Following the example of the American Special Operations Forces (SOF), the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) is considering a recruiting plan that will allow civilians off the street to try out for SOF selection.

With the increased importance of SOF becoming evident with each passing conflict, the Canadian military is trying to swell its SOF ranks by an additional 600 operators.

“This is not about achieving set quotas or anything else,” said Maj. Gen. Peter Dawe, commander of the CANSOFCOM, in an interview with The Canadian Press. “From a hard-operational perspective, do we have the right mix of people with the right sort of background, education, language, ethnicity, and gender that will allow us to do what our government expects us to do and will expect us to do in the future?”

CANSOFCOM is currently composed of about 2,000 commandos and contains four units: the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) specializes in Special Reconnaissance (SR) and Direct Action (DA) missions; Joint Task Force 2 (JTF-2) specializes in counterterrorism, the Canadian equivalent of the Delta Force; The 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron provides aviation support; and the Joint Incident Response Unit specializes in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) warfare.

Major General Dawe says they are trying to leverage the desire of some “really hard-charging, high-achieving individuals like varsity athletes and super-talented folks out there on civilian streets” who want to walk the SOF path without having to spend numerous years in a conventional unit before having the opportunity to apply. “So one of the things we would like to look at is whether there is scope to accelerate that because there is a qualitative dimension that we might not be exploiting or tapping into as well as we could,” he added.

But Major General Dawe emphasized that there must be “a good, healthy balance there in terms of making it as efficient as possible without discarding those important enculturation gateways that have served us so well historically.”

In the U.S., some of the civilian street-to-SOF programs include the Special Forces 18-XRay option, the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Option 40, and the Naval Special Warfare Command’s SEAL Challenge. However, such SOF recruitment efforts aren’t exclusive to the U.S. The Australian military allows civilians to try out for a place in the elite 1st and 2nd Commando Regiments with the Special Forces Direct Recruitment Scheme. Similarly, the New Zealand military has a program where civilians can try out for the New Zealand Special Air Service.