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For well over 100 years, millions of Canadians have proudly served our country in uniform. While Canadian Armed Forces members are known to put their lives on the line to support international operations, they also fulfill important roles on home soil.

They provide national and regional security, serve on search and rescue missions and respond to natural disasters.

National and Regional Security

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) help protect Canada at home by patrolling our borders and remaining ready to defend our country.

The Cold War

For decades CAF members guarded against potential attack by Soviet bombers and submarines that probed our defences during the Cold War.

Pictured are a Canadian Armed Forces Argus patrol aircraft and submarine during a Cold War training exercise. Photo: Department of National Defence

Canadian Rangers

Indigenous military personnel fill a wide variety of roles, including serving with the Canadian Rangers. This group of army reservists is active predominantly in the North, as well as on remote stretches of our east and west coasts. The Canadian Rangers use their intimate knowledge of the land there to help maintain a national military presence in these difficult-to-reach areas.

Pictured is a Canadian Ranger during a patrol in Nunavut in 2012. Photo: Department of National Defence IS2012-1012-06


North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), a Canada and United States bi-national organization, watches the skies over North America for potential threats and guard against possible attacks by aircraft, missiles or space vehicles.

Pictured is a Canadian Armed Forces Airbus providing air-to-air refueling to two CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft during Exercise VIGILANT EAGLE 13. Photo: Department of National Defence FA2013-5100-10

Law Enforcement

The CAF also helps the RCMP and other law enforcement partners monitor our borders to stop criminal activity, including the international smuggling of drugs, fishery patrols, human trafficking and other crimes.

Pictured is a CAF helicopter flying over Vancouver during security operations for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Photo: Department of National Defence

Search and Rescue

Members of the CAF have saved many lives in search and rescue operations. This expertise has been valuable in emergency responses.

Swissair Flight 111007

Canadian Armed Forces members performed recovery operations after the crash of Swissair Air Flight 111007 in September 1998.

Pictured are parts of the plane after being lifted from the lifted from the waters off Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia.Photo: Department of National Defence

Arrow Air Flight 1285

Arrow Air Flight 1285 crashed shortly after taking off from Gander, Newfoundland, in December 1985. It was the worst air disaster in Canadian history. All on board, eight flight crew and 248 United States service members were killed. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces helped with the initial search and rescue, and later with recovery operations.

Pictured is the Silent Witnesses Memorial in Gander which commemorates those who lost their lives.

Arctic Rescue

In the fall of 1991, during a rescue mission to the site of a Hercules military transport crash near CFS Alert in Canada’s High Arctic, 17 search and rescue technicians parachuted to the scene of the crash at night in a raging blizzard. They helped save the lives of 13 crash survivors and each technician earned a Meritorious Service Medal for bravery.

Pictured is the wreckage of the plane that still sits on the tundra of Ellesmere Island today. Photo: Department of National Defence

Across Canada

The Canadian Armed Forces are responsible for search and rescue operations in over 18 million square kilometres of land and sea. They help co-ordinate and respond to thousands of search and rescue calls every year.

Pictured is a Royal Canadian Air Force CH-149 Cormorant helicopter hovering over the deck of HMCS Edmonton as search and rescue technicians are hoisted on board during an exercise off British Columbia in April 2013. Photo: Department of National Defence CX2013-0098-37

Natural Disasters and Humanitarian Response

The highly trained CAF members are an invaluable resource when natural disasters strike. When provinces and territories are overwhelmed, they can ask the CAF for help. Natural disasters can strike at any moment and could be anything from snowstorms and forest fires, to floods, ice storms and hurricanes. They also help support communities in crisis. The CAF continues to respond to natural disasters across Canada, whenever they occur. These emergency response and prevention operations fall under CAF’s Operation LENTUS.

Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu flooding

Two Royal 22e Régiment light armoured vehicles in a flooded street in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, in May 2011.

Photo: Department of National Defence IS2011-0005-23

Saguenay floods

During the Saguenay floods in 1996, Canadian Armed Forces members used Griffin helicopters to rescue people from rooftops in La Baie, Québec. In total, roughly 1,200 people were airlifted to safety in Operation Saguenay.

Pictured are CAF members setting up tents during the emergency response. Photo: Department of National Defence

Québec Ice Storm

Canadian Armed Forces members helping to clean up in Quebec after the 1998 ice storm, which caused major power outages across various provinces.

Photo: Department of National Defence.

Alberta flooding

Soldiers helping the crew of a CH-146 Griffon helicopter evacuate people stranded in a provincial park during flooding in Alberta in June 2013.

Photo: Department of National Defence IS2013-3025-08

Hurricane response

Canadian Armed Forces engineers building a bridge in a small village in Newfoundland and Labrador in the aftermath of Hurricane Igor in the fall of 2010.

Photo: Department of National Defence IS2010-1020-05


During the COVID-19 pandemic, CAF personnel deployed to long-term care facilities in provinces at the request of local civil authorities, to help protect Canadians and minimize the impacts of the health crisis. They have also supported northern and remote communities.

Canadian soldiers delivering vaccine supplies to a First Nations community in northern Manitoba. Photo: Department of National Defence

Order of events


October Crisis


Crash of Arrow Air Flight 1285


Saguenay Flood


Red River Floods


Crash of Swissair Flight 111


Eastern Canada ice storm


Forest fires in British Columbia


Hurricane Igor hits Newfoundland and Labrador


Alberta wildfires


COVID-19 pandemic response


Wildfires in the West

People and Stories

Sergeant (Ret'd) Donna E. King

The roles that women have played in the Canadian military have evolved over the past century, and today they can serve in every military trade. One important duty they continue to fill is working in administrative and other support positions. Without people like them, the CAF could not do its job. Donna E. King was one of these service women. She helped keep the military administrative machine well oiled.

Corporal (Ret’d) Kate MacEachern

Being audacious and bold is something that Kate MacEachern strived for from a very young age. When she enrolled to serve her country in 2005, it had been brewing in her mind since she was a little girl.

Lieutenant-Colonel Robert "Bob" Maxwell

Robert Maxwell didn’t join the Royal Canadian Air Force to blaze a trail for future generations but his 35-year military career would inevitably forge a path for many who followed in his footsteps.

Classroom materials

Lesson plan: Ages 12-18

Humanitarian aid tree

This activity encourages students to develop awareness and an understanding of the difference between needs and wants.

Memorials to Canadian Veterans

National Aboriginal Veterans Monument - Ottawa, Ontario

Honours the contributions of all Indigenous people in conflicts and peace support operations from the First World War to today.

National War Memorial - Ottawa, Ontario

The National War Memorial symbolizes the sacrifice of all Canadians who have served our country in the cause of peace and freedom over the years.

Canadian Armed Forces At Home Photo Gallery

Photos of Canadian Armed Forces in Canada.

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