Evidence of meeting #2 for National Defence in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was daesh.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jocelyn Paul  Director General, International Security Policy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy, Department of National Defence
Mike Rouleau  Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence
Sandra McCardell  Director General, Middle East, Middle East Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development

4:10 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

Thank you for your question. It's an excellent question.

I've been doing this going on 33 years and I've never once asked a group of soldiers if they're lacking anything and had them mute and not say anything. As the operational commander, my job is to ensure I'm giving viable options to the chief of the defence staff as we're planning—things that we can actually do. Then he brings those to government and ultimately selections are made. There is no single, big thing that we're missing that makes us unable to complete the task we're given. I can assure you of that, sir. Where there are gaps, we have processes to identify those gaps and to try to remediate them, but there are no big ticket items that I could tell you about today where I'm disabled from completing my task because we're missing those.

When we work with a coalition, though, part of the magic is to know when the coalition can help out and where others can offset some of our weaknesses, as we can sometimes offset others' weaknesses. That's the beauty of the coalition. We're pretty adept at finding those points and making sure it's complementary while allowing us to complete our job nationally as we should.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Terry Dowdall Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Is there nothing that would make it easier, though? You're saying you have enough to get by, but I'm wondering if there's anything we could do as an organization.

4:15 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

That would all be expressed, for example, in the supplementary estimates that come forward and whatnot, so your full support in the supplementary estimates would be....

4:15 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:15 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

No, there's nothing, sir, that I could say today that we would need.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Terry Dowdall Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

As a follow-up to an earlier question that we had here about the traumatic brain injury and what happened over there, I was really glad to hear in your comments that we had none on the night of January 8, which is good news. I'm wondering in general about the military. I come from Simcoe—Grey. We have the largest training base at Base Borden. Some of the injuries you have are sometimes definitely visible injuries, but a lot are emotional or psychological. In your analysis of the individuals from any of the events there, are they analyzed by our own doctors or do they go outside? Are they outsourced?

I just want to make sure we have the supports for the men and women not only today but when they're back from their missions. I wonder if you could speak to that.

4:15 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

As someone who has suffered from physical and non-physical injuries over my 33 years, I can tell you that where we're at today in the Canadian Armed Forces is manifestly different from when I joined in 1984, or where we were when I did three tours to the Balkans in the mid-nineties. We're in a different space. It's not a bumper sticker. I'm legitimately saying from the heart that I feel like a lot of the stigma that existed in the eighties and nineties around things like the invisible injuries has dissipated.

I pay a lot of attention to the medical side of things and how we care for our people, not only during the mission but post-mission, when we do a week of reintegration before they come back to Canada and where we have mental health experts, medical staff and padres. We allow the people to vent and reacclimatize before they see their families back home. The work the surgeon general and his team have done, the leadership the chief has given in this space are such that I'm very confident with where we're at in looking after our people from a medical perspective, absolutely.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Very good.

Mr. Baker.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you all for being here.

I'll echo what some of my colleagues have said on both sides in thanking you for your service and for the difference you're making, not just to our security but to global security and prosperity.

I represent a community called Etobicoke Centre. It's a suburban riding in the city of Toronto. When I talk to my constituents about the Middle East and the Canadians who are serving there, they are curious about some of the issues that you've been asked about and spoken to around global security and the progress being made at a macro level, but they're also curious about the specific role that Canadians are playing and how they're making a difference. I know you touched on that a little in your earlier remarks, but I'm wondering. If we had some of my constituents from Etobicoke Centre here today listening to you and they asked you a question about the biggest difference Canadians were making on the ground, what would you tell them?

4:15 p.m.

Director General, Middle East, Middle East Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development

Sandra McCardell

There's a lot we can say. Let me start with a broader framework and then we'll take it back to some of the security issues.

I think it's clear. The general mentioned earlier on that we've had a commitment of $3.5 billion from 2016 through to 2021. It's a very significant commitment, and I think it demonstrates what you'll likely hear in your respective ridings from your constituents about how the Middle East is affecting them directly, whether that is because they have family there or because of other things.

We've been working across a number of pillars, security being one but also humanitarian, development—as I was alluding to earlier—and improving governance. There are a couple of things that I think would resonate with your constituents back home. Since 2018, we've reached an average of 780,000 people every single month with food assistance. That's 780,000 people every month who are not hungry. In co-operation with the UN, we have provided 297,000 women and girls with gender-based violence services. That's almost 300,000 women and girls who have been traumatized who now have access to help to address both their physical and, as you were saying, non-physical injuries. We've provided 450,000 people in Iraq with safe water infrastructure. You can now take a drink out of the tap and not get yourself sick.

I'm sure that the generals would be proud to mention as well that, in co-operation with the global coalition, we've cleared explosives from 12.7 million square metres of land. Now people can farm. They can walk safely. Kids can go to school without being afraid. As well, with regard to police officers, 7,400 Iraqi police officers have been trained on community policing and other law enforcement: basically getting in touch with their communities, understanding what's happening and making people feel safe.

As a final note, I'd just say that there is now in Iraq an anti-domestic violence law, which didn't used to be there. That's also due to Canadian efforts.

4:20 p.m.

Director General, International Security Policy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy, Department of National Defence

MGen Jocelyn Paul

I'll maybe just give you some additional background in terms of the difference that we make out there. I wanted to bring that up when Mrs. Gallant asked a question earlier.

What we are doing right now in Jordan is something that we're not talking enough about. Canada has been heavily involved—the CAF, DND, Global Affairs Canada—in helping the Jordanians secure their border with Syria. We just completed a project that was aimed at rehabilitating the road that basically separates Syria from Jordan. Let me assure you that our Jordanian colleagues are extremely grateful.

The issue along the border is multi-faceted. It's not only about Daesh. It's also about some Shia militia groups and so on and so forth. We are truly helping Jordan as an ally, as a nation, with securing its home border. This is a great example of what a few million dollars can do in helping secure a key ally in the region. Jordan is at the pivot of what's going on in that space.

4:20 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

Sir, from my perspective on the ground, whether it's our two C-130Js that are flying or the troops themselves—the training teams in Jordan, Lebanon, Q-West—we have really good troops. They're good people, and they're great fighters and operators when they have to be, as well. However, the good people part is the part that makes it special. They're ferocious defenders of our flag and all that, but they're people who get the context, so I'd say that they give 110%.

Sunday was the fifth anniversary of the loss of our own Sergeant Drew Doiron, who was killed in action. He was from Madam Gallant's riding. We've paid for the work that we're doing there in national treasure. We've done it with great honour, I think.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you very much.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you.

Mr. Boudrias.

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Boudrias Bloc Terrebonne, QC

When we talk about a war context, we are talking about refugees, a large number of displaced persons and displacements.

Considering that we have troops in Syria and Lebanon, I would like to know whether, following the fall of Daesh, this situation is under control or resolved as far as refugees are concerned.

4:20 p.m.

Director General, Middle East, Middle East Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development

Sandra McCardell

Thank you for your question.

As far as refugees are concerned, Syria unfortunately continues to produce refugees on a daily basis. On our screens and in the newspapers, we are seeing the harmful effect of what is currently happening in Idlib. The flow of refugees continues, with all the trauma and regret it may cause.

That said, we continue to support refugees. We are major donors. Through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNHCR, we are providing significant amounts of money to Jordan and Lebanon to support countries that are hosting displaced persons.

I also want to tell you that it isn't only the refugees themselves who receive support from Canada, but also the communities that welcome them. If we didn't help the poor people in Lebanon, very significant tensions could arise between the refugees and the host communities. At present, our support includes humanitarian aid, medical care, basic education and food in the communities where refugees from Syria have settled. I can assure you that this support continues.

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Boudrias Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Thank you.

With regard to Kurdistan, I would like to know whether the Iraqi portion is relatively under control and protected. I'm talking about the forces that helped us liberate Mosul, in particular.

4:25 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

Thank you for your question.

We are there under the policy of one Iraq. The Kurdish security forces, or KSF, are part of the Iraqi security forces. It is a force, as far as we are concerned.

Yes, northern Iraq is safe, as long as it is largely controlled. There are no areas there that are beyond the control of the government. There are enclaves occupied by Daesh, but the job of the special forces is to recognize and target them. That's good in the north. I've been there recently. It's going to take a long time, but there's a feeling, even in the city of Mosul, that life is returning to normal.

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Boudrias Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Thank you.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Mr. Garrison.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

I'll pass, Madam Chair.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

You'll pass, all right.

Mr. Bezan.

March 9th, 2020 / 4:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I want to thank our witnesses for being here, and a big shout-out to our Canadian Armed Forces and the great work they're doing. I'm sure Michel referenced that we got to visit our troops in Kuwait before Christmas, and it was good seeing the operations on the ground and how they're providing the supportive role to everything going on in both Operation Inherent Resolve and the NATO mission in Iraq.

I'm interested in the bigger dynamic with the Iranian influence. We have Shia militia being supported by Iran, and I know we're probably crossing paths with them on a daily basis. How has that changed operations and the training that we were doing before things went off the rails when the terrorist Soleimani was killed? How does that impact our training of Iraqi security forces?

4:25 p.m.

Director General, International Security Policy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy, Department of National Defence

MGen Jocelyn Paul

Like many other countries in the region, Iraq is a little complex. As you know there's a majority of Shia in the country, and obviously one of the key positions, the one of prime minister, is always occupied by a Shia leader.

I would like to offer to you that not every Iraqi Shia, obviously, is under Iranian influence. Even within the population not everybody divides themselves along sectarian lines. I would like to point out that during many of these demonstrations we ended up having before Christmas, you had people from every faith in the street in Iraq: Shia, Sunni, Kurds and so on. I'm not saying that because I want to minimize the Iranian influence, but when it comes down to Iranian influence obviously it's going to be a decision that Iraqis themselves are going to have to make.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

With the Shia militias and the Iranian influence, a lot of the Shia militias are being trained by Quds Force and, of course, Canada recognizes Quds Force as a terrorist organization. How do we handle that interaction?