Military Program to Recruit Permanent Residents Enrolled a Fraction of Applicants

Military Program to Recruit Permanent Residents Enrolled a Fraction of Applicants
A Canadian flag patch is shown on an Armed Forces member's uniform in Trenton, Ont., on October 16, 2014. (The Canadian Press/Lars Hagberg)
Matthew Horwood
Just 77 applicants have successfully enlisted in a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) program that aims to recruit immigrants, according to a briefing note for Defence Minister Bill Blair.

Between Nov. 1, 2022, and Nov. 24, 2023, the CAF received 21,472 applications from permanent residents. Of those, 77 permanent residents were successfully enrolled by the end of that period, according to the Dec. 11, 2023 briefing note, which was first obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter.

The briefing note added that the processing of applications was a “challenging and time-consuming process” and that National Defence is attempting to digitize and streamline to improve effectiveness. The process of validating security clearances tends to take longer for permanent residents, it noted.

“The Canadian Forces recruiting group accepts trained applicants from foreign militaries,” said the note. “These applicants include pilots, logistics officers, infantry officers, and other skilled professionals who may become enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces if they have permanent resident status in Canada. This enables other permanent residents who meet the same criteria as Canadian citizens to enrol in the Canadian Armed Forces as new recruits or officer cadets.”

CAF announced in 2022 it was overhauling its regulations, dropping the citizenship requirement in order to allow permanent residents to enrol in the military.

“Enrolment of permanent residents will help us grow our military with qualified, well-trained people who choose a career in uniform,” said then-Defence Minister Anita Anand in December 2022.

Following the announcement, the CAF said that more than half the applications it received, roughly 700, came from permanent residents in the span of just one week. Two months after the announcement, that number had jumped to more than 6,000 applications.

Chief of the Defence Staff General Wayne Eyre said the influx of applications was a “great start” given the force’s recruitment and retention troubles. At that time, the CAF was down 8,000 to 10,000 people from its assigned strength of 71,500 regular forces personnel and 30,000 reserves.

The CAF has also seen a downturn in recruitment, which fell 35 percent year over year in 2022, from 8,069 to 5,242 volunteers.

“There is a real challenge in the Canadian Armed Forces,” Mr. Blair told Senate Question Period last November, claiming there had been “more people leaving the Forces than the Canadian Armed Forces” were able to recruit.

Mr. Blair, who became defence minister following a cabinet shuffle in July 2023, said the greatest challenge he faced was supporting the CAF’s recruitment process. “I have asked them to look very carefully at some of the impediments to recruitment and how long things have taken,” he said.

“My concern is not only for recruitment, because we have to get the best talent coming in the door, but I am also concerned about retention,” said Mr. Blair. “I want to make sure we provide them with the appropriate support.”

The CAF currently has ongoing recruitment initiatives to increase the representation of “under-represented groups,” according to the briefing note. That includes prioritizing female applicants within all CAF enrolment programs and increasing indigenous representation from 2.9 percent in May 2023 to 3.5 percent by 2026.