Madam Chair, as all members know, one of the roles that these estimates allow the Canadian Forces to play is to contribute to international peace and security and project Canadian leadership abroad. As the Prime Minister said, words alone will not suffice to make this possible.
As a government, with these two ministers at the forefront, we have been engaged in rebuilding Canada's armed forces to be a modern, state-of-the-art fighting force to protect Canada's role of influence in the world and to allow us to do our part when the international community decides to act and military capacity is required. Today's investments are tomorrow's capabilities.
On a day like today, May 9, the anniversary of victory in Europe, we would do well to reflect that the last three years have brought us to an operational tempo that had last been achieved by this country only in the 1950s. In addition to the G20, the Olympics and domestic missions, about which we will hear more in tonight's proceedings, we had missions in Haiti and Libya and for over a decade we had the mission in Afghanistan, which both ministers have rightly emphasized as central to the renewal of the capacity of our Canadian Forces.
A terrible earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, and 2,000 members of the Canadian Forces were deployed as an emergency task force to operate airfields, to provide help and assistance to those in need and to provide a backbone for a much larger international assistance mission.
All of these capabilities would not have been there without the investments we are talking about today, without the investments for the long term that are represented by today's estimates, particularly the procurement elements.
Let us look back over a mission with which I am most familiar among all the missions the Canadian Forces has undertaken, and that is the mission in Afghanistan. Let us look back at the leadership role Canada has played for over a decade at every stage of that mission.
Canada protected the Kandahar airfield as early as 2002, in the very first stages of the campaign. Operation Anaconda cleared the last serious, organized forces loyal to the Taliban out of the country. Canada promoted a NATO command of ISAF in the summer of 2003 when it was not yet a mission of the North Atlantic alliance. Our Canadian Forces took over command of that mission in 2004. Canada championed the expansion of ISAF to all parts of the country to ensure that the UN mandate, that multinational mission now including over 40 countries, ultimately covered all of Afghanistan. Our Canadian Forces took on disarmament and heavy weapons confinement. We also took over a PRT in Kandahar in 2005. Our forces faced, almost alone at first, the first wave of insurgency in 2006, and then became a crucible for successful counter-insurgency in southern Afghanistan in Zhari and Panjwai and Dand Districts. Our Canadian Forces prepared the ground for a U.S-led surge, transferring to the training mission just last year. The Canadian Forces contributed in all of these ways to a huge security gain in southern Afghanistan and across that country.
These missions were not without cost and not without sacrifice. One hundred and fifty-eight Canadian lives were lost. More than 2,000 lives were lost from allied nations, as well as tens of thousands of Afghan lives, and lives continue to be lost.
However, these sacrifices resulted in an enormous gain for that country. Afghanistan is a changed country, with a GDP per capita income ratio four times what it was when our troops first arrived. Clinics and schools blanket the country. There are new roads and infrastructure. Agriculture is on the rebound. Most important in terms of tonight's discussion is that the Afghan national security force is close to 200,000 on the army side and close to 150,000 on the national police side.
This has given the Afghan people hope. It has given Canada the rationale to focus on training. It has given all of us the possibility to talk about the transition to an Afghan lead in all parts of the country, which is under way.
There are tough days ahead and important decisions to make, but it is important on a night like tonight, when we are talking about investing in Canadian capabilities, that we not forget the achievements.
Those achievements also came in Libya last year. Many months of 2011 were devoted to this mission, to keeping Misrata open, courtesy of the Royal Canadian Navy, and to refuelling allied aircraft, courtesy of our air force, to analyzing Gadhafi's brutal attacks, identifying targets, flying over 10% of the attack missions over Libya in the case of Canada's current fighter fleet, and of course, one point we are all enormously proud of, through Lieutenant-General Charlie Bouchard, exercising leadership with determination, balance and wisdom.
As our Minister of National Defence has said, Canadians see the value of dealing with potential international security problems upstream. That is one of the reasons we engaged not only when the going got very tough in Libya and Afghanistan, but also in operations around the world that aim to prevent conflict.
All hon. members may not know that there are 1,300 Canadian Forces members deployed around the world, not just in Afghanistan, but in 17 international missions.
Right now, 57 Canadian Forces personnel are stationed in the Middle East, a critical region where the Canadian Forces have been present since the Suez crisis in 1956.
These troops are participating in four operations: in the Sinai Peninsula with the multinational force and observers, created by the 1979 Camp David and Washington peace treaties; on the Golan Heights; in various other Middle East locations with the United Nations organization responsible for overseeing the truce; and in Jerusalem and on the West Bank with the Office of the United States Security Coordinator. What are we doing with the United States in those places? The Canadian Forces are overseeing and training Palestinian Authority security forces and helping coordinate security issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The future of the Middle East depends on creating a climate of peace and stability. Canada is helping to make that happen.
In Africa, the Canadian Forces are making an important contribution to various UN missions. For example, 14 CF personnel have been assigned to Operation Soprano, Canada's contribution to the United Nations mission in South Sudan. Nine members of the Canadian Forces are participating in Operation Crocodile, Canada's contribution to peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Maritime operations are still under way. Only last year, the members of the Canadian Forces on board HMCS Charlottetown participated in the NATO mission off the coast of Libya. Now, they are part of NATO's Operation Active Endeavour to prevent the movement of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction in the Mediterranean Sea.
The fact that HMCS Charlottetown is now in the Arabian Sea region is proof of Canada's perseverance and its ongoing determination to participate in maritime operations abroad. Five Canadians are still in Haiti, two years after the earthquake.
However, we have to adapt in today's complex security environment. We have to respond to new and evolving challenges, the growing importance of the Asia-Pacific region in the global economy, threats in emerging domains like space and cyber, the human rights of populations under threat from conflict, failed institutions, or repressive regimes.
We cannot know all of the potential threats that Canada may face in the future, so we must continue to expect the unexpected. That is exactly what the Canada first defence strategy has tried to do. That is exactly what these estimates seek to support, sound and balanced investments across the four key pillars of military capability: equipment, personnel, infrastructure and readiness.
Our forces deserve nothing less. Through relief and reconstruction in Haiti, through success in Libya, through progress in Afghanistan, through global partnerships in support of international peace and security, they are achieving their objectives, our objectives, magnificently.
As a former prime minister, one who I know is very dear to the memory of our current Minister of National Defence, Sir Robert Borden, once said, “We must not forget that days may come when our patience, our endurance and our fortitude will be tried to the utmost.” That level of commitment has an honourable place in our history. That level of commitment has an honourable place in today's debate on these estimates, the Canadian Forces and how we as Canadians support them.