Around the globe, including in Canada, citizens and governments are being reminded of the value of a modern, capable and professional military. The events of the past few years have highlighted just how important our armed forces are. As Canada’s new minister of national defense, I will continue working diligently to ensure our nation’s military remains a strong force that is ready, willing and able to meet any challenge at home or abroad.
Here in Canada, the past two years have brought new and increased demands on our country’s military, the Canadian Armed Forces. Through Operation Vector, our armed forces helped distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines across the country.
In total, the Canadian Armed Forces assisted over 100 Indigenous communities with COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including by rolling out vaccines to 40 remote and northern Canadian communities. Under Operation Laser, the Canadian Armed Forces provided life-saving assistance in 54 long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario. Through Operation Globe, the CAF transported humanitarian and medical supplies to our international partners on behalf of the United Nations World Food Programme and the World Health Organization — fulfilling Canada’s commitment to lend a hand to those in need.
COVID-19 is not the only crisis facing Canada. Our government believes climate change and extreme weather conditions present a considerable threat to our national security. More and more, our military is being called upon to provide critical support to communities during natural disasters like floods, ice storms and forest fires. Since January 2020, our armed forces have responded to 11 requests for assistance during emergencies in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Yukon.
Canada takes the threat of climate change seriously, which is why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced Canada’s proposal to host a new NATO Centre of Excellence on Climate and Security. This would provide NATO allies with a central location to pool knowledge, develop responses and prepare for the threat of climate change.
The circumstances faced by Canada and our allies around the globe are no less challenging. In this environment, the Canadian Armed Forces are playing a vital role in defending freedom, security and the rules-based international order around the world.
Through Operation Reassurance, the CAF is supporting NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe, leading the multinational enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Latvia. The CAF is also a major contributor to and is currently commanding the Standing NATO Maritime Group One and is participating in NATO’s enhanced air-policing mission in Romania. In a non-NATO context, our members have been supporting security and stability in Europe since 2015 under Operation Unifier in Ukraine.
On Operation Impact, the CAF are training and building capacity in the Middle East, including by supporting NATO Mission Iraq. Our armed forces are also promoting peace and stability in Northeast Asia, working with our allies to monitor North Korea’s sanctions evasion activities at sea under Operation Neon, and working with the United Nations Command on the Korean Peninsula. And through Operation Projection, Canadian warships work alongside our allies and partners to uphold the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific.
At a time when our military is being called upon to serve in new, challenging ways, I and our entire government are committed to ensuring our forces have the equipment, training and support they need. Our government’s fully costed and fully funded defense policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged,” increases Canada’s defense investments by 70% — ensuring we have a modern, state-of-the-art force now and in the years to come. This commitment includes investments in North American continental security.
Our government’s most recent budget lays the groundwork for modernization of North American Aerospace Defense Command by making new investments in situational awareness, modernized command-and-control systems, research and development, and capabilities to deter and defeat evolving aerospace threats.
In our work to build a more secure North America and reinforce the rules-based international order around the globe, Canada remains a strong partner to our most important ally — our American neighbors and friends.
As a minister and a citizen, I am deeply grateful for the hard work and dedication that our people in uniform demonstrate every day in service to Canada. We will continue to put them first by ensuring they feel safe, protected and respected. Building an inclusive military culture is a top priority for me, and we have already announced transformative steps, including the transfer of sexual misconduct investigations and prosecutions to the civilian justice system.
Given the wide range of challenges we face at home and abroad, our government will continue to ensure our armed forces are ready, willing and able to support Canadians and our international allies and partners, wherever and whenever they are called upon to serve.
Anita Anand is Canada’s defense minister.