The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) announced on Friday that permanent residents will now be allowed to enlist, as the military struggles with low recruitment levels.
Permanent residents were previously only eligible under the Skilled Military Foreign Applicant (SMFA) entry program, which was “open for individuals … that would reduce training costs or fill a special need … such as a trained pilot or a doctor,” according to the Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia, a not-for-profit association of retired and serving members of the CAF.
The move also comes five years after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced that they’re changing their “outdated recruitment process” which will allow permanent residents that have lived in Canada for 10 years to apply.
The CAF sounded an alarm in September over a severe shortage of recruits to fill thousands of vacant positions, meeting about half the number of applicants it needs per month to meet the goal of adding 5,900 members this year.
While the armed forces haven’t said whether the recent move was made to boost recruitment, Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, says that it makes good sense.
“In the past, the CAF has had the luxury of being able to limit itself to citizens because it has had enough applicants. This is no longer the case,” Leuprecht told CTVNews.ca on Saturday in an email.
“The CAF had resisted opening up the ranks to permanent residents because it does create additional burdens and risks, in terms of security clearances, for instance.”
But recruiting non-citizens isn’t by any means something new, he points out, arguing many other countries have done this for years.
“Countries such as France use military service as either a pathway to citizenship or an accelerated pathway to citizenship; but since Canadian citizenship is relatively easy for permanent residents to obtain, it’s not clear that would offer a major incentive in the Canadian case,” he said.
In March, National Defence Minister Anita Anand said that the CAF needs to grow if it is to meet global demands triggered by Russia’s ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
“Time is of the essence in everything we do when so much is at stake for Canada and for the world. We are facing the greatest threat to international peace and stability since the end of the Second World War,” she said in a press conference at the time.
“What can a country like ours, an incredible country like ours, bring to the table?”
With files from The Canadian Press and CTVNews.ca’s Sarah Turnbull