Madam Chair, I am pleased to use my time today to tell you and the committee more about what the defence team is doing to support Canada's return to the world stage.
Our country is taking on new leadership roles and promoting the values that Canadians hold dear, such as peace, human rights and democracy.
Canadians have told us they want Canada to continue to be a leader in supporting peace and security around the world. They want Canada to contribute in concrete ways that have a direct and positive impact on the lives of people in conflict zones. They want Canada to do its part as a responsible international actor, with strong alliances and friendships around the world. That is exactly what Canada is doing.
ln our defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, Canada affirmed its steadfast dedication to these long-standing alliances and partnerships.
Through our renewed commitments to peacekeeping, international operations and the United Nations' multilateral efforts, we are showing the world that Canada is committed and demonstrating leadership. We are showing that we are a reliable and valuable partner to our allies and that we will defend democratic principles and a rules-based international order.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to see for myself how Canada is contributing to international peace and security in Mali. Through Operation Presence, Air Task Force Mali delivers vital airlift capabilities in support of the United Nations assistance mission in Mali. Last month, it transported members of the Dutch Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Task Group, enabling safe and efficient patrol far beyond their normal range.
That is an example of how our airlift capabilities are enhancing the safety of the local population. On April 24, this capability saved lives.
After a passenger bus struck an IED, Task Force Mali members conducted an aeromedical evacuation, getting critically injured civilians to life-saving medical care as quickly as possible.
Our 250 women and men in uniform will remain in Mali until the end of July in order to fulfill the one-year rotation that Canada promised in March 2018. As part of our joint commitment approach, Canada is working with Romania, the United Nations and Germany to ensure the successful transition of this essential capability.
As I mentioned, I had the opportunity to travel to Senegal and Mali earlier this year, with the House Standing Committee on National Defence. My colleagues and I witnessed first-hand the professionalism, commitment and excellence of the Canadian Armed Forces members deployed to Task Force Mali. We owe them and all current and former members of our armed forces a profound debt of gratitude for their courage and exemplary service at home and abroad.
I would also like to take a moment to recognize peacekeepers from other nations who are serving or have served under the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, MINUSMA: the women and men in uniform, as well as the UN civilian staff, led by the special representative of the Secretary-General for Mali, Mr. Mahamat Annadif, and the deputy special representatives of the Secretary-General, Ms. Joanne Adamson and Ms. Mbaranga Gasarabwe.
The United Nations team is working very hard to achieve peace and a stable future for Mali and the Sahel region in west Africa. The region is dealing with complex, ever-changing problems, such as drought, poverty, limited access to education, civil society's exclusion from politics, violent crime, drug trafficking, armed conflict and terrorism.
They also face significant personal risk. In fact, MINUSMA is currently the United Nations' most dangerous mission. I would like to thank them for their service and commitment to our shared values, as embodied in the United Nations charter.
Canada is also working hard to support peace and stability in the Middle East. The main estimates include funds to support the two-year extension of Operation Impact, until March 2021. This military contribution is a vital component of Canada's whole-of-government Middle East strategy, a strategy that includes security and stabilization, humanitarian aid and diplomatic engagement in Iraq, Syria and the region. That is because we need sustained, multipronged efforts to address the root causes of conflict and set the stage for long-term stability. The Middle East strategy supports the global coalition to ensure the lasting defeat of Daesh.
Extending Operation Impact includes the authority to send up to 850 members of our Canadian Armed Forces to support the global coalition, the NATO mission in Iraq, and enhancement activities with the Jordanian and Lebanese armies.
Canada is proud to have Major-General Dany Fortin leading NATO's training mission to strengthen the defence and security institutions in Iraq.
Across the globe, our Canadian Forces members are known and respected as highly trained and skilled professionals and leaders. They are being called upon to share this expertise through operations like Operation Unifier in Ukraine, where our women and men in uniform have trained more than 11,400 Ukrainian soldiers.
Roughly 200 Canadian Armed Forces members are helping to develop Ukraine's defence and security forces through combined arms training, military engineering, logistics, military policing and medical training. That training supports Ukraine by enhancing the ability on the part of Ukrainians to defend themselves and to contribute to regional and international stability.
ln fact, our Canadian Armed Forces have been supporting Ukraine through training efforts since Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014. By extending Operation Unifier for another three years, Canada will continue to demonstrate our unwavering support for Ukraine and continue to be a leader in securing the international community's support for the Ukrainian people. This capacity-building also strengthens global security, as it supports Ukrainian aspirations to become a NATO ally.
This is a good reminder of Canada's close ties to NATO. We were a founding member 70 years ago and today our commitment is stronger than ever.
At any given time, we have up to 915 members deployed on Operation Reassurance to support NATO's defence and deterrence measures in central and eastern Europe. That makes Operation Reassurance Canada's largest international military operation at the present time.
On the water, HMCS Toronto is deployed to Operation Reassurance as part of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two. The crew strengthens international and regional stability through surveillance and monitoring, capacity-building, regional defence and diplomatic engagement.
On land, Canada is a framework nation in NATO's mission to deter potential Russian aggression in the Baltics, and we are leading the enhanced forward presence battle group in Latvia.
This multinational battle group is sending a strong message of allied solidarity.
The honour and courage of every soldier cannot be overstated, each risking personal harm to help make the world safer and more secure, and sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice.
Canada joins Battle Group Latvia allies in mourning the loss of Major Klodian Tanushi and Corporal Zarife Hasanaj, two Albanian soldiers who recently lost their lives following a demining incident.
In our defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, Canada reiterated its commitment to the principle of collective defence, which is at the heart of NATO's founding treaty. Our Canadian Armed Forces' participation in NATO's enhanced air policing missions as part of Operation Reassurance is another testament to that commitment.
Since 2014, Canada has joined in four air policing missions, and our most recent participation ran from September to December of last year.
Air Task Force Romania includes approximately 135 women and men in uniform and six CF-18 Hornets that are helping to deter aggression by potential adversaries in the region. Last October they intercepted and escorted a Russian SU-27 Flanker out of Romanian airspace. That is only one example of how our people help safeguard the integrity of the alliance's airspace. The next ATF Romania will deploy in September for another four months.
Canada is also showing leadership and commitment to maritime security in Middle Eastern and East African waters.
From December 2018 to April 2019, Canada was proud to command Combined Task Force 150. About 40 Canadian Armed Forces members served in the CTF 150 headquarters on Operation Artemis, our mission being to stop terrorism and make the Middle East waters more secure.
In April alone, the HMCS Regina made three narcotics seizures, intercepting and destroying more than 7,000 kilograms of hashish and more than 1,500 kilograms of heroin.
Canada is proud of its role in advancing global peace and security. We believe in democracy and in protecting a rules-based international order. Our government will continue to work across borders, across disciplines and across party lines, taking a whole-of-government, multilateral approach to advance our cherished and critical Canadian values.
We continue to live in turbulent times, but through all of it, our deployed women and men represent Canada with professionalism, leadership and excellence. For that, we owe them again our unwavering support and our most profound gratitude.
Again, a very happy birthday, Mr. Chair.
I would now like to ask a few questions to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.
Mr. Chair, over a year ago, our government launched the innovation for defence excellence and security program, also known as IDEaS, which is helping to spur new research to solve important challenges, thanks to an investment of $1.6 billion into our innovation community over the next 20 years.
Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence update the House on the progress made over the course of the last year?