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Results: 1 - 30 of 120861
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.
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:02
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.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Mrs. Gallant, you have six minutes, please.
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?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:07
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.
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?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:08
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.
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?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:10
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.
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:10
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.
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?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:11
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.
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?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:12
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.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Madame Lambropoulos, you have six minutes, please.
View Emmanuella Lambropoulos Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to our witnesses for being here to answer our questions. It happens to come at the right time, I think.
Increasingly, we see that climate change is posing a greater threat to our country. Hurricane Fiona is just one devastating example of what might be coming and what we may be faced with in the future. Currently, we don't have a civilian task force to take care of these natural disasters or to help Canadians overcome the effects of them. It's been a topic of discussion at previous meetings as well, but clearly we can't leave people suffering when such devastating natural disasters hit home. We have to help people in the best way we can.
Can you tell us what unique capabilities the Canadian Armed Forces has that a civilian task force would not necessarily have? Why is it best for them to be taking care of these issues rather than another group? Why is it that we need to continue to offer this kind of support?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:14
Mr. Chair, I'll start with that question and I'll see if my colleague has something to add.
I can't speculate on what that civilian force would have and would not have. One thing for sure is that responding to the needs of Canadians in times of need is one of the eight core missions of the Canadian Armed Forces. It is important right now that the Canadian Armed Forces put their hands to work to help the people in Atlantic Canada or for any other natural disasters that exceed local capacities.
There are many capabilities in the Canadian Armed Forces that are readily available that are not necessarily available right now in civil society. Sometimes it's the ability to project our force in isolated communities. I think of Iqaluit last year when they had issues with potable water. We were able to quickly deploy, for instance, purification water units in those areas.
There are many capabilities in terms of navy, air force and army capabilities that we can bring to bear in times of need. I know that is being discussed with Public Safety. Unfortunately, we don't have them here to talk about future concepts. At this time, the Canadian Armed Forces remains a very good tool to apply resources when local authorities need them.
Josh, go ahead.
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:15
Mr. Chair, if I may, I will just add to General Prévost's comments.
The CAF competencies, which allow us to provide some unique capabilities, deal primarily with our planning abilities, our mobility assets and our logistical requirement to show up self-sustained, so that we don't add to any pressures on the local situation. This enables us to be a flexible option to assist local authorities in delivering aid to Canadians when it's required.
View Emmanuella Lambropoulos Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much for that answer.
Given this information, and given the fact that the world is currently not necessarily at peace and the demand for our military is potentially going to increase in the coming years, is our military ready to meet the increasing need? What would you say is most crucial to focus on? What additional capabilities does the CAF need in order to continue to respond to multiple domestic emergencies while also maintaining its military role and be able to do both things properly?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:16
Mr. Chair, it's a very complicated question to answer briefly.
Obviously, it's always a question of priority. We have all eyes on Ukraine, as we have had for almost a year now. It's entering its eighth month of conflict. At the same time, there are priorities here nationally that we have to look after.
In terms of the capabilities for the future, this will be part of the Department of National Defence. Our minister will submit the defence policy update for discussion in cabinet. We keep a close eye on that.
To come back to the domestic front, I think it's important that as the increase in weather events is happening, one thing we notice, especially since the pandemic started, is that the whole of government and all governments have been at play with better communication, better coordination and understanding the tools that we have to respond. We've noticed more resilience at the provincial and local community level. That is good news, and hopefully that will help the Canadian Armed Forces, in the future, concentrate on the broader mission that we have.
View Emmanuella Lambropoulos Profile
Lib. (QC)
I have one minute left.
I'm going to take the opportunity to thank the Canadian Armed Forces for everything they are doing. I know they will try their best to help people who have been affected in the affected areas to overcome this crisis. My heart is with the families of those who lost their home, family members and loved ones. Just know that Canada stands in solidarity with you.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Ms. Normandin, you have the floor.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I thank both of our witnesses, with special thanks to Major-General Prévost, who is always available.
Major-General Prévost, you mentioned in your talking points that the armed forces respond when the provinces lack resources, which was the case during Hurricane Fiona.
Could you elaborate on this lack of resources? Was it the human resources that were lacking? Was it the level of technical difficulty of the operation that was involved?
What was missing that caused the provinces to ask for the armed forces?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:19
I thank the member for her question.
When there is a hurricane, there is usually time to see it coming. We then have many discussions at many levels, including with the federal government and the provinces. That's when the analysis is done as to whether or not our resources will be called upon. In the case of a hurricane of Fiona's magnitude, we know that there will be insufficient local resources and capacity and that communications will be affected by movements on the ground.
We then conduct a preliminary analysis. In the last few days, prior to Fiona's arrival, the scale of the disaster was evident and we knew that the Canadian Forces would likely be called upon. We received comments from Brigadier-General Major on the matter.
One of the advantages of the Canadian Forces is that they arrive in an organized fashion. They have a command and control system that helps with communication on the ground and provides additional manpower to do the job. That's what we were asked to do right from the start, to go out into the field to allow the linemen from the hydro crews to restore power.
So that was the main request that was made to us, in addition to the request for air assets to move troops and members on the ground.
I will now hand over to Brigadier-General Major.
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:20
I also thank the member for her question.
The other principle that we always keep in mind in our planning is that we should always try to anticipate what will happen in a foreseeable natural disaster. However, when disaster strikes, unexpected events always occur. But the flexibility of the Canadian Forces allows us to react quickly to assist the various government agencies that need help.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
My next question has two parts.
During the analysis that follows the request to use the military, is a rating used to assess the level of dangerousness or complexity associated with the deployment or request?
Is the primary reason for using the forces the level of difficulty, complexity or dangerousness of an event, or the operational capability, as you mentioned? In other words, are the Canadian Forces used more for their ability to quickly put in place a chain of command and resources or because a situation is dangerous or complex?
What is the most important consideration? What was it in the context of Fiona's arrival?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:22
I would say that the main factor that weighed in during discussions with the province during Hurricane Fiona was the magnitude and the danger of that hurricane. It was a question of whether the province's resources would be sufficient. Sometimes there are enough first responders on the ground, but we know that communication systems and power will be affected. So the discussions evolve over time, but they are based on the scale of the disaster. Of course, all disasters are dangerous, but it's the scale of the disaster that weighs heavily in the decision-making process.
The most important resources that need to be considered very early in the process are the liaison officers that we send to the provincial coordination centres to ensure better liaison with the Canadian Forces. Also, the first resources that we offer to the provinces are the people that we deploy to help with the planning in the coordination centres. So it's a concerted effort commensurate with the scale of the disaster. We are trying to be as proactive as possible. We had already sent people to the command centres in the provinces in the days before the disaster.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
Let me come back to the level of dangerousness. Not everyone can intervene in forest fires, for example.
Is this part of the assessment upstream when forces are asked to respond? Is there some sort of dangerousness rating or something like that?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:23
I thank the member for this question.
With regard to forest fires, while both phenomena present dangers, a hurricane is more dangerous and of greater magnitude than a forest fire. There are places where it is easier to use the Canadian Forces. The Canadian Forces are not well equipped to respond to forest fires. We leave it to the experts on the front lines. They are the ones who fight fires in general. We come in to support to make sure the fire doesn't start again, to do patrols and to help the people in the area, but we leave it to the provincial authorities to deal with the forest fires, because they are the ones who have the capacity to do it. They are on the front lines and close to the danger.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Madame Normandin.
Ms. Mathyssen, you have six minutes, please.
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