the Army’s bones first?
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