December 11, 2006
Commitment to Canada's military personnel
Mr. Larry Miller:
Mr. Speaker, that is the kind of politicization we should not hear on such an issue.
On a more serious note, I acknowledge and recognize the family of Chief Warrant Officer Robert Michel Joseph Girouard who is here today. My apologies, Mr. Speaker, I realize I am not supposed to say the family is in the House. It was not deliberate.
Unfortunately, Mr. Girouard was recently killed in battle in Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. Mr. Girouard was based in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and lived in the city of Owen Sound for five years, while based at the Land Force Training Centre in Meaford.
The motion today asks that the House affirm its commitment to Canada's military personnel and continue to provide it with the best possible equipment and support to carry out its responsibilities.
Canada has always been able to turn to its military men and women when we have needed them. Their tasks have been numerous and often dangerous. Whether defending our domestic shores, fighting forest fires in British Columbia, rescuing a floundering ship's crew in the Maritimes, providing flood relief in Manitoba or participating abroad in missions ranging from humanitarian assistance to combat, we have been able to count on the Canadian Forces.
Although many people expected a declining role for the military in the post-Cold War security environment of the 1990s, the world remained a dangerous and unpredictable place. In the 21st century, Canada faces new security challenges like global terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and failed and fragile states.
I do not have to remind the House that 24 Canadians died in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Since then, attacks in places like Madrid, Bali, London and Istanbul have reminded us of the terrible toll of international terrorism and the constant threat it presents.
The Canadian Forces stand ready to defend us at home and abroad.
More than 3,000 of our armed forces will celebrate the holidays this year deployed on overseas operations, away from their loved ones, their families and their friends. While many of us are busy making holiday plans and decorating our homes, at least 8,000 Canadian Forces members are preparing for, engaging in, or returning from an overseas mission. Here at home, another 10,000 soldiers, sailors and air force personnel are diligently working to defend our territory and its approaches, to assert our sovereignty and to serve our communities. This does not include the many soldiers, sailors and air force personnel working to provide support and assistance to ongoing operations.
The demands of the Canadian Forces are significant. It is important that they know that our commitment to them and to the vital work that they are doing remains steadfast. The Canadian Forces are defending our national interests, the security of our country, and the economic prosperity of the Canadian people and promoting Canadian values, democracy and freedom.
We have a clear need for a three ocean navy, a robust army, a revitalized air force and a responsive special forces, an integrated team standing prepared to defend Canada and democracy. The House must continue to provide our Canadian Forces the support they need to carry out these responsibilities.
Right from the beginning of the government's mandate, we have demonstrated our intention to rebuild and revitalize the Canadian Forces. The Minister of Finance announced an additional $5.3 billion for defence over the next five years in the 2006 budget. We must not stop there.
We recognize the Canadian Forces have long term requirements that need to be addressed. The government is working to address the serious equipment, personnel, and infrastructure challenges created by many years of neglect. There is no denying that it is going to take time and a significant amount of investment to bring the Canadian Forces back up the level where they once proudly stood. We are looking for the House to support us in this important task.
(1150) The government has moved to ensure that the forces serving in Afghanistan and on other deployments both in Canada and abroad possess the right training and equipment to deal with the challenges of their missions.
In June of this year we moved forward with a series of equipment purchases and related support services valued at $17.1 billion. The Minister of National Defence announced the planned purchase of four strategic lift aircraft, 17 tactical lift aircraft, six medium to heavy lift helicopters and 2,300 medium size logistic trucks, plus three supply ships.
We will increase the size of the Canadian Forces. Over time our military will grow by 13,000 regular forces and 10,000 reserves. By doing so, the Canadian Forces will have enough trained people to handle the many tasks imposed on them. To meet these targets, the Canadian Forces are expanding and streamlining our recruitment and training systems. This has brought significant success. In fact, as of this month, we are starting to see applications being processed within one week. Previously this was unattainable.
Canadians are doing their part by visiting our recruiting centres and signing up to serve. Interest in the Canadian Forces as a career is growing. Last year the recruiting targets were exceeded by 6% and Department of National Defence officials are confident that we will hit its recruiting targets this year.
We are also dedicated to taking better care of those who have readily and unselfishly pledged to defend and protect us. Canadians who have chosen a military career, those who have answered what our Prime Minister called the highest calling of public service, have more than just demanding jobs. They cope with significant stress. Their jobs are often dangerous. The physical demands can be daunting. They deal with long separations from their homes, their families and their friends. They miss birthdays, special holidays, first words and first steps, and as we all know, some have made the ultimate sacrifice. These burdens are shouldered by not only the members of the military but by their families.
In April of this year we launched the new veterans charter. This represents the most profound transformation of veterans services and benefits since the second world war. This new charter builds on existing services and benefits to help traditional war service veterans live with dignity and address emerging needs of a new and different type of veteran. It contains provisions for job placement assistance to help military retirees transition into the civilian workforce. Our Canadian Forces have served with duty, honour, loyalty, integrity and courage, and they deserve our support during and after their military service.
In closing, we must continue to provide them with the proper equipment. We must continue to reinforce their skills with the proper training. This government is showing that support. We will continue to show that support. I ask every member in this House to also show his or her support.