Attrition: Canada's Shame


May 22, 2006: Canada is having a hard time recruiting enough troops for its armed forces. Despite aggressive recruiting over the last four years (which brought in 20,000 new troops), there was a net gain of only 700 in the force of 56,000. Compared to the United States (which has ten times the population), Canada has only about half as many troops, per capita, on active duty. Yet the United States, despite being at war, is able to keep their force up to strength.

The Canadian problem is political, and cultural. While the Canadian armed forces earned a reputation as tough and effective soldiers during the two World Wars and Korea, the country became less enthusiastic about supporting their military during the last few decades. This has reached the point where the armed forces feels resented and unwanted. Budgets were cut so much that Canada is a generation or more behind the United States in many categories of weapons and equipment.

Canadian army troops have gotten a lot of work on peacekeeping missions, and saw combat in the 1991 Gulf War and Afghanistan, where they distinguished themselves. But for all that, the troops do not feel respected or appreciated in their own country, and this appears to be reflected in the recruiting numbers. Canada wants to increase military manpower 23 percent, but some new ideas, policies and attitudes will be need to carry that out. Conscription is not an option, as Canada has never used it in peacetime, and implemented it only with difficulty in wartime.


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