Forces: March 14, 2004

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Canada's relatively small armed forces are stretched even more than those of the United States. With only about 60,000 troops, and only 24,000 of them available for overseas service, Canada has had at least 8,000 troops overseas since the war on terror began. While no Canadian troops took part in the Iraq invasion, this was not for lack of support from most Canadians. The government kept Canada out of Iraq mainly because of problems with separatists in French speaking Quebec. As the U.S. was preparing to invade Iraq, there were looming elections in Quebec. If Canada went into Iraq, that might have given the Quebec separatists control of the provincial legislature, and another opportunity to try and separate Quebec from Canada. In any event, Canada would have only had token forces available for service in Iraq. Actually, about 30 Canadian troops did participate in the invasion. A long time officer exchange program had some 30 Canadian officers in the American and British units headed for Iraq. The Canadian government did not order these officers to be sent home, and they participated in the fighting.

Canada has other defense problems the United States doesn't. The war on terror has Canada also increasing security on its borders. But Canadian borders are even more extensive than Americas. Moreover, the Canadian Coast Guard, unlike the U.S. Coast Guard, is a civilian agency and unarmed. When firepower is needed, the Canadian navy or Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. FBI) has to be called in. So the Canadian armed forces are more involved in border security. Years of low spending have left the armed forces with ageing and hard to maintain equipment. The newly elected parliament is more enthusiastic about increasing defense spending. But the cost of all those overseas deployments, and the extent of decrepit equipment that has to be replaced, will make rejuvenation a slow process. 

 


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