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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.
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.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses. It's good to see you once again.
The previous witnesses on this study and you, yourselves, were talking about the unique capabilities of the Canadian Armed Forces, their infrastructure, what they can do and how quickly they can respond. We certainly saw this during the pandemic. The military was called upon to do warehouse management and supply chain management.
Could you unpack the difference between the unique capability of the Canadian Armed Forces in those instances versus the significant underfunding of what is ultimately expected to be there in terms of a public resource or a public service?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:25
Thank you, Mr. Chair. That's a good question.
I would say that one of the unique capabilities—other than the hard tools that you think of with the military—is our planning power. We train our people to plan their campaigns. We spend a lot of time looking at contingencies—branch plans, as we call them. This is a unique capability that we bring in early in any response. That's why we push people to the fore to help local communities plan around those contingencies.
The member mentioned the distribution of vaccines, for instance. This is a place where our role in the Canadian Armed Forces was to help plan the effort rather than to distribute the vaccines per se.
I'll turn to my colleague, Brigadier-General Major, to complement.
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:26
In addition to the formal training that we receive in planning at all levels in a career as a Canadian Armed Forces member, I would also not want to discount the individual desire of each member to give their 100%, which goes without saying. There's a lot of initiative, which we encourage, of course. We see that translated across as our members conduct what we would consider non-traditional tasks and apply some of the training they've received to be able to achieve the local effect requested by whatever level of government.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
In terms of that specialization and unique capability, ultimately one could argue that if a public service—for example, the health care system or what have you—hadn't been potentially underfunded and hadn't experienced so much chronic underfunding of its infrastructure, an emergency wouldn't be as severe.
I also want to lump into that Newfoundland, for example. It hasn't had its own provincial emergency response. There has been more and more reliance upon the Canadian Armed Forces, over and over. Is there an understanding or a fear that, potentially, because of this chronic underfunding and because of provinces shifting funding to other resources and services, not emergency funding, there will be more reliance upon the Canadian Armed Forces and less of that unique capability response?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:28
Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's a good question, again.
Obviously, I can't speculate. I'm not aware of levels of funding in the different provinces. What I can say from where I sit in the Canadian Armed Forces is that we've noticed—specifically because of the pandemic, which was very anomalous as an event—the resilience being built at local, municipal and provincial levels. We see that resilience has been built, and I think people have noticed over the last few years that climate change is bringing more weather events upon us. We've seen more coordination at all levels and better capabilities at the local level being put in place, so hopefully we will continue on that track so that we don't have to rely on the Canadian Armed Forces as often as we do.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
Is there anything from Brigadier-General Major?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:29
Mr. Chair, thanks for that question.
Again, as emphasized, I would just say that we are the force of last resort. However, make no mistake, support to Canadians when required is our top priority, and we'll continue to be ready to provide that support whenever and wherever it's required.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
To sort of flip that, is there any instance or scenario where the Canadian Armed Forces wouldn't be seen by the provinces as providing the right kind of supports in terms of the relationship...or they wouldn't be accepted in terms of that conflict that exists, or non-conflict, or working together? Have you ever seen any example of that?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:30
We have a robust process in place when interacting with provincial authorities for a request for assistance, at which point there is obviously a discussion that occurs between provincial officials, municipal officials and the Canadian Armed Forces in trying to determine the correct response in terms of a particular situation. Those negotiations will continue after the request for assistance has been authorized and as the situation develops. A key piece of that relationship is communication, to ensure that the proper resource is used to address the issue of the day.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, MP Mathyssen.
Mr. Doherty, this is the five-minute round, and you have five minutes, please.
View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you to our witnesses who are here.
Time and again, we are seeing, especially when there are wildfires in my province of British Columbia, international forces having to come and actually fight our fires. Our military are there for access and egress, primarily, protection of property, rolling up of hoses, etc.
Would it not make common sense to try to put in some form of either wildfire suppression training or other disaster relief training as part of basic training for our regular force, or would this be viewed as dulling the spear?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:32
Mr. Chair, that's a very good question.
Having dealt with support to wildfires in British Columbia in the past, we know there is a fine line, of course, that needs to be established between what the Canadian Armed Forces can bring to the table and what professional firefighters and fire management bring to the table.
In order to maintain our ability to respond to a wide variety of different natural disasters or to support provincial authorities or territorial authorities or indigenous communities, we need to be able to remain as flexible as possible. Therefore, we try to keep our broad competency base well trained in order to meet not just domestic, but also international obligations. Then, when required, we do a bit of specialized training in order to provide that value added, which, as specifically relates to wildfires, is the ability to support the firefighting professionals in their work, allowing them to focus on the key issue, which is the fire, and allowing us to do a bit of the mop-up operation behind them.
View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
Would it make more sense, then, to look at our reserve units or rangers for this training?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:33
Mr. Chair, thank you for that follow-up question.
Again, the reserves train to meet the same obligations as the reg force in terms of the mission sets we're asking them to provide either domestically or internationally. The rangers, as well, have a unique capability that allows them to be a sensor and allows us to get an idea of what is required in certain communities. That is then the foothold that other elements of the CAF can use to flow the appropriate resource into that particular area.
What I would say in direct answer to your question is that flexibility, which we have by remaining broad-based and then focusing to respond to a particular situation, is part of our strength to respond to Government of Canada needs.
View Todd Doherty Profile
CPC (BC)
I'm a proud member of a disaster relief unit called Team Rubicon. We have Team Rubicon here in Canada. It's an international organization. We have the St. John Ambulance and the Red Cross, just to name a few. Could these volunteer organizations not be used more in disaster relief? I know that the Red Cross is there very often, specifically more as a paperwork service or logistical service when we have massive events like the wildfires in B.C., or the flooding across B.C. and Atlantic Canada.
Are there some organizations that you feel perhaps the Canadian government should be looking at to engage more in these types of events?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:35
Mr. Chair, thank you for that question.
I won't speculate on what organizations the government can use more or less of. What I will say to that question is that as the Canadian Armed Forces goes into different disaster areas in support of local, provincial and territorial authorities, we value the contribution that all different partners bring, and we work side by side with them to be able to achieve the mandate, which is to ensure that Canadians are well taken care of in their time of need.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
We'll have half a minute.
Mr. Fisher, go ahead.
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, gentlemen, for being here again. Acknowledging that you do have day jobs and understanding just how important those day jobs are, I want to thank you both. If you could, please pass along my thanks to the Canadian Armed Forces on behalf of the people of Atlantic Canada.
As each year goes by, the effects of climate change become more and more severe. Right now, my home province of Nova Scotia, and Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec—as you know and as you've acknowledged, with thanks—are dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Fiona. It seems strange to call it a brutal storm. It's so severe that we'll probably find out it was the biggest storm ever to hit our shores.
Last night in my speech in the House of Commons, I said that the government moved faster than the speed of light. Without batting an eye, the Prime Minister, Minister Blair and, of course, Minister Anand responded to the provinces' requests for help with an immediate yes.
We already have Canadian Armed Forces personnel on the ground. They are incredible, and they're doing what they can to help. They're supporting Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and P.E.I. It is important to acknowledge that, as you know, in Atlantic Canada we have a large number of Canadian Armed Forces personnel, and we're very proud of them. They're cleaning up their own homes, all due to the damage of hurricane Fiona.
This storm showcases the importance of operational readiness for these domestic deployments. I wonder, gentlemen, if you could walk us through the process that provinces use to request assistance from the federal government. How are the resources coordinated, and under what conditions is the Canadian Armed Forces brought in?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:37
Thank you, Mr. Chair. That's again a very good question this morning.
This process starts when we can see the event coming. Floods are one of them; hurricanes are one of them. This process starts with conversations between officials at the federal, provincial and municipal levels on the predicted track, in this case, and the size of it, which looked initially much like Dorian in 2019.
Discussions start at that level, first in terms of what the impact is going to be here, where the predicted track is, where the vulnerable communities are and what they will need. It's a dialogue and a bit of a negotiation on what the best way to apply the different resources is, because the provinces understand their tool kits. At the federal level, we understand our tool kits in terms of not only the Canadian Armed Forces but a whole bunch of federal resources that can apply here.
It's a conversation that is led by Public Safety Canada, with the government operations centre as the chair. We then have discussions internally and with the province, and we come to an agreement about how we think we should divide the labour. That's how it starts.
As the event hits, we get confirmation that this will be required. Then there's an exchange of letters from the provincial elected members to Minister Blair, and then Minister Anand, to agree on what the federal support will be, as well as the tasks assigned to the Canadian Armed Forces in this case.
I'll pass it on to Brigadier-General Major.
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:39
Thank you, Major-General Prévost.
Additionally, as this process described by Major-General Prévost is under way, the Canadian Armed Forces takes a number of steps to ensure that we are ready to support as requested by the provincial and territorial governments. We will ensure that the requisite number of troops are ready to depart when the call comes. We pre-position equipment. We establish liaisons. We send reconnaissance teams to different areas to ensure that we have a good understanding of that particular area. Then we ensure that we are able to smoothly transition into those areas to provide the support right away.
As a situation develops, there are a number of processes we follow. If local troops are not adequate to fill the needs as requested and approved by the different levels of government, then we will ensure that we have the troops ready to come in from different parts of Canada if that is what is required.
View Darren Fisher Profile
Lib. (NS)
Thank you very much, gentlemen.
As a follow-up, how does the Canadian Armed Forces determine how they allocate their own resources to respond to a particular disaster? Can you describe this in terms of the current efforts in Atlantic Canada?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:40
Yes, Mr. Chair, thank you for that question. That's an important question as well, procedurally speaking.
As the conversation about the request for assistance occurs, of course different levels of the chain of command are made aware of what is being discussed. That allows us to actually start activating the different parts that we need in order to achieve the desired effect. If those parts aren't sufficient in a particular area, then other elements within the Canadian Armed Forces are stood up, be they in the army, the air force or the navy. They are either moved or pre-positioned to be able to deliver that effect very quickly.
Every element of the CAF has responsibility domestically to have forces on standby to be able to respond to requests for assistance within very short notice. That allows us to then flow forces once all the approvals are obtained.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Fisher.
Ms. Normandin, you have the floor for five minutes.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much.
Major-General Prévost, I would like to come back to a point you made. You said that the training of each member of the Canadian Armed Forces included the development of good skills in various aspects: organization, the establishment of a chain of command that is easy to put in place, logistics and communications. Several hundred of these members are currently deployed.
I would like to know if this inherent training is required for each of the people involved in the field.
Is it necessary that only members of the Canadian Armed Forces be on site?
For example, would it be possible to have rapidly deployable civilians on the scene and only a few members of the Canadian Armed Forces to handle the logistics portion, communications, and in some way set the course of action?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:42
I thank the member for her question.
Regarding the first part of the question, I would say that the Canadian Armed Forces’ basic training allows our good soldiers to follow their orders and have a basic ability to act, as my colleague mentioned earlier. They also have a willingness to serve and help Canadians in need. They acquire certain capabilities through first aid courses as well as other basic skills to understand situations.
Regarding the second part of the question, I would say that when events like this occur, our state of readiness allows us to bring troops together quickly to discuss and train specifically for we’re expecting. One of the situations that comes to mind is forest fires, as was mentioned previously. In a case like that, the major-general and his teams do more specific forest fire training. They are very short training sessions, but the goal is to remind people of what they will have to do. So there’s basic general training for the entire Canadian Armed Forces, and then there’s ad hoc training depending on how they are used.
Finally, to answer the last question, I would say that it is quite possible. It would be more up to my colleagues at Public Safety Canada to answer it and describe what they see for the future. But at the moment, we have civil society, which has great capacity, and we have emergency measures organizations in each of the communities and provinces, and we all complement each other.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Ms. Mathyssen, you have two and a half minutes.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
When a reservist is called to go and respond as needed, what steps do they have to take with their employers and how much time are they usually given?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:44
The process we go through is this. If we have an understanding that a disaster is incoming, like hurricane Fiona, it allows an opportunity for the reserve units to speak with their personnel. Their personnel, of course, then communicate with their employers.
We have a system in place where we have immediate response units. Of course, that's supported by domestic response companies, which comprise reservists. A number of reservists know that they are on a certain notice to move. They advise their employers of that.
Certainly, if we take hurricane Fiona as an example, the overwhelming amount of support and the number of our great reservists who were volunteering, even outside of the construct of the domestic response company to respond, have been tremendous. Certainly you will see that there is never really any issue in terms of a domestic response emerging to have our reservists ready to go in short order to respond to the needs of their communities.
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
I agree that these people are incredible. The fact that they're willing to respond so quickly is really quite amazing. It always makes me so grateful. Certainly, if I were on the other end, that would be what I would hope. But as we continue to rely upon them over and over, if this is going to increase, if we know that climate change emergencies are going to increase, do you foresee any sort of push-back, especially from the employer's side, of not being able to rely upon their employees in the regular way that they are needed for work?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:46
I can't speculate, unfortunately, about different companies or employers and how they feel in response to their local soldiers, sailors and aviators in the reserve force providing that support. I can say that we have a robust process in place where reservists, when they're on call, so to speak—of course, the notice to move is different from the one for the regular force—are able to provide their employers with an indication that they could be called up. In this particular case, we've seen no adverse effects.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Mr. Motz, you have five minutes plus 30 seconds.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you very much, Chair. I appreciate your graciousness.
Gentlemen, thank you for being here. We've talked for months now in this committee about the reality of a shortfall in human resources in the Canadian Armed Forces—significant resources. The reasons for that are complex, as we all know, but to me they have some connection. To me, it has some connection to CAF's response obligations to domestic emergencies.
I say that because in conversations with many current and former serving members of the armed forces, they cite some of the domestic obligations they had with training and in actual deployments as one of the reasons to which they attribute their early retirement, or for those who were seeking a possible career in the armed forces as a reason not to join the armed forces.
What are your thoughts on combatting this reality?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:48
I don't want to speculate here. I haven't seen any complaints that the response to domestic operations or international operations is one of the reasons that we have a shortfall in the members of the Canadian Forces. As we've just discussed, in the instance of the reserve, the reserve is a volunteer force. Nothing obliges reserve members to stay in the Canadian Armed Forces. They join us because they want to serve. They want to serve Canadians mainly in domestic operations but also in operations abroad. Should they not want to volunteer for an operation, they don't have to.
What we see time and again is that when there is a natural disaster crisis in Canada, more volunteers show up than we have employment for at the initial stages. As the crisis develops, then we're able to apply that manpower to—
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
I'm sorry, General. I'm not referring to reserve forces. I'm talking about regular forces. I can only repeat what I have been told by multiple members of the Canadian Armed Forces, both current and past.
Let me go back a bit. In early May, this committee heard testimony and a proposal by Josh Bowen. He indicated to the committee that the Government of Canada should establish a federally funded, volunteer-based national civilian disaster response organization that will work closely with NGOs to coordinate civilian capacity to respond to domestic emergencies.
In your estimation, gentlemen, what are the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach? What would be the implications to the Canadian Armed Forces deployment as a last-resort option, which they should be, and not first-resort?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:50
Maybe I'll start, but my answer will be very short, Mr. Chair.
I can't speculate, and I'm not involved in those discussions at all, but I think as climate change is happening, more and more natural disasters are likely to occur. The more resources we're able to provide in times of need to Canadians in response to any weather event...is good news.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Brigadier-General Major, go ahead.
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:50
Thank you.
Of course, in line with General Prévost, I won't speculate. However, I can tell you that although the Canadian Armed Forces, of course, should be used as a force of last resort, will always prepare ourselves to be ready to respond to our number one priority, which is protecting Canadians in time of need.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
My question actually was quite simple. What are the advantages or disadvantages to use the Canadian Armed Forces...for such a civilian capacity organization to be stood up?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:51
We haven't looked at that in detail, Mr. Chair. What I'll say is that I can only see advantages at this point. The more we can work together at all levels of government on those issues, the better it will be in times of need.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
You mentioned earlier in your presentation, Major-General Prévost, that each province and territory has different capacities for emergency management response. I'm curious to know.... If there were emergency management capacity-building efforts provincially and territorially at the local level, would that reduce the need for CAF to deploy to assist civilian authorities on a regular basis, so it can truly be the last-resort option?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:52
I think, Mr. Chair—and I can't speculate, again—that the provinces over time, in recent years, have put in place better emergency management apparatuses. The discussion among the federal level, the provincial level and local communities is stronger than it's ever been.
What I mentioned before is that when there are shortages in staffing power to plan in response to events, this is where the Canadian Armed Forces can help. Obviously, there are many communities in Canada, and many are isolated communities. This is what our rangers provide in isolated and northern communities, this planning power to help local governments respond to those crises.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Motz.
Mr. Robillard, you have five minutes.
View Yves Robillard Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Do the Canadian Armed Forces require additional capacity to continue to respond to multiple national emergencies?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:53
Thank you, Mr. Chair. If I may, I will answer the question first, and then let my colleague provide a more detailed response.
The resources that the Canadian Forces need most right now are human resources. For a national response, we need people. The troops are currently mobilized to ensure that we can fill the ranks of the Canadian Forces with as many people as possible to reach our capacity. We are currently short 10,000 members, according to our mandate. This is the primary resource of most concern and the one we need to focus on. As for responding to national capacity, we can use a range of tools, and local authorities usually provide what we don’t have.
I’ll let Brigadier-General Major round out my answer.
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:54
Mr. Chair, I thank the member for his question.
I would add the following: even though we all know that the Canadian Armed Forces are short 10,000 people, we have put procedures in place to ensure that we have forces ready and able to respond to Canadians’ needs at home, but also to meet our international obligations. We do this by privatizing our efforts, so that we are able to meet those needs.
View Yves Robillard Profile
Lib. (QC)
There is no doubt that climate change is increasing the severity and frequency of natural disasters, but we have also heard that climate change has broader security implications.
Can you tell us how the Canadian Armed Forces are adapting to these changes relative to their traditional defence and security roles?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:55
I thank the member for his excellent question.
It is true that climate change is affecting weather events in Canada, as noted at the start of the meeting. However, it is also a source of international security concerns. Climate change is bringing more conflict to areas of the world that are already disadvantaged, such as desert areas, since resources are very scarce to be being with. I’m talking about food security, for instance. Climate change also exacerbates some of the problems populations experience, whether it is international security, natural disasters or conflicts, and the Canadian Armed Forces may be called upon to respond to them on an international level.
View Yves Robillard Profile
Lib. (QC)
What can local, provincial and federal authorities do to help relieve the mounting pressure on the Canadian Armed Forces to respond to domestic emergencies?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 11:57
I thank the member for his question.
I will start the answer and then pass it to my colleague if he wishes to add anything.
I feel that we're on the right path. These past few years, we've had to face a pandemic, of course, but in addition, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, the number of natural events where the federal government has had to get involved has doubled about every five years. These events have led local, provincial and federal authorities to seek out tools and ways to better collaborate. Furthermore, a number of civilian organizations, including not-for-profit ones, have stepped up and are always ready to answer the call in the event of a crisis. All partners using the same coordination and communication mechanisms builds domestic resilience.
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 11:58
Madam Chair, I would add that—
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
I'm sorry to interrupt you, Major General, but the member's time is up.
Ms. Gallant, you now have the floor for five minutes.
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Now, in the hurricane down east, as well as other tragedies like Swissair, the military may have been the only entity, not the best entity, to take care of disasters of such scope. Even inland, we have the flooding, and there's nothing more warming than to see a Chinook from 450 Squadron carrying pallets of sandbags. The military already conducts exercises that have the dual function of caring for civilian needs, such as building a helipad for a hospital, because that's something they would do in theatre.
My question is about mitigation, trying to prevent where possible the level of devastation that occurs. Would it be possible to have more training exercises that serve the dual purpose of perhaps building berms or a Duff's Ditch, projects of that extent that would provide for mitigation—with the funding coming from the carbon tax revenues, of course, not from the military coffers? Would it be feasible to have more practical applications, both militarily and civilian, so that we can practise disaster prevention?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 12:00
Certainly, I don't wish to speculate on the extent to which those exercises can occur, but in the past, there have been different military exercises where a specific unit.... In this case, what is being referred to is specific to engineers, as many of these activities are. We speak of berms, for example. Engineers have gone in and built Bailey bridges, which they have left in place to service other communities. It is conceivably possible, but I wouldn't wish to speculate on the amount or the level to which that could be done in the future.
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay.
You mentioned engineers, and that leads to my next question. One of the propositions is that we have a type of army corps of engineers, but we're short of people for the military as it is. We're short of people to fill civilian positions.
Given what you know about the strength in respect to our engineers, would it be feasible to have an army corps of engineers—similar but not the same as that in the United States, for example—or would that separate entity detract from the human resources available, which are already in short supply for the military?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 12:01
Madam Chair, thanks for that question. It certainly is an interesting question.
As far as I'm aware, no study is being done right now to look into those possibilities. I wouldn't want to speculate on the type of personnel or the pool that would be drawn from for each. Perhaps something that would require more study would be to look at the U.S. corps of army engineers, which is an entity distinct from, say, the U.S. Army engineers. Each provides a different level of combat support.
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
If such an entity were stood up, would that allow the military to do more of the training that only the military can do? We've said that all eyes are on Ukraine, but we have to have some eyes on our Arctic as well. Would it relieve some of the human resource pressure if we had a separate entity, not necessarily to fight disasters alone but perhaps to mitigate the effects of disasters?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 12:02
Thank you for that question.
I wouldn't want to necessarily speculate without having a firm understanding of what this corps of engineers would be mandated to do. It's difficult to describe what their task would be in relation to Canadian Armed Forces engineering tasks.
Understanding with foresight the path that the Canadian Armed Forces currently trains for will allow us to continue into the future, as those are skills that we need to maintain.
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Should the militia or Canada's reserve army be trained to fight climate change or weather events, the way they were a civil defence force during the Cold War, in the so-called hook-and-ladder days?
Josh J. Major
View Josh J. Major Profile
Josh J. Major
2022-09-27 12:03
Mr. Chair, it's an interesting question.
We're examining the reserve force right now. They are currently training on generally the same tasks that we are asking of the regular force, to allow us to integrate and to be able to respond either domestically or internationally without creating a niche capability.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mrs. Gallant.
Mr. May, you have five minutes.
View Bryan May Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryan May Profile
2022-09-27 12:03
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to our witnesses for being here with us this morning.
One of the things I've been keenly focused on in my role as parliamentary secretary for defence is the infrastructure that we currently have and some of the challenges and deficiencies we have.
To what extent are CAF current facilities located across Canada at risk due to extreme weather?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 12:04
I'm not an expert on infrastructure in Canada, but what I can say is that throughout hurricane Fiona that just went through the Maritimes, our military infrastructure withstood the storm. There's no impact on our operations right now in Atlantic Canada due to the storm.
That's all I can provide right now.
View Bryan May Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryan May Profile
2022-09-27 12:04
Beyond the circumstances we're faced with immediately, do you have any insight on specific facilities that might be at risk as a result of not just extreme weather in general but climate change?
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 12:05
Mr. Chair, that's a good question.
Again, as I said, I'm not an expert on infrastructure for the Canadian Armed Forces. What we know is that we have probably the biggest portfolio of infrastructure for the federal government. Some of it is aging. This will be part of the defence policy update in terms of what needs to be done. I know there are great efforts to green our portfolio, to revamp our portfolio. The status of exactly what the vulnerabilities at this point are I cannot speak to.
View Bryan May Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryan May Profile
2022-09-27 12:05
Thank you.
How do provincial and territorial emergency management organizations, NGOs, the CAF and other federal entities co-operate and collaborate during these types of domestic emergencies?
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Paul Prévost
View Paul Prévost Profile
Paul Prévost
2022-09-27 12:06
Mr. Chair, I can certainly speak to that, as I'm involved in pretty much every domestic crisis we have in Canada in terms of the discussions between the federal partners, as well as the provinces and sometimes the local partners.
On those discussions, I would say that this is something the pandemic brought to us: a good assessment of all the tools available, because there were so many facets in the pandemic that we had to deal with. Those discussions are strong. Everybody's on speed dial, and we have some great discussions internally and within the federal government, but also with every emergency management authority in every territory and the provinces. There are great discussions.
When it's required, we also bring in the local levels. I think of when we respond to a crisis in first nation communities, to forest fires, evacuations and COVID outbreaks like those we've lived through over the last two and a half years. We bring all levels into the same room to have good discussions on what the needs are and how we can best address them.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. May.
I didn't know we still had speed dial.
You have two and a half minutes, Madame Normandin.
View Christine Normandin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much.
Major General Prévost, I'd like to come back to what Mr. Fisher asked, that you explain the process for working with the CAF.
We know that the CAF doesn't stay at an emergency location indefinitely. What's the process for having the CAF leave? How do they get to the point where they say they no longer need the military?
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