Mr. Chair, before starting my prepared remarks, I want to make a very quick clarification for the record.
There was discussion earlier, led by my colleague opposite, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, that may have created the perception that we are somehow talking about the closure of bases. I just want to assure everybody here that it was never discussed. The discussion was around the potential relocation of airborne sovereignty assets, alert assets, not the closure the bases, and that is to better meet an asymmetric threat. There was no discussion about base closures.
This evening, as we discuss the important work of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, let us remember that at this very moment, more than 1,360 Canadian troops are taking part in 15 operations around the world.
We have witnessed first-hand the support these men and women offer to Canadians, as they did during the recent events in Fort McMurray. We must also remember that our men and women in uniform have had a positive impact on the lives of many people outside Canada and beyond our borders in places like the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean.
The Canadian Armed Forces are flexible and adaptable. They are able to react quickly and decisively. Thanks to their unique expertise, they can overcome the most complex security problems. They can also collaborate effectively with other departments, non-governmental organizations, allied nations, and coalition partners to do the work they are asked to do.
Our troops have an excellent reputation and are held in high regard both at home and abroad.
This is being demonstrated right now in Iraq. As we all know, ISIL has killed thousands of innocent civilians and has displaced millions more. In fact, ISIL's advance triggered one of the largest refugee crises the world has ever seen. ISIL is undermining the stability of this and surrounding regions, and has posed a broader threat to international security.
That is why since 2014, Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces have assisted Iraqis in their fight against ISIL as part of an international coalition led by the United States. From August to September 2014, the Royal Canadian Air Force delivered more than 1.6 million pounds of military supplies to Iraq. From October 2014 to February 2016, our CF-18s conducted nearly 1,400 sorties and over 250 air strikes. This air operation successfully struck hundreds of ISIL fighting positions, military equipment, and vehicles.
Thanks to coalition efforts, ISIL has suffered significant losses in terms of fighters, assets, and territory. By the beginning of this year, the coalition forces had helped halt ISIL's progress and compromised its ability to fight.
Now the Iraqi military is able to take on a more offensive role in battle. They are reclaiming territory and pushing ISIL fighters back into hiding. While ISIL remains a threat, the international coalition is undermining its momentum.
Against this backdrop, there was a need earlier this year to reassess Canada's contribution to ensure it remained meaningful and continued to respond to the most pressing needs of the coalition effort.
In February, the Prime Minister articulated a redefined and refocused Canadian contribution that reflects a more comprehensive and whole-of-government approach and more particularly, that reflects the changing realities on the ground.
This refocused approach was abundantly debated in the House. During the five-day debate, no less than 98 members of Parliament had an opportunity to voice their opinions. This refocused mission, representing a $1.6-billion commitment over three years, was designed to maximize Canada's unique capabilities while complementing the efforts of our partners.
The Canadian Armed Forces remain a central pillar of this new approach, with a commitment of approximately 830 military personnel. The military is shifting its focus toward the training mission on the ground by tripling the size of the train, advise, and assist mission in northern Iraq.
The Canadian Armed Forces have already begun deploying the additional troops required for this training mission. We are also bolstering our intelligence capacity in support of this mission. This intelligence is informing the coalition's operational decision and is improving the coalition's ability to target and defeat ISIL.
In fact, less than two weeks ago, on May 4, the Minister of National Defence met with other defence ministers at a coalition meeting in Germany, and many of them spoke very highly of Canada's intelligence contribution. We also have personnel working in coalition headquarters and with the Iraqi government.
A Canadian general officer has been selected to lead the global coalition's ministerial liaison team which is intended to provide strategic support to the Iraqi ministry of interior and the ministry of defence.
We are expanding our medical presence, to serve Canadian and coalition needs and also to mentor local security forces.
We are supporting capacity-building efforts in both Jordan and Lebanon. We are maintaining the refuelling and surveillance aircraft, and have deployed tactical air support, which began operating in Erbil earlier in May.
Canada's new approach has been very well received by our coalition partners, particularly the United States. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, recently said that our training mission and the expansion of our intelligence resources have made us an extremely valuable member of the international coalition against the Islamic State. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that Canada is enormously invested in the fight and is making an important contribution. We can be extremely proud of our soldiers.
As the Minister of National Defence said himself during a debate in the House in February of this year, the Canadian Armed Forces are composed of highly trained and experienced men and women. They train in order to carry out their missions and get things done.
The chief of the defence staff recently visited northern Iraq, where he saw first-hand the real results the Canadian Armed Forces are achieving on the ground.
The new mandate for this mission was not approved early enough to be included in the main estimates that we are examining today. However, the Department of National Defence will seek to obtain up to $207 million in the supplementary estimates later in the year. I would like to mention, however, that this amount is not at all representative of the contribution of the Canadian Armed Forces to maintaining security in the Middle East.
We see that history is repeating itself when we look at other international military operations. Overall, the Canadian Armed Forces are fulfilling their international obligations thanks to the strategic use of their limited resources and the most effective use of their unique expertise.
In Operation REASSURANCE, the Canadian Armed Forces provide vital support for NATO assurance measures and our allies in Europe, whether on the ground, at sea or in the air.
As part of Operation UNIFIER, more than 200 Canadian instructors are providing much-needed assistance to Ukrainian forces.
During Operation PROVISION, the Canadian Armed Forces played an instrumental role in helping Lebanese and Jordanian refugees enter Canada and also helped with the processing and preliminary examination of applicants abroad.
The Canadian Armed Forces are also taking part in five UN missions, namely in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, the Golan Heights, Haiti, and Cyprus. They also contribute to a peace support operation in the Sinai Peninsula, in Egypt, with the multinational force and observers. In many of these missions, Canadian troops hold important key positions and show extraordinary leadership and professionalism.
Again, the operating expenses in this budget provide only an overview of the tremendous contribution of the Canadian Armed Forces to maintaining stability and security in the world.
A former UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping once aptly reflected that one could not stand as an island of stability in an ocean of turmoil. We are truly blessed to live in Canada. We are far removed from much of the turmoil and violence that plagues so many parts of the world.
However, we cannot become complacent in our isolation. Despite appearances, we are not an island. We are intricately connected to a global network of forces, some positive and some negative. We are also a nation that embraces humanitarian values and prides itself in being a positive force on the world stage. Therefore, we must think about how we can continue to be responsible and engaged international citizens.
Going forward, the government is undertaking a comprehensive defence policy review. This process will take a fresh look at the current strategic environment, consider the defence needs of Canada and Canadians, and set the future direction for the Canadian Armed Forces.
While the policy review is still in progress, with Canadians submitting their views from across the country, I expect that international partnerships and operations will remain an enduring thread of Canadian defence. This year's activities prove that Canada's military women and men stand ready to continue this proud legacy of international engagement.