Explained | Indians Can Now Enlist in Canada's Armed Forces: Why and How?

This comes amid Canada's decision to welcome a record number of permanent residents over the next three years.

Indian Diaspora
3 min read
Explained | Indians Can Now Enlist in Canada's Armed Forces: Why and How?

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Permanent residents in Canada, which include a large number of Indians, will now be allowed to enlist in the country's military, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) announced.

Why? This comes amid a shortage of military personnel due to low recruitment levels in the armed forces.

Is This the First Time Such a Move Has Been Announced? 

While this is the first time the CAF has announced such a policy, it has been done before by other security agencies of Canada.

Around five years ago, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had changed their "outdated recruitment process" by declaring that they will admit permanent residents in their infantry who have lived in Canada for at least 10 years, according to CTV News.

Earlier, permanent residents were eligible to apply in the CAF only under the "Skilled Military Foreign Applicant" entry programme.


The programme was open to individuals possessing specialised skills, and who could contribute by performing essential duties – for instance as a doctor or trained pilot.

What Is the Current Eligibility Criteria To Apply for the CAF?

To apply for the CAF, a candidate must:

  • be a Canadian citizen

  • be over the age of 18 (or 16, as long as they have parental consent)

  • have an educational qualification of grade 10 or 12, if they want to enlist as an officer

All the criteria, except citizenship, will henceforth be valid for permanent residents as well.

Personnel Shortage in the Canadian Army

In September, the CAF had sounded a bell of caution over massive shortfalls in recruitment, with thousands of unfilled posts across the military.

The CAF had said that it was only able to recruit half of its targeted number per month, and would not be able to meet their goal of adding 5,900 personnel in 2022 if the shortfall continues.

Explaining why the military had not allowed the recruitment of foreigners earlier, Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, said:

"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."

If the Labour Shortage Has Been Ongoing for Years, What Triggered the Sudden Decision?

While it is true that Canada's armed forces have been facing a shortage of personnel for quite some time, the recent decision was triggered by a shift in global politics following the Russia-Ukraine war.

At a press conference earlier this year, Defence Minister Anita Anand had said that the world was facing the "greatest threat" to international peace and stability since the end of the Second World War.

Hence, she said that the CAF needs to grow if it intends to meet the global demands created by the Kremlin's offensives.

Have Other Countries Announced Similar Policies? 

Recruitment of non-citizens in the armed forces is not a new policy. Several other countries have been doing it for years.

"Countries such as France use military service as either a pathway to citizenship or an accelerated pathway to citizenship," Leuprecht was quoted as saying by CTV News.

Some of the other countries that allow foreigners to enlist in their armed forces (subject to their specific rules) include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Russia, etc.

India also allows a few sections of foreigners to join their military, such as Nepalese, Bhutanese, and Tibetans.

Implications for Indians

The policy change comes amid Canada's decision to welcome a record number of permanent residents over the next three years to fill almost one million vacant positions in the country.

By 2025, Canada plans to welcome around 500,000 new immigrants, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser had said on 2 November. This would certainly expand the pool for the military to choose from over the years.

The policy change is especially good news for Indians, who comprised the largest immigrant group to Canada among all its immigrants from 2016 to 2021, as per a survey. In fact, one in five people who come to Canada is an Indian.

With the announcement of the new immigration targets, citizenship rules are bound to be even more relaxed than before. This would lead to a massive jump in the number of Indian immigrants to Canada, who could then go on to join the military.

The new policy would also benefit the military, as most immigrants come to Canada when they are younger and in the working-age bracket. This would mean that recruits would have age and physical fitness on their side.

The decision will also change the demographic characteristics of the CAF, which currently has only 12 percent visible minorities and 16 percent women. The remaining personnel are all white men.

(With inputs from CTV News and PTI.)

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Topics:   Armed Forces   Canada   Indian Diaspora 

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