Madam Chair, I'll make the opening presentation.
Thank you, because it's a great pleasure for me to address the committee this morning. It is my pleasure to speak to you today on behalf of the more than 5,000 Canadian Red Cross personnel, including 2,000 volunteers, who have and continue to work tirelessly to support the Red Cross's COVID-19 response across the country.
The work we have accomplished with the federal and provincial governments, as well as with First Nations communities, has been a very important moment of partnership for us.
I wish to take this moment to acknowledge the incredible effort of Canadian Armed Forces personnel, who we have had the great privilege to work alongside at multiple points during this past year, including helping repatriate Canadian travellers and augmenting health surge capacity of long-term care. This is part of a long-standing experience for the Red Cross of working alongside the Canadian Armed Forces.
To put the Red Cross intervention in context, I would like to give you a little background. There are two important aspects that lead us to intervene within the framework of COVID-19. First, we have developed, with the support of the federal government, a capacity to respond to international health issues. The Canadian Red Cross has three field hospitals and 10 clinics. Over the past 10 years, we have been involved in more than 55 international operations, including the management of cholera and Ebola centres. This is an important part of our expertise, which we have leveraged in these operations.
Therefore, on the one hand, we have worked internationally, and we have expertise in infectious diseases. On the other hand, over the last 10 years, we have increased our interventions in Canada in support of municipalities and provinces. On a larger scale, we have responded to national emergencies, from forest fires to floods to Fort McMurray, among others. We are present across the country and have responded in both capacities.
Madam Chair, I'm placing this in context because this was the capacity we were going into, and I might say as well that the Canadian Red Cross trains over one million Canadians every year in first aid response. These were the capacities that we brought in.
Early on, the Public Health Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development called on us to support the repatriation of Canadians at CFB Trenton. The CAF were quite involved. We worked with them on the bases to provide support. We also deployed a mobile health clinic in that situation, and we deployed personnel to support the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development in Japan with the Canadians who were hospitalized there and who needed some social support.
In the months following, we brought the whole capacity of the Red Cross to bear here in our largest domestic response in our history.
I'm going to give you some of the highlights of this, and of course, we can exchange more in questions.
We pursued the work that we did at CFB Trenton in different airports around the country, and we supported more than 3,000 Canadians who were isolated. This includes five active sites.
We set up a virtual operations support centre for first nations, thanks to the support of the federal government here, and we supported over 244 indigenous communities with health and emergency guidance. We did this in English, French and five indigenous dialects.
In Toronto, we made more than 40,000 food deliveries to isolated seniors.
One of the most important parts of the operation, of course, was in epidemic control training. We helped in Quebec in over 157 long-term care facilities, working with the Quebec government in deploying some experts in epidemic control. We'll come back a lot to that aspect because it was one of the more important parts of the work in supporting institutions and stabilizing the situation in terms of the infection in the institutions.
We also trained over 10,000 of Quebec's provincial personnel in epidemic control, and provided support and training to over 1,000 members of the CAF who were deployed in the facilities.
Following this, we were asked to provide direct assistance to help the CAF transition out of of the long-term care centres in Quebec, which we did. We recruited and trained over 1,000 personnel in six weeks and deployed in 51 long-term care facilities. We've maintained capacity there, and we're still in 12 sites.
Currently, we're working in one site in Ontario, five in Manitoba, as well as in Nunavut, so we've managed to support the transition out in terms of the CAF while maintaining our capacity there.
In terms of the lessons learned in this operation, again, the expertise we developed internationally—in managing cholera and ebola treatment centres—was critical here and in understanding how we brought practical, tangible support to institutions that were in crisis by deploying our epidemic control experts and working alongside the personnel in the institutions to stabilize the situation and prevent the propagation of the infection within the institutions. That's been very critical in our operations.
The second part of the Red Cross' capacity is its ability to surge; the recruitment of 1,000 additional personnel in six weeks is testimony to that. I have to say that we've done that thanks to the availability of many Canadians who were temporarily out of work and who were very competent in the HR and service areas, so we managed to build that.
The other part, in terms of all these lessons learned, is the importance of collaboration and real-time sharing of information. Again, we really appreciate the support that the CAF gave to us in the transition from their work in long-term care settings to our presence there with regard to the profiles that they deployed that helped with both the recruitment and training we did.
In closing, Madam Chair, we are of [Technical difficulty—Editor] capacity, and we are working again with the Public Health Agency, with Public Safety and with provinces. We are still present and growing that capacity to support in this time of need. We also have an eye on next spring with regard to making sure that we are building capacity to respond to other events, be they fires or floods. I think that we have been quite fortunate in all of this challenging time to not have faced a major domestic emergency as we have faced in the past.
All of this speaks to the need to heighten our capacity.
Madam Chair, this concludes my presentation.
We are now ready to answer your questions.
Under Operation LENTUS, the Canadian Armed Forces' umbrella for domestic operations, the CAF executed Operation Laser, the CAF's response to the worldwide pandemic. The most important takeaway is one that has not been widely observed or reported. The greatest asset the CAF consistently provide in support of domestic ops is operational capacity, that is, the capacity to plan and execute, especially supply chains; logistics officers who know where to find stuff; the capacity to get it from here to there; and the managerial capacity to execute, if need be, without having to rely on other partners or equipment.
Most other departments consist only of strategic—that is to say policy—and tactical components, service delivery. The large, trained and experienced operational capacity that DND brings to bear to connect the strategic and tactical components and the necessary capacity not to have to rely on others to execute make the CAF unique in Canada.
That exceptional capacity enables the CAF to respond to critical demand, supporting the Public Health Agency of Canada with warehouse inventory to ascertain how much PPE there is, where it is, and optimize its distribution by flying PPE around the country to ensure no one runs out; or with going into 54 long-term care homes.
However, that capacity is also a moral hazard and it comes at a cost to the CAF, its members and the taxpayers. To assure domestic mission success for a diversity of short-fuse requests, the CAF have to maintain an ongoing level of readiness with a highly trained, well-educated roster of both specialized capacity and generalists, and the equipment to support such operations. As for the pandemic, since the CAF medical system supports its own members, it had to strip its own medical system to backstop external demand from select provinces. Should the CAF now expand their medical capacity? With no new resources, such questions raise the prospect of painful internal tradeoffs.
Over the past decade, Canada has become more reliant on the CAF to respond to domestic emergencies that are growing in frequency. The chief of the defence staff himself has testified before this committee that it's now almost routine, saying, “We have, I think, [for] the last three years, deployed to support provinces in firefighting and managing floods. It's...becoming a routine occurrence, which it had not been in the past.”
Commentators close to the military fend off an increase in the domestic deployment of the armed services. In December 2019, the commander of the Canadian Army cautioned, “...if this becomes of a larger scale, more frequent basis, it will start to affect our readiness.” CAF leaders wanted to see the armed forces' combat role preserved. The CAF have vehemently resisted anything other than a combat role since the 1950s.
As domestic operations become more frequent, what are the real costs and benefits to the CAF? First, I'd like to make the point that assigning domestic operations exclusively to the reserves, for example, would elicit an extremely negative response from the reserves because they have campaigned consistently for a mobilization role within the combat arms. Operation Laser, the CAF's response to the pandemic, reinforces the trend towards dependency by provinces and the federal government on the CAF. It was highly asymmetric. More than 1,700 troops were deployed for over two months across two provinces and another 22,000 put on standby. These 1,700 troops were doing non-traditional, non-military tasks. These are not normal Operation LENTUS-related tasks, such as forest fires or floods; they are dangerous tasks that require logistics and engineering support. But here, an armoured reconnaissance regiment was taking care of the elderly and doing social welfare calls.
These are not traditional military roles. Is this what the military should be doing? Should the CAF be backstopping abject provincial failure? Is this deployment sound policy?
Every member of the CAF deployed in Operation LENTUS is missing on force generation, training, recruitment and support to operations.
The CAF's initial reports on Operation Laser show an overwhelming need to address relatively straightforward care management weaknesses that better inspection and more aggressive remedial action by provinces could have averted. Indeed, better systems elsewhere explain why the CAF had to backstop only 54 long-term homes rather than the 400 there are across Ontario and Quebec. There were thousands of willing volunteers, yet we called in the CAF.
The Emergencies Act sets out the overall management structure for the federal response. The provinces have primary responsibility, and any federal government backup is to be coordinated through the Minister of Public Safety who, under the act, is responsible for coordinating the federal emergency response plan. The military is supposed to be called upon only when demand exceeds provincial capacity. Yet provinces have come to view the CAF as their first resort, rather than their last. In three recent cases, the provinces drafted and gained approval of requests for assistance before their own resources were exhausted. Newfoundland has entirely disbanded its emergency measures organization, further increasing its dependency on the federal government. Should the armed services have to deploy overseas in a crisis, CAF resources might well be unavailable for domestic operations. Even now, we got lucky. Imagine a call-up for the CAF for forest fires or floods alongside the pandemic and how quickly that might have overwhelmed resources. Therefore, just because they are capable, the CAF are not necessarily the optimal provider of emergency assistance. Much of the requirement appears to be for general labour for which the armed services are a very expensive source. Three inferences follow:
First, the trend of requests for assistance being made by the provinces and approved by the federal government before provincial resources have been exhausted is disconcerting. But this is ultimately a political problem, not a policy one.
Second, the Royal Canadian Air Force should continue to be the go-to source for aviation assets to support domestic operations. A separate fleet of federal government aircraft on standby would be inefficient and costly. Who would operate such a fleet? Only Transport Canada has a separate fleet of fixed-wing and rotary aviation. Chinooks and Griffons are earmarked for LENTUS-related tasks, but that is not their primary function within the CAF. Every regional joint task force has an immediate response unit to move large-scale on 24- to 48-hours' notice. No other organization in the country has that capacity.
Third, the expectation and requirement for the armed services to become involved in overwhelming disasters, such as the 1997 Red River floods and the 1998 ice storm, is unequivocal.
The CAF are a force of last resort. It is inappropriate to use the CAF to displace civilian capacity and labour. If there is a safety or security issue, yes, the CAF should go. But requests for provisions of service should be filled by civilian contractors or the Red Cross. Organizations other than the CAF have tents, sandbags and capacity for long-term care facilities.
The CAF have a well-defined responsibility for domestic operations. “Strong, Secure, Engaged” identifies disaster assistance as one of the eight core missions of the CAF. On the one hand, demand for CAF's assistance with domestic operations is highly likely to persist and to increase. On the other hand, the analysis raises three problems to be addressed.
Number one is how to address the moral hazard created by the federal government backstopping provinces that underinvest in emergency response capabilities and then call prematurely for federal assistance.
Number two is levelling asymmetries associated with implementing the federal emergency response plan. That requires more and better staffing for emergency response within other areas of the federal government, which is a habitual problem.
Number three is how to surge general or semi-skilled labour in an emergency. There are four models Canada could follow.
First is an alternative civilian organization. However, without a dedicated day job to occupy most of its idle time, an agency such as the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency turns out to be quite inefficient, large, bureaucratic, expensive and not very agile.
Second, the federal government could mobilize volunteer and skilled labour, but this raises a host of legal issues.
Third, in anticipation of potential scarcity in the CAF support for domestic operations in the event of large or urgent international defence commitments, the federal government could incentivize modest emergency services organizations that are similar to what we have in Australia and Germany with real operational capacity.
Fourth and finally, the best option may be for the federal government to reprioritize along with a slight formal expansion of the CAF to support their domestic role, and create a combined capability of about 2,000 regular and reserve soldiers to focus on improving infrastructure in remote first nations communities. This combined force would spend most of the year liaising, planning and preparing to deploy to the community in the summer, which could be postponed or rescheduled if they were called out, for instance, to a flood, a wildfire, a pandemic, or whatever it might be.
Such a dedicated domestic role has precedents in the 1920s, 1930s and post-war period. The Royal Canadian Air Force was tasked with mapping and charting Canada. During this process, the RCAF generated skills and planes for bush pilots. Only twice since the Second World War has the CAF reprioritized for major combat: the Korean War and the war in Afghanistan. These can thus be made to reverse the logic from seeing domestic operations as disrupting normal CAF planning activities to actual combat tasking being a plausible but an unlikely disruptor.
Finally, there are some people who think that CAF need a new service in addition to regular and reserved forces, a quasi third service. This is not recommendable. It would raise a myriad of legal and institutional hurdles.
There are two takeaways. First, the CAF need to rethink their posture. For decades they have prioritized expeditionary combat, but the CAF should reverse the logic and prioritize domestic operations. This would also have the advantage that it would make CAF spending more palatable to Canadians.
Second, the CAF must prepare for a future where mission success is not contingent on help from allies. Allied assets may well be tied up elsewhere or have other priorities, but on domestic operations especially allies will expect the CAF to pull their own weight. For Canada the pandemic is thus an object lesson in military autarky. It turns out that the organization has much to learn and relearn.
Madam Chair, honourable members and other witness guests, I am here today to share the experience that the World Food Programme had with the Canadian Armed Forces this summer as we worked to respond to the global response on the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are very grateful at WFP for the Canadian government's interest in how we're working to respond to COVID-19 in various ways. In fact, our executive director, David Beasley, spoke with your foreign affairs and international development committee last Thursday about our humanitarian work, so those of you on the committee will have heard him.
For those of you who are not familiar with WFP, we are the world’s largest humanitarian organization fighting global hunger. On any day, we're feeding around 100 million people in over 80 countries. We also are the United Nations lead for logistics and emergency telecommunications.
On any given day, we are coordinating the movement of an average of 5,600 trucks, 50 ocean-going ships, 92 aircraft, and a network of 650 warehouses and six large humanitarian response depots. All of these work to deliver assistance to people living in some of the most inaccessible parts of the world.
We can only do that thanks to the strong support we get from the people and the Government of Canada, among others. Your partnership and collaboration have been critically important to WFP, and now more than ever before, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only does the world face an unprecedented health crisis, but we're also potentially confronting a looming hunger pandemic.
I know this sounds shocking, but if you look at some of the key numbers, you'll understand it. Every night, 690 million people already go to bed hungry. They are chronically food insecure. Another 135 million people are marching toward starvation. These are people who face severe food insecurity, primarily due to conflict and climate change. However, now because of the economic impact of COVID-19, a further 130 million people could also be pushed into starvation. The year 2021 remains to be immensely challenging.
The pandemic threatens the hard-won development and peace-building gains that have been achieved over decades. Without immediate, coordinated, international support, we will see increased civil unrest, rising migration and worsening conflicts.
I'm really here to pay tribute and thanks to the leadership that Canada has shown in calling for a global response to the virus. More specifically, earlier this year, WFP started an operation to provide common services and support to the humanitarian and health community as they responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this operation, WFP provided transport, storage and dispatch of partner cargo—mostly health supplies—to countries that required urgent medical equipment and other supplies to fight the pandemic.
We supported 389 different organizations with more than 1,400 passenger flights, transporting over 25,000 passengers to 68 destinations. We carried 85,000 cubic metres of cargo to 171 countries. WFP is proud of what we managed to achieve as the backbone of the logistics of the global humanitarian response.
Obviously, we could not do that on our own. At the time that we started all of this, we did not have sufficient air assets to respond to the overwhelming and increasing global demands for cargo transport, and the commercial aviation sector, as we all know, was struggling to cope.
As such, the WFP had to find another way to support its partners amidst the pandemic. That was primarily the use of military and civil defence assets in humanitarian operations, which is based on the principle of last resort. This takes place when three conditions are met: one, specific capability or asset requirement cannot be met with available civilian assets; two, foreign military and civil defence assets would help to meet that requirement and provide unique advantages in terms of capacity, availability and timeliness; and, three, the foreign military and civil defence assets would complement rather than replace civilian capacities.
Once these last-resort means were identified, the United Nations sent a request to member states asking for military and civil defence assets to be used for this operation.
I am pleased to say that Canada was among those member states that responded to the request, offering the support of the Royal Canadian Air Force. A CC-177 Globemaster and a flight crew of more than 30 people were deployed to the WFP hub in Panama in what we called Operation Globe.
For two weeks, the Royal Canadian Air Force team worked non-stop alongside the WFP team to organize a series of rotations to move health cargo from Panama to Guatemala, Honduras, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
During those two weeks, our teams worked side by side and around the clock, overcoming last-minute changes, which required an impressive amount of flexibility and co-operation from everyone involved.
This was no small task. It was the first time for many staff in both teams to work on such an operation. The learning curve was steep, but thanks to the tireless work of those on the ground, the operation was deemed a success, showing that timely action helps prevent rapid escalation of need and conflict.
Madam Chair, honourable members and guests, as the dynamics of the world continue to change, disasters continue to strike, and operating space is becoming even more crowded. It is in these spaces that understanding of the other is crucial. It is what allows us to coexist and fulfill our expected mandates and, in some cases such as this operation, even to co-operate and work together toward a common goal.
On behalf of WFP and the global humanitarian community, thank you to all of those who facilitated Operation Globe, but a special thanks to the Royal Canadian Air Force team that deployed to Panama and worked so hard alongside the WFP team. I really hope that those involved walked away from the experience with a greater understanding of each other.
In the long run, we know that investments in food security and the resilience of communities contribute to more stable and prosperous societies. The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize that we were recently awarded is a recognition of that important and crucial link between conflict and hunger and the critical role that food assistance can play in supporting the first step toward peace and stability. Now it's time for us all to stand together, to work together and stand by the world's poorest people, very often women and children, who are right at the front of that.
I thank you and hope that I can answer any questions you may have.
Madam Chair, thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak with you today.
The 22,000 troops who were on standby to support Operation LENTUS, and specifically Operation Laser, is about one quarter of the entire deployable force, once you factor out people who are on medical leave or otherwise constrained.
Inherently, that is a very significant commitment. It is also part of the reason why the Canadian Armed Forces drew down some of their international commitments, precisely so that the members and the assets could be available if called upon to support domestic operations.
The question going forward is the trade-off that I tried to raise in my presentation between those domestic deployments and inherently, those assets not being available, as you point out, either for international operations, or possibly a worst-case scenario where we have critical, urgent international operations. It may coincide with a high demand for domestic operations, or multiple demands for domestic operations, such as a pandemic combined with floods or firefighting.
The fact that the Canadian Armed Forces had to essentially cannibalize their own medical services in order to backstop the issues raised by provincial policy—what I would call provincial failure—raises some very difficult questions for the Canadian Armed Forces, because it now means what capacity...If you had told someone in the Canadian Armed Forces two years ago that they would be going into long-term care homes, somebody would have had you committed to an institution. It would have been literally inconceivable, but of course, the Canadian Armed Forces have to be there to ensure mission success for the Government of Canada.
If you have constant resources, now you have very difficult conversations about what sort of backstop capacities the Canadian Armed Forces need to build for possible future domestic operations. God knows what other types of policy failures by provincial governments in terms of critical infrastructure we may be facing, for instance. That means that those are then investments the Canadian Armed Forces cannot make in international operations, or in continental defence for that matter.
Thank you very much for your repeated kind words on the award, which we see as a strong recognition of multilateralism as well. We see not only how multilateralism is something for WFP but also how multilateral responses can really help improve the situation.
On your specific question, for me there are two parts to that.
First of all, the link between conflict and hunger is well recognized in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2417, in which they are inextricably linked. In countries such as those you just mentioned, we see this play out every day.
Whether it is hunger driving conflict or conflict driving hunger, it's a vicious cycle. Then when you add climate to that, you end up with climate driving conflict driving hunger. That cycle comes up.
When you add the third C, COVID, then you have COVID in a time of conflict and climate. Then that circle and cycle become so vicious that it just tries to get.... So what we need to do is to create virtuous cycles, to sort of take things back the other way.
In a sense those virtuous cycles also take place through a series of Cs. They take place through collaboration—by all of us working together—and coordination—so that collaboration is best done in a manner such that you don't get overlaps and you reduce the gaps. For a voluntary funded organization, the third C, which is contributions, ends up becoming important. Without financial contributions, we can't keep that cycle going.
I think the SDGs in agenda 2030 and the SDGs for COVID brought into sharp focus how much things are interlinked. You can start with one, poverty; two, hunger; three, health; four, education; five, gender—which is hugely important; six, water, and carry on up to 17, going past 16 in conflict, and they are interlinked. COVID has brought that into sharp focus. If we don't solve one, we won't solve all of them.
When the global COVID response began, again, using one of the virtuous Cs, there was a lot of coordination with OCHA, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, working very closely with the WHO. A global humanitarian response plan with a corresponding appeal was put out. Quite honestly, across the globe donors responded very generously to that.
WFP had two parts to that appeal. There was the appeal for common services and the logistics we would do on behalf of the system, such as the contribution Canada made, not only a financial contribution but also the in-kind support of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Then there was another part of the appeal, which was about the increased food security crisis. At the time of COVID, we already had quite significant needs. For the worst-affected countries, we estimated that up until the first quarter of next year, because that's the sort of long-term lead you need to get food lines going, it was close to $5 billion USD. The response against that was phenomenal, with more than 50% or 60% funded. I do have to point out that a lot of that $5 billion USD was not increased need. A lot of it was the need we have in South Sudan, Yemen and countries like that.
We will always have gaps, but we acknowledge within the World Food Programme that donors are very generous towards food crises and food security. They recognize it. It's very visible, and contributions are forthcoming. We appreciate that very much. We're often asked what the face of hunger really is. It's a hungry woman who is going without to feed her hungry child. That's what we see constantly. For us, that's why we have to advocate as we do.
We are hoping to get the virtuous cycle to a point where we can actually start to reduce need. One of the most frustrating things is having to save the same lives again and again and again, continuously. Unfortunately, it's conflict and climate. I mean, COVID we hope will pass, but if we don't come to grips with conflict and climate, those two Cs, and if we get rid of the third C....
Since I'm on the virtuous Cs, we certainly see Canada as the fourth C in the virtuous cycle.
Let me just give you some data on recent operations.
There were 31 domestic operations from 2010 to 2020, including assistance activity for 23 operations. The number of and types of troops assigned for 29 of them, and the duration for 23 of them show the following patterns. The frequency of these operations is increasing, but the majority of these were relatively minor, they required fewer than 100 CAF personnel, and 16 out of 23 operations for which information is available were relatively short, so less than a fortnight in duration. While the size of operations has increased recently, post-2000s, floods have required call-outs of about 2,500 CAF personnel, whereas the 1997 Red River floods required 8,000 personnel, and the 1998 eastern Canada ice storm required 12,000 personnel.
The real critical point to get to is aviation transport, and of course, our colleagues have already flagged that. The evacuation of communities, airlifting supplies and personnel is in high demand. There has been some demand for specialists, such as engineers, and a great demand for general labour. However disruptive these operations might be, by and large, these are operations that should be within the capabilities of the CAF.
As the chief of the defence staff pointed out in his remarks before the committee, the CAF now builds this into its training and incidents operational cycles. What is disruptive is the size of the operations, and demands that are unconventional, for example, for floods and forest fires, the CAF now builds in. But the CAF, as I pointed out, had not built in a large pandemic operation of the size that it was asked to carry out. It demonstrated it could carry out that task, but it showed that with constant resources, there are very difficult trade-offs to be made.
We live, as our colleagues have pointed out, in an international security environment that is likely going to require more capacity and more demands, simply operationally. We live in an environment where our allies, and our key strategic ally, the United States, are calling for allies to do more on defence, and we have a growing requirement in terms of domestic operations.
In the past, people always said that Canada was a free rider. I've argued that Canada is not a free rider, it is an easy rider. It has spent just enough on defence. The problem is that what was just enough in the past is simply not enough in light of the challenges and the demands we are facing today in terms of domestic deployments, continental defence and international demands in terms of peace, stability and security, as well as our allied commitments.
I think for the Operation Globe, the specific contribution there came at a very critical time when we had health equipment, primarily from WHO but also from PAHO, the Pan-American Health Organization, that we were having great difficulty moving. Without the Royal Canadian Air Force equipment, that health equipment probably would have been delayed by at least two, three weeks or a month. At that point of the crisis, that three weeks to a month delay would have cost a significant number of lives, so the contribution was clearly a life-saving element.
Canada has also been a strong supporter of WFP on our food security operation. The contributions of Canada have been focused very much on our school meal programs that have a strong nutritional impact, but also focus very much on girls' education.
I have often said to those who support these programs that the single contribution is working on nutrition, education and gender. With one contribution you're empowering girls to go on to become empowered women who, themselves, will have more productive and better families. They will be in a better nutritional status, and they are better educated.
I think those types of programs are a cornerstone of Canada's contribution, and although they may not be directly on COVID, they certainly would have made people who were in COVID-impacted areas more resilient to the coming crisis.
I think overall we are very appreciative of Canada's contribution, and we think it's very much a quality contribution as well. It's not always just about the size of the contribution; it's about the quality of the contribution, and Canada has always been a high-quality donor.
Well, certainly Russia continues its intrusions into the NORAD air identification zones, and those have gone unabated. There have been some instances of increased activity, especially in the air domain.
If you consider the Canadian Armed Forces deployment to Latvia, then Canada finds itself under constant and daily persistent attack by Russia. I think what we can learn from the deployment in Latvia is that all western countries will need to learn to live in a situation that our allies in Latvia have found themselves in for years, which is this persistent effort, an asymmetric effort, by Russia in the conventional space—land, air, sea, aerospace and cyber domains—to undermine not just our troops and operations, but our societies and our institutions. We will have little choice but on the one hand to become more resilient and on the other hand to be able to draw clear red lines.
That points to the challenge that was already raised earlier, which is that the Canadian Armed Forces are doing a host of things today that they weren't doing in the aftermath of the Cold War, yet we have significantly fewer resources to carry out all of these activities. In cyber, for instance, information operations is one of those examples. It seems that Canadians and politicians are constantly happy to ask more of the Canadian Armed Forces, while either leaving resources constant or providing fewer resources. In terms of equipment, you could argue that we're not even keeping up in terms of what is required just to stay at the level we are at.
I think we are underestimating the resolve and the challenges that our adversaries and hostile activities against Canada pose to our Canadian interests, values, allies and partners. Also, there are those activities in other parts of the world, as our colleagues just talked about, in crisis situations, where we know that our adversaries are actively pouring fuel on the fire in order to create conflagration, which will then cause migration to Europe and other places in order to destabilize regions and allies and partners.
I think the impact of climate change in many of the countries that we provide assistance to can be seen on several fronts. On the food security front, you have serious and increased droughts. People have started to move the crops that were not as drought-resistant as they may have been. I think there are some agricultural techniques that one is looking at to improve.
In as many areas that you have droughts, there are others where you have repeated floods. We are also seeing issues of land degradation. People are having to use agricultural techniques that perhaps are not the best for the land because there is either too much water at times or not enough water at others. We need to improve people's capacities to have better harvesting and water storage.
Another impact we are seeing on food security is that as pastoral lands get reduced, where people can put their animals out to pasture, particularly herders and nomads—particularly in the Sahel—they are pushed southwards where they're starting to impact on what have traditionally been the farmers' areas, the farmlands. The herders have come into a clash with the farmers and then that begins tensions between those groups of people that then is exploited by people like ISIS, al Qaeda, and in West Africa al Qaeda, Boko Haram. They exploit the tensions and conflict that has arisen between people who are trying to source their food through different means.
From the supply side, I think one thing we are seeing is that because of the impact of certain climate issues on some countries, their ability to be as generous contributors as they have been in the past would be one impact. One other area that I did mean to pick up on was migration. We've seen migration that has been impacted with people moving from parts of Africa northwards from the Sahel and across the Mediterranean, but also in Central America there's what's known as the dry corridor. In many of the countries in Central America, the people are pushing northwards and a lot of that is driven by people's inability to have more than basic subsistence. Even basic subsistence agriculture on some of those marginalized lands is increasingly difficult.
Those would be just some of the key areas.