Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 31.3 million (7.0 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 52,300
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 16
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 7 July 2000
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 182

About 1,000 young people aged between 16 and 19 were serving in the regular armed forces, with a further 5,000 in the reserves.


There were concerns about the continued detention pending deportation of five men alleged to pose a risk to national security. Three of them had been detained for more than two years.1 Military and police personnel had participated in UN peacekeeping missions to East Timor (UNMISET), Golan Heights (UNDOF), Middle East (UNTSO), Cyprus (UNFICYP), Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) and Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).2


National recruitment legislation and practice

Voluntary recruitment is permitted from the age of 16 in the reserve forces and 17 in the regular forces. Safeguards to ensure that such recruitment is genuinely voluntary include a requirement for informed, written parental consent and for reliable proof of age in the form of an original or certified copy of a birth or baptismal certificate.3 Under-18s may not be deployed in armed conflict under the 1985 National Defence Act (Section 34), which was amended in June 2000 to bring the law in line with the Optional Protocol.4

Most under-18s apply through the Regular Forces Non-Commissioned Members Program. Under-18s can also apply to the Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTP), which allows recruits to obtain a commission as an officer and a university education at the Royal Military College of Canada, or through other colleges and universities associated with the Canadian Defence Academy. Requests for release from service by officers and non-commissioned members are usually allowed during the first year of military training, and recruits do not incur financial costs provided they leave before one-and-a-half years into the preparatory program or the second year of the advanced program.5

Child recruitment and deployment

At the end of May 2004 over 1,000 recruits aged between 16 and 19 were serving in the regular forces and a further 5,000 in the reserve forces. The majority of 16 and 17 year olds serve in the Primary Reserve Force, enabling them to attend civilian higher education establishments with the help of government subsidies and to obtain vocational training and employment opportunities.6 Most recruits to the regular forces enter the Royal Military College of Canada, where they generally spend four years as officer cadets. There were no reports of under-18s being deployed in combat.

Military training and military schools

The Canadian Defence Academy, established in April 2002, provides opportunities for approximately 600 members of the armed forces to obtain a higher education.7 A one-year preparatory program for students going on to study at the Royal Military College is offered by the Richelieu Squadron at Campus St. Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec.

The Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School, located in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, is responsible for basic training for recruits to the regular forces.8 A three-week Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program (CFAEP) offers a program that prepares applicants of 17 years and older from native communities for recruitment to the regular forces and pays a bonus for completion of the course. According to the program brochure, applicants return to their communities to conduct "home recruiting".9

The Canadian Cadet Movement, comprising the Navy League, Air Cadet League and Army Cadet League, is the largest federal government youth program, with over 60,000 members.10 A child may join the Cadets at the age of 12. Marksmanship is among the activities offered on weekend training programs. The armed forces currently run 27 Cadet Summer Training Centres across the country.11 One such centre, Camp Argonaut at the Canadian Forces Base in Gagetown, New Brunswick, holds training camps annually for approximately 1,200 cadets aged 13 to 18.

The Junior Canadian Ranger Programme, for children aged 12 to 18, is organized by the Canadian Rangers, part-time reservists based in isolated and coastal communities. There are currently 2,100 Junior Canadian Rangers in 95 communities across the country.12


In May 2004 Canada launched a National Plan of Action for Children, entitled A Canada Fit for Children, which aimed at ensuring compliance with international humanitarian and human rights treaties such as the Optional Protocol. The plan pledged continued support for efforts to address the needs of children affected by armed conflict and to prevent the military recruitment of children.13

At the international level, the government produced a five-year Action Plan on Child Protection14 in June 2001 and created a Child Protection Unit within the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The Agency has supported projects ranging from education for children affected by armed conflict, to demobilization and reintegration of former child soldiers, conflict resolution, and health. The Human Security Program of the department of Foreign Affairs has supported projects related to peace support operations and the protection of civilians, including children in armed conflict.

1 Amnesty International Report 2004, http://web.

2 UN Peacekeeping, Contributors,

3 Declaration made by Canada on ratification of the Optional Protocol,

4 National Defence Act, Chapter 13, (Bill S-18),

5 Royal Military College of Canada,

6 Communication from Department of National Defence to the Children and Armed Conflict Working Group, 22 May 2003.

7 Canadian Defence Academy, http://www.cda-acd. 8 Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School,

9 Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program brochure, obtained at a Canadian Forces Recruitment Centre, Ottawa, 22 June 2004.

10 Department of National Defence, Support for Canada's Youth,

11 Canadian Cadet Organizations, e.asp?id=844.

12 Junior Canadian Ranger Programme,

13 Senator Landon Pearson, Advisor on Children's Rights to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada's National Plan of Action, 10 May 2004,

14 Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Action Plan on Child Protection, 18 June 2001,


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