Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the standing committee. It's great to be here again.
Before I begin, I think all of us are reflecting on Remembrance Week, and how everything that we have the privilege of doing as parliamentarians, and especially as part of this committee, is a direct result of the tremendous sacrifice by all our veterans from the past. Everybody here, in their own way, is going to be reflecting on that on Remembrance Day.
I am very pleased to be here today to present the supplementary estimates (A) for the Department of National Defence. Today I am joined by our deputy minister, Jody Thomas; Shelly Bruce, chief of the Communications Security Establishment; Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, our vice chief of the defence staff, and many senior members of our defence team.
Mr. Chair, under these supplementary estimates (A), we are requesting approximately $393.5 million. Of this amount, approximately $282 million relates to capital investments, which will help drive our defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”. It will help to move it forward. The money we are seeking today will help to continue delivering on our primary commitment to our people, and to all of the activities that support that goal.
“Strong, Secure, Engaged” provides a road map for all of our defence activities over the next two decades. Covering everything from procurement to innovation, from force development to operations, it encompasses our plan for the defence of Canada in the 20 years to come.
No matter how broad this policy is, every activity we commit to undertake comes back to our single most important objective, and that is to take care of our people. I have said it before, and I will say it again: There is nothing more important than the care and the well-being of our Canadian Armed Forces personnel and their families. When our people are well supported, our country and our values are well defended. That, in turn, allows us to remain capable and reliable partners to our allies.
Before I outline the details of our requested funds, I would like first to highlight some of our accomplishments over the last year. This will demonstrate how the funding we are requesting builds on the great work that has already been done by our team.
With respect to taking care of our people, we wasted no time in launching and delivering on as many initiatives as possible. One of our top priorities was to create a work environment free of stigma, harassment and discrimination, an environment where all Canadian Armed Forces members feel comfortable at work, regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender. I am pleased to report that we have made progress on this very important goal.
Following our Prime Minister's apology to the LGBTQ2 community, in order to right this historic wrong, we began implementing the LGBT Purge class action final settlement agreement.
In the last year, we also expanded the sexual misconduct response centre's service to offer 24-7 coverage from anywhere in the world.
We are drawing lessons from Operation Honour and applying them in support of our civilian defence team members. We are exploring options for extending the sexual misconduct response centre's services to them as well.
We have also worked tirelessly to expand services for the care of our military families. We have provided an additional $6 million per year for our military family resource centres, and we have also implemented virtual counselling services for families. We launched the Seamless Canada initiative to make it easier on families when they have to relocate from one province to another.
We know that the Canadian Armed Forces members are at their best when they are given the tools and resources they need to succeed on operations at home and abroad. For that reason, we have also made it a priority to give them the modern infrastructure and equipment they need to do that.
We've made significant, long-term investments in the capabilities that our military needs to carry out current and future operations. For instance, this past August, I had the opportunity to visit Canada's Arctic. There, we delivered new ranger rifles in Yellowknife and announced infrastructure upgrades to our facilities in Nanisivik and in Alert. We have begun delivering new standard military pattern trucks at various bases across the country.
Mr. Chair, caring for our people and giving them the tools to do their jobs well is essential for our success. It is fundamental to our goal of advancing Canada's position as a leader in promoting global stability and security. On this front, we have made significant progress in the past year.
Last November in Vancouver, we hosted the United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial. There, in partnership with the Roméo Dallaire child soldiers initiative, we developed the Vancouver principles on peacekeeping and the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Today, I am proud to say that 68 United Nations member states have endorsed these principles.
Mr. Chair, where the previous government stepped back, we are stepping forward to show true international leadership.
We are also working with Global Affairs Canada to support the Elsie initiative for women in peace operations. This forms the basis of our efforts to increase women's participation in peacekeeping around the world and to bolster gender equality and inclusion.
In March, we announced that we would deploy an air task force to MINUSMA, the United Nations mission in Mali. That task force is now fully operational. Since June, it has provided critical support to the United Nations, including medical evacuations. During more than 1,000 flight hours, it has transported 1,900 passengers and approximately 200,000 pounds of cargo. I am proud to say that 14% of our troops on this mission are women. This is above the UN average.
Our efforts internationally extend well beyond our peacekeeping mission. We continue to work closely with our NATO allies in Europe. Our support for Ukraine is unwavering, and we have been training Ukrainian security forces and building their capacity and capability.
In Latvia, we recently extended our commitment to NATO's enhanced forward presence battle group at Camp Adazi by more than four years. That's the wider Operation Reassurance mission.
In Romania, we continue to stand side by side with our NATO allies to deter aggression and ensure peace and stability in the region. We currently have Canadian Armed Forces personnel deployed in Romania as part of NATO's enhanced air policing mission.
As well, a Royal Canadian Navy frigate continues to be deployed with NATO's maritime forces. Currently, HMCS Ville de Québec is supporting NATO assurance and deterrence measures in the region. It includes the first operational deployment of the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter.
I would also be remiss if I did not mention Canada's participation in Trident Juncture 2018, the largest NATO joint training exercise since the Cold War. Approximately 2,000 Canadian Armed Forces personnel participated in this exercise in northern Europe, which concluded yesterday. This large-scale NATO exercise was an important measure to ensure that our NATO forces are trained and ready to respond to threats against the alliance.
Now that I have summarized some of our most significant achievements in the areas of people and operations, I would like to move toward the requests we are making for supplementary funding today.
Everything we are requesting now will continue to drive “Strong, Secure, Engaged” forward and continue to deliver on its commitments.
Turning back to our greatest priority, I will begin with a request we are making to deliver even more world-class services and activities to care for our people.
We're requesting $17 million that will go directly to the well-being of our Canadian Armed Forces members. These funds will cover our members' Blue Cross health benefits.
We're also requesting $22 million for individual compensation, initial scheduled payments, administration and legal costs related to the LGBT Purge class action final settlement agreement.
With respect to capabilities and innovation, we are seeking $38.4 million for additional infrastructure upgrades to our bases and wings across the country. This would help us complete 23 ongoing construction and repair projects.
As previously mentioned, we are also requesting $282.2 million for capital investments. Among other things, the funds would go toward equipment such as vehicles, lab equipment and software. They would also go toward IT infrastructure modernization efforts and cyber and data security enhancements, which would improve DND's cybersecurity posture.
We are requesting $2.5 million in additional funding for innovation for defence excellence and security—IDEaS, for short—our program to transform defence innovation. IDEaS will drive forward research and innovation projects across 16 defence challenges, such as better understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder and cyber attribution.
I would now like to highlight the requests that would allow us to deliver on our commitment to international leadership.
As part of our contribution to transatlantic security and NATO, we are requesting $24.2 million for the NATO military budget. While the previous government withdrew Canada from NATO's AWACS program and diminished our reputation at NATO, our government knows that the world benefits when Canada steps up and does its part. That is why I was pleased to announce that our government would re-engage in the AWACS program.
I am also proud of our new NATO training mission in Iraq—an important signal that Canada can be relied upon to do its part when needed.
We will also transfer $53.8 million dollars to the Global Affairs Canada counterterrorism capacity-building program to support the government's Middle East strategy.
Mr. Chair, before I conclude, as part of the supplementary estimates, I would like to highlight a transfer we are making that relates to our government's broader efforts toward reconciliation with Canada's indigenous peoples.
Building on the progress we made last year with respect to Kapyong Barracks, we will transfer over $48,000 to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to help cover the salary cost of implementing the Camp Ipperwash final settlement agreement and now ultimately return the land to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation.
Mr. Chair, we are committed to ensuring that the money we manage has a positive impact on our most important asset—our Canadian Armed Forces members and the families who have served alongside them.
I am proud of what we have already delivered, and we will continue to build on these priorities through smart investments.
On this note, Mr. Chair, I open it up to questions.