November 10, 2008
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto
General Walt Natynczyk
Chief of the Defence Staff
The Canadian Forces—Today and in the Future
Chairman:Jo-Ann McArthur, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Heather C. Devine: Partner, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada
Nicola Gailits: Grade 12 Student, North Toronto Collegiate Institute
Rev. Dr. John S. Niles: MSM, Senior Minister, St. Andrew’s United Church, Markham, and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
David A. Rubin: QC, Honorary Lieutenant Colonel, 2 Intelligence Company: Partner, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, Chair, Intelligence Security Diary, and Former Board Member, The Empire Club of Canada
Stan Benda: Senior Counsel, Department of Justice, Canada, Regulatory Section, Ontario Regional Office
Brigadier General David Fraser: Commandant, Canadian Forces College
Doug Morris: President, Morris Glass/Humidity Solutions, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada
Major General (Ret’d) Reginald W. Lewis: CMM, CM, CD, Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
His Excellency Habibullah Qaderi: Consul General, and Consulate General of Afghanistan in Toronto
Blake C. Goldring: Chairman and CEO, AGF Management Ltd., and Honorary Colonel, The Royal Regiment of Canada.
Introduction by Jo-Ann McArthur
The threats in this century are very different from the threats in the last century. It used to be about preparing for mechanized attacks. Today it is often about defending against terrorism or organized crime.
As Canadians we have the luxury of forgetting that we remain on a list of countries targeted by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. The Canadian Forces continue to have a role in defending Canada.
They also help protect the weak and the vulnerable from total chaos. Canadian soldiers abroad continue to represent hope and remain wonderful ambassadors for our country, refusing to accept terrorism as a way of changing our societies and the international order.
General Natynczyk is a Winnipeg native who has spent 33 years in the Army as a tank officer. He took over command from General Hillier on July 1 of this year. As Major-General he received the Meritorious Service Cross in 2006 in recognition of his outstanding leadership and professionalism while deployed as Deputy Commanding General of the Multi-National Corps during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM where he helped direct the movements of U.S., British and Australian troops.
The respect he commands from senior U.S. commanders should also serve him well in his job overseeing Canada’s war in Afghanistan.
The General also has a truly integrated command structure at home with each of the services represented, as he and his wife Leslie have three children, Margaret, William and John serving in the Navy, Air Force and Army respectively.
It is a great honour to welcome the General to our podium today.
Thank you Jo-Ann for those very, very kind remarks.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a real pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to the members and guests of the Empire Club. I want to thank you for your very presence here today. By your very presence you are supporting the Canadian Forces. Toronto and this whole region have shown time and again how much it appreciates its military.
I’m really pleased to be your Chief of Defence Staff. I’m in my fifth month as Chief of Defence Staff and I keep on being asked whether I am enjoying the job? I’m thrilled. For the past few years before General Hillier threw me the baton, I was his Vice-Chief of Defence, basically the chief operating officer for the department—running a department with 90,000 in uniform and about 26,000 civilians with a budget of about $18 billion. I really appreciated the opportunity to understand how the department worked.
To actually have this job is tremendous because I can get out and meet all of those incredible leaders, representing the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and Special Forces and to meet the leaders and all the men and women who work for them—from Esquimalt to Halifax to Alert in the North. My mission is to protect Canada and Canadians and to safeguard Canadian interests abroad.
To do that I lead your Forces. I listen to their issues and I shape their success. There’s plenty of adventure in this business. I was thinking about that as the Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer and I were being hung by a winch cable from the bottom of a Cormorant helicopter. The Search and Rescue technicians, one of whom is in the room here, said they were going to do a little technique called the teabag move. They dipped us into the North Atlantic Ocean a bit.
We were in Comox British Columbia about a week and a half ago. We were flying in a Buffalo aircraft and the pilots wanted to show us something that they do to descend into a mountainous valley in order to launch a Search and Rescue mission. It’s called a valley drop. They actually descend into the valley with about ten metres of clearance on either side of the wings from the mountains. Let’s just say it is an amazing job.
Wherever I go I can’t help but be awestruck and inspired by the men and women in uniform. Canadians can take pride in having one of the most professional and best-trained militaries in the world. Why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we have the highest standards of excellence?
We take your sons and daughters, the kid next door, the family friends who grew up in the Canadian mosaic, pluralistic and well-educated society, with high morals and values, and then we put them through a very rigorous screening and training program and we put them through additional leadership programs that we have in professional development. They are courageous in their duties to their nation and they are exceptionally bright.
Today we’re fortunate to have three members representing the Army, Navy and the Air Force and I’ll introduce them during my presentation. There might even be a Special Forces person here.
What I’d like to do today is outline my assessment of where the Canadian Forces are today and where I believe we need to go in the future. Where we are today is a reflection of the services and sacrifices of those who went before us. Tomorrow, November 11, is a significant day in Canadian history. It’s 90 years ago on the eleventh hour that the guns of the First World War became silent. Tomorrow, Canadians everywhere will remember the 90th anniversary of the Armistice.
The 90th anniversary honours not only those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but all the veterans who returned home to build this great nation with the same courage, the strength, the leadership and the teamwork that they showed on the battlefield. Veterans like John Babcock, who at 108 years old is the last surviving veteran of the First World War.
Today we have with us incredible heroes and veterans. I’d like to introduce Joe Ryan. Joe is a veteran of Dieppe.
Do we have Murray Jacobs in the room? I’m sorry he couldn’t be with us. Murray landed at Normandy. Ladies and gentlemen, how many others in this room wore the uniform? Please stand up.
Although you don’t wear the uniform today, in a way I can call you retirement failures because the fact that you’re here means you are still serving. God bless you and thank you for being here. By a show of hands, how many of you had parents or other family, neighbours or close friends who served in the military? My goodness. I just want to thank you for your support, because your loved ones could not have served Canada without your care and attention. God bless you all.
To understand the Canadian Forces of the future we need to review the past few years. Since 1989 funding and personnel have been cut dramatically while operational tempo has jumped with continuous peacekeeping deployments to the Balkans among other places. The term “decade of darkness” originated in Petawawa in 1996. It was after one of those afternoons in the mess. I was the commanding officer of the Royal Canadian Dragoons and my neighbour was the commander of the Second Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.
The fellow from across the street came over. His name was Rick Hillier. We had just finished a conference and all we could talk about was the fact that we were cutting resources to the brigade. We had a brigade of about 5,000 soldiers and we could not afford to maintain the buildings. We couldn’t afford to heat them. We actually had to turn out the lights because we couldn’t afford the electricity.
We talked about the fact that it would probably take a decade to figure this out. We said then that it would be a decade of darkness. Our combat capabilities were reduced to the point that we were only defined as peacekeepers and even this was an ugly myth, because a military force needs a combat capability to intervene, to stop violence, to protect those who are most vulnerable and to defend human rights.
Without these robust combat capabilities, our forces become a mere spectator to a conflict. I would ask you to read General Romeo Dallaire’s book on his experience in Rwanda to understand the point that real peacekeeping demands combat capability and agile forces. Otherwise the ideal of peacekeeping is but a myth, misunderstood by folks who have not really witnessed modern conflict in all its ugliness.
Public support for the military was resurrected following our successes in the Manitoba floods, the Ontario and Quebec ice storms and the forest fires through British Columbia and Alberta. I think we even came out here to clear some snow.
I’m a Winnipegger. I had to throw that in there.
Increased defence budgets since 2005 began to reverse the downward trend in capability and we’re now seeing some light on the horizon, with personnel growth, investment in equipment and therefore enhanced readiness. The Canada First Defence Strategy announced by the government this past spring outlines the plan and assigns resources to build the Canadian Forces over the next 20 years.
This is an important achievement. The Canadian Forces will actually take on three key tasks—to defend Canada, to be a reliable partner with the United States and to project leadership abroad to protect Canadian interests. The plan specified that we’ll grow to 100,000, made up of 70,000 regulars and 30,000 reserves. We’ll recapitalize our combat equipment, our ships, our aircraft and our combat vehicles. We’ll enhance the Forces’ readiness and our maintenance, and address our infrastructure requirements.
This is all good news. And yet there are many critics who say the allocation of resources isn’t enough. In the Army we have a tactical saying and that is that no plan is perfect and plans rarely survive the first contact with the enemy. But I want to assure you the Canada First Defence Strategy is a solid plan to rebuild the Forces. Certainly it’s the first of its kind in the 33 years that I’ve been wearing this uniform.
The problem is it’s going to take years to rebuild the Canadian Forces. At the same time we are operating at a very high tempo, transforming the Forces to meet the changing global security situation, recruiting and training Canada’s finest, and caring for our wounded and their families.
Let’s talk about each one of these in the next few minutes. This is a very busy time for the Canadian Forces. We’re engaged in many diverse operations both at home and abroad, including our largest one in many years—Afghanistan. Operations are our business. It’s our product. It’s our output. I like to say that the Canadian Forces are Canada’s most valuable insurance policy. Our work begins here at home.
The most important mission of the Canadian Forces is to defend Canada and Canadians. Under the command of Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden on any given day we have 10,000 airmen, sailors and soldiers who are focused on protecting Canada. I like to say you have to win your home games first before you can start thinking about your away games. And domestic operations in Canada is our home game.
One of our essential missions that occurs on an average of three times a day or night is Search and Rescue. The Canadian Forces have exceptionally talented men and women who launch in aircraft and helicopters, normally in terrible conditions, to assist those in dire need. With us today is one of those incredible Canadians—Master Corporal Neil.
Master Corporal Neil began his career as an infantryman. He had two tours of Bosnia and a tour in Afghanistan before he became a Search and Rescue technician. A Search and Rescue technician is kind of like a paramedic, but he doesn’t arrive in an ambulance. He parachutes into an Arctic storm. He is lowered by a winch cable onto a vessel in distress or he has to dive out of a helicopter into a turbulent sea. But every time he does that it’s because somebody’s in need. Thank you Master Corporal Neil for what you do. Incredible.
One of the regions that Master Corporal Neil has operated in is the Arctic and I’d like to emphasize the importance of this region for our domestic operations. It’s a vast area that we place under one commander. Brigadier General Dave Millar is the Joint Task Force Commander of the North. Dave Millar commands an area larger than Europe and populated by about 100,000 souls. It’s an unforgiving environment that holds immense mineral, oil and gas riches.
The climate is changing much faster than any one of us appreciates. I was up there in August at our station in Alert. This summer saw an incredibly busy shipping season with a record number of 51 international ships operating in the region of the Northwest Passage. As the polar icecap melts, the most cost-efficient shipping route through the region will be over the Pole and we are preparing for the whole new set of security issues that this development will present.
Dave Millar has the mission to exercise our sovereignty throughout the region. Using all of his assets from satellite-based imagery, ground and spatial radar, patrol aircraft, naval vessels and our Northern Rangers, we will support the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, the RCMP, Coast Guard and Transport Canada to secure the North.
This past August, I sat on the deck of Toronto’s namesake ship, HMCS Toronto, in Frobisher Bay near Iqaluit. The ship’s crew was participating in the annual sovereignty exercise in the eastern Arctic. I’ve got to say, they were very, very proud to be there. A major component of the exercise plan is the service that we receive from the Northern Rangers.
They’re made up of thousands of men and women. Many of them are community leaders and Elders, who form a reserve component of the Forces and patrol their regions. They act as the first responders to ground Search and Rescue and they actually instruct community children in traditional ways and skills as part of the Ranger program.
If somebody wants to invade the Arctic, it’s probably going to be the Northern Rangers that will rescue them, because it’s a really tough environment up there. When our troops go to the North to train, the Rangers train them on everything, from how to live off the land to how to escape from a polar bear.
Further south the Canadian Forces are preparing to support the RCMP in their mission to secure the 2010 Olympics. We have formed a Joint Task Force Games under the command of Rear Admiral Ty Pyle to support the RCMP and Assistant Commissioner Bud Mercer who has the lead.
With our U.S. allies under the co-operative agreement of NORAD, our Navy is guarding our sea approaches while the Air Force secures our air space. NORAD reached its 50th anniversary this year and we’re fortunate to have somebody like General Gene Renuart as the NORAD Commander. Although he is a U.S. Air Force officer, he has a special place in his heart for Canada. Both of his grandparents are from the Winnipeg area. All the high-readiness aircraft that protect our air space are under his command.
As part of our relationship with the U.S., Canada agreed to a civil assistance plan that allows one’s military to come to the aid of the other in the event of a military crisis. Our own Master Corporal Neil responded to duty this past Labour Day weekend when Hurricane Gustav was bearing down on Louisiana. He was dispatched to assist our American allies in the evacuation of hospital patients from New Orleans aboard one of our new C-17 aircraft. His mission involved moving ill and frail geriatric patients. During a flight a patient went into cardiac arrest and it was the professional and skillful attention of Master Corporal Neil that kept the patient alive. We are blessed with airmen the likes of Master Corporal Neil.
Beyond our borders and our continent, the Canadian Forces have the mission of projecting Canadian leadership abroad to contribute to international security. We’ve done so for many years. World War Two and the Korean War stand out, of course. But we’ve also worked hard during the second half of the 20th century to maintain peace in all places of the world.
Our current operations abroad are in line with the best traditions of service. We currently have troops on 19 different operations around the world and on any given day we have about 8,000 soldiers who are either preparing for, engaged in, or returning from operations. We have men and women deployed in places like the Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Congo, Haiti, Cyprus and Egypt. This summer Commodore Bob Davidson assumed command of Combined Task Force 150, the multinational naval fleet that conducts security operations in the Arabian Sea as part of the effort to counter terrorism. I think Bob Davidson will be here in town over the next few weeks.
I was in Victoria B.C. two weeks ago to welcome home two of his ships—HMCS Calgary and HMCS Protecteur—that were part of the Force. I’m not sure if any of you have stood on the wharf for the return of a ship in the Canadian Navy but it’s a special event. The whole crew has a lottery to determine who will be the first sailor down the gangplank. In the case of the Protecteur the fellow who won was a big fellow with a huge beard. He looked like Yosemite Sam and when he came down that gangplank and met his bride they locked in a kiss that took about 10 minutes. And the families were so patient, so patient.
When the Calgary came in it was quite different. The winner of the lottery gave up his ticket to a father who had not yet seen his newly born baby. That father came down, embraced his young bride and that baby for the first time and it was really awe-inspiring. Those incredible sailors did an outstanding job in the Gulf, interdicting those small coastal vessels from transferring drugs, weapons between countries and indeed smuggling people.
Recently we assigned HMCS Ville de Québec to Commodore Davidson’s Force to escort World Food Program ships delivering life-saving supplies to Somalia. With every one of the ships that the Ville de Québec escorted, there was enough food for 50,000 people for six months. In addition, we sent HMCS St. Johns to assist Haiti after yet another devastating hurricane that mauled that battered nation.
We have a representative here from the Navy who I’d just like to highlight. Would Lieutenant Stéphane Paquet please stand up?
Stéphane is a marine systems engineering officer but he began his career down in the engine room as a stoker, as Ordinary Seaman Paquet. Through all of our training and professional development, his potential was discovered and he was commissioned as an officer, as a marine engineering officer. He is currently attending Royal Military College. He’s enrolled in post-graduate studies in nuclear engineering. It’s a long way from shovelling coal in the engine room. Well done Stéphane.
Afghanistan is the Canadian Forces’ largest commitment overseas and we have approximately 2,500 troops there. It’s the most difficult, complex, dangerous and costly operation that we’ve had since the Korean War. The mission has defined the Canadian Forces in this decade and will define us for decades to come. Not all of our personnel are there from the Army. We keep talking about troops. They’re not all Army. There are many Air Force, Navy and Special Forces people there as well.
When I was there a year ago, I went up to the front gate of Kandahar. I saw a soldier there, classic, wearing a helmet, wearing his load bearing vest, bandoliers of ammunition and machine gun. I walked up to him and said, “What regiment are you from?” He said, “Sir, I’m from her Majesty’s Canadian ship Protecteur.” I said, “My goodness, a sailor. What are you doing here? You must be like a clerk, or a medic or a cook. One of those trades that we move out of the Air Force.” He said, “Oh no Sir. I’m a hull technician. I weld hulls to ships.” I said, “How did you get here? Did you get yourself in trouble?” He said, “No Sir, I went to the coxswain of the ship and I asked to do something different, and here I am.”
I love this Force. Ladies and gentlemen, our Forces there are operating under a UN-sanctioned mission, a NATO-led mission and at the request of the government of Afghanistan. Our mission in Afghanistan has evolved significantly since we began our mission in 2002, especially after the recommendations of the independent Manley panel and Parliament’s mandate and extension to 2011.
Today the government has established six priorities in transitioning the mission from a sole focus on security to helping the Afghanistan government: building the Afghan National Policy and Army capacity, providing humanitarian assistance, provision of basic services through development, building governance institutions, enhancing border security and assisting the Afghan government in reconciliation.
Of all these priorities, the Canadian Forces have the lead in the first one—building the Afghan security capacity. We enabled the success of other government departments in all the other priorities, but the essential underlying requirement is security. A stable and secure Afghanistan strengthens international security and by extension our security.
I like to say that Canadian security begins 10,000 kilometres away, where ungoverned areas become fertile ground for training camps whose sole purpose is to export terror. Afghanistan should not be viewed in isolation but actually seen in the context of a region in conflict. That region starts at the Mediterranean and sweeps across through the Middle East and southwest Asia. That’s why our Navy was there and that’s why we led Regional Command South for the past nine months.
Last week I welcomed home Major-General Marc Lessard, who so ably led the multinational forces in southern Afghanistan. General Lessard, just like Dave Fraser did two years ago, exemplified what we do best abroad to meet our international commitments with honour, to provide leadership and to contribute to peace. Our military is serving there as part of a whole government mission that involves not only military personnel but ambassadors, other diplomats, aid workers and police.
The main effort in Afghanistan isn’t security. The main effort is governance, with an Afghan government that’s respected far and wide through fair election that will take place next year. Building credible institutions will provide structure to a society, and protect the rights of its citizens. Then there is scope for economic development and hope for the future.
But the key ingredient for all of this is security. What’s so difficult, however, is that Canadians are operating in one of the most violent regions of the country. Perceptions are often taken as reality and the cameras tend to focus on those acts of violence which colour perceptions far away. From all my operational tours I used to say, the farther you are from the sound of the guns, the less you understand what’s happening.
If you talk to Canadian soldiers over there, or who’ve been there, they’ll tell you how proud they are of what they’re doing and what they’re accomplishing. Your soldiers, your soldiers from private to general, describe tangible signs of progress. They tell you that progress is slow. It can’t be seen in days; maybe months, but really years. It’s mixed with a couple of steps forward and maybe a step back.
It’s difficult to train people to become police officers in the military, where the rate of illiteracy is very high and achieved progress takes a human and financial toll. For example, this past summer Canadians led the way to transport a massive hydro-electric turbine from Kandahar airfield to the Kajaki Dam in Helmand Province. The turbine dam was a very high-value massive assembly, and yet NATO forces succeeded in delivering the turbine. Once it’s operational, it’ll have the potential to provide electricity to 1.9 million Afghans, providing them with tangible signs of progress and hope for the future. But ladies and gentlemen, an engineer reconnaissance patrol, led by Sergeant Eades of Hamilton Ontario with Corporal Sapper Stock, got hit by an IED as they were clearing the road days ahead of the turbine’s move. They died.
Achieving progress has huge risks and takes a terrible toll. As much as we try, we can’t eliminate the risks of bringing hope to the people. Hope occurs through improvements in health and access to medical care, more children attending school and employment through road and bridge construction. In one case we’re sponsoring a road job with about 500 workers. One labourer was stopped by the Taliban on his way home after pay day. He was identified by the Taliban because he had crisp new bills in his pocket. He was shot in the leg and yet the next day showed up for work. He would not be deterred by these thugs. We guaranteed his job, and gave him time to recover.
Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency, is doing a lot more. Restoring the Dahla Dam is essential to producing alternate crops other than heroin-producing opium in Argandab Valley and improving the potential for agriculture and therefore creating more jobs. We are building and restoring schools in the region and also aiming at eradicating polio from Afghanistan by 2009.
It’s the soldiers who have seen the true situation there. Soldiers like Master Warrant Officer Dave Goldenberg. Master Warrant Officer, please stand up. Master Warrant Officer Dave Goldenberg is a Sergeant Major in the Queen’s York Rangers, right up here in Aurora. He is a dedicated soldier and has been for 17 years. He’s also a constable in Durham Regional City Police Service. He returned from Afghanistan last year. We worked all over Kandahar Province and an important part of his job was to talk to the locals and get to understand their issues firsthand. Since his return from the mission he’s been training those preparing to deploy.
Today we’re putting a lot more emphasis on building the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces. Today your young officers and young non-commissioned officers are mentoring five Afghan battalions at brigade headquarters in Kandahar and the Afghan soldiers are successfully leading and often conducting independent operations. That was not the case when Dave was there two years ago. In fact, two years ago we could not have a battalion of Afghan Army out there.
A year ago we had one battalion. This year we have five battalions of Afghan forces. And we also have police. We have a combination of Canadian military police and soldiers who are mentoring 200 Afghan police in the Kandahar region and supporting the RCMP in their efforts to professionalize the police. But this is dangerous work. Last week I met with Corporal Billy Kerr, a reservist from Sudbury. Billy was in the Ottawa Civic Hospital and he’s an amputee as a result of an IED strike where he caught the blast and probably saved the lives of the rest of his patrol.
Despite his terrible wounds, he was so spirited and so proud of the mentoring team, his police mentoring team. He kept asking whether they knew that he was okay. He was also proud of his Afghan police detachment. He knew that the police were often accused of corruption but he said that that didn’t apply to his guys. His guys were so honest that you could actually give them money to buy their food. They’d go off and buy a goat and come back with the change. Folks, that’s pride. That’s pride in the Afghans and what they’re able to do.
The financial toll of this mission is significant as we’ve allowed the Force to become hollow over the past few decades and a huge investment was required in short order to enhance the protection effectiveness of the equipment. Now our soldiers like Master Warrant Officer Goldenberg are confident in their equipment. He and all the veterans from his operational experience are witnessing the new normal—the new normal of complex, multinational operations in a dangerous, rapidly changing part of the world.
However, the Government of Canada has decided the military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011 while efforts for governance development and reconstruction may continue. So the Canadian Forces are planning on this exit strategy with our allies to ensure a seamless transition of our security responsibilities in the Kandahar area. But our focus remains on enabling the Afghans as much as we can in the next three years that remain. Three years is a long time in this business and the soldiers are focused on each one of the troop rotations that have yet to occur over the next few years.
When the Canadian Forces end their mission, I have no doubt that our services will be called upon in other troubled regions of the world. There are plenty of other countries and people who need and look forward to help as the Canadian government chooses. Since the Second World War, tens of thousands of our troops have served in what some call the Arc of Instability. It stretches from the Balkans in the Caucasus, goes through the Mediterranean, covers Africa, the Middle East, southwest Asia, southeast Asia and ends in the Pacific with Korea.
Ladies and gentlemen, our first casualty of peacekeeping operations after the Second World War, Brigadier Engel, died not too far from Afghanistan. Indeed, he died in Kashmir in Pakistan in 1951. We need to be ready for these future operations.
That’s where the Canada First Defence Strategy fits in. With this strategy we’re rebuilding the Canadian Forces. My priority task includes modernizing and growing the Force to prepare for the operations of tomorrow. We’ve made some progress, acquiring the C-17 and the Leopard 2 tanks which have already saved many lives in Afghanistan. We’ve signed contracts to purchase a C-130J transport aircraft. But it’s difficult after so many years of financial reduction in the boom-to-bust defence industry to ramp up the machinery for this huge rebuilding task in short order.
The Department of National Defence I know is working closely with other departments to advance the program but the area that concerns me the most is shipbuilding. While we have proved that we can purchase aircraft and vehicles, Canada’s policy is to build its warships at home. But we haven’t launched a major warship since the HMCS Ottawa came off the launch rails in the mid-’90s. Shipbuilding takes a long-term continuous commitment and our shortest time on record to design, build and launch a ship is eight years.
With the Canada First Defence Strategy we now have a 20-year defence plan to enable this consistent commitment. The plan indicates that we need in excess of 25 ships. We need to jumpstart the process. I need to replace those 40-year-old ships.
Although the daily economic news continues to announce company layoffs, the Canadian Forces are indeed hiring. We’re hiring. I need to grow this Force. The growth of the Canadian Forces is my greatest challenge right now. Your three service Chiefs, Andy Leslie commanding the Army, Drew Robertson commanding the Navy, and Angus Watte commanding the Air Force, have one challenge in common—a shortage of people.
I’m looking to recruit 8,000 regulars and 6,000 reservists each year. Our plans are to grow by a thousand a year to our planned ceiling of 70,000 regulars and 30,000 reservists. Retirements are coming in faster than we expected, so we didn’t reach our growth goal last year. I wanted to grow by a thousand. I grew by 650. While we’re receiving our targets of new recruits coming in the front door, many of our personnel are reaching their 20-, 25- and 30-year windows for retirement and they’re opting for other careers.
As well, since we did not recruit very many people during the ’90s when we were downsizing, we have that demographic bubble. I know many of your companies have a demographic bubble, and that is people with between 17 and 18 years of experience. But unlike many of you, I must grow my own leaders, my own technicians. I can’t hire them through want ads in the Globe and Mail, or headhunters. I’ve got to grow my own.
Industry is hiring my early retirees because of the well-educated leaders that they are, reflecting our outstanding instructors, schools and academies. The retirees have dedicated much of their life to service and know that they’ve received the leadership training that makes them exceptional Canadians. What I’ve said to them, however, is that if their new pursuits don’t work for them I’ll welcome them back with open arms, as long as they stay fit. If they’ve retired over the past five years, I’ll expedite their re-enlistment.
Each and every one of our personnel makes an individual decision to join the Canadian Forces. But when it comes to retirement, we expect, like most of you, it’s going to be a family decision. When I got home from Iraq it was a long year. It was a hard year. I was at my 30-year window. I came home to my wife and I said, “Sweetie, it’s time to hang up the spurs.” She looked at me and said, “Suck it up.”
And here I am today. Our men and women couldn’t do their job if it wasn’t for their families. That’s why one of my priorities and my leadership team’s priorities is to put a significant emphasis on addressing the dissatisfiers to family quality of life. Our families make incredible sacrifices. The many moves, time away from loved ones, the worrying and the strain. Problems with child care, housing, access to a family doctor, educational standards for military children who get transferred between provinces and the loss of spousal employment are the main reasons for military members to pack it in early and retire.
I’m dedicated to addressing these shortcomings in our family support and our Force retention effort. Through our combat experience in Afghanistan and despite our very best efforts to protect our personnel we’ve taken losses. Lives are lost and able soldiers are wounded and we grieve for every one of our 97 fallen soldiers and their families. We’ve lost some brave soldiers. Some of them close to your home like Sergeant Eades from Hamilton.
If you saw that amazing Coaches Corner on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday Night, Don Cherry displayed a picture of Sergeant Eades and his family on his show. Don Cherry is a huge hero of the Canadian Forces. I want to take this opportunity to thanks the folks here in Toronto, starting right at the top with the Premier of Ontario for his support in naming the Highway of Heroes.
I want to thank the OPP, Toronto Police, the Fire Services and the EMS workers and all the regional police and fire services between Trenton and downtown Toronto who go to great lengths to enable those convoys with our fallen comrades and family to make the journey to Toronto in a solid convoy. And to all those Canadians who line the Highway of Heroes along the 401 and stand on the overpasses to offer their salute. To the Toronto Airport Authority who assist in each case when we bring home a wounded soldier. To the Canada Company, with Blake Goldring, the founder and chairman, that has created a scholarship to support the children of military parents killed while serving in operations.
This past Friday I was at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa and the Canadian Legion announced at that time that Avril Stachnik would be our Silver Cross mother beginning her duties tomorrow. Her son Shane was killed in action in 2006. Ladies and gentlemen, our families have been the Canadian Forces’ greatest supporters. One mother told me earlier this year that she recalled her son’s wishes on his third tour of duty—and he really, really wanted to go. He knew what he was doing. He believed in the mission and he’d be fine. But if he didn’t come back he wished that she wouldn’t do anything or say anything that disrespected his choice to deploy.
We’ve changed many policies to make sure that we take care of the families of the fallen, that they’re treated with dignity and respect. And we do the same for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and women who are injured and wounded in operations. We’re far from perfect and we know that. But we’re better than we were and we continue to learn with each and every case, to make sure that we provide the very best care and attention that the country can provide.
I want to mention Corporal Kerr. We flew his girlfriend and family to the U.S. Army hospital in Germany to see him when he was in critical condition. As he emerged from his sedation he told his girlfriend that she was free to break up the relationship. He saw the writing on the wall and he said, “You know, forget it. Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about me.” She refused. She refused and said that she would stick by him.
That put a lot of pressure on him as he worried about the care and the welfare of his lady. But his tension eased immediately when our assisting officer explained that we would care for the family throughout the rehabilitation process.
We take care of the family and we’re going to do that for as long as they need our help. We’ll also ensure that our wounded soldiers will have options to remain in the Forces if they wish. And if not we’ll assist them with Veterans Affairs Canada, traditional education, and job placement in their transition to civilian life.
Thanks to many of you, especially the TD Bank, for its support in providing career options for wounded officers. We’re establishing joint personnel support services at our major bases and we’re staffing them with medical folks, psychological specialists, and personnel services including Veteran Affairs Canada to cater to the unique requirements of our wounded.
Corporal Mark Fuchko lost his legs in March of this year. Seven months after his ordeal he was already inspiring other veterans by participating in the five-kilometre run the Army runs in Ottawa. Mark is the face of Canada’s new veteran—a veteran of the 21st century. You can see in Mark Fuchko’s face the same sense of courage, of honour and of dedication to the country that all veterans at Remembrance Day ceremonies will carry in their hearts and their souls.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have one of the finest military forces in the world. We in uniform are committed, we’re professional and we’re determined. We’re coming out of a difficult period of underfunding and over-tasking but we have a plan and the resources to grow, to modernize and to enhance our ability to react to security challenges in the future. I would ask that you think of your Forces and the job they do for Canadians. Please show your support in ways big and small, like being here today, attending a Red Rally, putting a yellow ribbon sticker on your car, donating to the military families fund, sending letters, or just thanking a military member when you see them in a uniform.
We appreciate the job protection for our reservists. I cannot overstate how grateful we are to the sports teams, like the Raptors, the Leafs and the Argos for hosting our soldiers, sailors and airmen and their families. You are maintaining that essential connection to your military. I would encourage young people—folks who want to learn, to serve, to lead, to innovate; people who want a career with adventure; people who want to wear with pride Canada on their shoulder—to give us a look, to get fit and to join us to ensure that Canada is secure for the future.
I would just ask you, as you leave here today, to please remember those Canadians in harm’s way right now. They’re on the high seas on patrol, they’re flying at 40,000 feet over the Arctic, or they’re at the point of a spear on a foot patrol in Kandahar. In your own way and in your own traditions please remember them and please remember their families and the sacrifices they make for Canada.
Tomorrow on November 11 please take the time to remember those who took the same path well before us.
Thank you for your attention. I’m really proud to be your Chief of Defence Staff.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Doug Morris, President, Morris Glass/Humidity Solutions, and Director, The Empire Club of Canada.