Study on Issues Related to the Government’s Current Defence Policy Review—Tenth Report of National Security and Defence CommitteePublished on 16 May 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Mobina Jaffer
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer:
Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on the tenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, entitled Military Underfunded: The Walk Must Match the Talk.
Before beginning, I would like to thank the chair, Senator Lang, for his work in directing this study. I would also like to thank the other members of the committee who have provided us with their expertise and input as we drafted this report.
I would also like to acknowledge Marcus Pistor, Holly Porteous and Katherine Simonds from the Library of Parliament, who supported us with briefings and the research we needed as we drafted this report.
Finally, I would like to thank Adam Thompson, the clerk of the committee, for assisting us and working really hard to get this report out on time.
Military Underfunded: The Walk Must Match the Talk is the first part of a two-part report done as part of the committee’s study on the Defence Policy Review. It deals with the greater context for the Canadian Armed Forces, focusing on its main priorities and challenges.
To address these challenges, among others, our report presents 16 recommendations, which were adopted by the committee after a long process of debate and discussion.
As you know, senators, this is the nature of our committees. The recommendations that come out of each report are the product of compromise between the committee members.
I believe that Senator Lang spoke comprehensively on the report’s recommendations last week, so I will not repeat them today. Instead, I will speak on the challenges for the Canadian Armed Forces discussed by the report.
Of these challenges, the biggest they face is that the Canadian Armed Forces are seriously underfunded. Almost every witness agreed that Canada has fallen behind on its spending to support our troops over several decades.
As the underfunding continues, our military is crumbling. Our air force lacks the pilots and technicians it needs to operate effectively. Our search and rescue teams lack the proper equipment to operate in the Arctic, where temperatures can reach minus 55 degrees Celsius. Further, they are still waiting for new aircraft after being promised them in a procurement program 14 years ago.
Our navy is quickly shrinking, losing capacities as we fail to act. As a result, Canada cannot even replenish its ships at sea and has to depend on other countries, even when in its own waters.
Finally, our army reserves are struggling in almost all areas, including recruitment, equipment and training. In fact, our reservists cannot even get proper health assessments.
Our committee goes into greater detail on this subject in part B of our report, entitled Reinvesting in the Canadian Armed Forces: A Plan for the Future, so I will not go into much further detail. However, I will stress that as long as underfunding continues, we will continue to see more gaps like those I mentioned. It is worth noting that this decline is not one government’s fault. It is a process that has taken place over successive governments. Since 1990, there has been a steady decline in defence spending.
In 1990, we spent exactly 2 per cent of our GDP on defence. This has steadily declined over several governments to reach as little as 0.88 per cent. To repeat my earlier statement, this is not the fault of one government, nor does it fall on the shoulders of one party. This has been a problem that has continued unaddressed for decades.
Regardless of who or which government is to blame, honourable senators, we cannot let this underfunding for the Canadian Armed Forces continue. If current funding levels are allowed to continue, our military’s situation will become much worse. According to a report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Department of Defence’s force structure will become unsustainable within the next 10 years if nothing changes.
Honourable senators, I would like to share my personal experiences to stress why we must not let this happen.
When I was the envoy of Canada to the Sudan, I worked with the Royal Canadian Air Force that was deployed in Darfur and I watched them provide help and equipment to protect the people there. I have personally seen the impact of their work. Every day, I could see our military’s dedication and bravery as they protected civilians from civil war and the threat of genocide. The refugees I met in Darfur knew they were safer because the Canadian Air Force and Canadians were there to protect them.
Honourable senators, I believe we must provide our Canadian Armed Forces with the funding and tools it needs to continue its work, first, to keep us safe, and then to do their work around the world. People like those I met in Darfur are counting on us around the world.
With that said, we cannot take on these tasks alone. Almost every witness who appeared before us stated that the Canadian Armed Forces must be able to work with its allies to be at its most effective.
Every witness who spoke on this subject stated that the Canadian Armed Forces must be interoperable if we wish to see our forces used to their fullest potential. When we cooperate with our allies, the operation as a whole becomes greater than its part, and I saw this reflected during my time in Darfur. We were not alone. We were working as part of the greater African Union and United Nations mission in Darfur. Working with our allies allowed the Canadian Armed Forces to focus on its strengths — mainly, its air force.
By working together with our allies, we were able to work effectively and save many more lives than we would have been able to on our own. Further, since every country and its troops were able to play to their strengths, everyone involved was far safer.
Unfortunately, we are not accomplishing this now. Over the course of our study, many witnesses stated that we are not meeting our commitments with our allies, most notably NATO and NORAD.
So, to catch up with our commitments, Canada will have to make considerable changes to even become interoperable with our allies. That kind of interoperability will not be easy to obtain. Interoperability means having the kind of equipment needed for us to play our part in the greater operations. This will be demanding and resource-intensive for Canada. However, it is also vital. Our allies in NATO, the UN or NORAD are counting on us to be able to play our part in the greater operations. Failing our allies means that we will be far less effective at helping others and will actively put our own soldiers in danger.
With that said, the Canadian Armed Forces’ new challenges are not limited to our commitments abroad. Over the course of our study, we learned that the job of protecting Canada has changed almost entirely. There are many new areas for us to cover. The Arctic, ballistic missile defence and cyberspace are just a few covered by our report. However, out of these areas, our satellites and cyber-defence will be some of our greatest vulnerabilities in the days to come.
We no longer live in a world where we have to only protect Canada from armed attacks. Some of the most damaging attacks will not even need weapons. For example, almost all elements of our lives depend on satellites. Telecommunications, the Internet, GPS, weather forecasting, banking and aerial monitoring all need the satellites that Canada has sent into space to work properly.
Our cyber-structures are just as vulnerable since they are found in almost every aspect of our lives. They are responsible for our energy grids and telecommunications and our defence intelligence and systems. Should they ever be attacked, the potential damage to Canada would be incalculable.
Last week the entire world was impacted by cyberattack. Hospitals were paralyzed. Factories were shut down, and over 200,000 people in 150 countries were affected. Even in Saskatchewan, we had problems.
Losing our satellites can cause similar chaos. For example, in 2011, a single Anik F2 satellite went down over Nunavut due to a software failure. Because of that one satellite, all of Nunavut lost telecommunications, affecting thousands. Flights were grounded, communications were cut off, and many people were left stranded over the day that it took to restore everything that had been lost. We cannot let these events happen again.
Given how much damage can be done when cyber and space systems fail, our committee was shocked to learn that we still do not designate our satellites as critical infrastructure. Designating cyber and space systems as critical infrastructure would place them in the National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure and the Action Plan for Critical Infrastructure.
As critical infrastructure, our cyber and space systems would be protected by risk-based approaches that are frequently updated. Given that our security, safety and economic well-being all depend on these systems, they are simply too important to leave unprotected.
With all of these changes, both domestically and abroad, it is clear that our decision making must become flexible to deal with these new challenges as they come. With so much changing in Canada’s defence landscape, we cannot simply allow for our defence policy to exist in a vacuum. To make this kind of decision making possible, our committee agreed that we must accompany our current defence policy review with a foreign policy review. This would place all strategies and spending into context, aligning them with our interests and ensuring that our Canadian Armed Forces are given the tools they need to succeed.
With that said, it will not be enough to only conduct this study once. What is true for our military now may not be true in five years, especially with advances in technology. For this reason, the committee agreed that we must conduct more of these reviews in the future to keep our policies up to date.
Honourable senators, Military Underfunded: The Walk Must Match the Talk covers several areas to demonstrate how national security and defence for Canada has changed. Our military is severely underfunded. We have to keep our commitments with our allies, and the defence of Canada involves protecting more domains than ever before.
If we are not able to adjust to these new realities, our military will not be able to accomplish everything Canadians expect of it. For this reason, I ask for your support in adopting this report. We must take action now. We owe it to our Canadian Armed Forces to give them the resources to succeed. We owe it to Canadians to make sure, with the faith they put in the Canadian Armed Forces, that the Canadian Armed Forces will protect them and will not let them down because they do not have enough funding.