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The Canadian Forces as known today is formed by the unification of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Navy, and Army in 1968 to save on non-essential costs like uniforms. This had elicited some resistance from Canadian soldiers, but over time, accepted it -- mostly. Then in August 2011, the names were changed back to the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Canadian Army. Reactions were just as mixed as during the unification; the return to tradition led some to rejoice, while others complained that it reinforces our connection to the British monarchy (which they see as detrimental to Canadian nationality). Either way, most people don't really care.
Until the 1860s, Canada was defended by British soldiers, in addition to any ad hoc militias formed by its own citizens. By the 1860s, however, the cost of maintaining a standing army in Canada was taking a toll on both Britain's treasury and Britain's patience. One of the major factors that led to Confederation was in fact the need for a stronger defense of the North American colonies, something which had become painfully apparent in the Fenian invasions coming from the U.S. After Confederation, fencible regiments were developed throughout the rest of the 19th century, until when Canada sent its own military units in the Boer War. A national navy would follow in 1910, motivated in part by the need to save British resources for its naval competition with Imperial Germany.
World War One was when the Canadian army began Growing the Beard, as it turned in an impressive performance at places like Passchendaele, Ypres, and of course Vimy Ridge, a performance that was integral to Canada's development both as a nation and on the world stage. Canadian soldiers later made their Badass Army reputation clear in World War II and the Korean War. Since then, though, they are usually deployed in UN peacekeeping, and that made some Canadian soldiers unhappy. Currently serving with their US allies in the War On Terror in Afghanistan, they also served in Bosnia and the First Gulf War.
Since the British monarch is also the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II is also (technically) the commander-in-chief of the Canadian Forces. However, since Canada is a sovereign nation, the Governor General -- who is the Queen's representative -- carries out most royal duties in her name. In practice, both are no more than figureheads, and all military decision making either goes to parliament or the Ministry of Defence.
In spite of the unification, the Canadian Forces still possesses highly distinct military branches, all with their own separate roles and duties. In addition to the usual ground, air, and naval components, there is also Canada Command (analogous to the Northern Commmand in the States), Expeditionary Force Command (which coordinates almost all actions outside of the country), Special Operations Command (in charge of elite commando and counter-terrorist teams), Operational Support Command (handles logistics, medical care, and policing duties) and the Information Management Group (which specializes in electronic and cyber warfare). Aside from these primary forces, there's also the Reserve Force, which is split into a number of sub-components like the Primary Reserve and the Canadian Rangers.
As is the case in the United States, service is voluntary and more or less follows the same rules. Conscription has been introduced in the past, but is almost impossible to bring into the picture; the last two times it's been tried during the World Wars, rioting ensued (mostly by French-Canadians in Quebec) and the party in power got voted out. Today, with separation a definite option, the federal government even mulling over using conscription would be enough of a provocation for Quebec to immediately declare independence. Then again, the idea of conscription would probably elicit the same reaction in the rest of Canada as well.
One interesting trait of the Canadian Forces is that they've done very good work with at times very crappy equipment. In World War I, the first Canadian troops were sent into combat with rifles that tended jam in mud or even disassemble when fired, and poorly stitched boots that tended to fall apart at the slightest wear. Yet in spite of these difficulties, Canadians still pulled off Crowning Moments of Awesome at places like Vimy Ridge and Ypres. More recently, the Canadian Forces had to make do with antiquated junk like the Sea King helicopters (that required up to 24 hours of maintenance for every one hour of flight time), although they continued to serve in the first Gulf War and in the Yugoslavian conflict.
Good years or bad, the Canadian military has tended to use their own variants of American and British equipment, possibly with modifications to better suit geographical or personnel requirements. The current standard issue weapon is the C7 Rifle, an M-16 variant which modified for more reliability and is commonly equipped with the C79 optical sight. Current ground vehicles prove to be an unusual exception to the above rule, as the current main battle tank is the German Leopard 2 (bought from the Netherlands and Germany) and the jack-of-all-trades armoured vehicle is the LAV III, derived from the Swiss MOWAG Piranha and in turn serves as the inspiration for the American Stryker.
In the air, the CF-18 (derived from the carrier-based F-18 Hornet) serves as the primary fighter craft of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Many Canadians bemoan the lack of presence of the Canadian military in fiction, having to endure being compared to their rivals to the south. This is mostly true, but it is just about the same for a large number of other countries and their militaries as well.
Seriously, however, in any case Canada is attacked by an outside enemy like the Russians With Rusting Rockets, their numbers, less than a hundred thousand full time troops and paid reservists, wouldn't be enough to stop them. So that is why the cooperation between the US and Canadian Armed Forces is important, and NORAD is just one visible proof of that.
On the other hand, Canada is also in a nifty defensible position where the entire population, numbering only 34 million, could virtually vanish into the Arctic - and very few militaries in the world would be equipped to follow them. You see, General Winter does not just fight for the Russians.
The Canadian armed forces contributed heavily to the creation during World War II of the 1st Special Service Force , also known (and appears in the movie entitled) The Devil's Brigade, the ancestor to most North American special service forces.
Note that the chinook is the name of a mountain wind that can cause drastic temperature changes, most commonly happening in the Pacific Northwest, so the phrase "Canucks with Chinooks" might in Real Life be mistaken as referring to Calgary (In the US, it's more commonly called a foehn wind, or a Santa Ana in Los Angeles).
- During World War One on the Western front, German soldiers were terrified of Canadian soldiers. They knew from experience that whenever the Canadian troops were, it was expected there would be an offensive attack. So to surprise the Germans for the Battle of Amiens, the British armies secretly moved all four Canadian divisions to Amiens, using false radio unit to make the Germans believe that they were at Ypres. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George said this about the Canadians:
“Whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line, they prepared for the worst.”
- It seems that whenever the Canadians and Australians team up, they always end up being Badass together. So far, they had done so twice, in Battle of Amiens and in The Battle of Kapyong
- As mentioned above, Devil's Brigade did exist, with American and Canadian soldiers teaming up in World War Two.
- The Canucks certainly proved their mettle storming Juno Beach on D-Day, the second most difficult landing of Operation Overlord behind that of Omaha Beach.
- By the end of the first day, the Canadians had penetrated further into France than the rest of the Allied forces. Yes, the Canadians landed at the second-most heavily defended beach and advanced the furthest.
- There is a reason why Canada's Hundred Days are named so. 4 Canadian divisions engaged/defeated 47 divisions of the German army (which at the time was about a quarter of their forces fighting in the Western Front).
- Operation Anaconda in 2002 had the record for the longest combat killed was broken by Canadian sniper Rob Furlong at 2,440 meters (1.51 miles), exceeding the previous record set by Carlos Hathcock.
- The Canadian Forces is amongst the most gender-integrated militaries in the world. Women can -- and do -- serve in all positions, including front-line combat. The sole exception is some positions on submarines.
- The Canadian military is the first adopter of digital camouflage, namely the CADPAT (Canadian Disruptive Pattern), which was adopted in 1997.
- Joint Task Force 2 is the Canadian equivalent of Delta Force, and was deemed to be sufficiently badass to be asked to join the United States' Tier One of special forces during the Afghan War.
- The constant troubles the Canadian navy have with its submarine fleet has pretty much reached running gag levels. There was a time when the West Edmonton Mall had more functional submarines than the entire navy. They wouldn't be much use in a war either: for the ten-odd years they've been in service with the Canadian navy, none of them were equipped to fire the torpedoes that were in stock.
- Not to mention that the navy itself isn't particularly big - British Columbia's official ferry fleet has more ships.
- Which is sort of hilarious in hindsight since at the end of World War II Canada had the third largest navy in the world.
- During the Cold War, the Canadian brigade in West Germany hosted the biennial Canadian Army Trophy tank gunnery competition, basically the military version of the Olympics for NATO nations having forces in in West Germany.
The Canadian Military in Fiction
- Red makes fun of it in a bit from The Red Green Show when discussing what to do with a missile.
Harold: What about the Canadian Air Force?
Red: Harold, it's after six. He's gone home.
- The Canadian forces had their campaign in Call of Duty 3.
- Canadian soldiers are mentioned in Modern Warfare, mostly serving in Task-Force 141 along with their allies in NATO. There are even a few seen in-game, though none are major characters. They also apparently lent support to the US during the Russian invasion, but that was all off-screen.
- The WWI film Passchendaele, starring Paul Gross.
- The probably anachronistic group of Canadian commandos in the short story "Floating Home" from Rock, Paper, Cynic.
- The Canadian Forces are a playable faction in the Battlefield 2 mod Project Reality, and they even have Chinooks.
- Some think that Cadia (supposedly homeworld of the most badass Imperial Guard regiments) from Warhammer 40000 is named after Canada. The average Guardsman's accent in Dawn of War seems to support this hypothesis, along with the world's regiments favouring aggressive assault tactics similar to Canadians in World War 1.
- ...what? Their accents don't sound like anything you'll find in Canada. England, maybe.
- Actually, their accents sound like Canadians trying to do English accents. Relic Entertainment, the Canadian based company that developed Dawn of War, regularly uses the Vancouver based Ocean Group to do voice overs for their games. On another note, Usarker Creed, the General leading most of Cadia's forces during the 13th Black Crusade, was at least partially based off of real life Canadian General Arthur Currie.
- ...what? Their accents don't sound like anything you'll find in Canada. England, maybe.
- The Devil's Brigade, which is based on the Real Life unit made of American and Canadian soldiers. It was amusing to see that the Americans were an unruly Ragtag Bunch of Misfits compared to the organized and polished Canadians.
- The Brylcreem Boys, a Second World War film about Allied and German pilots imprisoned in the same POW camp in the neutral Republic of Ireland. A Canadian pilot and his Luftwaffe rival vie for the affections of a local woman. As the film takes place in spring/summer 1941, the only American character was a Royal Air Force volunteer.
- The Wars, by Timothy Findley, is one of the most noteworthy Canadian novels about World War One.
- In Legends of the Fall, the three Ludlow brothers go off to fight in World War One at the behest of the youngest. As the United States has not yet entered the war, they cross the border to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.
- The Great Escape, the famous film starring Steve Mc Queen, was actually based off of a real life prison breakout of primarily Canadian and English pilots. Wally Floody, a former miner turned pilot from Canada, and one of the real escape members, was one of the main advisers on the film, offering his personal experience to enhance the authenticity of the film.
- Kenneth Macksey's novel First Clash has the 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group conducting a defense against a Soviet tank division to buy time for their parent American VII Corps to realign the forward edge of the defense.
- Combat Mission: Shock Force added the Canadian Forces as a playable faction in the NATO expansion pack.
- ↑ and the invention of the ICBM