As teacher of history, and one who is heavily interested in armed forces news, Canada's role in the world post World War Two was that of a "Middle Power." Despite having the third largest Navy and forth largest Air Force following the war; Canada, like many other nations decided against maintaining a substantial military globally. Yet for the Cold War years, Canada was considered by many as a Middle Power - always willing to punch above its weight.
Yet, when we take a look a our history text books, many of them end Canada's "Middle Power" status around 1980, and really believe the Middle Power status was between 1945-1975. Sure, those dates make sense; Canada was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945, NATO in 1950 and NORAD in 1953; Canada fought the Communists in Korea between 1950-53; Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1956 for solving the Suez Crisis, and bringing to birth the Canadian Peacekeeping Myth. Canadian Forces were stationed in Germany, ready for the Soviet forces that never came. The United States even authorized Nuclear weapons to be used by Canadian Forces (both ground and air) in the event of a War with the Soviets. Just based on this simple summary, it is easy to see why many believed Canada was indeed a Middle Power.
In the late 1980s onward, Canada realistically secluded itself, while deploying marginally large Peacekeeping forces around the world. The effectiveness of these forces can be easily debated, but Canada's role as the aforementioned "Middle Power" seemed to diminish...or at least was put into question. Even more so as the Canadian Forces began to dwindle in size, with ageing equipment and no serious engagements round the world.
Then there was September 11, 2001. Perhaps this date reversed nearly two decades of rust at decay on the Canadian Forces.
In a report late last year out of the UK - Canada still remains a "Middle Power" despite the fact the label seems to have dissipated.
Researchers at the European Geostrategy broke global powers down into four categories: Super Power, Global Power, Regional Power and Local Power. According to their research, the United States is the Worlds only Super Power; which many will agree on. However, according to their list, Great Britain is the only Global Power - this might be debated...especially by Russia or China.
The report defines a Global Power as, "a country lacking the heft or comprehensive attributes of a superpower, but still with a wide international footprint and [military] means to reach most geopolitical theatres, particularly the Middle East, South-East Asia, East Asia, Africa and South America.” - Personally based on this definition, I would include Russia and China, but that is beside the point of this post. - I will state that the report does indicate that in China's case that it lacks the resources to deploy their armed forces abroad.
The report paces Canada in no. 9 globally in terms of Military Power; which I consider to mean, Canada is still a "Middle Power"
It is not surprising to see Germany and Australia above Canada, as they both have comprehensive militarization projects under way to revitalize their armed forces capabilities. The report ranks Canada as a Regional Power, which it defines as, "a country lacking the comprehensive attributes of a superpower, or even the reach of a global power, but with a strong and highly concentrated regional footprint, perhaps extending to the nearest zones of adjacent continents."
So despite the fact that the Canadian Forces continue to erode, with a Navy that is rusting faster than the replacements can be built, an Air Force looking to fly its only fighter past the age of 40, and a reserve force that is losing 1% of its force each year, the Canadian Armed Forces are still enough to constitute Canada being a "Middle Power."
The question then becomes, but for how much longer?