Happy Holidays from the Canadian Army Command Team

Statement / December 17, 2021

As we enter another holiday season, Chief Warrant Officer James Smith and I would like to offer best wishes to our Canadian Army family.

We join Canadians in saying ‘thank you’ for your service to the country over the past year. Whether here at home or overseas, you’ve continued to make a real difference. And we wish to extend gratitude to your loved ones as well, who make so many sacrifices that enable you to serve.

We recognize that over the year, there have been many pressures and events, including the delivery of the national apology on sexual misconduct in the CAF, which had a real impact on the health and well-being of our team members in and out of uniform.

Accepting the shortcomings of this institution, the apology was a critical step towards setting a path toward meaningful and lasting change to our culture. Allowing ourselves to accept that we are all unique individuals, each with different lived experiences, the emotions we bare, the feelings triggered by this apology, range in complexity and intensity. Some members of this Army family may well find themselves in a place of deep hurt and loneliness.

If you know someone who’s struggling, reach out. If you’re struggling yourself, remember you’re not alone. Canadian Forces Members Assistance Program (CFMAP) is a free service which provides confidential, voluntary, short term counselling to members and their immediate family. Appointments can be set up 24/7 by calling 1-800-268-7708.

The successes of the Canadian Army are plentiful, and taking a look back over the past year has the Army Sergeant-Major and I in awe. We continued to grapple with COVID-19 health restrictions in our own workplaces while providing the highest level of service to our government partners who sought our help in responding to the pandemic.

We are equally proud of the teamwork you’ve shown in protecting one another from COVID-19. In addition to your discipline with regard to protective measures in your day-to-day work, you have stepped up in overwhelming numbers to be vaccinated. As of December 8, 2021, more than 96% of eligible CAF members have received their first dose, and 94% are fully vaccinated.

It is that level of discipline that allowed us to continue training safely. Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE went ahead this year, and was a success despite some necessary restrictions.

As a result, we were able to fulfill our obligations on the international stage in major and minor operations across the globe and domestically across the nation. Overseas, our members serving in Central and Eastern Europe as part of Operation REASSURANCE, where the Canada-led multinational battle group in Latvia continues to conduct NATO-led tasks projecting our collective strength.

As part of Operation IMPACT, we continue to train the armies of Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon helping to build up their military capabilities. And, under the Operation UNIFIER banner, our soldiers continued to work in close partnership with the Security Forces of Ukraine and other partner nations in support of security and stability in the region.

Here at home, we have been supporting a myriad of domestic operations, including Operation LENTUS, which have seen us respond to a wide range of emergencies. These include responding to the recent, severe floods in B.C., fighting wildfires in B.C., Manitoba, and Ontario, flooding in the Yukon, and providing assistance with water purification in Iqaluit.

We keep those in mind who are still assisting in Op PALACI over the holidays, our annual avalanche control support to Parks Canada.

Your involvement in the fight against COVID-19 (Operation LASER) and our support to vaccination (Operation VECTOR) have been instrumental in mitigating the impact of the pandemic. The Canadian Rangers have seen a marked increase in requests for pandemic support tasks in their communities and risen to the challenge.

While there is much to be proud of, we must not lose sight of the challenges ahead. We face recruitment shortages driven in part by negative public perception of the Canadian Armed Forces due to revelations of misconduct. Those issues have been further exacerbated by COVID-19, which has slowed the recruitment process.

These and other factors are why the Chief of Defence Staff is leading us in a process of reconstitution and modernization. He has made people and culture a priority in that process, recognizing that a more diverse and representative Canadian Armed Forces is key to ensuring we are able to meet future challenges. We pride ourselves on taking care of our own, and it is imperative we always do so without prejudice.

It has been, and will be, difficult to look within and see where we have fallen short and lost the trust of Canadians, but we must. We celebrate each New Year in the spirit of hope and optimism, and we must see our shared road ahead in that same light.

There is much difficult work to be done, but also much potential. Over the last two years of unprecedented challenge, you have demonstrated adaptability, resourcefulness, and discipline – qualities that will only become more important as we move forward. The ASM and I know we can count on you.

For now, I encourage you to make the most of whatever time you have available to rest, recharge, and return in the New Year with a new sense of purpose. Keep looking out for one another.

CWO Smith and I wish you and your families a very happy holiday season and New Year. For those who are deployed over the holidays a special thank you, and know we are in your debt.

Major-General Michel-Henri St-Louis
Acting Commander Canadian Army

Chief Warrant Officer James Smith
Army Sergeant-Major

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