The Department of National Defence tells CTV News that the Canadian Armed Forces is facing a shortage of 16,000 members.
The CAF currently employs about 100,000 members: 71,500 regular force members and 28,500 reserve members.
“In terms of actual strength we’re sitting about 16,000 short,” says Brigadier-General Krista Brodie, commander of the military personnel generation group.
“So, 8,200 short of those on the regular force side, the balance on the reserve side.”
Brodie says the armed forces is facing a relevancy problem, saying that general awareness around the CAF has diminished among the greater population over time.
The CAF is using pay incentives are being used as a way to attract new members.
“Ten to twenty-thousand dollars for some,” Brodie tells CTV News. “In others, it’s reflected in the salary pay increments that come more quickly.”
Positions in urgent need of filling include medical officers, naval operators, aviation specialists, communications, and technical tradespeople.
“There really is opportunity both for that part-time work that’s more geographically stable for the reserves – really embedded in the fabric of Canadian communities, to really grow that portion of the forces – as well as our standing regular force.”
Stephen Saideman is the director at the Canadian Defence and Security Network and a professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.
“I think this is a crisis,” he tells CTV News, adding that a career in the military is no longer suited to the modern worker.
“It requires you to move around a lot. Some people have to move every two to three years and with an expensive housing market and how disruptive that is to families, part of it is we now have more people who have families.”
Saideman says the shortage in personnel creates difficulties for the training and deployment of members.
The Canadian defence expert says while money is a motivating factor for applicants, more changes to Canada’s military need to be made to encourage employment numbers.
There have been ongoing complaints of the time it takes to process applications. A history of a toxic military culture is also a deterrent for those considering a military career.
“If all you think of the military is that it is for straight white dudes, then that’s not going to attract the 60 to 70 per cent of Canadians who are not straight white dudes.”
Brodie says there is reason for optimism with application numbers improving month over month since November, but there is a sense that there is no quick fix for the staffing shortage.
“It’s going to take a while,” says Saideman.
“And that takes more money and a more concerted effort and requires reforms in the military. And it requires potentially a recession in the Canadian economy.”