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

March 9th, 2020 / 4:45 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

From my experience, I'll tell a story about diversity from where I grew up in JTF2. A diverse force in the military improves the possibility of successful mission outcomes. There's no question about that. It's not just gender diversity. There are many forms of diversity: operational diversity, educational diversity, linguistic diversity, cultural diversity, experiential diversity, and the list goes on. Gender diversity is one of those areas.

The day I joined, and having a lot of people like me, that got us something. What we get now is a much richer, more complete set of solutions, because when I look around, the teams are more diverse, and it comes from that.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Speaking of linguistic diversity, you mentioned there are also those who are coming to Saint-Jean and other places for French and English language training. Can you elaborate a bit on that?

4:45 p.m.

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

MGen Jocelyn Paul

We've been working on that program for many years. I visited the classroom for the first time a few months ago, and I was really impressed. I ended up presiding over the graduation ceremony. Here we have people coming from Southeast Asia, the Middle East. They show up in Canada almost incapable of speaking both official languages. As I was presiding over the graduation, we had two keynote speakers. Both of them were making amazing, outstanding remarks in both French and English. One of them was a lady from Southeast Asia. She couldn't speak French at all when she came. There's no connective tissue between the language she was raised with and French, but that young lady, within six or seven months, ended up almost mastering French. I was impressed by her. I reflected on my own challenges learning English as I was growing up. I was a little bit embarrassed to be honest with you.

This is a fantastic program, and the beauty of it, from a long-term perspective, is that you now have leaders in multiple armed forces around the world who went through Saint-Jean 10, 15, 20 or 25 years ago. This is a fantastic military diplomacy instrument. We are making friends around the world and it's a long-term investment.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you very much, Mr. Paul.

Mr. Boudrias, you have the floor.

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Boudrias Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

There's a lot of talk about fairly standard training in the mission. I don't have the list with me, but I remember having already consulted it with regard to transmissions or specializations by trade. However, in the current context, do we have what in the good old days was called operational co-operation and mentoring directly at the front line in support of the Iraqi army?

4:45 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

Thank you for your question.

The answer is no. Even our special forces aren't doing what we call in English

“accompany”. They train, advise and assist.

They don't accompany.

On the side of the traditional armed forces, we obviously do not carry out operations with the Iraqis. We train them on different bases. Then they join battle groups and carry out their own operations, but not with the Canadian Armed Forces. So the answer is no.

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Boudrias Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Thank you, General.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Mr. Bezan.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I have a quick question about military intelligence. We have operations in Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. We have eyes and ears on the ground. Are we collecting good intel on Hezbollah, Hamas and especially ISIS? I'm interested in our operations and the protection required for our forces in Jordan and Lebanon. What type of intel are we collecting and sharing with our allies?

4:50 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

That's a very broad question, and I wouldn't be able to do it complete justice.

At the tactical level, there is an enterprise that exists on the ground. It's called Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The nations that form that coalition share intelligence. Intelligence is created and shared at the tactical level. That's all governed by how we are allowed to share Canadian intelligence, information sharing agreements, etc., which we follow rigorously and to the letter. Intelligence is also shared within more bespoke groups, like the Five Eyes coalition.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Yes, I was just going to say the Five Eyes too.

4:50 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

Yes, and we have a special relationship and we share special intelligence, if you will, and that's extremely helpful. That's probably among the most valuable.

I am always concerned about the level of sharing, especially with our American counterparts. I have asked General McKenzie on a number of occasions to ensure that he is doing everything possible to ensure the American enterprise is sharing as much as they can with us, and not reverting to “no foreign” as a reflex. I think that's constant pressure and I'm happy with where central command is at. I think we could always be better and that's why we're putting pressure on.

Intelligence is lifeblood to military operations. Especially in periods like now, when situations may be a little more uncertain than usual, intelligence has to be as good as it can be. It's lifeblood for us as we try to figure out what's happening and how we're going to readapt. I'm very pleased with where we're at, so the sharing is good.

The last point is that for the first time we are distributing some key intelligence functions back to Canada. There are certain things we're doing that we used to put people forward and do that function forward. Now by dint of advanced technologies and smarter ways of doing business, some things we're doing back in my headquarters building in Ottawa directly support the mission forward.

That's an interesting thing to think about—how we can save some of the workforce from having to deploy by leveraging better technology at home and distributing the job.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Is CSE still playing a part in that intelligence gathering and sharing it with National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces?

4:50 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

Yes, exactly. It's a whole-of-government effort ultimately and goes right to the intelligence assessment organization within the Privy Council Office. It's absolutely more than just a military thing.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

That's fantastic.

It's interesting when we look at the destabilizing effects going on right now between Turkey and Syria and the Russian influence, and we have Hezbollah, of course, operating throughout the region. It's critical that we have those agreements and the robust sharing of intelligence with the Five Eyes partners, and the Two Eyes.

That's good. Thank you.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you.

Mr. Spengemann.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I want to take a moment to reposition some of the conversation we had about Iran-Iraq relations. These are two countries that historically, culturally, religiously and economically are highly interdependent, with periods of conflict. One of the holiest sites in Shia Islam is in Najaf, Iraq. There are significant pilgrimages from Iran to Iraq. There are high-ranking officials in the current Iraqi government who have spent substantial periods of time in Iran. There are, of course, concerns about Shia militia, and I am very grateful, Lieutenant-General Rouleau, for your comments.

Shia militia have been a live issue since at least 1991, the Shia uprising in the south. If you're telling us that you're concerned about large-scale Shia militia I think this committee should take very careful note of that, potentially even greater note than the current state of Daesh. I think the more successful periods of Iraqi stable politics since 2003 have been periods where the Iraqi Shia militia have been able to stand down through calibrated negotiations at various tracts. The risk now is whether they will stand up again. Is there dissatisfaction? Are there reasons for them to become more active, and if so, what does that mean for Canada, for NATO?

We're currently in a stalemate in Baghdad, with Mohammed Allawi having stood down a week ago, saying he's not going to be their guy.

Are there mechanisms to go to the regional level, to the governor level, to the provinces of Iraq to build relationships on security and governance and human development? If things aren't moving in Baghdad, do we have other channels to reach out to other parts and micromanage—if that's the right term—relationships with commanders of Shia militia, or other channels that could be constructive or do us harm? Is there a strategy or capacity for that?

4:55 p.m.

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

Sandra McCardell

I'll start and then my colleagues can continue on the military aspects.

We do have relationships at the regional level in Iraq. Much of our programming since 2016 has taken place outside the capital city. We have worked with governance, particularly on decentralization of power and trying to share the example of our federalist structure with regions in Iraq and seeing if that might be a mechanism to try to bridge the sectarian divides with which we are so familiar. We do have those networks.

We have mechanisms to improve the quality of life of Iraqis. We have our development funds and we are providing humanitarian assistance.

I think you'll likely agree that's no substitute for a functioning state-level government or a prime minister who is empowered to take decisions on the fate of his country. On that, regrettably, we remain unable to persuade the Iraqis to come together behind a single leader, as others are.

4:55 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

On the ground the Canadian Armed Forces, in Operation Impact, don't have responsibility for a geographical area or a functional area. We're not in charge of fires for the whole coalition. We don't have to look after Anbar province. It's not structured that way, so we're working on a number of different bases in a number of different areas.

I would say the answer to your question is no. We don't engage with regional governors because we're more or less within the coalition construct. The Combined Joint Task Force-OIR has, on behalf of all of us coalition members, a responsibility to have relationships below the federal level. That I can assure you, but it doesn't fall to the Canadian Armed Forces per se.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Is there anything else you want to say about the Iraqi militias and the level of your concern? Is there anything this committee could pick up on or potentially assist with?

4:55 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, Department of National Defence

LGen Mike Rouleau

No, sir. You're obviously very au fait in what's happening there. There's nothing that jumps to mind beyond what I said about being very concerned about that particular group.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Okay. Thank you.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

All right.

Go ahead, Mr. Baker.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you, Chair.

You've talked about a number of threats to peace and security in the area. What would you say is the biggest threat to peace and security in the region?

4:55 p.m.

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

Sandra McCardell

The biggest threat for peace and security in the Middle East.... This will give me the opportunity to just inform you that, as we mentioned earlier, the Middle East strategy through which we have been working will come to a conclusion at the end of fiscal year 2020-21. In fact, we are doing reflection now on what we think is at the core of what would bring stability to the Middle East.

It will escape no one's notice that it remains an area that has been unstable for a long time, unable to provide services to its people, which has brought us and our Canadian Armed Forces partners back repeatedly to the region.

There are some things we cannot change. The geography of the Middle East we cannot change. The battle for influence amongst regional powers we cannot change. What we can work on, I think, is strengthening the countries within the region. That's what our partnership under the Middle East strategy has been about.

Global Affairs, for our part, is focused on programming, either to strengthen the governance of the countries involved or to work on, specifically, stabilization programs to give them the capacity to provide security to the limits of their borders—in some cases very much so, with the road in Jordan that the general mentioned. We're also trying to make sure there are the tools to govern properly.

As far as what Canada can do from the outside is concerned, we really need to focus on building the capacity of these states to govern effectively, including all of their diverse populations and in a way in which they can manage relationships with their neighbours.

In summary, although there are many who could write their Ph.D. dissertations on it, allow me to say that there is a range of reasons, but what's important is that Canada find its place where it can contribute to peace, long term.