Deputy Minister and Chief of the Defence Staff Welcome Letter
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Dear Minister Anand,
Congratulations on your appointment as Minister of National Defence. You are Canada’s 43rd Minister of National Defence, and the 2nd woman to serve in the position, and it is our honour to work with you in support of advancing your priorities.
As Minister of National Defence you lead the Defence Team – comprised of both the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. It is the largest organization in the Government of Canada, with the most employees, the biggest budget, and the largest land and infrastructure portfolio.
The Canadian Armed Forces are a vital national institution with a tradition as long and proud as Canada’s history itself, and are an intricate part of the very fabric of our country. Throughout our history, the Canadian Armed Forces have made out-sized contributions that have shaped our world and protected our way of life, playing brave and defining roles throughout both World Wars and enabling Canada to make important contributions to the post-war rules-based international order.
You are at the helm of an organization long invested in the protection of Canada, its citizens and their interests, at home and abroad, and in times that are highly complex and volatile. In the realization of your responsibilities you will work closely with cabinet colleagues whose ministerial mandates intersect with defence and national security, directly support the defence enterprise, or involve government priorities that the Defence Team can support. In this light, your key relationships will include the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Public Safety, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, the Minister of Finance, and the President of the Treasury Board.
Today, the Defence Team—with 68,000 Regular Force members, 27,000 Reservists, and 5,200 Rangers on established strength, working alongside 28,700 civilians—has a presence in over 3,000 communities, in every province and territory, including remote and northern locations of Canada. The Canadian Armed Forces exercise Canadian sovereignty, aid Canadians in times of need, and assist provinces, territories and First Nations communities in response to natural disasters, and even, as we have seen, health crises. They support the shared defence of North America with our closest ally and neighbour the United States, including through the North American Aerospace Defense Command. They also contribute to peace, security and stability abroad in support of Canada’s global interests. Today, there are over 2,000 soldiers, sailors and aviators deployed on 24 missions around the world, including training Ukrainian and Iraqi security forces, contributing to NATO operations in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, and enforcing United Nations sanctions against North Korea.
The foundation of our activities is our defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged. This transformational policy, released in 2017, marked a shift in Canadian defence policy by putting people first—making clear that the Defence Team’s most important asset is its people, and that providing effective, tailored and compassionate care to women and men in uniform, civilian employees and their families is its most fundamental priority. The policy also made essential, long-term investments in augmenting the Canadian Armed Forces capabilities over a 20-year time horizon and provided a roadmap outlining how the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces anticipate, adapt, and act to address the myriad defence and security challenges of today and tomorrow.
The sexual misconduct revelations of the last year have made it clear that our success in the face of these challenges and our ability to deliver on these investments is contingent on how we take care of our own. While we have made strides over the last number of years in creating an environment that supports our people in taking care of their mental health, there are other areas of our organizational culture that must be transformed. Addressing sexual misconduct, hateful conduct and discrimination, creating a culture of inclusivity, and putting the right to dignity and respect before all else is our obligation. Fulfilling this obligation is necessary to create the conditions under which all members of the Defence Team are able to come to work and themselves feel strong, secure and engaged. Only then will we be able to fully work to our collective potential – to deliver on the investments made and carry out the important work of protecting Canada and Canadians.
In this light, fostering culture change in the Canadian Armed Forces will be foundational to our institution’s success in the coming years. While much work remains to be done, progress has been made. We have established the Chief Professional Conduct and Culture Change – accountable for leading horizontal progress on those fronts. We have made substantial investments in the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre. We are implementing changes to the Military Justice System as called for in the report on the Third Independent Review of the National Defence Act by Justice Fish. We are supporting Justice Arbour in her Independent External Comprehensive Review and stand ready to act on her recommendations. We look forward to engaging you and advancing work on this issue as laid out in your platform.
Like the rest of Canadian society, over the coming months and years the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces will need to focus on rebuilding and reconstituting themselves in the aftermath of COVID-19. While a highly resilient organization, the Canadian Armed Forces, like other sectors and militaries in the world, have been adversely affected by the effects of the pandemic, including adhering to public health measures, and the need to divert resources to assist provinces, territories and First Nations with pandemic response. This, despite best mitigation efforts, has inevitably limited the institution’s ability to recruit, train and generate the personnel and capabilities required for its operations—indeed, our actual strength has diminished over the course of the last year and a half. The pandemic has also taken a toll on the Department of National Defence and civilian personnel across the Defence Team, which we are endeavoring to mitigate. Today, the entire Defence Team is working through the implications of a hybrid remote and in person workforce and supporting its people in that transition.
The public reckoning around the misconduct and the culture in the Canadian Armed Forces have also had an adverse impact on Canadian Armed Forces recruitment and retention. During the summer, the Canadian Armed Forces released a Reconstitution Plan, a framework to rebuild our strength, maintain our readiness, continue to modernize now and for the future, and ensure that the organization remains fit to succeed in its Government-mandated missions. These efforts include fundamental changes to the structure of the Canadian Armed Forces that are required to adapt to a new and fluid strategic environment. It will be important that consequent limitations are recognized and the required resources are made available over the coming years so as to maintain the CAF at a level of readiness that provides you and your government with a full range of military options in the achievement of your mandate and objectives.
Your leadership will be instrumental to setting the conditions for the Defence Team to move forward and navigate an increasingly complex and dangerous world. Indeed, this is an important moment in time in the context of global defence and security. The very nature of competition between states has been changing rapidly, with the shifting international balance of power exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. [REDACTED] Rapid technological advances are testing the speed with which we innovate, procure, and frame the revolutionary military applications of these emerging technologies, [REDACTED].
Canada, alongside its allies, must re-think its approach, re-affirm its position as a middle power in a multipolar world, and manage the effects of constant global uncertainty. It has never been more important for the Canadian Armed Forces to be equipped to respond to emerging threats to our national security, agile in their capacity to operate in all domains, and to leverage the strength of alliances and partnerships.
Indeed, investing in continental defence and modernizing the North American Aerospace Defense Command, as called for in the Roadmap for a Renewed US-Canada Partnership announced in February 2021, [REDACTED]. Canada’s geographic position no longer provides it the sanctuary it once did; we are increasingly vulnerable to conventional and unconventional threats, which have the potential to affect not only our defence and national security, but also our economic prosperity and democratic institutions. And the increased demand for defence resources doesn’t end there. Rising temperatures are making the Arctic more accessible and attractive to competitors [REDACTED]. In parallel, the demand for military assistance in domestic emergencies is higher than ever, with climate change generating more extreme weather, the reality of an ongoing pandemic, and the prospect of other future unforeseen events that stretch Canada’s national resilience. In short, we must ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces remain a capable, credible and reliable force and are positioned to respond to the demands of this in this contemporary environment, by investing in the infrastructure and capabilities necessary to deter and defeat threats including in northern communities to further enhance our Arctic sovereignty. Work is underway and we look forward to your engagement on this important process.
We look forward to assisting you in charting a course forward for Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces – we, along with our respective teams, are here to support you as you navigate your new responsibilities. In that view, the transition materials we have prepared for you provide further analysis of these challenges and proposals to address them, as well as expected decisions, events, and engagements that you will have to make or participate in over the coming months. Enclosed you will find a document detailing decisions and events that will involve you in the immediate term (first 30 days of your tenure). It also recommends verbal briefings that you should receive early as priority, to allow you to begin to engage as soon as possible. We will tailor the products and their delivery to suit your schedule and needs.
Congratulations again, Minister, on your appointment.
Acting Chief of the Defence Staff
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