I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number three of the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence. Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4) and the motion adopted by the committee on Wednesday, October 14, we are meeting today to study the main estimates for 2020-21.
Before we get going, I would respectfully request a moment of silence for Corporal Choi, who was killed in a training accident this past weekend.
[A moment of silence observed]
The Chair: I would now like to welcome our witnesses.
Today we have with us the Honourable Harjit Sajjan, P.C., MP, Minister of National Defence.
From the Department of National Defence we have Jody Thomas, deputy minister; Lieutenant General Mike Rouleau, vice chief of the defence staff; Cheri Crosby, ADM, finance and chief financial officer; Troy Crosby, ADM, materiel; Geneviève Bernatchez, judge advocate general, Canadian Armed Forces; and from the Communications Security Establishment, we have Shelly Bruce, its chief.
I'd like to invite the witnesses to begin with their statements.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank everyone for the moment of silence.
Before I begin I too want to acknowledge the profound loss of Corporal James Choi during a training exercise in Wainwright, Alberta. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family, and our entire defence team will be there for them during this difficult time. We have begun an investigation to look into how this tragedy took place and to see what we can do to prevent it from ever happening again.
Madam Chair, since you've already introduced my entire team, I'll just move forward here. We are all here to answer your questions.
As you know, the defence team must be ready to anticipate, adapt and act in today's security context. That is why we began a historic investment in National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces through our defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, which will increase defence spending by over 70% from 2016-17. The $23.3 billion we are requesting will support our people while advancing Canada's broader objectives for security, and while supporting the Canadian economy, which is critical as Canada continues its fight against COVID-19.
In fiscal year 2020-21, the economic impact of the defence budget will generate $15.2 billion in GDP and approximately 283,000 jobs.
When we first tabled these estimates in February, COVID-19 was still emerging. While there is no specific COVID-related funding in these estimates, the pandemic has added a new layer of complexity to an already challenging threat environment.
From the beginning, the defence team has contributed greatly to Canada's whole-of-government response. The Communications Security Establishment has worked with government, businesses and our health care institutions to secure our networks and cyber infrastructure as the world has moved to working remotely. This spring, when Canadians were stuck overseas because of COVID-19, the Canadian Armed Forces' Operation Globe supported bringing them home to Canada, keeping them healthy and keeping them safe.
Through Operation Laser thousands of Canadian Armed Forces members supported Canadians, including 1,700 who put themselves at risk to help care for the vulnerable in 54 long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario, all this while meeting Canada's security needs, both at home and abroad.
We are committed to being a reliable partner and good global citizen. That is why these estimates include $160.3 million in NATO contributions. However, security at home and abroad can be achieved only with a diverse, inclusive and robust defence team. That's why we're taking deliberate and decisive action to eliminate hateful and harmful conduct.
In June, defence leadership and I met with our advisory groups and networks for an anti-racism and anti-discrimination round table to better understand their experiences and how we can eliminate barriers and biases. These barriers and biases form systemic racism in our institution, which needs to be addressed, and we are doing so. In July, the Canadian Armed Forces released a “hateful conduct” policy. The army, navy and air force followed with orders to help members identify and deal with hateful conduct within their ranks as well. These orders reinforce the message that intolerance and hate have no place within the Canadian Armed Forces. If you harbour hateful views, I can assure you that we will find you, and you will be dealt with.
We also recognize that we have more to do to ensure the Canadian Armed Forces becomes more inclusive to women and eliminates gender discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct. The entire defence team will continue to invest in creating a safe, inclusive and welcoming space for all of our members. This is why these estimates include nearly $10.5 billion in funding and statutory authorities that will help compensate and take care of our people throughout their employment and beyond.
Building a robust and diverse defence team also helps keep Canada on the cutting edge of innovation. Our scientists and researchers have worked to develop solutions to Canada's COVID-19 challenges, helping to develop a COVID-19 risk calculator, which has now been shared with our federal, provincial and territorial partners, as well as the World Health Organization. Also, under the innovation for defence excellence and security program, commonly known as the IDEaS program, innovators across Canada are working to help us solve some of the key COVID-19 challenges that we face.
These investments in innovation go well beyond supporting not only the Department of National Defence but also the Canadian Armed Forces. They are critical to helping grow the Canadian economy and helping to support middle-class jobs across our country. The Canadian Armed Forces alone employ close to 100,000 regular force and reserve members, and continue recruiting today.
We also have about 25,000 National Defence employees in communities across the country. Our defence policy—“Strong, Secure, Engaged”—generates billions of dollars in economic benefits that will support millions of Canadians and their families for years to come. The investments outlined in SSE will contribute $108.6 billion to projects and programs between 2021 and 2024-25, investments that will generate more than $85 billion in GDP, helping us support good, stable, middle-class jobs for Canadians, investments that will also help support hundreds of thousands of jobs per year on average over the next five years. The $5 billion in these investments for our ships, aircraft, and land vehicles benefit more than just the companies that get the bids. These contracts create and sustain thousands of jobs and reinvest dollar for dollar back into our communities across our country.
For example, one year after we awarded the armoured combat support vehicle contract, the project has resulted in subcontracts to more than 30 Canadian businesses and supported more than 400 jobs. A strong economy of the twenty-first century must include investments in fighting the other greatest threat of this generation: climate change. That is why we are making substantial efforts to green defence.
As the department with the greatest infrastructure portfolio and over 20,000 buildings, National Defence produces nearly half of the federal government's greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks to our investments in green initiatives, we've already reduced our emissions by over 30% from 2005 levels. We are on track to get to 40% reductions by 2025, five years ahead of our initial goal.
Greening defence is also about maintaining a competitive edge and contributing to economic growth. In Halifax, we recently completed a new naval training facility that will yield energy savings for years to come through its modern green design. The local community benefited from the 160 jobs that were created during its construction. The $26.1 million in these estimates will help continue our modernization of critical national defence infrastructure while creating jobs and contributing to government's efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050. These estimates will continue supporting the important work of the defence teams to help Canadians build our economy back better. These defence investments will let us defend Canadians while driving our economy and propelling our society forward.
By approving these investments, you are helping the defence team continue their critical work to advance our collective peace and prosperity.
Thank you very much. I would be pleased to take your questions.
But I think we have to be concerned, even though I'm a big supporter of Ukraine and Operation Unifier, about the health care facilities and the discrepancy, I guess, in health care in Ukraine versus what we have here in Canada, and the safety of the troops especially as COVID numbers in Ukraine go up. I want to move on, because I know this is something that you're on top of. I appreciate that you and all staff are making sure our troops are staying as safe as possible and staying healthy during these times.
As you're aware, Minister, in the last Parliament we had a report from Foreign Affairs that showed that the quick reaction force for the United Nations was never registered. In the Vancouver pledges that we made, you suggested that we were going to get up to 600 troops deployed. The top number we ever saw, under the current government's mandate, was only 192. That's the number I see in front of me.
As it stands today, the UN peacekeeping number is below 40, and has been consistently over the last several months. We know that when you take out staff officers and military experts, we are down to zero troops actually wearing blue helmets on mission. So the quick reaction force never came about. officially apologized, even though the Liberal members tried to block that apology. He officially apologized for the misleading of the committee.
Have you given up completely on the UN? We're not seeing troops deployed. We're not seeing a quick reaction force registered. Have you reached the same conclusion as many Canadians, that the UN just isn't effective anymore?
Well, let's step back a bit, Mr. Bezan. First of all, you talked about how we shouldn't be going to Mali. Then you talked about how, when you visited, you saw the tremendous work everybody did there. This is not about numbers when it comes to UN missions. We have to be extremely mindful of what type of capabilities we provide.
Plus, let's not forget one thing that I said from the beginning, that we will not commit troops unless we feel it's an appropriate mission that will have an impact. But this takes collaboration and work, making sure that what we provide will have the impact. Currently, as you know, we've finished the mission in Mali. Right now we're providing episodic support through logistics, that is, tactical airlift support, from Uganda. I'll tell you why this is extremely important. When I visited the African Union nations, especially the African Union headquarters, one of the things they asked for was high-level capability. They have the troops to be able to carry out the missions, but they need the support to be able to carry them out. For example, the tactical airlift is not only providing logistical support to many missions now; it's also moving troops to the various areas. On the additional support that we have also outlined, we are still working with the UN to determine not only which mission would be appropriate but also what the actual timeline would be.
As you know, the “smart pledge” concept is extremely important. If we do strictly what we've done before, then we're not improving the mission. The smart pledge concept is about making sure that nations do contribute, but are not burdened with taking this on for an extended period. That's why it's important to do a yearly rotation. That's what we're currently working on. This doesn't happen over time. This isn't something we can't personally do ourselves. This has to be done with the United Nations and many other countries. We're proud of the work we've done. We demonstrated that in Mali, and we'll continue to do the same type of work as we move forward.
Thank you, Minister, for being here today to speak with us.
I'd also like to start by expressing my condolences on behalf of my community to the family, friends and all the members of the Canadian Armed Forces on the passing of Corporal James Choi.
Minister, in my community of Etobicoke Centre, we're mourning the loss of 42 residents to COVID-19 at the Eatonville Care Centre. As devastating as this is, the death toll would have been much higher had it not been for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who were deployed there at a very difficult time to care for my constituents.
On behalf of my community, I'd like to take this opportunity, through you, Minister, to thank the Canadian Armed Forces, and particularly the Canadian Armed Forces members who cared for and saved the lives of my constituents in Etobicoke Centre.
Minister, my question to you is, could you tell us more about the Canadian Armed Forces response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario?
Thank you very much for the question on the reserves.
When we conducted our defence policy review with Canadians, 50% of the conversation was about the need to support the reserves. One of the most important things we did was to bring their pay in line. The reserves before were not paid at the same level as the regular force. The base pay was brought up to the same level as the regular force's, and now reservists are paid at the same level.
We also wanted to look at improving their infrastructure. Just over a year ago, we announced $250 million for reserve infrastructure across the country. That was something that I announced in Montreal. We also have additional money for the procurement of equipment.
As we look at aligning their pay, their infrastructure and their support, one of the things that the Canadian Armed Forces has also done is to look at bringing back some of the tasks that the reserves used to do. For example, bringing in a task like mortar platoons, and making sure that the reserves have the ability to go out—
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I too want to start by expressing the condolences of the New Democrats to the family of Corporal James Choi, the B.C. reservist, who was lost in the tragic training accident at Wainwright.
I also want to take a moment to thank the more than 1,700 members of the Canadian Armed Forces who pitched in at the long-term care homes during the COVID crisis, something I know none of us ever expected to see happen.
Thank you, Minister, for being here today. I also want to thank you for keeping the lines of communication open during these very strange times we're in.
Given that we're going to have to vote in the House, there are some things I am not going to be able to talk about today, things like the measures to combat racism and extremism in the Canadian Armed Forces, and the measures to improve mental health services and, I guess, the general question of how we keep expecting the Canadian Forces to do more and more every year when their operations budget doesn't increase.
That said, I'm going to take my one set of questions and focus on the role of women in the Canadian military.
Mr. Minister, you probably know that last week we heard that the Canadian Forces is struggling to meet its targets for women in the Canadian military. Four years into the program when the percentage should have increased, according to your goals, from 15% to 19%, we have had an increase of less than 1% more women in the military.
To reach the goal of 25% by 2026, we would have to double our intake of women every year, and we would have to have about half of new recruits every year be women.
What special measures are being taken to increase the number of women being recruited into the Canadian military, because if we don't have some special measures, we're not going to reach those goals^
Mr. Garrison, thank you very much for the question.
On your point about the operational budget, one thing I can assure you is that when it comes to any type of operations, they are separately funded. Any time the Canadian Armed Forces are needed, we always make sure that they have the appropriate support to be able to do their work.
When it comes recruiting women, you are absolutely right. We need to do more, and we are doing more. The baseline we set of 25% is not just a certain timeline, or where we are going to stop. We want to keep going.
We have made significant progress. We're at 16.1% women in the Canadian Armed Forces now. We have actually had increases in numbers since 2015-16, when we had about 979 to having over 1,300 in 2016-17, over 1,400 in the year afterwards, and then 1,700 more, and we're on to about 1,800 this year.
Improvement is happening. We're not happy either. We would like to have far more increases, but as you also know—you have highlighted this in the past—we also need to take a look at retention. How do we look at making those supports?
We are providing the appropriate support, but getting one aspect of that is extremely important. Operation Honour and the Path To Dignity were just one way of looking at how we can make culture change inside the Canadian Armed Forces.
Great work is happening. We're not happy with the progress, nor should we be until we actually meet the mission objective. I recently had a briefing from the army commander who was looking at a new uniform and making sure that it had a gender-based analysis plus on it, to make sure it had the appropriate fit.
Let's put it this way: We're putting the science behind the work we're doing. In terms of the recruitment, there was an IDEaS project that we funded to look at how we could analyze our data to improve the way we not only do the recruitment but also align the women to the various trades so we can focus on retention.
We're putting all the support and resources on this to make sure we improve. Yes, we're not happy with exactly where we are, but I also want to commend the tremendous efforts that have been made by the leadership in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Thank you, Mr. Minister.
You know me well enough to know where I'm going next in my question, and that question is about retention. One of the things that are key to retaining women in the military is dealing with the problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military.
I was a big supporter of Operation Honour, but I have to say, Mr. Minister, we have had two reports, one internal report and one by the Auditor General, and now we have another 2020 internal report that says that with regard to victims who make complaints about sexual harassment or sexual assault, the vast, overwhelming majority still feel they are dismissed or disregarded.
I want to know what special measures you are going to put in place to change this. Obviously, what we're doing here is not making the difference it has to make.
I wish these regulations could be done almost immediately, but we also committed to consulting with the victims so that the regulations are done appropriately. This is actually something we committed to and we need to make sure that we do that well.
But when it comes to Bill , it's important to note that even though the law was just passed, we actually started taking those measures even before the law was passed. And now that the law has been passed, we will continue to improve upon everything we have passed so that the appropriate support and mechanisms are there even while we are looking at drafting the regulations.
We are working, I can assure you, as quickly as possible. I've spoken to the JAG many times about this, but it's probably the most critical piece to this and it has to be done.
We just can't make a regulation saying the regulations are complete. The regulations have to be written in a way that actually creates the impact, and that impact can only happen if we continually consult the victims themselves so we get this right.
When it comes to the timeline piece, I can't give you an exact answer on this, but one thing I can assure you is that we are going to get this right.
Madam Chair, thank you for the question.
Yes, JTF Central and FOI (Est) had their own tactics, techniques and procedures they were using. There absolutely were areas that as you got progressively closer to them, the quote, unquote, “affected zones”, people would stage out of the dress of the day, out of their current uniform, and transition progressively into the medical piece.
In fact, that's one of the biggest things that we brought to the chaotic situation. It was this sense of tactics, techniques and normalizing a very frenetic environment.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I would like, Mr. Minister, to return to the question of the role of women in the Canadian military. I am disappointed with the rate of progress. I want to point out that on recruitment, if we continue at the current rate of one percentage point improvement every four years, it means that it would take us another 30 years before the Canadian Armed Forces reaches its 25% goal, and closer to 60 years before it reaches 30% women in the military. That level is generally acknowledged: you need about 30% of women to change the culture in any institution.
I'm also disappointed with the progress on the regulations; it's been more than a year. It shouldn't take more than a year to consult those victims. I want to return to another disturbing part of this, namely, that if we're going to changes these attitudes in the Canadian military, it's necessary to train future leaders. Statistics Canada just released a report covering cadets at the Royal Military College in Kingston and the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean for the year 2019. Those statistics showed that 15% of women at the colleges experienced sexual harassment or assault in the previous year. Seven in 10 of the military college students experienced or witnessed directly that sexualized behaviour. Of those who witnessed that behaviour, over 90% said they did not intervene because they weren't comfortable to intervene.
In speaking to the media, Mr. Minister, you said that you would take all actions necessary to deal with this problem at the Royal Military Colleges. Can you tell us today what those actions are and when they will be taken?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I thank the minister for being here today.
I want to take an opportunity to mention something quickly. I'm just over a year into my mandate here and I'm very thankful to be here, but two parts have disappointed me so far. Certainly from my perspective, it's only our third meeting here, and I would like to have had more opportunity to speak. The other one is that even now with our discussion today, I'm yet to see a budget tabled since I've been elected. Those are probably two of the disappointments I've had.
I would like to follow up. I had a discussion on this at our meeting in March this year, and as you know, National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada built a suicide prevention strategy late in 2017. In 2018 we had 15 suicides. In April your department revealed there had been 20 suicides in 2019, the highest number since 2014. For perspective, 175 Canadian military personnel have died by suicide since 2010, which is more than the 158 Canadians who were lost during the war in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. We know that we want to invest. We think it's so important for mental health, probably more than ever, especially now since COVID is an issue all across Canada, but certainly it's a huge issue in my riding at Base Borden in Simcoe—Grey. Minister, where are we in 2020?