What is a Special Duty Area?

The responsibility for designating a Special Duty Area (SDA) and a Special Duty Order (SDO) lies with the Minister of National Defence. The process also involves advising the Minister of Veterans Affairs due primarily to the fact that service in either is “integral to the provision of benefits” [1]

SDA’s and SDO’s require two basic criteria for their creation (designation):

1) CF operations or commitments are occurring in the area, and,

2) There is a higher risk than normal peacetime operations in the designated area or operation.

As of 11 September 2001, “Special Duty Service” for a Canadian Forces member, as it relates to the (Veterans Affairs) Pension Act (and presumably the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Compensation Re-establishment and Compensation Act a.k.a. the ‘so-called’ New Veterans Charter), includes:

a)     “periods of training for the express purpose of service in a SDA or SDO, wherever that training takes place;

b)     travel to and from the SDA / SDO or the location of training referred to in subparagraph a. (above); and

c)      authorized leave during special duty service, wherever that leave is taken.” [2]

In 2003, the benefits available to CF members under the Pension Act were broadened to include the creation of Special Duty Operations. This allows that members “will receive the Maximum Pension Act coverage possible when serving in SDA’s and SDO’s and that coverage will be provided quickly and comprehensively.” [3]

Ignoring that “quickly and comprehensively” is open to much interpretation and is not often the reality, the creation of SDO’s has overall benefitted the CF members, both serving and retired.

Now the big question in everyone’s mind is what are the SDA’s/SDO’s?

Canada has declared 32 SDA’s/SDO’s since the first one was declared in 1949 for all of Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Jordan. This first SDA remains in effect today as do others as there are both continuing CF operations or commitments to these areas and they continue to pose “elevated risk”.[4]

In order to be designated an SDA/SDO, the area and/or operation is enshrined in government of Canada regulations, not merely a policy document,  memorandum, routine orders or CF message. This offers a sense of dignity and honour to service in a SDA/SDO but also of recognition and security to CF members and families for current and future provision of benefits.

The list of SDA’s as of November 14 2011 is as follows[5] :

English List

French List

[1] Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces. “Special Duty Areas/Special Duty Operations.” (04 July 03) Web. 07 Dec. 2011.   http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/pd/pi-ip/07-03-eng.asp

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Department of Justice Canada. Special Duty Area Pension Order. November 14, 2011. Web. 07 Dec 2011. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/SOR-2001-496.pdf