1940 (Early Days of World War II)

  • During the early days of World War II, “France had fallen and Britain was under heavy attack from the air. The critical need was for trained young men to fly planes in defense of freedom. So, the government came up with an idea, which was to select teenaged youth, who would ultimately take their places as aircrew in the ranks of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Soon after, [a country-wide volunteer organization was created to sponsor and develop a program to train young men to fly for duties during World War II. This became] the Air Cadet League [which] was formed in 1941 under the Minister of National Defence for Air, Charles G. Power.”
    • [Excerpt from Jay Shah’s 2017 National Effective Speaking Competition Speech]
  • The very first National Board meeting was held on June 2, 1941. During this meeting, the National Directors appointed one Chairperson for each of the nine participating provinces.
  • At the end of 1941, there was a total of 79 squadrons across Canada.


  • The total number of squadrons nearly doubled by mid-1942, reaching 135 squadrons across Canada – with 10,000 Cadets.


  • Canadian interest in the Air Cadet Movement rose and by 1943 there were 315 squadrons across Canada – with 23,000 Cadets.


  • The number of squadrons across Canada had reached its peak, with 374 squadrons stood up, 29,000 + Cadets, 1,750 officers and instructors, and 2,000 civilians – who had supplied financial and other forms of support.

1946 (Post World War II)

  • After the close of the war, the Air Cadet program needed a new focus because the primary purpose was no longer to recruit and train military pilots. As a result, the Air Cadet League of Canada and Royal Canadian Air Force expanded the air cadet program to include areas such as citizenship, leadership, and physical fitness, while having a continued connection with the military. Flying scholarship courses for senior cadets and summer camp opportunities were also created.


  • This was the Air Cadet League of Canada’s tenth anniversary. By this time, about 65,000 young Canadians had worn the Air Cadet uniform and participated in the training program.


  • By 1961, twenty years since founding, more than 150,000 Air Cadets had received training in squadrons now numbering 332. If all the cadets up to this time had been paraded in a line, it would have stretched more than 55 kilometers.


  • A new partnership with the Canadian Armed Forces was created on February 1, 1968, replacing the Royal Canadian Air Force partnership.


  • After several years of “unofficial” participation in squadron-operated “Girl Flights”, the official participation of girls in the Air Cadet movement was approved by Parliament on July 30, 1975.
  • Air Cadets changed to green uniforms in the 1970s and reverted back to blue uniforms in the 1990s.

The 1990s

  • From the time the Air Cadet League of Canada came into being in April 1941 until the latter part of the 90s, close to one million young Canadians had participated in the Air Cadet training program. Today, it is estimated that some 50,000 Canadians are involved in some way with the Air Cadet Movement.


  • There are over 26,000 active air cadets in Canada
  • There are 453 active air cadet squadrons in Canada
  • The purpose of this program has evolved to focus on citizenship, leadership, physical fitness, general aviation and stimulating an interest in the activities of the Canadian Forces.