Länderberichte und aktuelle Informationen: Canada

Last revision: 07 Mai 1998
07 Mai 1998

1 Conscription

conscription does not exist

The Canadian Forces (CF) are an all-volunteer, professional force. The Canadian Constitution does not expressly address the issue of conscription. At present there are no national laws that entitle the government to launch a conscription or compulsory military service scheme. Nor is there any system of national registration for a potential draft. [3]


Enlistment in the armed forces is voluntary for men and women. The minimum age for enlistment is 17. Sixteen-year-olds may enlist either as officer cadets in the reserve Force or as apprentices in the Regular Force. If they are under 18 they must have the written consent of parent or guardian. [6]

2 Conscientious objection

There is no national legislation on conscientious objection. [3] [4]

According to the government, professional serving members of the Canadian Forces, who would not otherwise be entitled to release on request may apply for release as conscientious objectors if they become firm, sincere objectors to war in general or to the bearing and use of arms as a military service requirement. The conscientious objection must be based on religious or moral study and belief and must be general. Objection to participation in or the use of arms in a particular conflict does not qualify an individual to be recognised as a CO. Similarly, a politically motivated objection is not accepted. [3]

To obtain recognition as a CO a professional serving CF-member must submit an application to the commanding officer, who considers it and weighs up whether it is valid. The findings are then sent to a career review board which decides on the application. [3]

The CF is at present busy drafting a policy on conscientious objection. [3]

On 11 February 1991 a CO (an Acting Sub Lieutenant in the Navy) was honourably discharged from the CF. He had requested discharge in August 1990, but had merely been transferred to a non-combat position ashore. His superior officers had told him "he was free to believe what he wanted, but would have to complete his four years of Obligatory Service, and that anybody under any other type of CF contract would have been released if they made a similar request on similar grounds". He resumed release proceedings in November 1990 and this time was successful. [2]

3 Desertion


Desertion is an offence under section 88 of the National Defence Act. The maximum punishment for desertion by a soldier who is not on active service or under orders may not exceed 5 years' imprisonment. Desertion while on active service or under orders is punishable by from two years' to life imprisonment, if the soldier concerned is tried by a general court martial. If the soldier is tried by a standing or disciplinary court martial the maximum punishment is less than two years' imprisonment. [3]


No information available.

5 History

During both the First and Second World War Canada employed a system of mandatory registration and compulsory military service that applied only during these wars. In the First World War there were limited provisions for religious COs. In the Second World War provision was made for COs to perform substitute service, but there were much local variations over the granting of CO status. Jehovah's Witnesses were on the whole not recognised as COs. During the war approximately 10,000 COs were acknowledged and some 400 imprisoned. Since the Second World War there has not been conscription in Canada. [1] [3]

6 Annual statistics

In 1997 the armed forces were 61,000-strong - that is, about 0.21 percent of the population. [5] [3]

In 1997 they recruited 3545 individuals, of whom 24 (1 percent) were 16-year-olds, 204 (6 percent) were 17 and 3317 (94 percent) were over 18. [6]


[1] Prasad, D., T. Smythe 1968. Conscription: a world survey, compulsory military service and resistance to it. War Resisters' International, London. [2] Conscience Canada 1991. News release, 20 February 1991. [3] Canadian Department of National Defence 1996. Reply to CONCODOC questionnaire, 2 August 1996. [4] UN Commission on Human Rights 1991. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1989/59. United Nations, Geneva. [5] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK. [6] Embassy of Canada in Geneva 1997. Response to an information request of 11 November 1997 from the Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva.