Operations in Canada and North America

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) conducts operations in Canada and North America to:

  • defend North America, especially Canada;
  • protect Canadians and their interests;
  • demonstrate Canada’s sovereignty; and
  • provide assistance in response to requests for support from civilian authorities.

These operations typically consist of:

  • recurring operations, planned and conducted periodically to meet an assessed and well-understood need (e.g., Operation PALACI, Operation DRIFTNET, Operation NANOOK);
  • deliberate contingency operations, planned in anticipation of potential events in which the need for a military contribution is likely enough to permit a relatively formal planning process (e.g., support to the RCMP-led Integrated Security Unit under Operation PODIUM for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games);
  • rapid-response contingency operations, conducted in response to unanticipated emergencies in which immediate action is required to save lives, reduce human suffering and mitigate property damage (e.g., Operation LENTUS); and
  • routine operations, conducted to monitor Canada’s territory and its approaches or to maintain critical infrastructure (e.g., Operation LIMPID, Operation NEVUS).

Regional joint task forces

The six regional joint task forces of Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) maintain a continuous watch over Canada’s land mass and air and maritime approaches — an area of more than 10 million square kilometers — and keep the CAF aware of security threats and other concerns in or approaching Canadian territory, including the North. This vigilance permits the CAF to take action against threats before they reach Canadian shores, and allows the CAF to respond appropriately to contingencies and requests for assistance, anywhere in the country.

The Canadian Armed Forces in the North

The North is an essential part of Canada’s history and national identity. Canada is an Arctic nation, with over 40% of its land mass in the territories, 162,000 kilometres of Arctic coastline and 25% of the global Arctic land.

The Canadian Armed Forces actively exercises Arctic sovereignty by conducting operations and exercises and maintaining a permanent presence in a variety of locations, including Joint Task Force (North) headquarters in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Some of the CAF activities in the North include:

  • conducting routine sovereignty operations and surveillance and security patrols (land, sea and air);
  • working regularly with other government departments;
  • monitoring and controlling Northern airspace under the auspices of the North American Aerospace Defense Command;
  • conducting coordinated responses to aeronautical and maritime search and rescue (SAR); and
  • maintaining the signals intelligence receiving facility at Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert, the most Northern permanently inhabited settlement in the world.

Working with mission partners

The defence of Canada and North America requires collaboration and coordination between the Canadian Armed Forces and whole-of-government partners, including:

  • Canada Border Services Agency;
  • Canadian Coast Guard;
  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service;
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada;
  • Parks Canada;
  • Public Safety Canada;
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and
  • Transport Canada.

In most cases, the CAF supports operations of these partners, such as emergency response and disaster relief, which are often conducted in support of federal or provincial government organizations. Routine continental operations such as fisheries patrols, avalanche control, and some support to law enforcement operations are carried out under formal arrangements with the participating mission partners.

Defence of North America

The defence of North America is integral to the protection of Canada. By working with Canada’s closest ally, the United States, the Canadian Armed Forces contributes to the defence of the continent. Defence and security relations between the two countries are longstanding and well-entrenched, contributing to one of the closest bilateral defence relationships in the world.

In order to be a strong and reliable partner in North America, the CAF:

  • conducts daily continental operations;
  • carries out bilateral training and exercises with the United States;
  • responds to crises; and
  • maintains interoperability with the armed forces of the United States.

The principal defence arrangements and agreements between Canada and the United States are:

  • Permanent Joint Board on Defence (PJBD): Established in 1940 to advise the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the United States on defence policy issues related to continental defence and security;
  • Military Cooperation Committee: Established in 1945 to revise the Canada-U.S. Defence Plan for the postwar security environment, it now provides the direct link between the national joint staffs of Canada and the U.S.;
  • North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD): Established in 1958 to monitor and defend North American airspace, and expanded in 2006 to add maritime warning to its responsibilities; and

Tri Command

Cooperation and collaboration at the military level take place through the Tri Command relationship between the Canadian Joint Operations Command, the United States Northern Command, and NORAD.

The purpose of Tri Command is to identify and implement means to improve collaboration among the three commands responsible for the safety, security, and defence of North America. The Commands have complementary missions and work closely together to meet their individual and collective responsibilities.

Tri Command staff talks are held annually is to identify and implement means to improve collaboration among the Commands in the execution of respective safety, security, and defence missions. The Commands collaborate on multiple fronts, with the intent of closing gaps and tightening seams, notably in the areas of operations, exercises, and plans development.

Date modified: