Canadian Forces top-heavy with generals as rank and file shrinks
Other forces have a much leaner structure. The U.S. Marine Corps has 180,000 active personnel commanded by a maximum of 62 generals.
Canada’s military has become increasingly top-heavy in recent decades, with the number of rank-and-file soldiers significantly shrinking and the number of generals remaining about the same, new documents reveal.
As of March 31 this year, the regular force had dropped to 65,644 and was commanded by 129 generals and admirals, according to Canadian Forces figures released under the Access to Information law. That is in contrast to statistics from 1991, when the Canadian military’s regular force was 85,977 personnel commanded by 137 general officers.
The documents show that the significant drop in personnel was absorbed by the rank and file.
The number of privates and their naval equivalents in 1991 was 16,677. In 2021, that was 9,263. Corporals and master corporals and their naval equivalents numbered 32,265 in 1991. By 2021 that number dropped to 26,009. The number of sergeants and naval equivalents dropped from 10,211 to 6,804. In 1991, there were 8,625 warrant officers, master warrant officers and chief warrant officers and their naval equivalents. By 2021, that figure dropped to 6,376.
The numbers of captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels and their naval equivalents stayed relatively stable over the same period.
Michel Drapeau, a retired colonel and Ottawa lawyer, says the growth in numbers of general and flag officers is out of control. “This is ridiculous,” said Drapeau, who obtained the documents. “We are starting to look like Brazil or Argentina.”
Drapeau noted that each general required additional personnel and staff officers to support their needs, taking away individuals from front-line jobs.
A brigadier general and their naval equivalent earn a maximum of around $182,000 a year, a major general earns $227,000, and a lieutenant general is paid $269,000.
Other forces have a much leaner structure. Drapeau noted that the U.S. Marine Corps has 180,000 active personnel commanded by a maximum of 62 generals.
A second set of records obtained through the access law by this newspaper showed the military’s public affairs branch was concerned earlier this year there might be increased scrutiny about the number of generals, in particular, because of the Canadian Forces’ plan in the spring to create six new positions.
In response, public affairs officers developed messages highlighting the leadership abilities of Canadian generals. If a journalist asked about the high number of generals, the military response was to be: “General Officers and Flag Officers lead the CAF in defending our country’s values and interests, here at home and abroad, and they are considered institutional leaders.”
Another of the public affairs messages to be issued to journalists noted that, “General Officers and Flag Officers are instrumental to meet the increased coordination and leadership requirements associated with Canada’s complex operational commitments.”