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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'll bring this meeting to order.
Colleagues, you'll notice that we sent out an amended notice. We were anticipating having some Public Safety officials, but they apparently are preoccupied with something or other on the east coast. We'll have to reschedule them.
I want to again welcome Major-General Prévost here. We don't generally hand out frequent flyer cards, but at least there's some comfort in knowing that you do have a day job. That's good. Thank you for that.
Brigadier-General Major, do whatever Major-General Prévost does and you'll be fine.
With that, I'll ask Major-General Prévost to bring forward his opening statement.
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Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:02
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Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. It's a pleasure again for me to join you this morning in committee as we now take a look at the challenges that rising domestic deployments pose on the Canadian Armed Forces.
I am Major-General Paul Prévost and as Director of the Canadian Forces Strategic Joint Staff, my role is to provide recommendations to the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Department of Defence on the employment of the Canadian Forces in operations both internationally and domestically.
It's a very topical subject at the moment, given the situation in Atlantic Canada in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona. I want to take this opportunity to pass on our thoughts to the people of Nova Scotia, P.E.I., les Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Newfoundland in these difficult times, to those who have lost a loved one, those who have lost their homes or their businesses, and all those affected by the natural disasters. The Canadian Armed Forces is working with our partners in the Atlantic region to bring back some normalcy as quickly as we can.
In the context of domestic operations, an important part of my responsibilities is to coordinate between the Department of Defence and all federal agencies that have an important role to play in the federal government's contribution in response to national, provincial, territorial or local emergencies.
Emergency management in Canada is a shared responsibility that relies on ongoing co-operation and communication among all levels of government. In Canada, the provincial and territorial governments and local authorities, including indigenous governments, provide the first response to the vast majority of emergencies. More than 90% of emergencies in Canada are handled locally and do not require direct federal involvement.
Providing assistance to civil authorities during domestic crises or major emergencies is one of the eight missions of the Canadian Armed Forces. In most cases, the Canadian Armed Forces is called upon when one of the following occurs: Either the authorities do not have sufficient resources to deal with the emergency, or the Canadian Armed Forces has a unique capability not readily available to the applicable authorities.
While the Canadian Armed Forces is always prepared to support civil authorities and partners, its capabilities and trained personnel are finite and should be involved only when no other organization has the capacity to respond. This is very much the case right now in Atlantic Canada.
It is best to think of the Canadian Armed Forces as a force of last resort, and this is for multiple reasons: first, to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces maintains its readiness to respond to other emergencies, internationally or nationally, but also to ensure that local governments develop the resilience required as first responders. That said, there has been an increasing demand on the Canadian Armed Forces over the last decade to respond to natural disasters across the country such as floods, fires, snowstorms and now hurricanes.
In 2021, the military responded to seven requests for assistance for disaster relief operations from provinces and territories. This compares to an average of almost four requests for assistance per year between 2017 and 2021, and twice per year between 2010 and 2016. In other words, the Canadian Armed Forces' involvement in response to natural disasters has broadly doubled every five years since 2010. This does not include the 118 requests for assistance received by the Canadian Armed Forces in response to the pandemic.
The anticipated increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events across Canada, as well as the broader changes in the Arctic, may lead to growing demands for military emergency assistance. This comes at a time when the Canadian Armed Forces is going through challenges in growing our force in a competitive environment where demands on personnel exceed the supply in both the private and the public sector.
Although the Canadian Armed Forces will stand ready to respond to domestic crises, the increased frequency will have implications on human, materiel and financial resources, as well as our overall readiness to execute the full range of core missions outlined in the defence policy. This will be a subject of discussion as we submit our defence policy update this fall.
For this reason, the Department of National Defence will continue to work with its federal partners to assess how to improve, at all echelons, our readiness and ability to respond to natural disasters.
I thank you once again for the opportunity to provide an update on this very important subject.
With me today is Brigadier-General Josh Major, Commander of 4th Canadian Division in Toronto, who is responsible for the Canadian Forces in the Ontario region, both in terms of training troops and employing the Canadian Forces in domestic crises. Together we hope to answer your questions.
Thank you.
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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Mrs. Gallant, you have six minutes, please.
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View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, what could be the consequences of military troops not trained and equipped for the full spectrum of military operations, including war fighting?
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Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:07
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We train our troops with the tools we have to respond to international and domestic crises. Obviously, we do have priorities. Responding to domestic crises is always a core mission at the forefront of what we do, and we mitigate the impact of preparing our troops for those operations, and the ones abroad, as well as we can.
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View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
My concern is about troop strength. According to reports, 4,800 recruits were enrolled the fiscal year after the lockdowns, but we're getting only about half the number of applicants needed per month to meet the goal of 5,900 members this year.
As of now, what is the force strength in total of regular forces and reserves?
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Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:08
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Mr. Chair, right now in the Canadian Armed Forces, on the regular force, which the member asked about, we have 63,871 troops, as my last stats show. We also have 29,247 members of the reserves, and there are also 5,241 rangers in the CAF right now.
In total, I would say that is about 10,000 personnel short of where we'd like to be, and for that reason all hands are on deck right now in order to recruit and retain as many CAF members as we have.
Thank you.
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View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
We're witnessing a major ground war in Europe. During the war in Afghanistan, the Canadian Forces was at stage three of mobilization. Just a decade ago, that's where we were, and that was our level of strength at that time.
What would be the impact on our army's ability to do its job in a future conflict if the reserve army were to become a climate change defence force, which is what some of our members are suggesting?
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Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:10
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We look at our forces as a total force. Regular forces, reserve forces and our rangers all train to different levels for different tasks. At the same time, the reserve force that we have is well trained in order to respond to domestic operations, as well as international operations. It's a volunteer force but, at the same time, always ready to respond to the needs of Canadians, and for peace internationally, abroad.
On this, I will pass it on to my colleague, Brigadier-General Major.
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Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:10
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Major-General, thank you for allowing me to comment on this.
As mentioned, the army is a one-army team. We have, as was mentioned, several parts—the regular force, the reserve force and the rangers—for whom we integrate the training at different levels to ensure that we have the required force structures, training and equipment ready to go to respond to the needs either internationally or domestically.
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View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Given that our regular infantry battalions are down to two companies per unit, how important is it that the reserve army be able to augment these forces to produce the higher-level units, like a brigade for Latvia?
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Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:11
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There is a great effort going forward right now not just to augment the regular force with reserve units but to truly integrate them into our force generation activities as we look toward fulfilling our mandates of Operation Reassurance, Operation Unifier, or Operation Impact.
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View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
We observed during the conflict in Afghanistan, which we were called to stabilize, that the reserve forces at that time were well trained and fit seamlessly into the regular forces when called upon. However, we're down in strength significantly, and if we have hived off those individuals in the reserve to more of a specialty, which is what is being suggested in this study, toward disaster relief as opposed to training for fighting a war, how are we going to fill the holes that we already have in the companies that need to be sent, even to Latvia?
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Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:12
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Right now, we are training. We are in our force generation model to prepare for future missions to Latvia and to support Unifier. We are focusing on the integration of reserve soldiers with our regular force to provide the number of forces available to deliver the effects that the Government of Canada is seeking to deliver in those areas.
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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Madame Lambropoulos, you have six minutes, please.
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