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What is the Cadet Program?

The Cadet Program is a national, community-based program that is funded by the Department of National Defence in partnership with three civilian organizations: the Navy League of Canada, Army Cadet League of Canada and Air Cadet League of Canada.

One of Canada’s oldest youth programs, it dates back to 1862, and encompasses the following:

  • The Royal Canadian Sea Cadets

  • The Royal Canadian Army Cadets

  • The Royal Canadian Air Cadets

The aim of the Cadet Program is to develop in youth the attributes of good citizenship and leadership, promote physical fitness and stimulate an interest of youth in the sea, army and air activities of the Canadian Armed Forces.

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces assume costs (including uniforms and travel) for cadets. The Cadet Leagues require local community support to meet obligations that include accommodations, training aids, equipment, and program enhancements not otherwise provided. Parents and cadets are expected to participate in and contribute to fundraising as required by the League’s local sponsoring organization.

Who are the Cadets?

Legal residents of Canada, aged 12 to 18, are eligible to join the Cadets.  It is important to note that cadets are NOT members of the Canadian Armed Forces, nor are they expected to join the military. The program focuses on transferrable life skills that can be used in any career path a cadet may decide to pursue.

In 2017, there were 53,203 Cadets across Canada, within 1,113 Cadet Corps and Squadrons:


Total Number of Sea Cadets: 7,825

Total Number of Army Cadets: 18,376

Total Number of Air Cadets: 27,002

Although girls were not eligible to join Cadets until 1975, they now represent 31.9 percent of all Cadets in Canada. The highest participation of girls is within the Sea Cadets with 40.2 percent.  Girls represent 30.8 percent of the population of Army Cadets, and 30.3 percent of Air Cadets.

What kinds of activities are offered?

Cadet activities in local communities across Canada begin in September of each year, and end in May or June. Cadets generally participate in activities with their Corps or Squadron one evening per week. Activities also occur on weekends.

Depending on whether the youth choose the Sea, Army or Air Cadets, they will take part in a variety of activities to develop skills as a good leader and citizen, as well as their physical fitness. They can participate in the following activities:

Royal Canadian Sea Cadets | Cadets learn seamanship skills, including navigation, powerboat operation and how to sail

Royal Canadian Army Cadets | Cadets focus on expedition training and outdoor activities such as camping, canoeing, and trekking, including survival skills, first aid, maps, compass and GPS technology


Royal Canadian Air Cadets | Cadets learn about aviation and participate in flight activities including power flying and gliding, aircraft maintenance, air navigation studies and aerospace


Each program also includes teamwork and leadership training, Canadian military history, citizenship activities, drill, physical fitness, and Canadian Armed Forces familiarization.

The Cadet Organization has 21 Cadet Training Centres / Cadet Flying Training Centres located across Canada where summer training (Jul-Aug) takes place for Sea, Army and Air Cadets. In addition, two Air Cadet Advanced Aviation courses are contracted for delivery with a community college. More than 19,000 youth attend these centres each summer. Selection for summer training is based on their attendance, behaviour, academic achievement, and other attributes that they demonstrate throughout the training year. Cadets who attend summer courses receive a weekly training bonus or allocation for personal expenses. Their instructors and leaders may participate in advanced training opportunities on a full-time basis during the summer and can earn “money to be put towards post-secondary education tuition.”

Cadets may also participate in international exchanges with various countries, national and international expeditions, regattas, ship deployments, familiarization training with the CAF, marksmanship training and biathlon training.

Who instructs the Cadets?

Cadet Instructors Cadre Officers are members of the Canadian Armed Forces whose primary duty is the safety, supervision, administration and training of Cadets. They must be Canadian citizens, between 18 and 64 years of age and have a secondary school diploma or equivalent.  They must also meet Canadian Armed Forces medical standards, as well as specific screening requirements common to organizations working with youth (for example, they must have a valid Police Records Check and Vulnerable Sector Screening). Further, Commanding Officers ensure that all activities are adequately supervised by “competent, screened, and authorized adult supervisors of each gender.

Cadet Instructors Cadre Officers belong to the Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service, a sub-component of the Reserve Force, which includes both commissioned officers and non-commissioned members. There are approximately 7,800 commissioned officers, who receive training to prepare them for their duties as youth leaders. They work with cadets an average of one evening and one weekend day per week. However, they may spend additional time organizing and planning activities, and many continue to be active during the summers while taking part in specialized programs and activities.

As members of the Reserve Force, Cadet Instructors Cadre Officers are paid for some of their work, and those occupying a position at a local Corps or Squadron level can receive up to 25 days of pay per year. They may also receive additional pay for attendance on training courses, summer employment or other activities. Many Cadet Instructors Cadre Officers choose to volunteer a large amount of additional time to the program.

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