Thank you for giving me the opportunity to present the supplementary estimates (B) for the Department of National Defence and the Communications Security Establishment.
Our allies and partners, and Canadians, know that the defence team is always here for them, ready to answer the call at any given moment.
Our Canadian Armed Forces assisted with record snowfalls in Newfoundland as well as responded to wildfires all the way into Australia. They helped bring Canadians home safely from China and elsewhere, as they mobilized to establish a safe and comfortable quarantine space at CFB Trenton in the face of COVID-19.
That is just in the first two months of this year. As you know, it has been extremely busy for us.
These events all underscore the need for a strong and agile defence team. It is our job to make sure that the team has the support they need to be effective. That is why my number one priority has always been to look after the women and men of our defence team in the Canadian Armed Forces and also their families.
Two and a half years into Canada's defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, we are moving forward with our plan to support our people so that they can do the challenging jobs that we ask of them. Through these estimates, we are requesting approximately $796.9 million to continue implementing SSE. The majority of that funding relates directly to the care of our people.
We take our responsibility to take care of our members and their families very seriously. That is why we stood up the Canadian Armed Forces transition group to support ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members and to ease transition for our members, our veterans and their families.
We also enhanced tax relief for Canadian Armed Forces members deployed on international operations, to recognize them for their hard work and to ease some of the stress for them and their families.
Our reservists also form a very critical part of our defence team. They help with flood relief efforts and also in fighting fires. They do all of this often while maintaining a career outside the military. They too deserve our full support. That is why we made sure that reservists take home the same day's pay for the same day's work as their regular force colleagues.
We also recognize how challenging it can be for the families that serve alongside our members. It is one of the reasons that we are working through Seamless Canada with provinces and territories to make relocation easier. We are helping to give military spouses dedicated access to jobs with national employers in the private and public sectors through the Military Spousal Employment Network.
All the while, we are focused on changing the defence team culture to make sure that the organization is more welcoming, equitable and reflective of the Canadians that we serve. That is why we apply a gender-based analysis plus lens during the development of our programs and policies, to enhance our capabilities to make us more responsive to the needs of our workforce and the people who are also called upon to protect. It is why we are working hard to recruit more women into our forces.
Since 2015, we've doubled women's enrolment in the reserve force and increased enrolment by 72% in the regular force. Women now make up 15.9% of the Canadian Armed Forces membership.
In NATO, where the average of the active duty women across NATO nations is at 11%, Canadian women are also taking on very important leadership roles as well. There is more work to be done but we will not waver in our commitment to our success.
Part of that work also means recognizing that the Canadian Armed Forces has not always been a welcoming and safe environment for everyone. These estimates include $148.6 million for defence team members who were victims of sexual assault, harassment and discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. We hope that this settlement will help bring the survivors closure and healing.
We continue to work towards a respectful work culture that is free from harassment and discrimination. The department is also working with our government partners to implement the final settlement agreement of the LGBT purge class action lawsuit. We have evolved our military justice system to better deal with harmful behaviours through Bill , which received royal assent last summer. We will not stop until all of our members feel valued, cared for and supported.
Taking care of our people also means equipping them to do their jobs. SSE provides a road map and carves the funding out of our fiscal framework to allow us to do this.
We have already completed or started more than two-thirds of the projects that were outlined in our defence policy. These projects not only ensure that the defence team is ready to meet modern security demands, but they also have a significant impact on the Canadian economy. Taking the joint support ships, for example, to date under that project, we have awarded contracts that contribute close to $950 million to Canada's GDP. This maintains close to 740 jobs annually. We have selected the design of our new Canadian surface combatants, modernizing our current Halifax class frigates. We also launched the second of six new Arctic and offshore patrol ships for our navy.
Through these estimates, we are requesting $490.8 million to advance many more capital projects, such as upgrading capabilities on our helicopters, ships, planes and submarines; procuring new surveillance capabilities through satellite and space-based technologies; and modernizing equipment, facilities and our infrastructure.
Our government is committed to reducing our emissions to help reduce the impact of climate change. It is why all of our defence infrastructure projects are done with an eye towards greening defence. We have built LEED silver standard or equivalent armouries in Halifax, Saint-Hubert and Sainte-Foy. Investments like these have helped to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 32% from 2005 levels.
Our investments also produce economic benefits for communities across Canada. These are investments like the Nanisivik naval facility, and upgrades to runways in Inuvik and Goose Bay, which increase access into these communities and bring economic opportunity.
Just as we partnered with Treaty 1 first nations to transfer the Kapyong lands, we are working closely with indigenous partners as we look to enhance our ability to operate in the north. We have collaborated with more than 25 indigenous partners on the new whole-of-government Arctic and northern policy framework. We are also advancing research and development, investing in innovation to help solve key challenges that will benefit all, including our northern and indigenous communities.
The Canadian Rangers are a direct link to these communities. As Canada's eyes and ears in the north, they are instrumental in both Arctic sovereignty and search and rescue operations. The Canadian Armed Forces will continue to work with the Canadian Rangers to defend Canada's rights and sovereignty, to keep the north safe and well defended and to ensure that the Arctic remains a region of peace and stability.
In this ever-evolving security environment, we need every advantage to help us identify, prepare for and defend against threats to our country. That is why our government is committed to building on the successes of the Communications Security Establishment and the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. Through these estimates, we are requesting a funding transfer so that CSE will keep pace with advancement in quantum technology and exercise new authorities to conduct cyber operations to support national defence.
Even with all the right people, all the right resources and all the right technology, Canada cannot tackle modern defence challenges alone. We cannot be on an island of stability in an ocean of turmoil. Eventually, the negative ripples will reach our shores. That is why we are committed to being a reliable partner and a good global citizen.
We continue to collaborate with our closest partner, the United States, on continental defence, and we are modernizing NORAD.
We are pleased that the Iraqi government has also reaffirmed its support for NATO's continued presence and its training mission, which Canadian Major-General Jennie Carignan proudly leads.
Through these estimates, we are requesting $132.5 million to continue supporting NATO assurance and deterrence measures.
Canada leads a battle group in Latvia and supports NATO air policing in Romania. We also contribute to the standing NATO maritime group and NATO's high-readiness force. We have rejoined the NATO airborne early warning and control force, known as AWACS.
We also play a very important role with the United Nations. Last summer, we completed the air task force deployment to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali. We continue to maintain staff officers in support of that mission. We also began providing cross-mission tactical airlift support to two other UN missions as part of Operation Presence in Uganda.
The funding we are requesting today will also allow us to keep our people at the centre of everything we do. Every day they represent Canada with professionalism, leadership and excellence. For that we owe them the right tools to get the job done as well as our unwavering support and our most profound gratitude.
Madam Chair, the defence team is here to answer the questions that you and the committee members may have. We are ready to answer these questions, but if we happen to not have all the facts at hand, we will make sure that we provide them to you at the earliest convenience.
We've been demonstrating that year by year. In the first year we returned money to the centre. No money is now returned to the centre.
The money we have right now, the system we also put in place when it comes to defence policy.... To make sure the defence policy is whole, we need to make sure the money is there. Right now, with all the projects we have, we have the opportunity to allow us.... For example, if a project needs to be moved forward, we have the ability to move it. It's like a bank account. We can draw upon it. If a project is slowed down for whatever reason, we can move the money into future years. This gives us the flexibility to make sure that it adjusts to the current situation, because also, with the 20-year plan for our defence policy, we need to be mindful that situations change. We need that flexibility as we move the money around to make sure the projects are done.
One thing I can assure you is the way we move money around is to move projects forward, not to slow anything down. One of the things that our troops can have absolute confidence in is, for example, the LAV support vehicle project. That was a project we had initially planned to do, I believe, in 2024, but we were able to move that project forward and get it approved last summer. That's over 300 armoured support vehicles under the LAV family that our troops can use. So the system is working.
We also are being mindful that, as we move forward, we're creating efficiencies in the procurement system, but no money has been given back to the centre.
First of all, I'll talk about the Russian threat itself.
As you very well know, Russia has been testing us up in the north and we have been responding every single time. In the defence policy very early on we identified that we needed to make sure not only that our sovereignty was protected but also that we had to message that with significant investments.
As we are doing NORAD modernization, we are also starting to invest very early. It is called all-domain situational awareness. You may recall from various committee meetings, we need to look at the threats from all the way out in space down to under water, so we're investing in the right research and development.
As we look at the changes and the capabilities that we need, we need to make sure that we stay at the cutting edge of technology, working very closely with the U.S. on this to maintain our technological advantage against Russia. We need to make sure that this continues and does not stop, because stop-and-go mechanisms have created problems in the past, and this is what we are working toward.
As we talk about Ukraine, we know if we don't send a very strong message, Russia will take action as it has done in Ukraine with the annexation of the Crimea at Donbass.
Let's not forget that they actually started foreshadowing this very early on with what happened in Georgia. Somebody mentioned that when President Putin actually gave a speech at the Munich security conference. We need to be very mindful. We can't just look at current adversaries or potential adversaries. We need to see the early signs and look at preventing them in the first place.
These investments are also about sending a very strong message to turn it into capabilities so that we can actually deter any type of aggression.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the minister and all the staff for being here today. Of course, I give a big thanks to the Canadian Forces for the important work they do every day for all Canadians. I represent one of the larger military ridings in the country and am acutely aware of that.
I was very pleased to see in your opening statement, Mr. Minister, that you said your number one priority has been to look after the women and men on our defence team, so I am going to ask you some questions about that.
You mentioned some very welcome initiatives, such as the settlement for the victims of sexual assault and the settlement of the class action lawsuit on the LGBT purge.
The biggest issue in my riding among employees is, of course, DND civilian employees in the Phoenix pay system. I have been asking you about this for four years and I am going to ask you about it again today. What I hear very consistently and heard over the last week when I was in the riding is that the problems with the pay system aren't going away and that they have an effect on morale, recruitment and retention of the skilled people needed to work in the DND civilian workforce.
The most recent report by the Auditor General said there are more cases—not fewer cases—and that these cases involve more money than they previously did. The last report I saw from DND showed that 63% of DND employees have pay issues. Sixty-three per cent of the 28,000 people is almost 17,000 people.
My first question is: Have you seen impacts on the operations of DND as a result of the failures of the Phoenix pay system?
When we were discussing the defence policy, one thing was sure. We wanted to make sure that the Canadian Armed Forces will be there for Canadians in times of need. We can anticipate the different types of disasters that come up. If you look throughout previous years, in the last four and a half years you see floods, fires, and our dealing with missiles from Iran and other issues around the world.
In this one in particular, the Canadian Armed Forces responded superbly. We can move very quickly on the logistics piece. Even on the first flight from Wuhan, we had military medical personnel on the aircraft. We were able to make sure that when Trenton was selected, we had the right accommodations, the right people there. At the peak of it, we had over 300 personnel in support of this.
Part of this is we also have significant expertise, so as we were looking at providing support, we were very mindful that we had to protect the force itself. We are taking the appropriate measures, so that we can maintain our operations overseas and at the same time be able to support Canadians.
This was a very unique challenge that we had to move very quickly on. The military worked very closely with all the other departments to respond very quickly.
When it comes to the recent intercept when the Russian Bears came into the American.... One of the pictures was just brought to me, which I want to share with the committee. We have our F18s actually intercepting that Bear and we have the F22 in the background here as well. We hear about it, but I get to see some of the actual work that goes on from the early detection to the actual intercept.
It also goes to show that Russia is continually looking at new methods. We need to make sure that we put the right investments in it. We are doing that now, but we have a lot more work to do in regard to modernization, which is going to help deliver on a lot of those projects.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you, Minister, and to your entire team for being here today.
General, thank you for your service, and congratulations on your career and your retirement.
Minister, in the supplementary estimates there's a line about reinforcing Canada's support for Ukraine. I would like to ask you about Canada's training mission in Ukraine, Operation Unifier.
This week I was elected the new chair of the Canada-Ukraine Friendship Group. I think it's fair to say that, to members of the group, to many Canadians, to many of my constituents in Etobicoke Centre and especially to people who are members of the Ukrainian Canadian community, of great concern is Russia's invasion of Ukraine, its annexation of Crimea and the resulting impact of 13,000 people killed and close to two million people internally displaced in Ukraine.
I want to thank you and your team for your steadfast support of Ukraine and her people. I know you reiterated that support at last month's NATO defence ministers conference. Would you be able to provide an update on Operation Unifier's impact on Ukraine's ability to defend and re-establish its sovereignty and territorial integrity?
Congratulations on your election to become the chair, and I also thank all members for steadfast support for Ukraine. It sends a very strong message when you have all-party support for Ukraine at the time of need.
Operation Unifier plays a very important role, which I remind all my colleagues at NATO when we go, whether it's me hosting a meeting or hosting a breakfast to be able to elevate that conversation.
On Operation Unifier, there are a couple of things that we're doing. The work that we're doing is about providing for the right need. Rather than just our figuring out for ourselves what we're willing to provide, it's about assessing the various needs. Very early on, rather than training from one location, I made the decision and gave the direction to spread that training out, to go where it's needed. Rather than having the Ukrainian armed forces members come to one location when they have to deal with trying to get in the front line and doing all the various training, we now go to them. The locations fluctuate depending on what's going on. It's usually over 10 at any one time. We look at any opportunities to be able to expand on that training.
One thing we've also said is that with the defence co-operation arrangements, plus Ukraine being added to the automatic firearms control list, that allows us to now look at how the procurement system will work. What we want to do is link from procurement into the type of training that we can provide, because equipment is absolutely useless until you train somebody to use it well, and you make them far more effective. For example, the sniper rifles that have been purchased through Canada, and the training that we provide—because we literally do have the best military snipers in the world—is providing that capability that has the impact.
Also the medical training resonates in my mind directly. That was something that a team identified. It wasn't part of the initial training. People coming back from the front line didn't have the appropriate training and people were dying. Getting the first aid training is not just for the individual, but it's teaching about the whole system that's needed, from the casualty collection point to putting people into an ambulance. You need to stabilize them before they get into the ambulance; otherwise, they're going to die on the way. Those are all things that actually have had an impact.
What we also need to work very hard on is to support Ukraine on its reforms, because the reforms are going to be absolutely crucial to making sure that Ukraine is going to be eventually successful.
This is all part of the procurement programs that have already been announced, and we're following the procurement schedule. I'm fully aware that this can't be done in one year.
The fact remains that, at the end of the budget year, half a billion dollars is being ripped from the budget. We're talking about the day-to-day management of things already under way and not about surprises, with the exception of legal recourse for victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment, for example. This is a new component, and I understand that this expense wasn't initially planned.
However, the rest is foreseeable. I understand that certain market situations, such as the exchange rate and the value of the Canadian dollar against the euro or the American dollar, may influence the possibility of purchasing certain products or equipment. Indeed, if we're asking for additional funding each year for existing programs, is our overall funding adequate, also given the 2% required for NATO?
I know that the men and women in uniform in our armed forces are doing an extraordinary job. They manage to do everything with very few resources. They'll never tell you that they lack anything. They'll say that they can carry out the mission.
I understand that our external operations are independently funded. Nevertheless, we're still in a situation where we must rob Peter to pay Paul in order to increase our power and deploy our forces. At some point, we must be consistent.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for being here today with your team. It's a fantastic opportunity to have this chat.
Lieutenant-General, all the best in your retirement. I'm kind of jealous. It has to be a nice feeling right about now, going into summertime. Some days I want to retire.
First of all, I'll just say that it's unfortunate at times that we have to choose between the equipment we need and the individuals in our military. I'm really happy to see in these estimates that you included the $148.6 million to help victims of assault or harassment. It's important that we invest in that, so kudos for that.
What I'd like to speak about, and perhaps you could update me on, is that I know that 15 military personnel committed suicide in 2018. I have some figures from 2010, when you did a study, which was fantastic news. However, there were some incredible numbers. Female veterans were 81% more likely to commit suicide than non-veterans, and more than 155 active service members have taken their own lives since 2010.
National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada built a new suicide prevention strategy in late 2017, which I think is fantastic news. I don't have the new numbers, and that's one of my questions. The strategy included promises to improve the services and support available to our current military members and veterans in the hope of increasing awareness and reducing the number of suicides in all the populations.
You made a great comment on January 9, “We must always strive to do better.” You said, “Every time we lose a member of our Canadian Armed Forces to suicide, it is felt by us all. One suicide is too many.” I agree and I am sure everyone in this room has the same understanding.
Since that time, have there been any checks and balances? I haven't seen a report or heard anything as of yet. How are we doing now? Are we investing the right money? If we want men and women to continue to join and have a career in the armed forces, we have to make sure we have those supports.
First, could you tell me that?
I have some follow-up questions as well.
It's very important that we highlight this absolute tragedy.
I've said it before, and I think everybody can agree that one is too many. We take this extremely seriously. The senior leadership, including me, gets an immediate update if something happens, so they know we know what's happening, and so we get the updates on the action to make sure the families are also looked after.
At the same time, I have regular updates, looking at what we have learned from the board of inquiry, what changes we need to make, what decisions we need to make to direct changes, or that the chain of command is already looking at things. It also comes down to what type of support we're providing for the families.
Yes, to your question. It always has to be an ever-growing process moving forward, so we are constantly learning.
This is one thing we've been looking at when somebody joins. We look at building resiliency from day one. How do we train our people? Do we have the right mechanism? Are we building that mental resiliency? Do we have the appropriate supports for a young family? We are looking at all those things. This is why the military family resource centres are very important. The joint strategy with Veterans Affairs on suicide prevention is extremely important.
We are putting all the steps in there. This is where I'm absolutely open to everybody. If there are any new ideas or research, we're happy to take a look at it. We should all be concerned about this, looking at and making any necessary changes. I'm very open to ideas.
The investments we're making are for the mission we just completed in Mali. We do have some support personnel still there, as well as a tactical airlift capability that we're providing out of Uganda.
The vision that we have put forward is a whole-of-government approach. Rather than just saying what we're willing to provide and letting the UN then figure out where it's needed, it's always been—whether it's part of a coalition or even NATO—us asking what those needs are and how we can provide support. That's why the smart pledge concept was very important, because it's what was asked for by the United Nations.
I would remind the committee of what the smart pledge concept is all about. All the missions have high-level capabilities that only select nations can provide. Through that, if one nation is providing all the high-level capability, it can become a burden to one nation. Smart pledge is about nations coming together on a one-year rotation, so that a mission will always have that capability.
When we stepped up for the first pledge there, we worked with the United Nations and Romania to bring them online. I've had discussions with the two undersecretary-generals at the UN regarding which nations will be coming forward next. The goal is to get four to five nations to sign up, so we can get into a rotation. Once we have the confidence through the UN that we'll have four to five nations as a part of it, then we as a government can consider getting into a rotation.
In those particular areas, it shows what capabilities can be impacted. Medical evacuations, it may seem, don't have a direct impact on operations. However, as you and the committee were briefed, how we move blood is related to the distance that we could fly, because it wasn't in a helicopter's range. It was related to the transportation of blood. Having the medical personnel on board allowed the patrols on the ground to go further. That was a way of actually making the mission far more effective. That's how we passed that experience on to Romania.
We're now working with the United Nations on some of the other smart pledge concepts. As I have stated, we need to make sure that the mission is right, the troops that we have provided are going to have the right impact, and they will make the decisions accordingly, because at the end of the day, this is about improving the mission, not just about us getting a check in a box.
You hit on something that's very important. I'll say this again. Regardless of what position we or any Canadian holds in society, when something is not right at home, how can one concentrate on their work? Apply that to the context of the military where we ask them to do challenging things and very dangerous work. We want to make sure that they know their families are looked after.
In full transparency, even though I have served in the reserves and I have done a lot of overseas deployment, when I became the Minister of National Defence I got to see the really direct impact that relocation has on regular force families. The challenges are everything from a driver's licence, medical card or accreditation for a spouse.
We wanted to solve this, but this is one thing where.... Because we were very open to ideas on what we needed to do, Seamless Canada was actually a project codeveloped with the provinces, bringing in all the represented territories. Instead of going piecemeal one by one, we came together to have a look at what we have worked on. Through this, some provinces have already come forward saying they want to provide more doctors or try to deal with driver's licence issues or medical card issues. It has a significant impact. We actually brought spouses in to talk about their challenges.
We need to look at making this even better. I was speaking with the representative from Manitoba. The goal is, rather than just waiting for one meeting, to start looking at putting working groups together, so that when we come together we can talk about the progress that we have made. What are those challenges? How do we move forward? Where do I need to engage and get some changes done? Ultimately, this does have a significant impact on families.
We are working on a few initiatives, but I have a little more work to do with my team before we move forward on it.
As you know, they needed to be changed and they have been changed. The C6s are starting to come into service.
I want to go back into it. A project like this is something we're able to move on very quickly. Anti-armour capability, that was taken out because of trying to save money.
Talking about the C6, yes, that's something that was brought in very quickly and it's happening, but anti-armour... These are little capabilities we don't talk about. We talk sometimes about the big projects.
The first time I went into Iraq to visit our troops, the only anti-armour capability we had was a Carl Gustaf at that time. We had a government.... I won't point fingers, but we always have to take a little dig at one another.
Anti-armour capability was taken out. I'm sure it wasn't assessed at that time when the capability was taken, but we were dealing with some serious issues with those types of vehicles. Then we made an immediate decision to make sure we did an emergency buy to get the anti-armour capability in, not only for our special forces but also bringing this capability back into the Canadian Armed Forces. Now they're going through the various trials to select which one they want.
Whether it's the C6, anti-armour capabilities, bringing mortars back.... Let's not also forget that we're bringing back air defence capability as well. The reason I say “capability”—and I don't know what the selection is going to be—is so that we can actually defend ourselves and not have to rely on our allies to provide air defence for us when we deploy.