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armed forces

Sapped of both hard and soft power, Canada needs action to keep up in a dangerous world


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From the MacDonald Laurier Institute

By Charles Burton

Ottawa’s vexing indifference toward national defence and security will not serve or protect Canada.

Speaking to an international crowd of leaders, ministers and other representatives who had gathered earlier this month in Beijing for a forum that marked 10 years of China’s Belt and Road Initiative global infrastructure program, Chinese leader Xi Jinping declared that “changes of the world, of our times, and of historical significance are unfolding like never before.”

Quite right. Will the Russian invasion of Ukraine be resolved without war with NATO? Will armed conflict in the Middle East, fomented by Iran, spiral into a regional war? Would China open a third front by invading Taiwan? If the atrocious provocations to war by Iran, Russia and China develop simultaneously on three fronts – setting off a world war in Asia, the Middle East and Indo-Pacific – where will Canada stand?

Canada should be a respected and resonant voice in the international arena. We are both an Atlantic and a Pacific nation, and our heralded history of peacekeeping involvement in the Middle East dates back to the Suez Crisis of the 1950s and Lester Pearson’s Nobel Prize. In the Second World War, prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King sat down for four power meetings with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin.

Canada once mattered. But those days are long gone.

Years of underfunding defence and freeloading on the U.S. for our national security are leading to Canada being phased out. The significance of the Group of Seven and the Five Eyes intelligence alliance has become equalled or overtaken by that of organizations from which Canada is excluded, such as the Quint and AUKUS, which is aimed at Indo-Pacific security even though Britain is not a Pacific nation. Despite reportedly telling Western leaders and officials at the G20 summit that it had credible intelligence that India’s government was involved in the assassination of a Canadian citizen, no leader was willing to publicly criticize Narendra Modi. Our soft power authority has faded.

Given our pathetically depleted hard power capabilities, Canada needs a reality check on what we can actually do with the limited resources at our disposal.

First of all, it is time to stop mouthing hollow bromides about “our” north, and actually reorient our defence to establish a meaningful presence in the Arctic. China now defines itself as a “near-Arctic nation,” with increased investment in the region and plans around a potential shipping route – a “polar silk road” – that could emerge between melting ice caps; Russia, meanwhile, has argued that much of Canada’s Arctic waters actually belongs to them. If a major conflict were to arise with Russia and China allied against the U.S. and Canada, our unprotected Arctic could be quickly lost to Beijing and Moscow’s ambitions to expand their territory beyond Europe and East Asia.

Secondly, Canada must protect its northern stores of critical minerals. We talk a good game on this, but so far that has mostly been political bafflegab. Beyond making an obvious statement about our sovereignty, developing our northern resources is a productive way to create economic opportunities for northern Indigenous communities, and shows our allies that we are serious about stopping China from monopolizing valuable minerals in Canadian soil that are vital to the world’s high-tech future.

Finally, Ottawa needs to step up and meet the challenge to Canada’s security from Iran, Russia and China. There was tough talk in Parliament earlier this year about foreign actors manipulating our democratic institutions, but there has yet to be legislation tabled to create so much as a foreign agent registry. The federal government’s response to the 34 well-considered recommendations of a House of Commons special committee on Canada-China relations released in May was dismissive.

Even the Commons subcommittee on international human rights’ report on Tibetan residential schools in China was effectively ignored. One would have thought this issue would be something Canada could take a lead on, considering our history in this area. But in responding to the report, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly didn’t even acknowledge the recommendation that Canada sanction Chinese Communist officials complicit in their residential schools policy.

What is the point of investing considerable resources into parliamentary committees if the government sees them only as an irritant to be checked, rather than a positive contributor to national policy development?

We are facing an axis of cold-blooded dictators determined to destroy Western-supported stability and order. With global tensions more combustible than at any time in a generation or more, Ottawa’s vexing indifference toward national defence and security will not serve or protect Canada.

We need to refocus what remains of our military and security resources to what really matters, and fast.

Charles Burton is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, non-resident senior fellow of the European Values Center for Security Policy in Prague, and former diplomat at Canada’s embassy in Beijing.

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Canada’s first ‘transgender’ military chaplain suspended for alleged sexual harassment

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From LifeSiteNews

By Calvin Freiburger

Canadian Armed Forces Captain ‘Beatrice’ Gale reportedly sought to grope a male soldier while drunk and was suspended just a few weeks after the Canadian military promoted him for ‘International Transgender Day of Visibility.’

Canadian Department of National Defence has suspended a “transgender” military chaplain it previously celebrated after he reportedly sought to grope a male soldier at the Royal Military College while drunk.

On March 28, the government highlighted Canadian Armed Forces Captain “Beatrice” Gale, a man who “identifies” as a woman, for “International Transgender Day of Visibility.” The military’s “first openly transgender chaplain” has been “a vocal advocate” for the so-called “rights” of transgender-identifying members, according to the press release, resulting “in policy changes that contributed to more inclusive gender-affirming medical care for CAF members.”

“I hope that being a transgender chaplain [sic] sends a message to the 2SLGBTQI+ community that the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service cares,” he said. “That it cares for that community.”

Just weeks later, however, the chaplain is generating a different kind of publicity.

True North reports that Gale’s chaplaincy has been revoked following a hearing finding he made an “inappropriate comment or request to another individual.”

Gale was determined to have violated the Queen’s Regulations and Orders by “behav[ing] in a manner that adversely affects the discipline, efficiency or morale of the Canadian Forces.” The specific details of the offense have not been officially confirmed, but, according to an anonymous source, he became inebriated at dinner and asked to grope a male lieutenant’s buttocks.

“The mandate for Captain Gale to serve as a Canadian military chaplain remains suspended. The Chaplain General will consider the implications of the summary hearing’s outcome to determine if additional administrative actions within their authority are required,” said DND spokesperson Andrée-Anne Poulin. Gale was docked two days pay and 20 days leave and is currently on administrative duty.

He added that he once had a client who “was not granted the same leniency for much less serious alleged infractions. However, in the case of a transgender offender who held a position of trust as a padre and a senior in rank, the matter was simply swept under the rug.”

As is the case in the United States, Canada’s armed forces are currently struggling to attract recruits in the wake of adopting “woke” policies such as COVID-19 shot mandates, “climate change” lectures, and pro-LGBT “identity” initiatives.

The DND declared last month that increased “diversity and inclusivity” are “vital” to creating an effective military and that they “enrich the workplace.”

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Canadians are finally waking up to the funding crisis that’s sent the Canadian Armed Forces into a “death spiral”

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From the Macdonald Laurier Institute

By By J.L. Granatstein

Must we wait for Trump to attack free trade between Canada and the US before our politicians get the message that defence matters to Washington?

Nations have interests – national interests – that lay out their ultimate priorities. The first one for every country is to protect its population and territory. It is sometimes hard to tell, but this also applies to Canada. Ottawa’s primary job is to make sure that Canada and Canadians are safe. And Canada also has a second priority: to work with our allies to protect their and our freedom. As we share this continent with the United States, this means that we must pay close attention to our neighbouring superpower.

Regrettably for the last six decades or so we have not done this very well. During the 1950s, the Liberal government of Louis St. Laurent in some years spent more than 7 percent of GDP on defence, making Canada the most militarily credible of the middle powers. His successors whittled down defence spending and cut the numbers of troops, ships, and aircraft. By the end of the Cold War, in the early 1990s, our forces had shrunk, and their equipment was increasingly obsolescent.

Another Liberal prime minister, Jean Chrétien, balanced the budget in 1998 by slashing the military even more, and by getting rid of most of the procurement experts at the Department of National Defence, he gave us many of the problems the Canadian Armed Forces face today. Canadians and their governments wanted social security measures, not troops with tanks, and they got their wish.

There was another factor of significant importance, though it is one usually forgotten. Lester Pearson’s Nobel Peace Prize for helping to freeze the Suez Crisis of 1956 convinced Canadians that they were natural-born peacekeepers. Give a soldier a blue beret and an unloaded rifle and he could be the representative of Canada as the moral superpower we wanted to be. The Yanks fought wars, but Canada kept the peace, or so we believed, and Canada for decades had servicemen and women in every peacekeeping operation.

There were problems with this. First, peacekeeping didn’t really work that well. It might contain a conflict, but it rarely resolved one – unless the parties to the dispute wanted peace. In Cyprus, for example, where Canadians served for three decades, neither the Greek- or Turkish-Cypriots wanted peace; nor did their backers in Athens and Ankara. The Cold War’s end also unleashed ethnic nationalisms, and Yugoslavia, for one, fractured into conflicts between Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Christians, and Muslims, leading to all-out war. Peacekeepers tried to hold the lid on, but it took NATO to bash heads to bring a truce if not peace.

And there was a particular Canadian problem with peacekeeping. If all that was needed was a stock of blue berets and small arms, our governments asked, why spend vast sums on the military? Peacekeeping was cheap, and this belief sped up the budget cuts.

Even worse, the public believed the hype and began to resist the idea that the Canadian Armed Forces should do anything else. For instance, the Chrétien government took Canada into Afghanistan in 2001 to participate in what became a war to dislodge the Taliban, but huge numbers of Canadians believed that this was really only peacekeeping with a few hiccups.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government nonetheless gave the CAF the equipment it needed to fight in Afghanistan, and the troops did well. But the casualties increased as the fighting went on, and Harper pulled Canada out of the conflict well before the Taliban seized power again in 2021.

Harper’s successor, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, clearly has no interest in the military except as a somewhat rogue element that needs to be tamed, made comfortable for its members, and to act as a social laboratory with quotas for visible minorities and women.

Is this an exaggeration? This was Trudeau’s mandate letter to his defence minister in December 2021: “Your immediate priority is to take concrete steps to build an inclusive and diverse Defence Team, characterized by a healthy workplace free from harassment, discrimination, sexual misconduct, and violence.” DND quickly permitted facial piercings, coloured nail polish, beards, long hair, and, literally, male soldiers in skirts, so long as the hem fell below the knees. This was followed by almost an entire issue of the CAF’s official publication, Canadian Military Journal, devoted to culture change in the most extreme terms. You can’t make this stuff up.

Thus, our present crisis: a military short some 15,000 men and women, with none of the quotas near being met. A defence minister who tells a conference the CAF is in a “death spiral” because of its inability to recruit soldiers. (Somehow no one in Ottawa connects the culture change foolishness to a lack of recruits.) Fighter pilots, specialized sailors, and senior NCOs, their morale broken, taking early retirement. Obsolete equipment because of procurement failures and decade-long delays. Escalating costs for ships, aircraft, and trucks because every order requires that domestic firms get their cut, no matter if that hikes prices even higher. The failure to meet a NATO accord, agreed to by Canada, that defence spending be at least 2 percent of GDP, and no prospect that Canada will ever meet this threshold.

But something has changed.

Three opinion polls at the beginning of March all reported similar results: the Canadian public – worried about Russia and Putin’s war against Ukraine, and anxious about China, North Korea, and Iran (all countries with undemocratic regimes and, Iran temporarily excepted, nuclear weapons) – has noticed at last that Canada is unarmed and undefended. Canadians are watching with concern as Ottawa is scorned by its allies in NATO, Washington, and the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance.

At the same time, official Department of National Defence documents laid out the alarming deficiencies in the CAF’s readiness: too few soldiers ready to respond to crises and not enough equipment that is in working order for those that are ready.

The bottom line? Canadians finally seem willing to accept more spending on defence.

The media have been hammering at the government’s shortcomings. So have retired generals. General Rick Hillier, the former chief of the defence staff, was especially blunt: “[The CAF’s] equipment has been relegated to sort-of-broken equipment parked by the fence. Our fighting ships are on limitations to the speed that they can sail or the waves that they can sail in. Our aircraft, until they’re replaced, they’re old and sort of not in that kind of fight anymore. And so, I feel sorry for the men and women who are serving there right now.”

The Trudeau government has repeatedly demonstrated that it simply does not care. It offers more money for the CBC and for seniors’ dental care, pharmaceuticals, and other vote-winning objectives, but nothing for defence (where DND’s allocations astonishingly have been cut by some $1 billion this year and at least the next two years). There is no hope for change from the Liberals, their pacifistic NDP partners, or from the Bloc Québécois.

The Conservative Party, well ahead in the polls, looks to be in position to form the next government. What will they do for the military? So far, we don’t know – Pierre Poilievre has been remarkably coy. The Conservative leader has said he wants to cut wasteful spending and eliminate foreign aid to dictatorial regimes and corrupted UN agencies like UNRWA. He says he will slash the bureaucracy and reform the procurement shambles in Ottawa, and he will “work towards” spending on the CAF to bring us to the equivalent of 2 percent of GDP. His staff say that Poilievre is not skeptical about the idea of collective security and NATO; rather, he is committed to balancing the books.

What this all means is clear enough. No one should expect that a Conservative government will move quickly to spend much more on defence than the Grits. A promise to “work towards” 2 percent is not enough, and certainly not if former US President Donald Trump ends up in the White House again. Must we wait for Trump to attack free trade between Canada and the US before our politicians get the message that defence matters to Washington? Unfortunately, it seems so, and Canadians will not be able to say that they weren’t warned. After all, it should be obvious that it is in our national interest to protect ourselves.

J.L. Granatstein taught Canadian history, was Director and CEO of the Canadian War Museum, and writes on military and political history. His most recent book is Canada’s Army: Waging War and Keeping the Peace. (3rd edition).

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