Madam Chair, I appreciate this opportunity to talk about an issue of great importance to all MPs and to all Canadians: the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence. I would like to thank the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces for the excellent work they do every day for this country.
Today I would like to talk about how our government is taking care of Canadian Armed Forces members and their families. As I said before, the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families are a priority for our government. Our people in uniform are the forces' most valuable asset. Our troops keep Canada safe and contribute to multilateral efforts to make the world safer, more prosperous and more sustainable.
We can have the most modern equipment in the world, work in the greenest facilities, offer the best possible services and have the best possible policies, but none of that matters as much as taking good care of our women and men in uniform. That is why our government and the Minister of National Defence built Canada's defence policy around our people, our troops, our civilian employees and our military families.
Our “Strong, Secure, Engaged” defence policy guarantees that the Canadian Armed Forces will employ more people, that they will be properly prepared to tackle the task at hand and to encourage them to stay on once they have enlisted. In addition, giving our military personnel our full support guarantees that they will have the tools needed to answer the call of duty anytime and anywhere to the best of their ability, so that they may continue to properly defend our country and preserve our values, helping keep Canadians safe. That is why our government promptly introduced initiatives to improve the care provided to our military personnel and their families.
I would like to outline some of those initiatives. Let me begin with those intended for military family members, since they are the strength behind the uniform. Military family members provide ongoing support and step up when their loved ones have be elsewhere. We recognize the immense contribution they make and we are extremely grateful to them for that. That is why the defence team updated the military family services program. We are providing an additional $6 million a year to military family resource centres.
Through the seamless Canada initiative, we are working with the provinces and territories to facilitate relocation. We also put in place virtual mental health consultation services for the families and deployed support staff abroad to support soldiers anywhere, at any time. We also launched the military spousal employment network to give military spouses access to jobs offered by employers across the country in the public or private sectors.
Another aspect is transition support. Sometimes, as we know, military families continue to deal with some unique challenges when they leave the forces. That is why our commitment to their well-being goes beyond their years of active service. A year ago, we officially established the Canadian Armed Forces transition group. This group, as promised in our policy, provides support to sick and injured members of the Canadian Forces and facilitates the transition for all members, veterans and their families. This is an important first step in improving the care provided to our troops when they transition to a new post or life outside the forces.
A third very important aspect is compensation and benefits. To ensure that members of the Canadian Armed Forces feel supported throughout their career, the government is also ensuring that they receive adequate compensation. We have launched several initiatives to ensure that our military members are well compensated. For example, we have enhanced tax breaks for members who participate in international missions. We have also altered the compensation structure for the reserves so that reservists are paid the same as members of the regular forces for equal work.
A very important issue that we are also tackling is changing the culture of the defence team. We are doing nothing less than changing the way in which we support our troops and their families. Just as important is the fact that we are focusing on changing the culture within the Canadian Armed Forces. That is why we are striving to implement the recommendations concerning the equal treatment of the sexes in all of our programs and policies.
According to “Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada's Defence Policy”, diversity and inclusion must be prioritized for effective operations and decision-making in the Canadian Armed Forces. We know that diverse and inclusive armed forces are more agile and more effective. This is why we are committed to increasing the proportion of women in the Canadian Armed Forces to 25% by 2026.
We know that the Canadian Armed Forces have not always been welcoming to members from all backgrounds, in particular to LGBTQ2 and visible minority members. We are committed to correcting these mistakes.
In November 2017, the Prime Minister formally apologized to Canadians who had endured discrimination based on their sexual orientation. It never should have happened, and we are committed to eradicating intolerance within the Canadian Armed Forces.
We are currently working with other government partners to follow through on the results of the class action lawsuit over the LGBT purge. Up to $110 million will be set aside to compensate all those who were subjected to these discriminatory practices, including federal public servants, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and members of the RCMP.
We have also implemented reconciliation and commemoration measures. There is the Canada pride citation, which will be awarded to eligible applicants in recognition of their service to Canada and the hardships they endured.
We have learned from the past. Our government will continue to make every effort to ensure that the workplace is welcoming and free from harassment and discrimination. Hateful behaviour, in any form, will not be tolerated. Furthermore, tougher sentences for crimes motivated by prejudice or hate were proposed in our Bill C-77, which received Royal Assent this summer.
This was a defining moment for the military justice system, giving more rights to victims of service offences.
We will also continue to move forward with Operation Honour, the mission of which is to eliminate sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Two weeks ago, the Federal Court approved a $900-million settlement agreement in the class action lawsuit over sexual misconduct in the CAF and DND. We hope this settlement will serve as recognition of the harm done to victims of sexual misconduct and enable them to turn the page and begin the healing process.
We are proud of the care we provide to members of our Canadian Armed Forces. From the time they first don the uniform to the day they hang it up for good and beyond, we will be there for them and their families. They deserve to be taken care of, and they deserve to be respected. Our government will make sure it does both.
Once again, I commend the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces for the work they do for us every day.