Why Your Children Should Enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 26 Apr 1990, p. 316-327
Collins, The Hon. Mary, Speaker
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A discussion of some of the issues presently before the nation and the Department of National Defence in particular. First, comments on the passage of the Meech Lake Accord. Next, an attempt to answer the question of why our children should enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces. Some examples of recently completed missions by Canada's forces. The personnel make-up of the Canadian Forces; defence policy in our changing times; and the impact of social change on military life: a detailed exploration. Opportunities for women; education and training opportunities available; interesting jobs and assignments, with examples.
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26 Apr 1990
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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The Hon. Mary Collins Associate Minister of National Defence
Chairman: Sarah Band, President


Honoured Guests, Head Table guests, members of The Empire Club, ladies and gentlemen.

At this last luncheon meeting of The Empire Club for the current year, it is a pleasure to welcome a Minister of the Crown in the person of such a charming guest.

The Honourable Mary Collins is the Associate Minister of National Defence, and the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women. How, you ask, can such divergent portfolios rest with only one person?

Probably because of her acceptance of the responsibilities given her in the six years she has represented Capilano in Ottawa. Perhaps because of her background in women's concerns through the YWCA in both Ontario and Alberta.

And in National Defence? How about a wide knowledge of our country and its concerns not only at home but abroad. Mrs. Collins doesn't need any endorsement of her appointments.

She is a graduate of the Universities of British Columbia and Queen's, where she earned her degree in Political Science.

She is an active member of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, and was its Chairperson.

It is a pleasure to welcome her to The Empire Club, as much to hear her address as to prove the truth of the comments of a 1920's writer whom Canadian Jean Bannerman quotes in her book Leading Ladies. "When women have a voice in national and international affairs, wars will cease forever:'

With Mary Collins at the seat of government it would appear we have the voice, and the person.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Honourable Mary Collins.

Mary Collins:

Members of The Empire Club, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is my pleasure to be with you this afternoon and to have this opportunity to discuss with you some of the issues presently before the nation and the Department of National Defence in particular.

I find it fascinating that it was only last summer that our government was being criticized for the alleged lack of a political agenda--that we somehow resembled a ship adrift without its rudder. Today, however, you are likely to see those same groups mourning the length of the list of issues presently under discussion. It is truly the quintessential "Catch-22".

As I was invited to discuss issues relating to my role at the Department of National Defence, I won't spend too long on what I believe to be the most important single issue before our nation: the passage of the Meech Lake Accord.

The Meech Lake Accord has come to represent far more than the constitutional development of Canada. It has come to embody the re-unification of Canada as a nation. The Conservative government understands the need for each region of our country to feel at home, to feel like they belong in Canada. We are all different in our own way. As a British Columbian, I am proud of that fact. When the Prime Minister undertook to right the wrongs of the 1982 negotiations, he recognized that the Meech Lake talks had to be positive, that they had to be constructive, and that he must be the bridge between 10 unique provinces.

The support of the people of Ontario in this process has been most encouraging. As someone who spent over 15 years in this province, I am pleased to have vowed to overcome the mistrust, to look beyond the cultural differences between English and French Canada. I think we're going to get through this period and realize the dream of "one Canada".

When I was asked by the Empire Club last winter to address this audience, I was stuck for a topic. You see, there is so much going on within the defence community, both domestically and internationally, that I couldn't predict what would be appropriate by the time the end of April came around. The title, "Why Your Children Should Enlist", is a catch-all phrase meant to house every possible issue facing the Canadian Armed Forces in these turbulent times. At the same time, I wanted to take this opportunity to pitch the Forces as an employer--to an audience that could probably teach us a thing or two about self-promotion in the nineties.

The best way to explain what the Canadian Forces are about is to give you some examples of recently completed missions.

Last September, after hurricane Hugo devastated the Caribbean island of Montserrat, Canada sent a 30-member engineering and maintenance team there to do vital relief work. The team included engineers, communications specialists, various skilled trades-people and medical personnel. Their main tasks were to repair the island's power and water facilities, and to restore operations at its only airport.

The team left Canada on 48-hours' notice. In Montserrat, its members lived in modular tents and frequently worked in 38degree heat. In about two weeks they had completed their work, and returned home to their regular jobs. The mission was a resounding success.

Last summer, Canada sent a group of "inspectors" to Czechoslovakia to observe a military exercise there. This was the first time we had conducted a "surprise" challenge inspection of foreign activities under the aegis of the 1987 Stockholm document. The aim of the on-site inspection was to establish the purpose of a Czechoslovakian army exercise and, ultimately, to contribute to a climate of increased confidence and mutual security.

Our four inspectors included an aerospace engineer, an artillery officer, a pilot and an infantry officer. A small support team provided necessary assistance. The inspection was over in just 48 hours and, by all accounts, was a complete success.

These two teams illustrate more than just interesting and challenging assignments. They reflect the very special calling of the Canadian Forces and the worthwhile work being accomplished by our men and women in uniform every day. This calling involves not only in-depth training, education, and rewarding careers. It also involves the development of qualities of character and citizenship which are very important to the mission of the Canadian Forces, and to our society. Above all, it involves a dedication to service which still sets the military career apart from others.

I would like to speak to you today about this special calling'; to military service and to suggest why young Canadians should consider a future with the Canadian Forces. I speak to you partly as leaders in your chosen fields; I also speak to you as dedicated individuals who chose careers of a more 'traditional' sort, and to try and paint for you my perception of why the forces are an excellent place for young people to start their adult lives--as engineers, dentists, technicians, or firefighters, for example.

I will speak briefly about the personnel make-up of the Canadian Forces, about defence policy in these changing' times and the impact of social change on military life.

Let me begin by saying how much I have enjoyed my first year as Associate Minister of National Defence. In most ways, of course, it's been a difficult and challenging year for all of us in DND. But I have been particularly impressed with the professsional way in which members of the Canadian Forces have adjusted to change and continue to meet new challenges. I have enjoyed managing personnel issues and policy within the Canadian Forces, because I believe, more than ever, that the organization's people are its most important asset.

They are also a very sizable asset, and will continue to be so. The Canadian Forces currently have a total strength of about 85,000 full-time regular force members, and 30,000 primary reservists. We also have about 31,000 members of the supplementary reserve, who are not on active service but would serve when called out in a national emergency.

To achieve their mission, the Forces must continue to attract, recruit, train, employ and retain thousands of people every year. In 1989/90, for example, we enrolled more than 8,000 people into the regular force--about 1700 officers and 6800 non-commissioned members.

As we move toward a somewhat smaller regular force in the years ahead, the reserves are growing and taking on even greater importance. The government has approved an increase this year for the primary reserve of more than 1600 personel.

Before we can proclaim the merits of a military career, we must first ask "Why a military career?" For that matter, why do we continue to need armed forces, particularly in light of the revolutionary changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe over the past year, and the dramatic improvements in East-West relations?

Certainly the Government of Canada welcomes the prospect of a free, interdependant and democratic Europe, where the possibility of conventional war could be virtually eliminated. This prospect is what we and our allies have been working hard to achieve for nearly 50 years.

We also welcome the unilateral Soviet plan to withdraw troops from Eastern Europe, and the encouraging progress in Vienna toward an agreement on reducing conventional forces in Europe.

Given all the positive developments which have occurred, we believe that the threat of a war in Europe has been substantially reduced. Few seriously believe that the current leader of the Soviet Union has any intention of using military aggression against the West in the near future. But as our Ambassador to the U.N., Mr. Yves Fortier, says: "We should not emulate moonstruck teenagers either, we must mature to adulthood as we analyze the developments in the USSR."

So what should our reaction be? First, common sense dictates that we continue to work to reduce nuclear and conventional forces on both sides, to the lowest levels possible.

Secondly, however, history reminds us that peace must never be taken for granted. No-one can guarantee the end of hostility. In the nuclear age, this simple truth takes on urgent meaning. Prudent defence planning must be based on a realistic consideration of the capabilities which could be used to threaten our nation.

Thirdly, even as the world becomes less divided into two opposing camps, it is also becoming less stable, more fragmented, and more unpredictable, with regional and ethnic frictions causing concern in many regions of the world. Common sense demands, once again, that we not contribute to instability by abandoning the fundamental principles of our national security policy.

We are currently reviewing our defence policy in light of reductions of East-West tensions and our own budgetary necessities. Canada's defence policy, however, will continue to be based on four pillars:

first, collective security and defence within the Atlantic Alliance, including our continental defence partnership with the United States;

secondly, the protection of Canada's sovereign interests, especially in our airspace and territorial waters; thirdly, continued participation in international peacekeeping operations, to help resolve regional conflicts;

and finally, a contribution to the search for balanced and verifiable arms control agreements.

This policy is still consistent with the developments in Eastern Europe. I, too, am personally amazed at the changes that have taken place, and despite the criticism we are receiving from some observers for the depth and pace of our review, I know we are on the right track. "While war makes rattling good history", said Thomas Hardy, "peace is poor reading". As a defence minister in NATO, I can stand some poor reading without a second thought.

We expect the results of the defence policy review to be made public sometime this year. Whatever the finer points of the review may bring, we will continue to need modern, effective armed forces--both regular and reserve. We need them to safeguard Canadian sovereignty; to preserve and maintain individual freedoms and our democratic way of life; and to help preserve world peace and order. If absolutely necessary, we need them to provide the ultimate physical protection against military threats to our nationhood.

The defence of the nation is the primary mission of the Canadian Forces, and will remain so. It's why we establish, train and equip armed forces. But service to Canada and Canadians may involve much more. Because they are structured and trained to meet their military roles, the Forces are also ready to serve in peace-keeping, verification of arms control agreements, search and rescue, fishery patrols, drug interdiction, chemical or environmental disaster response, and civil assistance.

The Canadian Forces can be quickly tailored to meet threats other than military--especially in situations requiring logistics, communications and transportation co-ordination. And our people have the right qualities of character--the discipline, professionalism and dedication--to ensure the success of difficult operations.

The hurricane relief mission in Montserrat, which I mentioned earlier, illustrates the point. Similarly, the Forces provided hundreds of flights last year to evacuate people from fire-threatened areas of Manitoba--in all, almost 6000 people airlifted to safety. In short, the Canadian Forces provide an important reservoir of skills and capabilities that can, and, we expect will, be drawn upon in many ways. Members of the Forces are an integral part of our society, but in many ways they also stand apart from society. They are separated from the mainstream by their duties and obligations; by the laws which govern them; and, to some extent, by their lifestyle. And, although the Forces have changed considerably over the years, they are still imbued with what is called the "military ethos"--a way of life and habit of mind based on loyalty, teamwork and, above all, "service before self."

Our personnel policies must, I believe, promote this ideal of, service while not losing sight of the mission. At the same time, we must also ensure that the forces do not become estranged from the society they serve and protect.

The challenge we face in the nineties is to determine the' correct balance between the needs of the service and the needs and aspirations of the individual. We must take into account many complex pressures for change--pressures driven by demographics, changing attitudes and values, changes within the family and the workforce.

We are working hard to improve life for military families..,, We are finding new ways, for example, to reduce the stress caused by frequent moves and isolation. We have recently established a new policy to encourage the formation of independent associations of spouses of military members, to open the channels of communication between them and the military. We are also developing a system of family resource centres at our bases, to improve our understanding of family needs and to provide a much-needed focal point for military families.

Another very significant form of social change is manifested in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These reflect an increased emphasis on individual liberties in Canadian society. In recognition of these changes, DND and the Forces have been making significant adjustments to both attitudes and policies.

Once again, we are seeking a balance between individual rights and the legitimate demands of the military to maintain operational effectiveness. We will be progressive, but there is a risk of becoming a social laboratory. I have sought to maintain a balance in this important area of change.

That being said, I believe we are actively addressing both the spirit and the letter of Canada's human rights legislation--and will continue to do so. Important changes have been made to a number of policies, such as those affecting the enrolment of pregnant women, and benefits for members in common-law relationships.

Perhaps the area where human rights legislation has had the most dramatic impact is in the Forces' employment of women. You may recall that, last year, a human rights tribunal directed the Forces to remove any remaining employment restrictions based on sex (with the one exception of service on submarines).

This decision opened combat roles for women, both on land and at sea. Virtually all restrictions on the employment of women in the air force had been removed several years earlier. The goal now is the complete integration of women into all areas of the forces by 1999, but it's proceeding at a much faster pace than previously hoped or predicted.

Over the past two years, we have been encouraging eligible women to apply for non-traditional occupations in the Canadian Forces. I am pleased with the progress made in this area. Women are applying for engineering in increasing numbers, and many more are showing interest in air and naval operations as well. We now have women on one air base, for example, who are working as technicians on airframes, air defence systems, safety systems and aircraft electronic sensors, to name a few. We also have the only two women in the world flying fighter aircraft in operational squadrons.

I should also point out that women in traditional occupations--such as nursing, administration and food services--are now eligible for work in all settings and roles. In other words, they have the same rights, but also the same responsibilities, as men in the service. They may be called to serve, for example, on a base defence force, on peace-keeping duty, on a naval ship or in an isolated location like Canadian Forces Station Alert, in the High Arctic.

I should add that women currently make up about 10.2 percent of the regular force, and 19.2 percent of the primary \~ reserve. Their numbers have been steadily increasing over the past four years and I will be encouraging this trend to continue. In my role as Minister responsible for the status of women, 14m particularly cognizant of our department's attitude towards equality of the sexes and am pleased at the good response we are getting through continued increasing interest at our recruiting offices.

Most important, the opportunities are there for women in the Canadian Force to serve in virtually all occupations, units and environments. I am relatively pleased with the progress we have achieved thus far toward fully integrating women into the forces. To this end, I have appointed an advisory board to monitor and report on the department's progress.

As Associate Minister, I have been interested in social change, and its impact on the Canadian military in particular. To help us come to grips with this challenging issue and to improve our personnel policies in the years ahead, I convened a special conference here in Toronto in February of this year. People from a wide variety of backgrounds--including business, government and academia--explored the issues and shared their views over two days. The conference produced many new ideas and approaches, and it began a process of consultation. It showed the importance of bringing together women and men of diverse skills and methods to provide these fresh ideas and approaches.

I would like to turn now to some of the classic elements of military life which appeal to young people--namely, subsidized education and training, the wide variety of full and interesting careers, and the opportunity to work across Canada--and in other countries.I A career as an officer in the Canadian Forces still offers the potential for all-round individual development. This may mean a university education, academic and athletic opportunities, leadership training and the chance to truly discover one's potential.

The educational opportunities alone are phenomenal. Candidates selected for the regular officer training plan (ROTP) can receive up to five years of subsidized university education in programs leading to degrees in engineering, science, arts or administration. On graduation, cadets receive their commission and begin a career as an officer. Each student in military college receives a great deal of individual .attention, both academically and personally. First-rate student-staff ratios make this possible.

In my 'view, the military colleges have a record which speaks for itself. Unfortunately, this record is not as well known among Canadians as it deserves to be. Students going to civilian universities will find many courses in management techniques, but probably few in leadership. Our officer cadets live in residence, in a military environment, and learn the principles of leadership by living them day-today. They develop a sense of duty, self-discipline, self-confidence and integrity--character traits which will serve them well in life, as well as in the forces.

Careers for non-commissioned members of the Canadian Forces also offer many impressive opportunities. Most important perhaps is the specialized trades training in one of the 100 positions, in 16 separate occupational branches. Many of these occupations require months of training, often in the most advanced technology. Ultimately, the skills and knowledge gained in the forces benefit not only the military sector, but the entire country. For the individual member, the Canadian Forces are a great place to get started in life--whether it's to go on to a civilian career in the future, or to enjoy a full military career.

As I said earlier, the primary reserve is an increasingly important part of the Canadian Forces. It is also an equal partner in the total force. For Canadians who wish to serve their country and to combine full-time civilian careers or education with part-time military service, the reserves have much to offer.

Many excellent training opportunities are available in the reserves, as well as interesting jobs and assignments. By way of illustration:

Reservists serve with the regular force in Europe and on,... peace-keeping duty in various parts of the world. (Over the past year, for example, more than 120 reservists served in Cyprus, the Middle East, Pakistan and Namibia.) The naval reserves are growing, and training for their new role in maritime defence. To assist them in their task, the government is proceeding with the purchase of 12 modern coastal defence vessels.

The air reserve is being equipped with new Dash-8 aircraft, and in late 1991 will take over responsibility for all air navigator training flights for the Canadian Forces.

In many ways, I lament this era where so much of what we do at DND is analyzed in microscopic detail. I am pleased at the interest taken in our defence review, but I wonder about those who would have us devise a new strategy for our armed forces overnight. If Mr. McKnight and I had released a new policy manifesto last winter, we would have been surely criticized for a hastily prepared package of recommendations.

Instead, we have decided to get it right the first time. As we analyze our role in search and rescue, fisheries patrols, environmental assistance, territorial defence, and our commitments around the world--you can look forward to an updated defence strategy that catches the imagination of Canadians, and continues the proud traditions of the Canadian Forces.

Thank you.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Men. Bruce Legge, Partner, Legge and Legge and a Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Why Your Children Should Enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces

A discussion of some of the issues presently before the nation and the Department of National Defence in particular. First, comments on the passage of the Meech Lake Accord. Next, an attempt to answer the question of why our children should enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces. Some examples of recently completed missions by Canada's forces. The personnel make-up of the Canadian Forces; defence policy in our changing times; and the impact of social change on military life: a detailed exploration. Opportunities for women; education and training opportunities available; interesting jobs and assignments, with examples.