The latest war between Hamas and Israel has once again demonstrated the need for viable and robust military reserves. Yet, Canada’s Reserve Forces (Res F) are even more understaffed, under-equipped and poorly employed than its Regular Force (Reg F) counterparts. Canada needs a new defence strategy and its reserves, not the regular force, should be the focus for at least a decade or more.In the days following last year’s October 7th massacre that killed more than 1,200 Israeli civilians, the Israeli government called up 360,000 reservists to prepare to fight Hamas. That is an astounding number. To give you a sense of scale, that would be like the Canadian government mobilizing ever single person living in Victoria, BC.All of them.Granted, being calling up, and the actual number who report for duty are two different things. But the fact they have more than 465,000 reserve personnel available to be beckoned into uniform out of a total population of 9.1 million is still incredible.Not counting the Israel Defence Force’s (IDF) 169,500 active military personnel, it works out to roughly 5% of their citizens being on the reserve defence roster at all times.Comparatively, Canada has a population of 40.5 million people with approximately 27,000 Res F personnel in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Again not counting our supposed 68,000 Reg F members, that works out to 0.067% of Canadians are on strength.Zero percent — less than a rounding error.Out of that paltry number, even fewer can actually be deployed rapidly, in a manner comparable to the IDF reserves. Many of our members are physically or medically unfit to deploy and there are significant gaps in their soldiering and trades competencies. The latter is due partly to the sporadic nature of the training they receive and also because of a lack of kit and materials such as uniforms, vehicles, tents, rifles and ammunition.But like most problems we face in this country, our Res F can be fixed with time, determination, political will and money.The embedded nature of our Res F in communities across Canada is an inherent strength. It dates back to pre-confederation, when Fenian raiders threatened our brand-new country’s sovereignty. Our government had militia units dispersed throughout the country so that all regions should have an immediate defence capability.While the southern threat may have abated well before the First World War, the good sense of the idea persists. We should therefore be investing in our armouries and ‘stone frigates,’ (the naval reserve equivalent of an armoury) which are conveniently located across the country, not neglecting them. Part of the reason why the CAF and government are facing a recruiting and retention crisis is people can’t afford to live near the large bases where our Reg F units are concentrated.Focusing on getting people to serve where they live, instead of moving them across the country to where they can’t, and then moving them several more times every few years after, would likely help boost our numbers.There should also be no bilingual requirements for officers and NCO’s in the Reserve Force.At present, any officer in the CAF, be they a part of the Res F or Reg F, must have a functionally tested language profile in an official language other than their native tongue above the Rank of Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol). It makes little sense.A Res F Colonel in Regina isn’t about to lead a regiment or battalion filled with francophones, any more than their counterpart in Trois-Rivières is to lead one filled with anglophones.All it does is create an artificial ceiling for unilingual officers, both French and English, who may be better leaders than their bilingual counterparts, to succeed. The latter are inevitably given preferential advancement based on linguistic abilities but may lack or have insufficient other abilities, that count more on a battlefield.Lastly, we also need to equip our Res F well and in order to attract recruits and to able them to train them on equipment they might actually use in a battle space.For example, it does no good having an Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment such as the King’s Own Calgary Regiment, or Sherbrooke Hussars practicing their skills in old G-wagons, utility Side-by-Sides or a trivial number of Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicles. Similarly, a once-a-year smalls arms qualification for personnel in our infantry reserves isn't going to instill confidence or competency.Canadian reserve units were once an important part of our social fabric in this country and with the proper vision, funding and support they can be again. They are the key to bolstering our inherent defence capabilities and the foundation off which we can build a more robust Reg Force.The status quo isn’t working, Canadians need to support the CAF and rebuilding it starts at home.