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.