The Canadian Forces (CF) does not use the term Canadian Special Forces in an official capacity, and all special operations come under CANSOFCOM (Canada Special Operations Forces Command). This command of the CF is responsible for special operations, Counter-Terrorism, and support for traditional troops. Several special operations units, including Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) form the core of Canada’s special forces. JTF2 has become particularly widely heard of, though as a secret unit little is actually known about their precise make-up or specific accomplishments in overseas missions.
Joint Task Force Two
Special Forces duties in Canada began to be performed by a Counter-Terrorism unit known as JTF2 (Joint Task Force 2) in 1993. This counter-terrorism unit is protected by a high level of security, and there is little verifiable information though author David Pugliese published a book about the unit in 2002. The following information is extracted from that provided by the Canadian Forces (CF).
The Joint Task Force 2’s motto is Facta non verba, Latin for “Deeds, not words.”
The Joint Task Force Two (JTF2) is a Special Operations Forces unit responsible for federal Counter-Terrorist operations whose mission is to provide a unit capable of rendering armed assistance in the resolution of an incident that is affecting, or has the potential to affect, the national interest. While the unit has a primary focus on counter-terrorism it is expected to be employed on other high value strategic tasks. It is unclear at present how the role of JTF2 has been affected by the creation of CSOR.
JTF2 does not perpetuate any conventional unit and it is believed the unit is not organized along conventional lines.
JTF2 was created on 1 April 1993, when the Canadian Forces (CF) accepted responsibility for federal counter-terrorism operations from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Special Emergency Response Team or SERT. Since its inception, the unit has continuously evolved to meet modern-day threats, focusing in particular on the “elusive, sophisticated and determined enemy” such as those responsible for the events of 11 September 2001. JTF2 is continuously developing new capabilities, technologies, and tactics.
JTF2 recognizes the year 2001 as an important milestone in its history. The unit was committed to the international Special Operations Forces coalition in Afghanistan, completing its operations there in November 2002. This deployment was the first time JTF2 was used in a major combat role outside Canada. The unit played a critical role in coalition Special Operations Forces and earned the respect of Canada’s allies for its professionalism.
40 JTF-2 Operators were sent to Afghanistan in December 2001, two months after then Minister of Defence, Art Eggleton, announced that Canada would be sending troops into Afghanistan to aide the removal of the Taliban. Since then JTF-2 Operatives have been at work closely with other Special Operations Forces such as Delta Force, the SAS (both British and Australian), and the German Kommando SpezialKraefte.
JTF-2 is known to have provided surveillance and strike teams for Task Force K-Bar in the war against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. For its service in Afghanistan, Task Force K-Bar, in which JTF2 members took part, was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (US) in 2004. These JTF2 operators were not awarded the citation, nor the unit as a whole, due to pressure from the Canadian Federal Government to avoid involving JTF2 in an internationally public recognition.
It was widely speculated that JTF2 was in Iraq, working closely with fellow Special Operations Forces units the SAS and Delta Force. These speculations were confirmed Thursday March 23, 2006 by The Pentagon and the British Foreign Office when they both commented on the instrumental role JTF2 played in rescuing the British and Canadian Christian Peace Activists that were being held hostage in Iraq.
According to the CBC, JTF2 were in Haiti at the time that Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from power. They protected the Canadian embassy, and secured the airport. They may have also assisted the United States Marines in the removal of Aristide to the Central African Republic.
Although not confirmed by the Canadian Government, JTF2 may have also been active in Nepal, Zaire, the Kosovo War, Rwanda, Tanzania, Peru, Congo, Sudan, Bolivia and in conflicts involving native groups in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, and other local security threats.
If JTF2 suffers any fatalities it will generally not be reported to the media. The immediate family would be informed but they are subject to the Security of Information Act.
JTF2 is a unit of the CF and is subject to exactly the same code of conduct, military discipline and overriding Criminal Code statutes as any other military unit. Due to the strategic nature of its operations, the unit answers directly to the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff in the chain of command. Like other units of the CF, JTF2 follows Rules Of Engagements (ROE) authorized by the Chief of the Defence Staff and are accountable to the military and civilian justice systems. They must follow the same regulations and orders as the rest of the CF. Like any other CF unit, internal oversight bodies such as the Chief of Review Services, the Military Police Complaints Commission, the Pay and Allowances Review Board, the Access to Information Office and the CF Ombudsman all have access to JTF2, if required, to carry out their duties.
JTF2 is comprised of CF members employed in assaulter and supporter roles. All members are carefully screened for service in the unit but it is the assaulters who undergo a selection and training regime for eventual service in the fighting arm of the unit. Any member of the CF, regular or reserve, can apply to become a member of JTF2 after completing 2 years of service (3 years for reservists) and meeting other initial entry requirements. Members of JTF2 are highly motivated, dedicated, mature, mentally robust and physically fit. Potential assaulters are carefully screened to ensure that they meet these criteria and are the type of team-oriented and highly-skilled professional soldier, sailor or airman that can effectively function in this high stress environment. On average, only one in ten candidates that arrive at the unit for final selection will actually become a JTF2 assaulter.
The standards established for selection and employment with the unit are scientifically designed and validated at the CF Dwyer Hill Training Centre in order to ensure that the members selected will be capable of accomplishing all tasks assigned to the unit. These standards include physical abilities, professionalism, integrity, psychological profile, mental aptitude, discipline, and maturity. These standards are required of all unit members, are tested regularly, and are an integral part of the JTF2 ethos.
Canada’s National Counter-Terrorism Plan
The Federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is responsible for the National Counter-Terrorism Plan. The plan establishes lines of communication, policy, the authorities and responsibilities of federal departments and agencies in a counter-terrorism situation, and outlines the legislation, conventions and agreements to which Canada is a party. The procedures for employing a military unit in a counter-terrorism situation are also detailed in the National Counter-Terrorism Plan.
The Canadian Forces Armed Assistance Directions (CFAAD) establish the procedures for the request and provision of armed assistance by the CF to the RCMP. CF resources can be positioned close to the site of a disturbance while the situation is developing, and before any armed assistance is authorized.
The CFAAD come into play on the basis of a request by either: the Commissioner of the RCMP asking for the pre-positioning of a military force ; or the Solicitor General of Canada submitting to the Minister of National Defence for the provision of such assistance by the CF to the RCMP. CF members engaged in armed assistance activities would be given the status of peace officers.
JTF2 is subject to very stringent security procedures in order to protect the unit and its mission. However, JTF2 has conducted capability demonstrations for appropriate authorities. The Government has also notified the public about its creation in 1992, its expansion following 11 September 2001, and the JTF2 commitment to Afghanistan in 2001, as well as by responding to media questions about the unit within the limits of the security policy. However, it says that being open and transparent about certain aspects of the unit could seriously compromise its effectiveness.
JTF2 has established itself as a well-regarded Special Operations Forces unit. This reputation has allowed the unit to develop strong relationships with its allied Special Operations Forces counterparts, relationships built on trust and confidence.
The Federal Budget of December 2001 allocated approximately $120 million over six years to expand unit capabilities and double its size (bringing it to an estimated 600), as part of the Government of Canada’s overall plan following the attacks of 11 September 2001. Since then the unit has embarked on a program of expansion and capability enhancement while at the same time maintaining its high operational and training standards.
JTF2 must be ready to respond immediately to any task assigned by the chain of command at home or abroad. The unit maintains the highest operational readiness standards in order to defend Canada against terrorism. On land, at sea and in the air JTF2 challenges itself to ensure it’s ready to defeat a multitude of potential threats.
In April 2005, the Canadian government’s new defence policy statement was made public. It included a concept of first responders for international tasks consisting of “special forces” (such as an expanded JTF2) supported by one of the light battalions. This concept of operations is similar to the US Army Rangers or the new Special Forces Support Group of the UK Special Forces Group, both of which support high-level Special Forces units.
The Canadian Airborne Regiment
The Canadian Airborne Regiment (CAR) was trained as a conventional parachute unit until its disbandment. Its predecessors included the Canadian Special Air Service, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, and the Canadian component of the 1st Special Service Force. Only the latter was trained as a “special forces” unit in the modern sense, and it was employed in conventional warfare situations quite different than the anti-terrorism role of JTF2.
Canadian Special Operations Regiment
A unit currently being formed for direct action and special operations will be made up of Category 1 special operations regiment operators and Category 2 specialists and support trades. Most of the unit at start-up is being formed through volunteers from 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, in Petawawa, where the unit will be based. Details and info on the application process were promulgated in December 2005 in CANFORGEN 195/05. It contains all relevant info available on the unit at this time. The CANFORGEN is reproduced at the army.ca wiki.
Canadian Forces members have the opportunity to undergo rigorous training of a variety of types; these soldiers are not necessarily employed in “special forces” roles. Some of this specialized training includes Army snipers, parachutists, pathfinders, and combat divers, as well as foreign training such as Ranger training (School not the Regiment). Many soldiers so qualified utilize these skill sets in the environment of a regular combat arms unit and are not considered “special forces”.