The Canadian Forces (CF), officially the Canadian Armed Forces are the unified armed forces of Canada, as constituted by the National Defence Act, which states: "The Canadian Forces are the armed forces of Her Majesty raised by Canada and consist of one Service called the Canadian Armed Forces." This single institution consists of the sea, land, and air environmental commands called the: Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), which together are overseen by the Armed Forces Council, chaired by the Chief of the Defence Staff. At the pinnacle of the command structure is the Commander-in-Chief, who is the reigning Canadian monarch, Elizabeth II, represented by the governor general.
Since the Second World War, Canadian defence policy has consistently stressed three overarching objectives:
During the Cold War, a principal focus of Canadian defence policy was contributing to the security of Europe in the face of the Soviet military threat. Toward that end, Canadian ground and air forces were based in Europe from the early 1950s until the early 1990s.
However, since the end of the Cold War, as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has moved much of its defence focus "out of area", the Canadian military has also become more deeply engaged in international security operations in various other parts of the world – most notably in Afghanistan since 2002.
Canadian defence policy today is based on the Canada First Defence Strategy, introduced in 2006. Based on that strategy, the Canadian military is oriented and being equipped to carry out six core missions within Canada, in North America and globally. Specifically, the Forces are tasked with having the capacity to:
Consistent with the missions and priorities outlined above, the Canadian Forces also contribute to the conduct of Canadian defence diplomacy through a range of activities, including the deployment of Canadian Defence Attachés, participation in bilateral and multilateral military forums (e.g. the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces), ship and aircraft visits, military training and cooperation, and other such outreach and relationship-building efforts.
Service branches: (2011) Leadership:
Royal Canadian Navy Commander-in-chief: GG David Lloyd Johnston
Canadian Army Minister of National Defense: Peter MacKay
Royal Canadian Air Force CDS: General Walter Natynczyk