Deputy Minister and Chief of the Defence Staff Welcome Letter

Dear Minister,

Congratulations on your appointment as Minister of National Defence. You are Canada's 44th Minister of National Defence, 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 (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). It is the largest organization in the Government of Canada, with the most employees, one of the largest budgets, and the largest land and infrastructure portfolio. You are taking on this role at a turning point in our history. Threats to Canada are multiplying, while our ability to respond is diminishing. We have much work to do that must be executed with a sense of urgency if Canada is remain a sovereign and prosperous nation into the future.

The CAF 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 CAF 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 your role as Minister 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. 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—currently with about 63,500 Regular Force members, 28,900 Reservists, and 5,200 Rangers on strength, working alongside 28,700 civilians. While the DND/CAF is below full established strength by some 15,000 people it nevertheless has a presence in over 3,000 communities, in every province and territory, including remote and northern locations of Canada. The CAF 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 2,500 soldiers, sailors and aviators deployed on 21 missions around the world. Most notably, Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine remains ongoing, and despite Ukraine's heroic resistance, mounting pressure on Russia, and extraordinary Western solidarity, the war promises to remain protracted for the foreseeable future. We will not waiver in our support and continue to train thousands of Ukrainian forces under Operation UNIFIER, and to deliver additional military assistance and equipment to Ukraine. The CAF also supports NATO and Eastern European Allies through Operation REASSURANCE, which is being expanded as per the Prime Minister's announcement at the recent NATO Summit in Vilnius. Other operations include training Iraqi security forces, enforcing United Nations sanctions against North Korea, and more.

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. Revisionist powers such as China and Russia are actively eroding the rules-based international order that has underpinned Canadian prosperity over the last few decades. Rapid technological advances are testing the speed with which we innovate, procure, and frame the revolutionary military applications of these emerging technologies, and the progress made by adversaries threatens to erode the traditional military advantage that the West has enjoyed for decades.

In parallel, the demand for military assistance in domestic emergencies is higher than ever, with more extreme weather and other unforeseen events that stretch Canada's national resilience. The CAF have been more and more frequently called on by the federal government, the provinces and First Nations communities to respond to a range of crises – from the pandemic to wildfires and to floods. These are crucial contributions that make a real difference; however, this growing reliance on the CAF has been straining the Defence budget, CAF capabilities, and the women and men of the CAF.

The foundation of our activities is our defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE). 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 CAF capabilities over a 20-year time horizon and provided a roadmap outlining how the DND and the CAF anticipate, adapt, and act to address the myriad defence and security challenges.

As you are aware, the Government announced in Budget 2022 a review of our defence policy to update SSE. SSE foresaw the challenges we are experiencing now, but the pace and scale of those challenges have intensified faster than anticipated, [REDACTED]. While SSE's fundamental tenets remain sound, 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. At the tactical level our CAF members punch above their weight, [REDACTED]. It has never been more important for the CAF 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.

Advancing culture change, eliminating behaviors such as sexual misconduct, hateful conduct and discrimination, creating a culture of inclusivity, and putting the right to dignity and respect before all else, remains one of our primary obligations. Fulfilling it 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. Fostering culture change in the CAF will be foundational to our institution's success in the coming years. While much work remains to be done, progress has been made. The Chief Professional Conduct and Culture Change is now an established and positive force within the Defence Team and is accountable for leading progress on the culture change front. 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, and we are implementing the recommendations by Justice Arbour following her Independent External Comprehensive Review. We look forward to engaging you and continuing advancing work on a comprehensive implementation plan on culture evolution.

The Defence Team is also well positioned to contribute to other important whole-of-government priorities. On climate change and greening, we are making efforts to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to the Government's Greening Government Strategy. On Indigenous reconciliation, the CAF work with remote and isolated Indigenous communities throughout the country, which supports a positive relationship between these communities and the Government of Canada, as well as their resilience and well-being.

We look forward to assisting you in charting a course forward for Canada and the CAF – 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 material to help navigate hot and key issues quickly, further analysis of 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 short term.

Congratulations again, Minister, on your appointment.

W.D. Eyre
General Chief of the Defence Staff

Bill Matthews
Deputy Minister

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