While Canada pulled its fighter aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition earlier this year, the Canadian Forces still pull its share on the ground. Providing vital support to Peshmerga fighters through "advise-and-assist" operations, Canada has boots on the ground and is actively taking part in the battle.
Yesterday, Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan announced that Canada will commit to a yet undefined peacekeeping mission, probably in central Africa, and in doing so Canada will be a "responsible partner in the world." It will probably not be until the end of the year that we know the details -- why, where, the mission's duration, what will they do, what victory looks like and the terms of engagement. What we know for sure from minister Sajjan's announcement and follow-up questions is that this matter will not be brought before Parliament for a vote before the commitment to the UN is finally agreed upon and put into operation.
What was left off of Budget 2016 as well as the reestablishment of life-long pensions was a line stating "increase the veteran survivor's pension amount from 50 per cent to 70 per cent." This means that every day 30 veterans are dying and their widows or widowers are still having their partner's pension cut in half.
The Super Hornet is by far the best alternative for Canada and will keep the RCAF operational for the next 25 years -- a critical timeline for future drone warfare. By then, Boeing and Lockheed Martin will most likely have some workable unmanned fighter drones; a great option for Canada to keep constant surveillance in the Arctic and its coasts.
I want to thank Bruce Moncur for his piece, "Trudeau's Liberals Anything But Sunny Ways For Veterans," and for attending Veterans Affairs Canada's (VAC) stakeholder summit on May 9 to 10. To date, it was the department's largest and best-attended, and he made some invaluable contributions both as a member of the greater assembly and individually when we had an opportunity to speak one-on-one during a lunch break. Bruce points out in his piece that Budget 2016 did not include all of the items in the mandate letter I received from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when I took office as minister of veterans affairs in November 2015. He's right.
The Liberal government was going to allow the abeyance on the Equitas lawsuit -- the court case in which the government has been arguing the "moral obligation" they have to soldiers maimed in war -- to run out. The biggest piece of the Liberal party platform and mandate letter was the reestablishment of life-long pension, and now they are going to court to argue against it.
According to Michael Ferguson's latest audit, the Army Reserve is clearly lacking "clear guidance on preparing for international missions, had lower levels of training as cohesive teams, and had not fully integrated this training with that of the Regular Army." Adding to that, the number of reservists is lower than needed and are not fully prepared to deploy when required.
The attack was the signal for a carefully laid Taliban ambush. Villagers scattered in all directions as the platoon came under withering fire from across the river, but amazingly there were no other casualties. Kevin called in for a dustoff chopper and ordered that smoke grenades be popped to mark our position but they landed too far away, so Kevin helped hustle my 200-pound carcass over a hundred metres to the chopper, where my Canadian stretcher had to be shoehorned into the American Black Hawk.
The Liberals promised a "leaner, more agile" military, raising concerns over the size of the military. With our current commitment and the promised renewal of UN peacekeeping missions, Canadian soldiers will not be able to sustain such a high operational tempo, let alone if we slash our military numbers.
The Canadian Forces will once again have to wait to receive new much-needed equipment. Whether it is new fighter aircraft, ships or vehicles, the federal budget has postponed more than $3.7 billion in military spending until 2020 -- or later. As a matter of fact, the latest federal budget is another slap to the Canadian Forces' face. Bill Morneau, Canada's finance minister, said the Liberals are postponing defence spending to figure out defence priorities.
At what point does racism move from isolated incidents to a systemic problem in the Canadian Forces? Master Corporal Marc Frenette is quitting his decades-long service after years of racial harassment. Last May, Corporal Esther Wolki went public over the racial abuse she suffered and the damage it did to her mind. Not even the defence minister is immune from racist attacks. Then there's Private Wallace Fowler. For 16 years he has been trying to get the Forces to properly investigate the racism he says he endured.