Mr. Chair, thank you for giving me this opportunity to debate the main estimates of the Department of National Defence for 2016-17.
It is of the utmost importance that Canada focus on maximizing human resource development in the military. Education and training are inexhaustible resources that enable the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces to develop superior skill sets.
Be it for college or university education, or even advanced master's or doctoral studies, members of Canada's military all have access to academic training. We have highly skilled, top-tier teachers. Our facilities and infrastructure support this work.
Our military personnel have many professional development options. During their years of service, they take part in many training sessions to enhance their technical skills. Personal development workshops equip them with the right tools to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces have highly skilled, well-prepared professionals who can overcome the challenges they face. They have to be able to adapt physically and intellectually, and all the training they receive during their years of service supports them in achieving their objectives.
From the moment they join the army to their final year of service, all members of the Canadian Armed Forces take part in ongoing training and continuing professional development. Depending on needs, they may also pursue academic studies to help them play an active role in our constantly changing world.
Training is a recurring theme in the life of a Canadian Armed Forces member. It is clear that this ongoing training enables Canadian military personnel to fulfill their operational roles. Training helps place our armed forces among the most educated and skilled in the world.
To promote the value of continuous skill development and to oversee all aspects of academic, linguistic, professional, and technical training, we have the Canadian Defence Academy. Its mandate is to champion lifelong learning and to promote the professional development of members of the Canadian Armed Forces. The Canadian Defence Academy is an education group composed of the Royal Military College of Canada, the Royal Military College Saint-Jean, and the Canadian Forces College.
The mission of the Royal Military College of Canada is to produce officers with the mental, physical, and linguistic capabilities and the ethical foundation required to lead with distinction in the Canadian Armed Forces. To accomplish this mission, it delivers undergraduate academic programs, together with a range of complementary programs in both official languages.
Founded in 1874 for the purpose of providing a complete education to all branches of the military, RMC provides undergraduate and post-graduate programs and professional development education to meet the needs of other members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence. Training at RMC focuses on fundamental educational notions that allow soldiers to hone their skills so that they can become respected leaders in Canada.
This education group also includes the Royal Military College Saint-Jean. For the moment, that institution is focusing on offering programs that allow students to obtain a college diploma. Students can enrol and take post-secondary courses in social sciences and natural sciences. This academic institution, which is extremely important to the riding of Saint-Jean, was founded in 1952. Over the years, the college has undergone major changes in direction. By adapting to the needs of the Canadian Armed Forces, it has always managed to offer quality military training activities. Although a break between 1995 and 2008 left its mark on the institution's academic mandate, RMC Saint-Jean has constantly reinvented itself.
The year 2008 marked a new beginning for this educational institution, which remains a true national symbol. Royal Military College Saint-Jean is located on the site of Fort Saint-Jean, a heritage site that has borne witness to the vast military history of the French and British regimes as well as that of Canada.
Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, which is celebrating its 350th anniversary as a garrison town this year, is proud to be able to count on this prestigious establishment that educates the members of the Canadian Armed Forces in order to instil in them the competencies required to maintain excellence in the profession of arms.
The time has come to restore the college to its former glory so that it can actively participate in maintaining our troops' expertise and supporting the Canadian government in redefining its military mission.
Canada's return to its fundamental principles fits in quite well with the university status that the Royal Military College Saint-Jean wants to acquire. The humanities and social sciences program will help train leaders with the abilities to engage in conflict resolution.
Recent Canadian military interventions in the world have demonstrated the importance of having sound university training in anthropology, social sciences, foreign languages and cultures, ethics, and philosophy. Those studies would not conflict with the direction of the Royal Military College in Kingston. What is more, choosing that direction for its programs would lay the foundation for future development at RMC Saint-Jean, since these modular programs meet the growing needs of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The university culture is still present in Fort Saint-Jean. The professors continue to do research and regularly share with other Canadian and international university institutions. This is a way of connecting the forces involved in order to give Canada a second institution that will help maintain a representative francophone presence in the Canadian Armed Forces and the defence staff, thereby contributing to maintaining our identity in Canada.
The college has proven valuable many times by providing a francophone military learning environment and promoting bilingualism and linguistic diversity in the army. Resuming university training will help promote better recruitment of francophones, allophones, and anglophones in Quebec and across Canada to RMC Saint-Jean.
With the increasing demands of peacekeeping operations in francophone African countries and in light of our recent experiences in Haiti, it is clear that bilingualism is an important skill that Canada's army brings to the international stage.
The third component of the Canadian Defence Academy is the Canadian Forces College in Toronto. It prepares senior military and civilian leaders to meet the complex security challenges of the future. The college is known as a world leader in defence and security education, research, and outreach. The college provides joint advanced professional military education for officers of the Canadian Armed Forces and senior government executives in a bilingual environment through programs of study focusing on national security and joint staff operations and command.
Since we are faced with a significant challenge, we must be able to adapt our forces to respond to all types of intervention. However, first, we must ensure that our forces have the resources they need. Recruitment in all forms is therefore an absolute priority. We will have to put special emphasis on our reserve force and support the Canadian cadet program.
Our reservists make a very important and valuable contribution to Canada's security. As a government, we must work to attract, develop, support, and retain a ready, capable, motivated, and relevant reserve as a strategic and operational resource. Reserve members are highly skilled and they have proven to be essential resources in helping the Canadian Armed Forces achieve their objectives.
The reserve units, which are present in more than 100 Canadian communities, work on the front lines, supporting the regular forces. The cadet program continues to evolve and adapt to meet the expectations of our changing society. With its emphasis on leadership, physical fitness, and citizenship, the Canadian cadet program helps young Canadians to become active and engaged members of their communities and prepares them to become the leaders of tomorrow.
This program has some direct benefits for Canadian society. It promotes our society's fundamental values and trains well-rounded, community-minded young people. These young people from all walks of life, dressed in the Canadian uniform, will become responsible, respected citizens, and some will even decide to join the Canadian Armed Forces.
We have to understand that we are asking the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces to take on an extremely difficult task. Our world has changed so radically that the only thing we know for sure is that we have to prepare for every eventuality.
It is very clear to me that quality education and ongoing training are not only essential to enabling them to accomplish that task, but also critical to the Canadian Army's overall operational readiness.
As I am sure the minister knows, Royal Military College Saint-Jean is planning to offer university studies in the humanities. This innovative university program is closely aligned with the Canadian Armed Forces' needs.
Canada's recent military interventions around the world have all demonstrated the importance of solid university training in anthropology, social sciences, foreign languages and cultures, ethics, and philosophy.
RMC Saint-Jean officials have chosen an approach that optimizes the use of existing infrastructure and human resources. This approach will also improve the effectiveness of the regular training for officer cadets and the ongoing training both on site and remotely of non-commissioned officers on active duty. Because of its unique offerings, RMC Saint-Jean will attract more francophones, anglophones, and allophones from Quebec and the rest of Canada.
Minister, what do you see as RMC Saint-Jean's role in light of a new focus for the Canadian Armed Forces' mission and the promotion of the French fact?