Canada’s Cadet Movement has a history that reaches back to the drill associations created to address concerns about the Fenian raids in the late 19th century. Despite being long established in our country, few Canadians are aware of the opportunities the Cadet Movement offers our young men and women.
What is the Canadian Cadet Movement?
The Canadian Cadet Movement is the largest federally funded youth program in Canada. The Canadian Cadet Organizations are the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets and the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets. Local squadrons and corps are staffed by specially trained officers belonging to the Cadet Instructor Cadre and by civilian instructors.
Squadrons and corps exist in communities across the country, both large and small. They welcome youth between the ages of 12 and 18, and engage them in team building activities, personal challenges, sport, outdoor activity, and learning in both classroom and field settings. Cadets meet locally once a week throughout the school year. Funding comes from a number of public and private sources, and cadets and their families also take part in fund raising activities. There are no fees for participating in any cadet activities. Cadets are often told that, “The only cost is one of commitment.”
Aims of the Cadet Movement
According to the official web site, “The aim of the Cadet Program is to develop in youth the attributes of good citizenship and leadership, promote physical fitness and stimulate the interest of youth in the sea, land and air activities of the Canadian Forces.” Cadets are not members of the military, nor are they expected to join the service when they become adults.
Cadets as an Educational Activity
Cadets benefit from a structured four-level basic instruction program that teaches them knowledge and practical skills, some of which will overlap with their academic studies. All cadets must master a common core in order to progress from one star level to the next. Additional requirements depend upon the branch: activities could relate to outdoor survival, flying or sailing, for example.
In addition to the required elements, cadets can also elect to participate in optional training. This may mean taking part in a sport such as orienteering, soccer, volleyball, marksmanship or biathlon. It may mean learning to play a musical instrument as part of a marching band or a pipe and drum band. Some corps and squadrons also offer Highland dance lessons.
Youth who attend a public or private school may be able to earn academic credit for their cadet activities. Homeschooled youth can use both required and optional training to fulfill educational requirements set by educational authorities or by their families. They will also find that taking part in cadets is a great way to include the element of socialization. From our experiences over the last year, we have found the cadet environment to be a safe and accepting one, but also one in which youth are encouraged to face personal and group challenges, and over time to take leadership positions. They are very much treated like young adults and expected to comport themselves as such.
Summer Employment and Travel Opportunities
The cadet program was designed to respond to the needs of youth who are typically in school from September to June, and who have a long summer break. This allows cadets to attend summer training sessions (generally referred to as “camp”) lasting between two and six weeks. Older cadets can be hired as staff at these camps, which provides them with valuable work experience. They are paid on par with adult staff of their rank.
Camps are located across Canada, and cadets are sometimes able to travel to camps in regions of the country far from home. Cadets we know from the Montreal area have attended camp near Quebec City, in Ontario and Alberta, and also in the Yukon Territory. Cadets may also travel within Canada or internationally, as part of a band or an exchange program.
More detailed information about the cadet program in Canada can be found on the Canadian Cadet Organizations web site. The Regional Cadet Support Unit (RCSU) for the eastern region has gathered a number of tools that will be helpful to new cadets and their parents. Look for the Cadet Info page on their web site.
To find a cadet group near you, search the cadet corps and squadron directory. You can select any province or territory in Canada.
Canadian Cadet Organizations web site