As a Maritimer, with both grandfathers Canadian veterans, there are few greater sources of pride than Canada’s military tradition. We are very fortunate to have a professional, effective and reliable military and, in my view, there are four key priority areas for a 21st century military: Overseas engagements, domestic security and sovereignty enforcement, disaster relief and overall readiness.
Beginning with the first, Canada has now moved into a post-Afghanistan environment. As evidenced by recent crises in Libya and the ongoing civil war in Syria, it appears there is little appetite for overseas military intervention involving ground troops amongst Canada’s allies, particularly the United States. However, the deployment of the navy and air power, either as a patrol presence or engaging in limited direct action, continues to be a possible option. With respect to air power, Canada is clearly dithering on the procurement of more advanced planes. With the emphasis growing on air power, Canada will need many more advanced options in keeping with its allies if it hopes to continue participating in NATO and/or UN sanctioned missions.
The current development of new patrol vessels, such as those bound for the Arctic, was a long time coming and will become increasingly important in the near future. With the opening of the Arctic as an important area of natural resource development and possibly new channels of international commerce Canada needs to bolster its presence in its vast and largely uninhabited north. An increase in the number of arctic patrol vessels as well as northern combat training facilities will be essential to ensuring Canada retains control over its own territory.
Thanks to the threat of global warming, Canadians will be facing more frequent and severe forms of extreme weather, potentially leading to an increase in natural disasters on Canadian soil. As we have seen in the past, the Canadian Forces are often the final line of defense for governments requiring immediate emergency assistance and relief. No other institution has the capacity and the resources to respond so quickly and professionally to alleviate catastrophes and bring control to chaos.
The most crucial role of any national military is to maintain a constant state of readiness, preparedness and vigilance. It is their response to the unexpected and unpredictable that is the hallmark of the Canadian military. The government’s responsibility is to provide the best infrastructure, training and support available.
I look forward to commemorating Remembrance Day in London as I have done so often in Canada.