The Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit (CJIRU) is a special forces unit which specialises in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) operations. Members of the unit are designated as Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Operators or officers. The unit is also a component of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) together with other units such as CSOR, 427 SOAS and the tier-1 JTF2.
History of the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit
After the September 11 terrorist attack, the Canadian government decided to establish a unit specialising in nuclear, biological, and chemical defence. The unit, when founded, had the title of Joint Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence Company (JNBCD Coy) and its base was in Ontario, at CFB Kingston. In 2006, the JNBCD Coy joined CANSOFCOM and in 2007, the government decided to reorganise it. In September of that same year, the unit received the title Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit (CJIRU).
The Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit operates alongside four other units which are all part of the CANSOFCOM, a high-readiness organisation. These units are:
- Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2)
- Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR)
- 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron (427 SOAS)
- Canadian Special Operations Training Centre (CSOTC)
The Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit’s headquarters are based in Ontario, at 8 Wing Trenton. This unit, listed as a Tier 2 Special Operations Forces unit, provides support to Tier 1 units, within CANSOFCOM, such as the JTF2.
This unit consists of three different troops: the Sampling and Identification of Biological, Radiological and Chemical Agents Troop (SIBCRA), the Surveillance Troop, and the Decontamination Troop.
The main SIBCRA Troop’s task is to evaluate a situation during an operation and collect samples, in order to bring them back and identify them. usually, this is the first troop to intervene during a mission. This troop is equipped with hand-held chemical detectors and heavy sensors in order to evaluate the situation and identify the threat.
The Surveillance Troop is in charge of surveillance and collecting information regarding a hot zone. Often, the troop operates with sensor-laden vehicles, in order to avoid direct contact with the target.
The Decontamination Troop is responsible for bringing back the other troops and making sure the other soldiers are not contaminated or injured. Through a multi-stage process, this troop is able to inspect and decontaminate the other troops who intervened in the operations.
Responsibilities of the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit
The CJIRU, which is part of the CANSOFCOM, provides support and high readiness capabilities for special operations in which the Command takes part.
The unit’s main focus is to “detect, identify, and mitigate CBRN risks”.
At a domestic level, the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit is part of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Explosives (CBRNE) Response Team, alongside the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The unit also provides support during counter-terrorism operations. The CJIRU’s tasks usually are:
- Confirm or deny the existence of a CBRN threat, identify it, and plan a way to dismantle it.
- Identify if a hot zone was contaminated and monitor it, providing more details on the threat.
- Provide medical support and then decontaminate the other members of the unit.
- Set up a CBRN incident command centre able to analyse and coordinate the collected data.
- Destroy the threat.
At an international level, the CJIRU is able to provide support to the Canadian Armed Forces deployed abroad.
In order to be part of the CJIRU unit, the candidate has to be a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, either Regular or Reserve Forces.
The general requirements for the candidates are:
- Obtain security clearance
- Minimum two years of military service for Regular forces, and three years for Reserves.
- Being in possession of a driver’s licence
- Complete the Pre-Screening Physical Fitness Test (PTF)
- Hold a Basic Regulatory Test in Swim for Military (TBNM)
The CJIRU PFT consists of:
- 20 metres shuttle run
- Minimum 40 press-ups and 40 sit-ups in one minute
- Minimum five heaves
- Combat Swim Test that consists of a 25-metre swim in combat uniform, which comprehends boots, rifle, and no flotation
- Loaded March consists of a 13-kilometre march with 35kg in less than two hours and 26 minutes.
- Casualty evacuation of a similar size soldier (minimum 70kg) to a distance of 25 metres carrying their own and the casualty’s weapon.
In 2016, the Canadian government decided to modify the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit PFT in order to focus more on the speciality of the unit. The new training process, however, has not been disclosed.
After passing the selection process, the candidates have to attend a Special Operations CBRN Course, which lasts four months. This course provides a full introduction to the unit and it terminates with live-agent training. During the training, the candidates have to solve difficult tasks in a real-life hot zone.
The Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit: Equipment
The badge of the CJIRU consists of a purple background, a colour used to represent the nature of the special forces’ units. At the centre of the badge, there are three inverted triangles which surround a grenade. The grenade symbolises the international and domestic support to the Canadian forces. Within the three triangles are represented the symbols of nuclear biological, and chemical danger.
The unit motto, located at the bottom of the badge, is “Nunquam Nonparati”. Translated from Latin, it means “Never caught off guard”.
The unit is equipped with a remote-control multi-agent tactical sentry (MATS). It consists of cameras, a chemical and radiological detector, and a GPS. This tool, driven by a unit member, is the first thing to enter the hot zone and provides pictures and videos of the threat.
However, there is not a tool or detector in order to trace and recognise biological agents. Consequently, the only way to understand if an area is contaminated is through the symptoms that a biological agent causes.
Missions of the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit
Since June 2008, the unit was deployed more than 20 times. Three of these occasions were national events, planned in advance, such as the visit of the former US President, Barack Obama.
The CJIRU also went to Iraq, during the fight against the Islamic State. While in Iraq, the unit was able to identify and dismantle chemical weapons used by IS militants. In Mosul, the CJIRU identified small batches of sulphur mustard and chlorine agents. The Sunni militants also had at their disposal radioactive material. The unit was also focused on training the Kurdish fighters.