Evidence of meeting #26 for National Defence in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was forces.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Joel Sokolsky  Principal, Royal Military College of Canada
  • Michael Hennessy  Professor, Department of History, and Dean of Continuing Studies, Royal Military College of Canada
  • Douglas Bland  Chair, Defence Management Studies Program, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University
  • David Skillicorn  Professor, School of Computing, Queen's University
  • Glenn Nordick  As an Individual

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you. We're going to have to cut it off there; we're way over time.

I'm going to go to a five-minute round, and I'll ask that all responses be kept fairly short so that the members who ask questions can get a response and have time for supplementals.

Mr. Norlock, you can kick us off.

February 14th, 2012 / 3 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses for appearing this afternoon, some for a second time today.

I want to talk about Canada's foreign policy and how the military is an instrument of, shall we say, enforcing our foreign policy. I wrote down two quick areas. One is aid to those who do not have the ability to address a significant disaster—I'm dealing primarily with foreign policy, so smaller countries that don't have the ability. Another is the fight on terrorism, so support for those countries, democracies, or entities, sometimes within countries—and I'm thinking of Libya here—who advocate for democracy and human rights, and also support for our allies, whether it's NATO, NORAD, or the UN sanctions.

Mr. Hennessy, when you dealt with this subject, you said external appointments—I think you were referring to a very small, effective ability. Mr. Sokolsky said it should be consistent with those nations whose interests and values we share.

Having said that, how do you view a Canadian armed forces being able to support that foreign policy vis-à-vis the properly trained people--and specifically, the equipment to do it?

I'm referring to C-17s, the difference between Haiti and Sri Lanka, waiting to rent a commercial airline, and all that; and our ability to be a nation that can be counted on, with the right kind of equipment, to be an instrument of enforcing the standards of democracy and the protection of human rights and human life. How can we do that within a discretionary budget that is somewhat limited in scope and is complementary to our allies?

We can start with Mr. Sokolsky, and then perhaps everybody can have a shot at that, especially Mr. Bland.

3 p.m.

Principal, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Joel Sokolsky

We can do that by recognizing that we will not be able to respond to every situation abroad, but when we do decide to respond, what we send can be effective and make a contribution. We can recognize that while we do want countries to count on Canada, it's ultimately up to the Canadian government to make a decision as to where and when.

We have a moral obligation to protect those who can't protect themselves. I believe we also have a moral obligation to the men and women of the armed forces to make sure we send them into situations in which their lives will not be unnecessarily at risk because of a failure to properly plan or to send the right equipment.

3 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you.

3:05 p.m.

Professor, Department of History, and Dean of Continuing Studies, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Michael Hennessy

Part of the recognition of the real strengthening of core central strategic assets that has happened in the 15 years is important.

When Canada signed on to the R2P protocols--the responsibility to protect--some argued that there is a codicil to that: the ability to project. You need the ability to move if you're going to have influence to move resources. The strategic centre was perhaps undeveloped at the time, so we didn't have the necessary forms of heavy lift; we didn't have good secure strategic communications; we didn't necessarily have the intelligence architecture and the national command and control architecture we have now.

Those are really valuable improvements, largely invisible to big swathes of the armed forces, but I think they are enduring characteristics and something to think about, and how the centre thinks. You have an army, an air force, and a navy. There are national requirements larger than those three.

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you.

3:05 p.m.

Chair, Defence Management Studies Program, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University

Dr. Douglas Bland

First, I would say that I'm not convinced that the difficulties of people in other parts of the world imposes a moral obligation on Canada to do anything.

I remember years ago listening to Lloyd Axworthy, when he was foreign minister, speaking about what became responsibility to protect and so on. He said, quite bluntly, that his foreign policy was formed by his Christian values; in other words, we would go around the world helping our brothers. “I am my brother's keeper”, he said, in several speeches.

Canada has an obligation to assist in missions that have some direct relationship to our own interests, and I'm not ashamed to put it that way. Especially in the last few years, I have become more and more convinced that Canada is not an Atlantic nation, as we used to think of ourselves. We're not a peacekeeping nation, whatever that meant anyway. What we are is a western hemispheric nation, and by concentrating our efforts in the western hemisphere—in the Caribbean, and so on—there are all kinds of connections to our national interests, whether it's trade or immigrants or health and welfare and drug-related issues, and crime and so on.

The scattering of the 60,000 people in the Canadian Forces sounds like a lot of people, but at any good football game in Toronto there will be more people in the stands—if there are ever any good football games in Toronto...speaking as a kid from Winnipeg. You'll get more people in the stands at a football game than are in the Canadian armed forces.

One of the difficulties with these overseas missions to help the downtrodden is that they don't end, and you get stuck there, so it's only 15 people or 20 people or 100 people or 300 people. It's a difficulty.

One Liberal government several years ago had a great idea: the policy for deployments was going to be first in, first out. So Canada would roar in, put out the fires, get everything set up, and then leave. You'd have the third world countries, for instance, come in and do the rest of the work. Well, it's not possible. When you get in, you're in and it's very hard to get out. We've spent many years—20 years in Cypress—trying to get out of a place where there wasn't any problem.

These are the practical considerations to make concerning your readiness and equipment when you have a very limited armed forces—a very small, specialized armed forces.

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Your time has expired.

Professor Skillicorn, do you have a really brief comment?

3:05 p.m.

Professor, School of Computing, Queen's University

Dr. David Skillicorn

I'll make one quickly.

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

We can do it like in question period, 30 seconds.

3:10 p.m.

Professor, School of Computing, Queen's University

Dr. David Skillicorn

The news has broken today that Nortel was infiltrated thoroughly ten years ago and Chinese companies had access to everything that happened inside that company over a decade. That's an interesting object lesson. Before Canadian forces can be deployed anywhere, we have to know that there really are some Canadian forces. So defence has to become a very active thing, simply to stay where we are.

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

I'll move on.

Ms. Moore, you have the floor.

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

My comments will be addressed to Mr. Sokolsky.

At the end of your statement, you talked about the importance of professional military education in maintaining operational readiness. I am wondering about recruitment. We agree that education is in a way the next step after recruitment into the Canadian Forces. But in a context of budget cuts, there is a tendency to apply these to recruitment services. For instance, in the recruitment centre in my riding, which is in a remote area, there were at the outset six positions, but three of these have been cut. The recruitment centre has become a satellite office of the Montreal centre, whereas it was independent prior to that. Currently, only one position is being filled, under the pretext that it is not a priority to fill the other two.

I'd like to know your opinion on this matter. In order to maintain operational readiness, should we not bolster the capacities of recruitment centres and their expertise, or should we continue to apply cuts there?

3:10 p.m.

Principal, Royal Military College of Canada

Dr. Joel Sokolsky

As may well happen, the intake of the armed forces is going to go down. That's going to put less emphasis on the need for recruitment. Also, the staffing of recruitment centres in an era in which there are going to be personnel cuts is something that's going to.... You're going to see that, since the expertise of those who are there may well be needed elsewhere. I wouldn't be surprised if in fact across the country the recruitment centres are going to see consolidation.

The downside of this is that the link between the armed forces and the communities may well decline. But I do think that recruitment, particularly in an era in which the strategic input may go down, would be one area where the government may well choose to economize.

We've gone through a period in which recruitment was up. But it's not just recruiting. Once people are recruited, they need to be trained. One wants to use the best people for training, and the best people for the last several years have been tied up in operations.

3:10 p.m.

Chair, Defence Management Studies Program, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University

Dr. Douglas Bland

Mr. Chair, if I could just make a brief comment, there's a demographic problem here. It's nice rhetoric in a big meeting, but when people talk to me about recruiting and the armed forces, and so on, I ask the question, who fights for Canada? Young white men, that's who fights for Canada. The armed forces is composed mainly of young men. The disproportionate number of people in the armed forces are young white men. More than that, they're young white men from small villages--lots from the Maritimes, some from the prairies, and some from Ontario and Quebec. But 50% of the Canadian population are women. The armed forces is made up of 15% women. The aboriginal community in Canada is, according to the last census, 4%, 5%, or 6% of the population. They're less than 1% of the armed forces.

The changing nature of the Canadian demographic is going to be a problem in the future if this carries on. When you ask people the reason for this odd distribution, you get remarks such as it's racist or we're not accepting, and so on. I don't think so. I think it's a pretty damn hard life. A lot of people would like to do other things.