Military for Civil Support in the UK, Canada, and Australia

Canada, the UK, and Australia have a general military restriction for civilian support to clearly stated situations that include dire security crises and disasters. Both countries do not allow the free use of the military in civilian affairs. The situation must be overwhelming to merit the deployment of the military force. Using the military is always a last resort due to the potential for violence. The military is not trained in domestic law enforcement and civil support activities. Using the military in civilian affairs could escalate a situation beyond control. 

The government must also ensure that there are no other options or solutions before considering using the military for assistance. The decision to use the military must be authorized at the highest political level within the government. 

 Situations where Canada has used its Military for Civil Support: 

• October 1970 – during the FLQ Crisis, when federal troops were called in to support the police in Quebec.

• July 1980 – to aid in the civil unrest following the death of Montreal's mayor, Pierre Laporte.

• September 1998 – troops were sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia, following Hurricane Bonnie.

• May-June 2010 – soldiers were deployed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, during major flooding. 

 Situations where the UK has used its Military for Civil Support: 

• December 2001 – anti-terrorist operations began in response to the 9/11 attacks on America.   Troops were also sent to Afghanistan as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

• July 7, 2005 – the military assisted police with security at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

• August 2011 – troops were deployed to London and other cities to assist police during riots.

What are the benefits of using the military for civil support?

The military can quickly respond to civil emergencies and can be an important asset in restoring order during the unrest. The military also has the resources and personnel to support large-scale operations, such as search and rescue missions or providing medical assistance.

What is usually the commitment of federal military forces for civil support operations?

The Canadian Forces can be deployed domestically at the request of a province or territory during civil emergencies, such as natural disasters. The commitment of federal military forces is usually limited to providing support and assistance, rather than law enforcement.

What are some of the risks associated with using the military for civil support?

There is always the risk that soldiers could be inadvertently drawn into violence if they are perceived as taking sides in a dispute. This could lead to further unrest and potentially escalate the situation. There is also the risk that soldiers could use excessive force when responding to civil disturbances, which could result in civilian casualties and damage to property.

Civil authorities and military support 

Military support to civilian authorities during civil emergencies comes in many forms. It can range from providing logistic and engineering assistance, to medical support, or law enforcement and security assistance.

The main types of civil emergencies where the military is most often called upon to provide support are:

• Natural disasters – such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes 

• Human-caused disasters – such as terrorist attacks 

• Civil unrest – such as riots or protests

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