STANDING COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL
DEFENCE AND VETERANS AFFAIRS
COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA DÉFENSE
NATIONALE ET DES ANCIENS COMBATTANTS
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Tuesday, May 8, 2001
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton
Centre-East, Canadian Alliance)): General MacKenzie,
welcome to the meeting of the Standing Committee on
National Defence and Veterans Affairs. We're looking
forward to your presentation. If we're all ready to
proceed, please proceed, General.
Major-General Lewis MacKenzie (Ret.) (Individual
Presentation): Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,
thank you very much.
It's an honour to appear in front of you on this day,
the 56th anniversary of V-E Day, when I must say the
Canadian Forces had one of the most formidable
operationally capable fighting forces in the world.
Perhaps there's some symbolism to us meeting today.
I congratulate you for taking on the subject, the
sensitive subject, of operational capability. I hope I
had something to do with it. I might be giving myself
too much credit. On February 23, I in fact made the
statement, which received a fair amount of coverage in
the media, that the Canadian army was no longer capable
of fighting at a meaningful level. I will discuss what
I mean by a “meaningful level” in a few minutes.
I have to point out, however, I was not the first to
say that. General Boyle, the chief of defence staff
twice removed, some five years ago made the same
statement—once. I presume his meeting with the
defence minister the following day convinced him to not
say it again.
He indicated that the Canadian army was not capable of
fighting against the best, beside the best, in high
intensity conflict. It was a true statement then and,
regrettably, it's my opinion that it's even more of a
true statement today.
I'm going to limit my remarks basically to what I
know. That's the army more than the other two
environments, although we will get into that, I'm sure.
I have a very simple litmus test to back up my comment
about the army being incapable of fighting at brigade
level and up. It's pretty simple. If I were an enemy
force commander, I would much prefer to fight the
Canadian army of today than the Canadian army of ten
years ago—with all the bits and pieces, and all the
high-tech equipment in small numbers, that have been
introduced into the Canadian forces, particularly the
navy and the air force, over the last ten years.
I am talking about brigade level. I don't want to
talk military jargon. I'm talking about at the team
level. Considering the level that would be
commensurate with our reputation, capability, and
national resources, the brigade is extremely modest.
We're talking about a brigade group of around 5,000
I have no doubt the individual soldiers are up to the
task, in spite of declining standards in physical
fitness and discipline at the altar of individual
rights and political correctness.
When we have an army where a senior commander cannot
tell one of his soldiers he's fat and to sort himself
out, and has to write a written apology for pointing
out the shortcoming in the soldier, then there's
something wrong with the discipline. It happened to a
friend of mine, a full colonel. However, our soldiers
go beyond that. They live with it and they get on with
the job at the soldier level very well.
As an aside, I would be delighted if we spent as much
time on marksmanship training as we spend on
Those who went up the hill at Vimy, went ashore at
Normandy and Sicily, and fought off the Chinese
communists in Kapyong Valley, to the best of my
knowledge and from my conversations with them, did not
have one sensitivity class on the way to those
operations. When they got there, they weren't terribly
sensitive, particularly to the enemy. I think there
are probably some priorities that have to be looked at.
To elaborate on the meaningful level of combat
capability, for the previous century we fought at every
conceivable level, at home at the domestic level,
internationally within the political level, and at the
diplomatic level within the military, for the right to
command our own forces on operations.
There are tens of thousands of crosses, with a maple
leaf and the name of a young Canadian on them, spread
around the world to prove we were there and we were
noticed. We were noticed not just by our allies but
by our enemies. That level was much beyond brigade.
However, I'm not going beyond brigade because that's
what your 1994 white paper addresses as a prerequisite,
as a necessity, for the Canadian army.
During his recent appearance here, the chief of
defence staff, General Baril, indicated the Canadian
Forces are more operationally capable today than ten
years ago. Maybe that is averaging. I assume the
army is included within that. If you can't disagree
with your friends, who can you disagree with? Moe
Baril is a friend of mine.
Maybe it's averaging. Maybe because the navy and the
air force have received a significant amount of high-tech
equipment in small numbers, it gives their score a
little bit more. Therefore, even though the army has
gone down, maybe the average through the forces is
better than it was ten years ago. I personally don't
think it's the case. To give him the benefit of the
doubt, perhaps that's what he was talking about,
although I don't think so.
I think he used a really bad example. He talked about
the Gulf War. He talked about the fact that we sent some
planes over there with dumb bombs, as well as ships—both
of which, by the way, the political leadership
directed to stay out of the fight. Don't get too close
to the fighting. Ships were to stay down south in the
Gulf and the air force flew CAP, combat air patrol, over
the ships. We didn't send an army contingent, a
company, to guard a hospital.
The point that has to be made is we could have. We
could have sent a fully equipped, fully trained,
competent brigade group numbering over 5,000 personnel
to the Gulf to fight, if the political direction hadn't
been not to do that because we were afraid of
casualties—we, the government; we, the people.
If the same war happened today, we couldn't send a
brigade. It doesn't exist. There has not been an
exercise at brigade level where the brigade commander
has been exercised in over eight years.
Bits and pieces of equipment—the much-vaunted Coyote
vehicle, which is a nice piece of kit, is in Ethiopia
now; it performed well in Kosovo. It was bought for a
level of command that we don't even have
any more—division, which is a combination of brigades.
The LAV III is a good piece of kit in numbers that would
not be sustainable beyond the second day of any
You can't just throw out a few bits and pieces of new
high-tech equipment and say we're more operationally
capable. Fighting, as outlined in your own direction
for this committee, at the combat level requires more
than just a day's worth of equipment. There has to be
Your army is so small today that it has to patch
together units for deployment. The absolute worst
thing to do before you go into any operation is
to reorganize. Our people do that as a matter of course
100% of the time. They're augmented by hundreds of
individuals. Cohesion suffers. There's a lack of faith
in the chain of command. There's a lack of faith in the
family unit itself. Facetiously I would say, “Poison
coffee anyone?” This is what happens when you don't
trust your chain of command. You just want to get your
butt through the operation, survive, and get home to
mother and child, or whatever. But you do not have
faith to take on any task that your chain of command
might want you to take on.
I think I have a pretty good endorsement of the wisdom
of that observation. Why is it that as the force
commander of a 31-nation force in Sarajevo in 1992 I
was sent a battalion of Canadians—the reverse of the
NRG—two-thirds francophone, the Vandoos,
one-third anglophone, the Royal Canadian Regiment.
It was wonderful.
According to Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the
secretary general at the time, it was the most
dangerous city in the world. There was not one case of
post-traumatic stress—not one.
Every battalion that followed on behind that battalion
has had a staggering, shocking number of post-traumatic
stress casualties. Why? Because my battalion came
from Germany, sent by the brigade commander who is here
today, General Clive Addy. They had played,
slept, trained, worked together for years in Germany as
far as a NATO force. They were a cohesive battalion
that trusted each other. They didn't even need any
direction from me. Point them in a direction, send them
off, give them a mission, they did it, and they came
back and told you when they had finished. That's a
combat-capable battalion. It's not a collection of
individuals. There is more to it. It's synergistic
with its equipment, its people, and its training.
Now, if we have 3,000 post-traumatic stress casualties
in the Canadian Forces, which is what the experts tell
us, of which some have been designated as such with
pretty low levels of qualifying criteria—if you have
nightmares sometimes, you are classified as a
post-traumatic stress casualty—I suggest that
probably our entire contingent in Korea and in World
War II were post-traumatic stress casualties, if that's
the qualification. Some people do it to justify
bizarre behaviour. So in my case let's accept
50%—1,500—are legitimate. That could well be the
We've got a serious problem if we're sending people on
peacekeeping missions.... I know those of us who have
served on missions like to compete with the World War
II vets by saying that it's just as bad. We can't
fight back. We can't shoot back, so it's harder on us.
Bullshit. You go out and have to kill people and
they're trying to kill you. I think it's probably more
serious than sniper fire. Unfortunately, a number of
your people, maybe 19 in 11 years—10 years now—are being
killed around you by the very people you're there to
help. It's stressful, there's no doubt about it. When
they nailed babies to boards as calling cards in
Yugoslavia, it's pretty rough on you. But it's no
rougher than it was in Korea or World War II.
So if we've got 1,500 stress casualties as a result of
that, there's something seriously wrong with our
organization, and I think it's the structure. I think
it's the fact that we have to paste together units to
send them overseas—a bunch of individuals who, when the
mission is over, go home to upper whatever, Saskatchewan
or Cape Breton or wherever by themselves.
If you ask me, the
best therapy for a soldier who is suffering from post-traumatic
stress before he gets into the professional
chain is another soldier. You don't have that when you
send together patched-up units, because they become
unpatched when the mission is over.
It's more than just putting the numbers together. The
CDS—I don't know whether he did it
intentionally or not; I hope not—talked to you about
the fact of the vanguard in the white paper of 1994
requiring 1,200 soldiers in a battle group and 1,000 in
a battalion group, and that he could do that. That
would eat up five of the nine existing battalions in
Canada's army today to do that. He forgot to go on to
the much more demanding brigade group, which is stated
in the white paper.
There's nobody left for that, and if you did put it
together, it would be a collection of individuals, not a
trained organization within 90 days. So there's no
way we can meet that requirement today, and we
could have 10 years ago.
Let me conclude by saying from my heart that I
honestly believe this is one of those issues that
faces the political leadership of this country that
must not be determined by polls. It must not be
determined by the military. It must not be determined
by editorial policy.
In a democracy, the military will do what it's told.
If you tell our military and our army in particular to
reduce itself to zero strength and zero capability, they
will do it. And the soldiers will die to defend your
right to make that decision even if it's a really
That's the way it works in a democracy, thank God.
That's what we all served for. But in return I would
suggest that you owe them political leadership.
The unique structure of the Canadian Forces since
integration in the early 1970s discourages pure
military advice from its uniform leadership absent of
political or career implications.
I know. I've been there. General Powell and I have
discussed the aspect of the Gulf War. General
Powell—you might not know—recommended that the United
States not go to the Gulf War. He argued for two days
with President Bush, the senior, not to do this: “Do
not do this. This has the potential to become another
Vietnam.” President Bush, as was his right, with his
security advisers—one of whom was Dick Cheney—said
“We're going.” At which stage General Powell saluted,
said “Right, sir, and I'll go win it for you.”
That's how it's supposed to work and that's why the
uniform leadership, when it comes here, should have the
right to give you their honest personal opinion. We
are the only nation in the western world that doesn't
When I appeared in front of the U.S. Senate a number
of times and the U.S. Congress in uniform and out of
uniform, I was told by the defence minister, “Give them
your personal opinion, Lew. Just make sure it's not
government policy; it's your personal opinion.” I did
that. I came home and I was called in front of the
Senate special committee and I was handed a sheet of
talking notes: “This is the party line, Lew. This is
what you're allowed to say.” I took an early
retirement as a result of not sticking to those talking
That's wrong. You, ladies and gentlemen, have to hear
the truth, because it's not the military's decision to
decide what the hell the military should do. You tell
them that right now in the white paper, but you're also
responsible for funding that, and at present,
unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.
So that's my rant. I just want to tell you how
proud I am of young men and women performing in spite
of the problems at the top—in spite of it. But when
you go and visit these troops on peacekeeping, and you
visit a company and you see a few vehicles and you're
really impressed, that is not a fighting army. Wait
until you go and visit them, or their crosses or Stars
of David or whatever, after they get into some really
serious fighting, not over two hours, not over two
days, but over a couple of weeks in a sustained
operation. If we're not prepared to do that or if we're
not capable of doing that, then we will not be in a
position to live up to our obligations within NATO,
the defence of North America, or in some of the more
aggressive peacekeeping operations that every
successive government over the last twenty years has
had an appetite for sending us off to.
Thank you very much for your attention, and I'd be
delighted to respond to any questions.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you
very much, General.
For the information of everybody, the questioning will
be a first round of rotations of ten minutes each, and
the second round of rotations will be seven minutes each. So
we'll start the first round of questioning with Mr.
You have ten minutes.
Mr. Leon Benoit (Lakeland, Canadian Alliance):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, General, for your comments. I do
Just for clarification—and I think it was clear
enough in your presentation—in referring to the army,
would you say that the army is more combat-capable than
it was ten years ago?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I would not, sir.
Mr. Leon Benoit: You did make a comment that, if
you're taking all of the forces and maybe some kind of
averaging, the conclusion could be arrived at that our
military generally is more combat-capable than ten
years ago. Do you believe that's the case?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I was trying to be as kind
as I could to my erstwhile colleague, the chief of
In fact, there's a tighter argument there, but I don't
believe that, no, primarily for two reasons. First of
all, there are ships tied up; there are aircraft that
are being grounded. I know it's not 50% because that
includes the Tutors that are now contracted out.
Nevertheless, we have grounded and reduced the flying
hours of a significant number of aircraft. There's a
critical mass somewhere, and that doesn't necessarily
exist any more with our reduced naval and air force
capability. That would be one of the reasons.
The other reason is that, while we have been
introducing bits and pieces of some really nice
equipment, thank you very much, so has everybody else.
So it's not as if we've been moving forward in the last
ten years, and everyone else has been standing still,
they being most of our potential adversaries—not all
of them, because some of them are probably stuck in the
jungle in the Congo right now waiting for us on the
next UN mission. Nevertheless, the numbers would
probably not allow me to say that overall we are more
In a “gain war”, to use a bad term, where 10
years ago you had 90,000 and you have fewer than 60,000
now—probably 50,000 deployable—it's hard to make the
argument that we're better off.
Mr. Leon Benoit: So personnel and just not having
enough people are big parts of the problem.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: Because that has a ripple
effect on constant restructuring and matching together
units to try to match missions. It's more than just
the lack of personnel, yes.
Mr. Leon Benoit: Okay. You made a comment that
the LAV III and the Coyote are nice pieces of
equipment, but that they would be shot down in two days if we got
into a combat situation. Is the reason that this has
happened that maybe these pieces of equipment were
bought more for so-called peacekeeping operations than
for being part of a package of equipment that would
make Canada's forces more combat-ready and capable?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: In fact, the LAV, for
example, is a much better piece of equipment than the
war-fighting piece of equipment it's replacing in some
areas. Don't forget, I was the only person in Sarajevo
who was born before the vehicles were made that my
Canadian troops were running around in. I watched the
Jordanians, the Argentines, the Czechs, and the Slovaks
all roaring by in equipment that was four or five years
old. My guys went lumbering by in late 1950s,
early 1960s stuff, with sandbags on the top so maybe the
snipers' bullets wouldn't get through as they stuck
their heads out.
In fact, it is a piece of kit that is appropriate for
war fighting, but to take advantage of the opportunity
you gave me, it is only a complementary piece of kit,
yes. There is much more that goes with it within the
In fact, someone who has appeared before you
recently was asked: if they could introduce one piece
of equipment, what would it be on the wish list? I was
thinking that you might ask me that, and my answer was going
to be: what I would give you would be my resignation.
I would resign as the chief of defence staff because
you haven't told me what my job is. If you want me to
go off, run around, and chase submarines, then I'll say,
give me some helicopters. If you want me to go and
patrol the jungles of the Congo and track down the
Interhamwe and maybe get involved in an operation on
the plains in the eastern part, then you'd better fix
up my tanks.
Mr. Leon Benoit: So you're saying that, before you
can have a discussion that is useful on equipment and
on what we need in terms of personnel, you have to have
a clear mandate for our military? Is that—
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: You have to have a clear
Mr. Leon Benoit: A clear vision.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: —which you get in a white
paper, and you have to support it financially and
foreign policy-wise. In other words, you can't have the
policy in the white paper and then expend all of our
energies and equipment expenditures, etc., in other areas
as a flavour of the month, which is regrettably....
And I know it's not a perfect system, but at least
there should be some moral responsibility to support
the government's stated policy in the white paper.
Mr. Leon Benoit: Can Canada's military do that?
Does it provide what is committed to in the 1994 white
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: In my estimation, no, not
as a competent fighting force. We're talking about
operational capability here.
They'll get the numbers together. They'll get the
numbers. You'll have a parade here before they
dispatch for war X, and right in front of the
Parliament here—it'll look great. There will be 5,000 men
and women there. They'll look sharp. There will be
some vehicles rolling down Wellington. It'll look
great. But they're not a fighting force. They haven't
had an opportunity to train for it, and they haven't
been equipped for it.
Mr. Leon Benoit: In your opinion, has Canada's
involvement at the level it has been involved in
so-called UN peacekeeping and other peacekeeping
operations been a good thing for our military in terms
of developing into a military that is combat-capable
and well prepared? Or has it been a negative thing?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I think, overall,
unfortunately—here's a guy that volunteered for nine
of them—it's been negative, as we ended the Cold War.
During the Cold War we were maintaining in Germany our
elite—I love that term—organization. We were
maintaining a brigade there, and we were rotating people
through that brigade that maintained our collective
fighting skills at the brigade group level. At the
same time, we could afford to fling off a unit to Cyprus
or Cambodia or whatever.
When the Cold War ended, we brought those troops
home, and that's all we started to do. As the
military reduced in size, but the appetite for the
government didn't abate for getting involved in these
missions, that's why we now have...I think there
are nine missions with only single-digit contingents.
Mr. Leon Benoit: Yes.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: A couple of them have one and two
Mr. Leon Benoit: One has zero people.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: Yes. That doesn't enhance our
But in order to feed, particularly Bosnia, as most of
our folks have left Kosovo.... As we continue to feed
Bosnia, that means the army turns itself inside out to
produce a couple of thousand folks to rotate in there.
And while they're doing that, because we're so small,
they can't train for the combat roles that are dictated
by the white paper.
Mr. Leon Benoit: You may have given this advice,
actually, to the Americans, but you said at a
conference I was at at Toronto, about three weeks ago,
the CISS—I'm sorry—
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: That was the CISS, yes,
the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies.
Mr. Leon Benoit: Yes.
You made a comment that you either had given advice to
the Americans, or you would if you were asked, not to get
involved in these peacekeeping operations.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I gave that advice in front
of the Congress, both the House of Representatives and
the Senate, three times.
Mr. Leon Benoit: And why?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I lecture two times a year
on the joint flag war fighting course for admirals and
generals. I've given that advice every time for the
last eight years. I've now passed Newt Gingrich as the
longest-serving lecturer on that course. And a number
of people, including General Powell, have told me the
reason I keep getting invited back is because I tell
them to stay out of it.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you
very much, General, and Mr. Benoit.
Mr. Claude Bachand (Saint-Jean, BQ): I want to thank you for
your frankness. I feel like starting with quite a simple question
that I often ask people.
The other day we had a colonel and when he was finished
reading his text, that I had heard word for word at NATO, I asked
him if he had written it himself. He told me that he had but let us
say that I still doubt very much that he wrote it himself.
Is it possible for a general, a Chief of Staff like General
Baril, to tell a standing committee what he really thinks or is he
on duty covered by orders? Yourself, have you always been that
frank when addressing a standing committee?
You were once in the army and you surely appeared before
standing committees. Have you always had that frank attitude or is
it that ultimately there is no real distinction between those who
have the uniform on their back and those who, the day after, when
they are not wearing it anymore are detached, are unshackled and
can speak a lot more freely?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: It is a good question, sir.
I thought for a while that I established myself in
The Guinness Book of Records for only serving 18
months in capital punishment here in Ottawa in National
Defence headquarters, but in fact there are some people
who beat me. Therefore, I did not move in these
circles that often. But I can assure you that before I
came in front of a committee such as yours, I was
reminded of the policy, and I was reminded
that I should not stray from that policy. I probably
firmly believe that this hasn't changed.
As far as the chief of defence staff goes, far be it
from me to be precise because I'm not in his position,
but I would imagine that his comments were the result
of a collective group of people discussing.... We're
talking about the commander-in-chief, less the Governor
General, of the Canadian Forces. As a result, he is
surrounded by many advisers. They will be thinking of
the political implications because we have an
integrated headquarters now with civilians and military
as equals, operating within this milieu, which is somewhat
unique in the world. Therefore I can understand
that there'll be a lot of pressure on him to say the
I have been unkind in the past. This doesn't
necessarily apply to the CDS. I think the fact that we
are unique in the western world—that a large number of
our senior leaders go on to bureaucratic positions within
the government, be they deputy ministers or associate
deputy ministers or ambassadorships—dissuades
them from being very outspoken in their comments. That
is not to say that everything they say is not true, or
whatever, but I think it's important for senior
officers to express their opinion. In my case, there
have never been any restrictions, certainly since my
retirement. I sort of miss the calls from the minister
the next day. It was exciting.
Mr. Claude Bachand: I also understand your cohesion approach
for larger groups. That adherence to training, in the mutual
support of troops, will be such that the unit, the division or the
brigade will be stronger, will resist better and will perform
Presently, do you think that within the forces whose number
went in a few years from 80,000 to 57,000 it would be possible to
train some brigades of 5,000 or 6,000 people by trying to
redistribute the 57,000 so we can have brigades of 5,000 or 6,000
people who would always be together in order to develop that
solidarity and that cohesion that make a lot of sense to me?
Do you think that within the 57,000 armed forces members we
can shuffle the cards differently in order to find ourselves with
5,000 or 6,000 members who will train and who will go together as
a unit or do you think that we will need more money and more
recruiting to do that?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: To answer your question,
sir, you probably could, but you'd probably require
fewer brigades. For the units that we have, the size
that was dictated was based very much on the fact that
we didn't want to do away with any more units. We've
been slashing units left and right since unification,
mine being one of them—one of the first units I
belonged to, the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. And so
it was a matter of trying to maintain an organization
for battle with as many of the units as we could
possibly practically protect.
So the unit strengths were made very small—infantry
is 601. And when you have a 601-person infantry, you
probably have about 500, if you're lucky, that you can
deploy—if you're lucky. There are sick, lame, career
courses, etc. So therefore, if you were to do that
today.... Let me go back one step. When you're asked
to deploy overseas, nobody ever asks for a 601-person
battalion or regiment or whatever. You have to augment
it—make it bigger.
If you were to do that today—and it would
be possible to create those units—you would probably
have to go from three brigades, as we have now, with
one centred in Valcartier, one in Petawawa, and one in
Edmonton, and remove one of those, combine the other
two, and reduce the number of units to get meaningfully
sized units that could train together. Then you would
need the money, which is no small amount, to train them
in Wainwright or Gagetown or wherever. They would have
to come together. We used to come together once in the
winter and once in the summer for major one-month-plus
exercises. We don't do that any more.
Mr. Claude Bachand: Have I still some time?
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): For a very
short one, yes.
Mr. Claude Bachand: About the warrior's ethics, you often said
that when people went on peacekeeping missions, this did not seem
to affect their warrior's ethics. Some people hold a different
opinion. I was wondering if it would be conceivable, for example,
to specialize part of the army in peacekeeping missions because it
is not quite the same approach: instead of shooting people, one
sometimes has to make compromises and negotiate. There are special
approaches for peacekeeping missions and a special approach when
one wants to deploy combat troops. Do you think that we can train
some part of the army for specific peacekeeping operation tasks and
train other parts of the army in order to maintain the warrior's
spirit and make combat troops out of them? Is it conceivable? Has
anybody ever thought of that?
MGen Lewis Mackenzie: No, sir. I must say, I
don't believe that's possible. In fact, I'm asked that
question more often in the United States than in
Canada. I used to talk about the warrior ethic.
Soldiers will do what they're told. If they're well
trained and disciplined, they'll do what they're told.
There is no peacekeeping any more other than in
Eritrea-Ethiopia. It's an oxymoron. There's normally
semi-combat when you go into these areas. But now I
say that too much peacekeeping does affect the warrior
ethic in the minds of the public.
The Prime Minister has frequently referred to us as
boy scouts, which is unkind, unfortunately, to both the
boy scouts and the military. I know what he
means—we're always there, we respond—but the warrior
ethic has been eroded in the minds of Canadian people
because we keep telling them that we are a peacekeeping
nation. We're not. It's a sideline.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you,
Mr. Wood, from the government side.
Mr. Bob Wood (Nipissing, Lib.): Thank you, Mr.
General, you've been very critical of Canada's ability
to participate in effective peacekeeping. I think
you're quoted as saying “We have a legacy and a
history to live up to”. Is it the responsibility of
Canada to be a leader in peacekeeping or is it time for
other nations to start doing their share? In other
words, is it always up to the same people to provide
the money and the troops?
MGen Lewis Mackenzie: Well, I hope you're quoting
me correctly in that the reputation and legacy we have
to live up to is in our war-fighting efforts, because I
normally respond by saying that we're not a
peacekeeping nation. We've killed more than our share
of enemies in just causes over the previous century,
and there is a lot of evidence that we did that very
well. We and the Australians would be at the head of
the list, per capita.
In 1991 we had less than 1% of the world's population
and were providing 10% of the world's peacekeepers. We
had 400 or 500 in Cambodia, we had 600 in Cyprus, we
had 2,400 in Yugoslavia, and we had 1,400 in Somalia in
1992. Now we throw the slide up at the UN, with
Canadian participation. We still have the same number
of flags, same number of missions, but you have to take
a look at the size of the contingents—two in Sarajevo;
one in Guatemala; seven on the Iran-Iraq border. They
are tiny. The biggest UN contingent we have, less the
ones that are just about to come home from
Eritrea-Ethiopia, is the Golan Heights, at 159, I
think, last month.
Then we have Bosnia. I must say, to answer your
question, we have paid our dues in Bosnia, with 21 dead,
over 100 seriously injured, and billions of dollars.
Surely the Europeans can take that on. Recalling the
minister's comment—quick in, quick out—well, I think
ten years is probably enough. Maybe it's comfortable.
Maybe we're well set up there logistically. I think
maybe we should be standing by for some of the other
nasty spots in the world in the event the Canadian
people, you gentlemen and ladies, decide that's where
We are now down in the bowels, in the middle
of over a hundred nations that are providing troops.
I'm suggesting we earn that reputation
the hard way, with blood and guts...we're not fighting
at our weight now, and other people are recognizing that.
So for us to be in a position to contribute
combat-capable troops into hot spots, euphemistically
referred to as peacekeeping, we're not in the position
to do that right now. I think we should be, so we can
also fulfil the roles that the government has directed
to us in the 1994 white paper.
Mr. Bob Wood: You talked just a few minutes ago
about training as a fighting force, and we're not doing
that any more—
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: At the brigade levels.
Mr. Bob Wood: Did that come as a result of
when we left Europe, because of the fact that all our
NATO partners were very close by and it was easy to get
everybody together in the concentration?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: No, because you see, we did
that at home. Where else can you find
training areas these days? We're blessed with large
training areas in Gagetown, Suffield, and
Wainwright, and for artillery in Shilo, and so it was just
concurrent with our withdrawal from Europe. Concurrent
with this was a rapid ramping-up of our
responsibilities on peacekeeping missions, which I just
mentioned. That's what caused it, but the folks at
home were not a military formation because they
had contributed so many of their bits and pieces to
continuing UN operations. Some had just come home, some
were overseas, and others were gearing up to
Quite frankly, I didn't realize until about four
years ago, when I took the initial Canadian contingent
into Sarajevo, that there was never any intention to replace
it. It was not thought that it was anything more
than a six-month mission, but then it went on
for eight years afterwards.
Mr. Bob Wood: About ten years ago you were
spearheading a movement to open the combat trades to
women. You've recently been quoted as saying, in
relation to the strength of our forces:
“It's hard enough to find guys to serve in the army these days
because of all the other options, and we can't sit
around praying for another economic recession.”
First of all, are
you satisfied with the number of women in the combat
trades right now? Secondly, are you
proposing that we abandon any hope of finding male
recruits? I think you said somewhere that you have to
find about 7,000 recruits a year to staunch the
bleeding and refill the ranks.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: That's the department's
stated figure. And my comment to that
was that if you find them—and good luck—you will turn
what's left of your army into nothing but a training
organization. We won't have people in Bosnia. Trust
me. Everyone will have to be dedicated to training
Perrin Beatty made the call to me and said, “Colonel
MacKenzie, good news and bad news. Good news: I'm
making you a general. Bad news: I have an interesting
job for you. Introduce women into the combat trades of
the Canadian Forces”, and I was a skeptic. Perhaps
that's why they gave me the job.
I became converted, not just because I was a
bureaucrat and I was told to convert, but also because I
had the pleasant experience of having a significant number
of females serving with me in Sarajevo, not from Canada
but from other countries.
Providing all men and
women meet the operational standard, I don't care what
their genitalia is. I just don't care. In fact,
there's a synergy that men don't want to be shown up in
front of women and women don't want to be shown up in
front of men. There's a synergy when you're under
fire, because bravery is acting. We're
all scared, but you want to act more bravely in front of
somebody of the opposite sex. Quite frankly, it came
as somewhat of a disappointment to discover that sex
really wasn't on people's minds if they thought they
were going to die. They wanted to work on
their weapons and their kit and all of that. So that
was the good news.
The problem is that you just asked me if I'm happy
with the numbers. I don't give a damn about the
numbers. If a woman or a man is good enough and can
meet the operational standards, then they're entitled
to get in. I don't want targets. I don't want quotas.
There is a standard and we should be able to
justify the standard. If the shell weighs 122 pounds,
then, damn it, you have to be able to lift about 10 of
those a minute, and that's fine. Some of the guys can't
do it. Some of the gals can't do it.
Those who can
and want to be in are entitled to serve. I
no longer believe that a woman coming back in a body
bag will have any more impact on Mom and Dad or the
public than a guy coming back in a body bag. It's
really racist to even suggest that.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank
We'll move on to Mrs. Wayne.
Mrs. Elsie Wayne (Saint John, PC): General Lewis, I
do have a few reservations when it comes
to women going on the submarines. You may disagree
with me on that, but nevertheless I—
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I would only say, Elsie, if
you and I were in a slit trench together, we would be a
hell of a lot closer together than we would be in the
submarine, and I would look forward to the experience.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: Anyway, dear, I just—
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: From one maritimer to
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: We have major concerns, we
really do, for our military. Hearing you today, Lew, I
didn't know you were being dictated to from the top
down when you were there. We have major concerns
around the table about all the cutbacks that have come,
over $3 billion or $4 billion taken out of the budget
for the military. You know and I know that we have to
have replacements for the Sea Kings. But with me, you
take the politics out of the military, period. People
like the generals and the brigadiers and the colonels
should be allowed to come in, and they shouldn't be
passed any notes telling them, this is what you're
going to say. They should be saying exactly what we
need to hear. That's the only way we can turn it
around. It's the only way we can do what's right for
the men and women who are in those uniforms.
So I'm asking you, how do we get this turned around,
Lew? How do we get it turned around? How do we get
the bloody politics out of it for the men and women who
are wearing those uniforms?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: Mr. Trudeau, rest his soul,
was very smart when it came to the structure he created
for the military. I was honoured to look after Mr.
Trudeau a couple of times in Germany, when I was EA to
the commander. He was up-front, he did not like the
military—he made no secret of it, so I'm not being
disloyal to his memory. When the force was unified,
all the generals and admirals running around worrying
about ranks and badges and things like that, that was a
smokescreen. It was the integration of the
headquarters, the co-equalization between civilian and
military. The generals come and go every year or two,
the civilian bureaucrats—good people, don't get me
wrong—tend to stay there, so that's where the
corporate memory is.
We created, unique in the world, an integrated
Department of National Defence. Check the legislation.
There's supposed to be a Canadian Forces headquarters.
It doesn't exist. It's been consumed by the Department
of National Defence. There's no public affairs for the
Canadian Forces. Its first priority, naturally, is to
the department and to the minister. That's the way it's
structured. So when Desmond Morton, Jack Granatstein,
and David Bercuson were asked by Minister Young to
write an essay on what's wrong with the forces, the
number one recommendation they made was to de-link the
military and the civilian bureaucracy.
I'd die for the principle of civilian control of the
military. But now it's together. If we were at the
daily executive meeting right now in National Defence
headquarters, at the head of the table would be two
people, co-equals, the deputy minister and the chief of
defence staff. It's always a committee. Therefore,
what comes in front of you, I would suggest, is much
more politically polished than in the United States,
where the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff....
You would be going after me if I were the chairman and
I would be responding, giving you my best professional
advice, not “Gee, I wonder what the implication of
this is for the minister”.
So in order to change it, someone has to make the
decision to accept those recommendations that have been
made to de-link the military headquarters, the Canadian
Forces headquarters, and the Department of National
Defence. Then the buck will stop somewhere too. It
just won't float around from in-basket to in-basket.
It'll stop somewhere.
As I say, Mr. Trudeau, that was brilliant. If you
wanted to emasculate the military, not to make it fight
less well, but to cause it to have less influence over
its own destiny by telling you folks the up-front
facts, that was the way to do it.
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: I have to say that I have major
concerns, and I don't care which party is the one
that's forming the government. When it comes to the
military, you know how I feel about it. When you
people—and I'm looking here and I'm seeing
presentations that were made to us—are coming forward
and laying it right on the line now, somehow we have to
get your message right to the government today that
things have to change.
We have a letter we received from the Dominion Command
of the Royal Canadian Legion telling us that they sent
a group of people over there to entertain some of our
troops, and they came back and they said, “Our men and
our women didn't have the uniforms
didn't have the tools to do the job, didn't
have anything”, and they were truly embarrassed.
Well, that's an embarrassment for all of Canada.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I have to respond by saying
that we're here to help. When I opened my mouth and
made this comment a number of weeks ago, the minister
referred to me as a Cold War warrior. Well, drop the
Cold War, call me a warrior—that's what you paid me
for. There seems to be a reluctance to accept what I
would think is fairly qualified opinion from a great
many more people than me. You folks have to analyse
it, but for me the answer is simple. I don't have to
consider the political implications, but Doug Bland
once said that the politics with defence become
more important than defence policy itself, and that's a
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: Yes, it is. I say that because
when I look at the replacement of the Sea Kings.... I
had some people from Cormorant who flew into my riding
to take me out to dinner to talk to me. What I did was
I ordered a bowl of soup, because I told them I
couldn't be bought for dinner, and that was it. Now
here they are, most of them. If they got the contract,
a lot of that work would be in New Brunswick. But what
I'm saying is, take the politics out of it. I'm not
going to play politics, even though it would be good
for New Brunswick. What I'm saying is, let's have an
open bidding process. Let's give the men and the women
the tools to do their jobs, and if that's the Cormorant
or if it's the EH-101, let's give them what they have
to have—not necessarily the lowest price, but the best
for them. That's the way I am and that's the way I'm
going to be, Lew.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you,
Mrs. Wayne. We'll start the second round of
Mr. Benoit, five minutes.
Mr. Leon Benoit: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to go on with an issue you did mention in
passing, the quick in, quick out concept the
minister brought up and others have brought up over the
past few months. How do you assess this as a strategy?
What do you see as the risks of this as a strategy, to
start with? That'll be my first question.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I have to be a little
circumspect in how I answer. I did a documentary a
number of years ago on the UN—a pretty successful one;
it won a New York Film Festival award. In that
documentary I talked about, not quick in, quick
out, but a suspend state on these missions. I made
that comment while standing on the green line in
Cyprus, where I found grandchildren of the people who
served with me there in 1965 now walking the same line,
with the UN badge on their shoulder from Austria. I
was fortunate enough to find some. So there is a
requirement to get out more quickly.
A couple of things bother me about the minister's
statement. I wish it were driven by strategic
implications or national considerations rather than
resources. I'm a little concerned that it's driven by
the fact that we really can't do much else. But to
give him the benefit of the doubt, the concept doesn't
bother me. What bothers me, sir, is the fact that
early is the most dangerous. We are always preparing
for best-case scenarios. The UN is famous for that. By
that I mean you send in a force and you hope
everything goes right, and if it goes right, you're
okay. We did that in Hong Kong—not wanting to be
overly dramatic. But the fact is that if you're going
to go in early, then you'd better have a combat-capable
force to send in, and that's not a bunch of individuals
you brought together three months ago. That makes the
operational capability demand even greater than what
we're doing now.
Mr. Leon Benoit: Do we have the logistical
capability to carry this out effectively now? Say you
look at Ethiopia and Eritrea, that situation. You have
a Canadian contingent of about 550 about 10,000
our shores. If they get into trouble, first, can we
reinforce them, can we provide adequate support, or can
we get them out of there?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: No, we can't, but other
people will be lined up fairly deep to help us. My
comments to the Americans have been, don't get involved
in the sharp end; save yourself for the heavyweights,
your combat capability for the Russians, the Chinese,
the North Koreans, when we need you—we the world. But
your logistics are the best in the world, you're better
at it, you have more of it, and I'd be very
disappointed, in the event a mission deteriorated, if
other countries weren't lined up to help us, as they
did, unofficially, in Sarajevo.
I couldn't be helped in
Sarajevo with my force, but a certain nation south of
us led me to believe that I didn't have to worry all
that much, that if things really went nasty, they would
Mr. Leon Benoit: Do you feel comfortable with
that? If we do somehow get into these so-called
quick in, quick out scenarios, do you feel comfortable
relying on other countries to bail us out if we get in
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: Absolutely not. If you're
asking me if I'm comfortable with it, no. I'm a
realist. If you could assure me, as a national
commander, that in the event I got into trouble there
would be national resources to respond and to bring in
reinforcements trained in logistics, I'd be very much
more comfortable with that.
Mr. Leon Benoit: Do you think—and this is only an
opinion, since you have no way of getting inside either
the minister's mind or the government's mind—that
maybe this proposal has been floated as an excuse to
further downsize the number of people we have in our
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I cannot conceive of anyone
who knows anything about the military not realizing
that we've gone past a critical mass, particularly in
the army, which will no longer represent a useful
contribution to the international community. When I
lecture to my American friends and tell them about our
deployable army of 15,000, they keep waiting for the
punchline. They think it's a joke. They keep waiting,
and waiting, and when I tell them “No, it really is
about 15,000 deployable”, they're just aghast. They
can't believe it.
So if we're going to go even smaller.... If General
Jeffery, when he's here, talks about reducing the
structure, that's one thing, but not reducing the
number of his personnel. There's no way.
Mr. Leon Benoit: Thank you.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you,
Mr. Claude Bachand: The other day, when we started our study
on the state of readiness, we identified some sectors or criteria
in order to evaluate the state of readiness of a unit, of a brigade
or of the Canadian Armed Forces. There was, for example, the
equipment or the number of soldiers.
I would like you to give us your general appreciation of the
criteria that should guide us and help us determine whether or not
the Canadian Armed Forces units are combat-ready. There are many
factors. I know that we have somewhat of a British tradition, but
there are also other ways of evaluating the state of readiness, for
example, those used by other countries, including the United
I would also like your evaluation as to the state of readiness
of the Canadian Armed Forces. If your answer is negative, that is
that we are not combat-ready, which changes would you make to bring
that state of readiness to an acceptable level, both on the
equipment and the human resources sides?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: That is another good question, sir.
Combat capability is not something you quantify with
numbers. It's not so many soldiers or so many tanks or
whatever, it's how they complete their tasks. That
means exercising them at a level demanded by the
political leadership. In this case, it's a brigade
group as part of the main body deployable into a combat
situation. That requires a headquarters above the
level of the one being exercised to evaluate that
In other words, if it's a brigade group, then someone
representing the divisional commander, the next
commander up, has to exercise that group in a simulated
combat situation, which is something we did regularly
up until the early 1990s. That means giving what we
call all phases of war tasks, whether it's offence or
defence or withdrawal or whatever, and then evaluating
the formation's capability to carry out those tasks.
You can do it with a live enemy or you can simulate
it, as the Americans do. They ran about 16 different
variations through the computer before the assault in
the Gulf War. In fact, the results of the assault they
chose were within 2% of that predicted by the computer.
So it's not like the old days, when the computer said
“Yes, sir” but didn't provide much useful
There's a very sophisticated way of
doing that now and predicting the outcome.
You need a national training centre. The Americans
have one outside of Las Vegas. They have another one
for their light force. I hope that someday we will be
invited to participate. The problem is that if they
were to let us in, then every other nation in the
western world would want to come and play too. I've
discussed this with them unofficially as a retired
We really need a national training centre. The
British have one in Canada. It's in Suffield. They
operate at battle group level. It's a very good one.
It has been there for 15 or 20 years. But we don't.
We used to plug little bits and pieces into it, such as
a company of 100 soldiers or sometimes a small
battalion. But we don't have our own. If we were
focusing on combat capability, we would insist on
having something like that. Because we are being
torn asunder by various other missions,
which you know well, we don't have the time or the
money to do that. It's expensive.
Mr. Claude Bachand: Right but you are talking about a national
training centre while I am asking you if we can achieve a state of
readiness acceptable for the Canadian Armed Forces with the number
of soldiers we have right now and the equipment we have right now.
You will have to admit that the equipment is important also. We
cannot send soldiers without tanks, without air support. Besides,
we often hear of reports denouncing the disturbing state of
Canadian military equipment. Can we also have your comments on
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: Certainly we have never sent
a contingent. I doubt if any country in the world has
sent a contingent off to war happy that it has
the best of everything. Our tankers did a pretty good
job during the Second World War of fighting tanks with
a capability that was 200% better than their own, as an
However, to respond to your question, with the current
state of the army, it could only reach that state of
combat capability with a reduced number of units, and
it could use the same number of people to increase the
size of those units. As identified by the Auditor
General, there's a deficiency of equipment of around $4
billion, which would be required to just keep it from
rusting out and to stop the hemorrhaging and start
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you
very much, General.
Now we'll move on to Mr. Wilfert, please.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert (Oak Ridges, Lib.): Thank you,
The main thrust of my question was going to be with
regard to peacekeeping and peacemaking, which I think in
the minds of the public are sometimes confused.
But I want to start, Mr. Chairman, with this. The
purpose of the committee is to talk about the state of
readiness of the Canadian Armed Forces. We are trying
to obtain from as many sources as possible views as to
not only what the state is but how we can improve it.
My view is that if you're going to send someone in
uniform anywhere, they have to have the right tools,
whether it be equipment, political support, or public
I'm perplexed, General, by your comment that when
currently active members of the military, particularly
the upper echelons, come before us, we're not
necessarily, to use the vernacular, getting the right
goods. My question to you is, why wouldn't they give
us the right goods considering that the number one
priority for the soldiers they command would be the
safety of those forces? I won't deny for a moment that
there are areas that have to be improved. In your view,
what would compel them to come here and suggest
anything other than that? I've heard from other
individuals who have come here and laid their cards on
the table. You talked about de-linking, and I think
that's interesting, considering that we're probably the
only one that has that coupling of the military
headquarters. Why would someone who's in a
position where soldiers may be sent abroad and could
lose their lives not give us the straight goods?
MGen Lewis Mackenzie: Being retired for eight
years you're still wedded to the profession. It's hard
for me to answer that question because I can only
speculate. I firmly believe that the structure of the
organization and the daily operating within the small
“p” political milieu of the Department of National
Defence has an impact on the decision-making of people
who are there for too long.
Guess what? When people, senior officers, are really
good at the politics here in Ottawa, guess how we reward
them? We keep them here. General Boyle went from one-star
general to four-star chief of the defence staff
without ever having gone back to the field. You could
walk on water and you still wouldn't have the respect
of the troops in the field if you've gone from one star
to four stars without going back and touching the
stations on the cross of command in the field. And
that's no judgment on him as an individual at all.
The fact is it's just the fact that you're
here rubbing shoulders with the minister and whatever,
and all of a sudden you're a four-star general and you
were a one-star when you came here.
It is the structure. It has career implications if
you come here and the minister is saying, look,
everything's okay. With great respect for Mrs. Wayne, I
used to say the Tories screwed the military as much as
the Liberals ever did, only they did it with more
style. It didn't hurt as much, that sort of
thing, back in those days.
The fact is, the minister does not want his chief of
defence staff coming over here and saying, my army
can't fight. I would like to think I would
say that, but I don't think I'd be chief very long.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: But if in fact the army cannot
fight, and then it is proven because those soldiers are
sent abroad and they're in a situation, I'd imagine
that the implications would come square on the
shoulders of the minister.
MGen Lewis Mackenzie: No, sir.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: Obviously, in the end, given
our structure, it's the minister who will take the
MGen Lewis Mackenzie: That would be the case, but
what we're sending soldiers abroad to do—and when you
go and visit them they're doing so well, etc.—is not
intense combat at a brigade group level. That's the
point. I'm saying we should be prepared for a
worst-case scenario. They can go and do the platoon
activities. They can do the company activities. They
can do some of the battalion level activities, up to
1,000 personnel. But Jim Calvin, who
commanded the Patricia battalion that fought in the
Medak pocket before they deployed,
and who used to work for me as a young captain,
said, “I couldn't even do a battalion road move when I
left Canada because I just hadn't had a chance to
operate at battalion level.” Two months later,
with a whole bunch of troops from other countries, they
had to do a fairly specific operation in the Medak
pocket—over a short period of time, thank God.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you
very much, General.
We'll move on to Mrs. Wayne, please.
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: General, if the minister called
you today and said, “Lew, I need your help”, what are the
MGen Lewis Mackenzie: Highly unlikely.
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: What are the top priorities?
What are the three or five priorities I could do today
that would have an impact and would improve the state
of our military? What would be the top priorities?
What's the list? Give us that list.
MGen Lewis Mackenzie: In terms of personnel
in the army, there is a requirement, probably, for
67,000 additional personnel. Everyone will say, my
God, we can't even recruit to our current number.
Sorry, that's not my problem; go and do it. And by the
way, don't try to motivate people with briefcases and
getting a trade for civvy street. Try to motivate them
through patriotism and providing some reduction in
suffering to people around the world. Drive them on
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: Right.
MGen Lewis Mackenzie: So that's personnel. For the army,
have a training centre where, at the very minimum, the bits
and pieces of the brigade, the armoured regiments, the
artillery regiments, and the infantry battalions, have to
go through it and be exercised at combat level.
In the air force, recognize that fuel costs a lot more
these days, and if you want to fly and you want to win
top gun competitions, then you're going to have to up
the flying rate. That's the fast air guys. And
please give us some strategic lift so we're not
using Hercules, which are a theatre tactical lift
I saw today on the back page of the front section of
the Ottawa Citizen there's a new Antonov
aircraft, the largest aircraft in the world. My guess
is we could probably put our entire army in two of
them. Let's get some strategic lift so we can move the
In the case of the navy, keep up the good work,
but, please, let's have enough sailors to sail our
ships so we don't have to tie them up at docks in
Halifax and Victoria, because they're not very
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: And let's build them all in
MGen. Lewis MacKenzie: Let's build them in Saint
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: You're bloody right. Thank you.
I'll buy that.
MGen. Lewis MacKenzie: Don't move that to the top
of your list.
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: Thank you very much.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you, Mrs. Wayne.
Now we'll start the third round and we'll start with
Mr. Leon Benoit: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to follow along a little bit more with this
quick in, quick out, thing. I asked you whether you
thought this proposal had been made by the
minister as an excuse for not having enough personnel,
and possibly for further downsizing. The answer you
gave was something along the line, I think, and you
can correct me, that basically it's plain to see
we've reduced the numbers to a point now where we
no longer have a viable force. That's paraphrasing.
But what were you saying when you gave whatever
answer you gave there? Is it that it's okay to recognize
that we don't have a viable force to carry out...the way
the 1994 white paper says we should; therefore,
let's go to this other option? Were you saying that
this is one legitimate way the forces can go, so let's
look at pursuing that? Or did you mean something else?
MGen. Lewis MacKenzie: Yes, I did say, sir, that
I was suspicious. I'm certainly not inside the
minister's mind, but I was suspicious that the in and
out was driven by the fact of our diminished resources,
and therefore our ability to sustain those deployments
There's a certain degree—and I hate to use the term—of
national arrogance associated with it, an attitude that
we're the best, therefore we go in early and then we
get out. I'm not sure how much longer we can keep
doing that. As soon as the first really dangerous one
comes along and there's going to be a high risk of
casualties, I'm not sure we'll be ready to rush in
there. And the UN's going to say, you guys said you were
going to go in early and get this thing set up for us.
I'm not sure that's going to be the situation if we're
not combat-capable of doing it.
So as to whether it's a precursor to further
reduction, there's no way I could guess if that's
the minister's objective. I can hope and pray that
Mr. Leon Benoit: As well as having a force that
can do what Canada wants to do, according to the 1994
white paper, besides the goal of having a military
that's capable and combat ready, and so on, there's
another goal. Former Ambassador Gotlieb, who was a
speaker at the conference I referred to earlier, talked
about, as did another speaker whose name I forget, the
importance of rebuilding Canada's military forces to a
sufficient presence in terms of the Canada-U.S.
relationship. Could you comment on that?
MGen. Lewis MacKenzie: I would very much endorse
that because right now they think we're doing more
than we are.
They're rapidly discovering that, in actual fact,
we're not living up to that record of the past. And if
anything, we've been bragging about our contribution in
the last half decade as it's been going down in overall
numbers. So we're going to get caught out, and we are
getting caught out. Even the UN, I'm told, is, when
they look at our list...and I know we're around 30th, or
something like that in contribution.
The people who are leading contributors are not
there probably for the right reasons. Bangladesh,
Pakistan, and Nigeria are not exactly industrial strength
examples of international rights. Also, Nigeria
is there for the $1,000 per month per soldier.
Nevertheless, that's all the more reason why
nations like ours should be seriously in a position to
take on those that are in our national interests. Our
national interests, I don't have to tell you, are,
broadly defined, international peace and security.
So I am also concerned that we're rapidly becoming a
bit of a—let me overstate it—laughing-stock with the
Americans when they see the actual numbers we're
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you
very much, General.
We will go to Mr. Regan.
Mr. Geoff Regan (Halifax West, Lib.): Thank you,
General, you talked about the issue of the
integrated headquarters. We've heard from various
witnesses as to whether or not we're top-heavy in terms
of generals and senior officers or civilians. I want
to ask you about that issue, first of all. Do you feel
we are in either case?
Secondly, you're proposing that the civilian and
military headquarters be de-linked. What would be the
appropriate working relationship between
those two groups?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: First of all,
it's driven very much by the structure that the
Government of Canada forced on us. I go back to the
integration. Under integration, for each of the major
departments within the Department of National Defence,
there was a military guy in charge of one of those
departments and a civilian as the second in command.
The other one would have a civilian in charge and a
military guy as the second in command.
After they were working together for about six months
back in 1972 or 1973, they started comparing salaries,
and they discovered that the civilian bureaucrat was
making a hell of a lot more money than, say, the
colonel or the brigadier.
How did they sort out the salary thing? They elevated
the rank of the military person. Maybe a colonel's job
was now being done by a major-general. So the increase
in rank was driven by the structure of the Department
of National Defence here in the nation's capital. It
didn't change in the field. Brigades were still
commanded by brigadiers. Battalions and regiments were
commanded by colonels. For divisions, we had one on
paper for awhile, and parts of it were commanded by
two-star generals. The structure changed within the
bureaucracy in Ottawa.
The reduction in generals, which has been significant,
from over 100 to around 60, has in fact been done
mostly here. We as a nation are still trying to play
with the big boys, and we do so quite adequately in some
areas. We have a number of senior appointments, such
as 2IC in NORAD. We have appointments in NATO that
drive maybe a handful of additional generals. But most
of the generals are here operating as co-equals—that
horrible term—of civilian bureaucrats at the
Department of National Defence.
Thank God it happened, sir, because I probably
wouldn't have been a general. The numbers were pretty
big then. I never thought I would be, but I made it
because the pie was fairly large.
If you were to de-link the military and bring it back
under the chief of defence staff or whomever and had it
respond to the minister's staff within the office of
the Minister of National Defence, which is how I would
see it, there would still be the deputy minister in
charge of the civilian staff within the military. That
would still be his or her responsibility, but the chief
would be responsible for the army.
When something like the Somalia inquiry happens and
someone points a finger up, it won't be pointed at a
committee. A lot of the generals and senior
bureaucrats who appeared in front of that committee
said, “It wasn't my responsibility. It didn't happen on
my watch.” They were absolutely right, because when you
start dealing with a committee, where does the buck
So, yes, there are a lot of generals, half as many as
there were ten years ago, but most of the demand for
them is driven by the bureaucratic structure in the
Department of National Defence.
Mr. Geoff Regan: So how should they operate
together? If they were de-linked, how should the two
groups interact? What kind of interaction is required
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: It's the same as in
England, Germany, Italy, and France. They are working
toward a common goal with different chunks of the
responsibility pie. There would be the military
responding to direction from the civilian staff, which
would arrive on their desks probably from the minister
through the civilian bureaucracy, where there would be
some small military representation just to explain the
terms and SOPs, things like that.
Mr. Geoff Regan: Isn't there some danger that a
civilian direction would not involve sufficient
comprehension of the military realities?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: It's the responsibility of
the military to go back and explain that.
We respond even to bad civilian direction. That's the
Mr. Geoff Regan: I understand that.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I can't say, gee, I don't
like that. Either I get out.... But I don't attack
Parliament, as is done in some other countries. It's
my responsibility as a military leader to educate you.
If you tell me to do something really stupid, then at
least.... General Powell said to Bush, don't go to the
Gulf War. Bush said, we're going. That's when the
general clicks his heels and says, now I go and do my
military job to the letter of the law.
Mr. Geoff Regan: The question is that—
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Your time is
up. We'll go to Mr. Bachand now.
Mr. Claude Bachand: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As politicians, we listen to the military telling us that
there are not enough soldiers in the army, that the equipment is
obsolete, etc. But us, parliamentarians, legislators and members of
the executive—the cabinet—are responsible for the tax base for
the whole country. In this regard, there is something that is
paramount for us: public opinion. I think that you understand that.
Us, politicians, like to be “millionaires” with the votes
put into the ballot boxes during an election. We call that
political capital and it does not necessarily consist of money.
This is the way that we are perceived by public opinion. This is
what public opinion is all about.
Up until now, I am under the impression that public opinion
perceives money invested in National Defence as something negative.
I am not talking about people here because we are informed persons.
We are in a better position to evaluate the evidence heard and to
recognize maybe that a greater effort might be necessary.
This is all very nice as we are sitting here in the Standing
Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs. But when I
leave here and go to my riding, to a neighbouring riding or
elsewhere and tell people that we ought to give more money to the
Canadian army, they are not thrilled about the idea.
I find that the Canadian government could try a bit harder to
raise the credibility of the Canadian army, by using promotional
campaigns for example. This could make their task easier afterwards
and would allow them to invest a bit more in National Defence. I
sometimes wonder if the government is not doing it on purpose so
that the situation remains the same: in doing this, they do not
have to invest more money in National Defence.
I think that the rescue operations that were undertaken in
Canada, notably in my riding, during the ice storm, are also very
important to raise the credibility of the army. But we are not
going to wait for disasters to raise that credibility. Can we have
your views on that?
How could we change public opinion towards the army? How could
we raise its credibility? Through promotional campaigns for
example? You seemed to be talking about patriotism earlier. Is that
not an avenue that you could suggest to the government so that they
can convince the public that we must make a bigger budgetary effort
for the army?
MGen. Lewis MacKenzie: Sir, there's never been in
my lifetime a wider window of opportunity with regard
to public opinion. All the polls—and I don't
necessarily believe all polls—indicate there's a
tremendous amount of support out there in the public.
Now normally, a number of politicians said to me, yes,
but if you ask them whether we should spend the money
on the military or health care, they'd say health care.
I would say health care, but it's not a choice. A
nation has a responsibility. If we are to be a nation,
we have to have a modest—as a minimum—contribution
towards our stated goal of international peace and
security in the interests of enhanced economic
So this is where the political leadership comes in.
This is where you, ladies and gentlemen, have to take
some political risk. It's not just that the ship's
built in your backyard—you might have nothing. In
fact most constituencies don't have anything military
these days, but it's a requirement for the nation.
And there's lots of good news there. I get about five
brown envelopes a month from people within the military
saying, “Hey, General, we know you've got some influence
with the media, maybe you could get this story out.” And
they're all really good stories.
Mr. Claude Bachand: You should send it to the
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
MGen. Lewis MacKenzie: Yes, but my point is, sir,
that there is no public affairs in the Canadian Forces.
It's in the Department of National Defence. It'll be
looked at as to how it impacts on the minister. So
there is a potential for enhanced public relations. I
mean, some civvies these days are telling me how much
they love the recruiting ads for the reserves on
television—tanks splashing through ditches and all
that. But the people in the reserves are saying, “We
never see that equipment. Gee, we joined three years
ago and we've never done that.” But the public likes
it, because it looks gung ho, and I would encourage
more gung ho rather than less.
But we have a lot of outstanding examples,
particularly overseas. And don't forget, while our
folks are doing that overseas, the people at home are
working two and three times as hard to fill in the
positions. So there are lots of good stories at home
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you
very much, General. We'll move onto Mr. Wilfert,
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: Thank you, Mr. Chairman,
and through you to General MacKenzie....
The more I have sat here over the last two weeks and
listened to the state of the Canadian military, the
more confused I have become. Instead of getting
answers, I'm not sure what is fact and what is fiction
I talk to generals who tell me the exact opposite,
that in the fact the majority of the reserves do
participate in the kinds of actions where they would
have that equipment. Others say they aren't. Some say
they are actually the same thing. In fact, we're trying
to eliminate “them” and “us” between reserve
soldiers and those in the
Obviously, through you, Mr. Chairman, we are trying to
make recommendations on what we think should happen,
what course of action.... And the one thing I have heard
today—probably it would be quite a radical suggestion,
but we should look at it—is this issue of the
de-linking and what it really implies, what its benefits
would be. It's obvious you would have a very
interesting perspective on this issue, which I would
hope to explore further with you.
How do we make sure we give our armed forces whatever
they need, all the proper tools—and I don't just mean
equipment—so they have political support? We have to
define as a parliament what the role of the armed
forces is and what objectives we want them to pursue
once we've established their role. What outcomes do we
My good friend, Mr. Chairman, Elsie and I go back
many, many, many years—so far in fact that I used to
have hair and hers used to be darker; that's how far
we went back. But Elsie talks about how we want to
take the politics out of this. I don't think there's
anyone around the table who wouldn't like to take the
politics out of it, except the politics is always in
it, because we always make these political statements.
In your view, is it possible to create a policy minus
the politics, to be able to sit at a round table where
people come to say you may not like it, but this is
what we believe—after we first of all have established
what the roles should be—these are our objectives, and
if you're prepared to put x number of dollars
forward, this is what you're going to get for those
dollars? If you can't establish what you're
going to get for those dollars, then you won't have the
kind of political or public support you need.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: When I've read
some of the proceedings on the
Internet, I've seen the Australian experience mentioned
before. It's very important that DFAIT gets
involved in this on the foreign affairs side, because
we're in bed together so much now that the foreign
policy objectives of this nation.... The domestic
requirements are really simple to articulate—not
simple to execute, but simple to articulate—whether
it's air space protection, aid to the civil power, or
I would remind you that if the Montreal and Toronto
police forces went on strike tomorrow, concurrently, we
would have to decide which city we want the Americans
to patrol, because we don't have enough army to take
over from the police forces in both of those cities at
the same time. I'm an honorary chief of the Toronto
police force. There are 2,000 more police in Toronto
than there are infanteers in the Canadian army from
private to general, inclusive; however, that's a
Yes, a requirement exists for the equivalent of a
national security committee here in Canada to deal with
issues of internal and external security. This need
has been stated by many more articulate than I. This
group would very much determine what you need to tell
the military to be prepared to do on various states of
There's not a country in the world where this process
is slick, but it is so disjointed in Canada that it
should be brought together—foreign affairs, domestic
policy, security. Then you could determine whether this
white paper is accurate.
When I spoke of not being able to execute the missions
in the 1994 white paper, I was referred to as the
Cold War warrior by the Minister of National
Defence; all I was talking about was his own document.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you,
Mr. Wilfert, General.
Mr. Bryon Wilfert: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Mrs. Wayne.
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: First, General Lewis, I'm sure
you have seen the article in the paper recently about
the need for upgrading the accommodations of our
military families in Camp Gagetown. I was over in Nova
Scotia and out in B.C. And when I see our men and our
women going to the food banks, when I see what
they're living in—you and I wouldn't live in it; we
couldn't live in it! There has to be some money here,
and it has to be put back into the military, into the
budget, and it shouldn't have anything to do with
politics. We want to give them greater quality of life.
You know that from the experience over in Nova
Scotia—for heaven's sakes, Geoffrey, look at what had
to be done over there. They set up a counselling
centre on the base because families were breaking up
due to having our peacekeepers away too long and away
from the family too long. They set up the nicest
counselling centre I've ever seen, but they had to go
out into the community and raise the money, because the
government wouldn't give them one penny. And it truly
was a nice centre, but it was for the family—
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: May I comment on that,
Elsie, because I think it's very important.
That shouldn't be part of the defence budget. It's
wrong to say that. It doesn't have much of an impact
on operational capability. That situation is a
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: You're bloody right.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: —to its men and women in
uniform. What happens is when you key on things like
that, then the military will be told to sort it out
from—guess what—within their own budget. Then their
operational capability reduces even more, because they
had to take the money from training, or operations or
equipment, and fix flooding basements.
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: But we have to know about this,
and we have to make sure the money is there for both.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: Absolutely. Agreed.
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: Very quickly, last week the
chief of defence staff said the frequent message he
gives to the Americans is “Remember your allies; don't
get ahead of us too far in technology”. This is his
solution to keeping us interoperable with the United
Is this a realistic approach, or does it tell you the
central command has concluded that the government won't
invest in research?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: First of all, I know they
won't pay any attention to us. They're good people,
but they have their responsibilities as a world
superpower—and thank God. If there can only be one
superpower in the world, thank God it's the Americans
and not some others I can think of. Nevertheless,
it merely points out the frustration of the CDS in
keeping up with a very expensive technological
But it's not all technology in the type of work we
will be doing foreseen by the white paper. Soldiers
are still important, pilots are still important,
submariners are still important—and you have to have
some of these people to man the equipment in at least a
critical mass that's recognized as a significant
contribution. In a convoluted way I'm saying here that
you have to apply priorities, and one of those
priorities has to be people, because we're running out
of people. The Americans are going to go as far ahead
as they can as fast as possible, because it really upsets
their enemies; fortunately, not their allies.
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: But if you were out there today
and you read the article in the paper about the food
banks, and the way people have to live and the
quarters, would you want to be bothered going and
enlisting, to live under those conditions? How can we
attract people that way?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: No, but I would attack
recruiting in a totally different way. I still think
you can appeal to people's patriotism and nationalism.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you,
We'll go to Mr. Eyking.
Mr. Mark Eyking (Sydney—Victoria, Lib.): Are you
from the Maritimes?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I sure am. I'm embarrassed
to say I joined the army to get away from there, but—
Mr. Mark Eyking: From what part? Where are you
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: Just outside of Truro, Nova
Scotia, a little place called Princeport, nothing
but DVA farms. Then my dad joined up again for
Korea. Then the village disappeared.
Mr. Mark Eyking: I'm a Cape Bretoner, so that's
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I'm out of Saint Francis
Xavier, an XJC and such, yes.
Mr. Mark Eyking: What's happening in our country
is not a new phenomenon. When a nation doesn't put
much priority into defence, it's usually because it
doesn't have enemies, or it's under someone else's
protection. This kind of phenomenon has been happening
for thousands of years.
As part of NATO and the UN, don't we have to maintain
a benchmark of some kind, or play a certain role? Don't
they sit down and say, okay, now Italy's going to do
this and Canada's going to do that? Isn't that part of
the plan now?
not asking us to do more, or are we just not doing our
MGen Lewis Mackenzie: Within the hallowed halls of
NATO, we have significant responsibilities
because the NATO charter says an attack against one is
an attack against all, and we will all participate in
defence. You have to realize that this now includes the
Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, and Hungarians, who are more
likely to be attacked, probably, than some of our own
So there's an obligation there. If, for example,
Yugoslavia, as it was being bombed, had decided to attack
Hungary, it would have been an interesting situation for
Canada. It would have had to respond to assist in the
defence of Hungary.
So you're absolutely right. There is a bare minimum,
and considering that our percentage of gross national
product that goes towards defence is at the bottom of
the NATO assessment, we've been under a fair amount of
pressure for years to up that.
We've gotten away with it because we've made
significant contributions within the UN or on peace
operations. Why the hell should we be running around
in Europe? I'm proud we did, but the fact is
that from a geopolitical point of view the Europeans
should have been able to look after that. In fact,
they started with Yugoslavia looking after themselves,
but Canada went and got involved and made a significant
So people were prepared to look at our overall balance of
contribution to international peace and security. That
contribution has dropped dramatically. With a major
contribution with NATO in Bosnia now, and very little
with the UN, less Eritrea when it comes home...only
about 400 people deployed around the world.
So I rest my case. I've been making the point that
we're being caught out. You are having these
hearings at a time when we are becoming an
insignificant presence on the international stage, and
if we continue to shrink, we won't have the capability
to wrap that up, either.
Mr. Mark Eyking: Maybe we should have a little mock
war in Toronto or Montreal and have people say, this is
what it's like to have an enemy, or this is what it's
like to be defenceless, or whatever, I guess.
MGen Lewis Mackenzie: You pick a city like
Toronto, and you're talking about 52% of the people in
Toronto—and that's a fairly accurate estimate—coming from
countries to get away from some sort of military
dictatorship or a war. They understand it, and if we
can't mobilize that public opinion, then we shouldn't be
in the business.
The fact is that, as I speak to universities and high
schools and I talk about Central American countries and
Ethiopia and the satellite countries and
Yugoslavia—they're in the audience. They came as
refugees. They're landed immigrants. They're Canadian
citizens. They understand, and our kids are beginning to
We have a role, whether we like it or not, on the
international stage. We are looked at as the world's
most multi-ethnic country, which has a high degree of
compassion for other people who, through no fault of
their own, are in pretty sorry states. I just think
your obligations abroad are equal to your
blessings at home, and right now our blessings, I
think, are probably greater than our contribution. I'm
taking nothing away from the individuals we send
abroad—some of them, by the way, on multiple tours, year
after year after year.
When I left the military, thanks to a whole bunch of
avoiding work by going on UN peacekeeping missions, I
had four rows of ribbons. I think I was the first
officer since World War II to have four. I'm now
pinning medals on 30-year-old sergeants, starting their
fourth row at 30 years of age.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you,
General. We'll move on to Mr. Benoit.
Mr. Leon Benoit: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm just going to make a bit of a comment first. Mr.
Bachand in his questioning talked about the lack of
support for the military in his constituency. I guess
my immediate thought is, well, what would you expect,
when you have prime ministers who have shown virtually
no support for the military for how long? I'm not
talking only about this Prime Minister. I think it
started certainly with Prime Minister Trudeau.
And what would you expect when you have MPs who don't
express, I'd say, nearly enough support for the
military? Certainly, when you look at American politicians, they go
to great lengths to express pride in their men and
women who serve, and they do that. I guess I'd just
like to ask you how much of an impact it might have on
reducing the attrition rate and on recruiting if you
had a prime minister who really showed pride in our
expressed a need for the military?
What if you had a government that spoke of a real need
and showed commitment? Not the kind of commitment that
shows reduced funding of 40% in the last ten years, in
real terms, which is what's happened, but how much of
an impact could we have if MPs were to actually show a
leadership role in the constituency and express pride
and a need for the military? I'd just like to know how
much of an impact you think this could have on reducing
attrition and on recruiting.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: Sir, I can't measure it, but I
think it would have a significant impact. It would
have an impact, certainly, on morale.
I mean, there's a rumour that morale is bad on the
forces. The sergeants major, whose advice I always
take, tell me, “You know, sir, we don't have a morale
problem”. Morale is when you're sullen, withdrawn,
and you don't want to do the work.
We have an attitude problem. Morale is okay overseas.
They'll do what they're told. But they're pissed off
because they don't see the support that they think
I will share with you the fact that, before it became a
cause célèbre three years ago, I think it was, I
hosted for Anne Petrie for a week on her talk show. I
used one of the subjects—the national military
cemetery. That was when it was first broached, at
least to the wide public.
You know why I wanted that? I wanted that because I
wanted to remind you elected representatives every time
a soldier was killed.
In the United States, the President meets the body at
Andrews Air Force Base. He meets the family. It's a
national event if the family so chooses.
I thought, we bring our soldiers home, in great
dignity, take them to their home town in Musquodoboit,
Nova Scotia, whatever. They're buried with dignity.
It's out of the public eye. It's a very private
ceremony. Don't get me wrong; it's done properly. But
that's it. That's the end of it.
So I speak to a hell of a lot of audiences. It's how
I make part of my living. I frequently ask for a
show of hands. I say, put your hands up when you think
I'm at the number of people we've had killed in the
former Yugoslavia. Most of the hands stop going up
after three or four. When I get to 22, 23, they think
I'm joking. Well, I'm not. Because it's just not
The government, it would appear, thinks the
Canadian public would be shocked by that. Shocked?
Damn, they'd be proud of it. So if there's a national
military cemetery here, and the commander-in-chief, the
Governor General, goes to every funeral, then maybe,
maybe we'll start getting the word out, which is part
of what you're saying, sir.
If I could snap my finger and that could happen, I
would be delighted for the men and women of the
Mr. Leon Benoit: The Canadian Institute of
Strategic Studies put out a little paper a couple of
months back, making a bit of an extrapolation, I'll
admit. They said that if attrition continued at the rate
it has gone over the past year, we would have
about 42,000 members in our forces by the end of next
year. It sounds far-fetched, but do you believe
this is a real possibility?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: It depends what happens out
there in the economy. As a commanding officer in
Calgary in the late 1970s during the oil boom, I was
losing 35 soldiers a month from a 700-man battalion,
just because they could make more guarding Woolco
or make ten times more than I was paying them working on
the oil rigs in northern Alberta. So it depends a lot
on what happens in the economy.
The release criteria were relatively generous
for someone who is thinking, “Should I stay in or get
out? Maybe they're going to come and tap me on the
shoulder and dismiss me, so maybe I'd better take the
retirement offer and leave early.” It depends very
much on what happens out there in the economy.
Mr. Leon Benoit: Do you think that in fact we might be
down to 52,000 right now?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: Yes. Deployable...not combat-ready,
but.... When I say “fit”, you know, walking around,
healthy, without a walker or a wheelchair.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you
very much, Mr. Benoit.
Mr. Bob Wood: I just have one quick question, Mr.
Chairman, and then, if I have some time, my colleague
Mr. Regan will do the rest.
Just to twig my memory a bit, when Mrs. Wayne was
talking about the U.S. being so far ahead in
technology, General.... I happened to run across...I
guess it was an article in the Citizen yesterday,
in which David Rudd, who as you probably know is an
analyst with the Canadian Institute of Strategic
Studies, says the Canadian military will have to find
some way to separate their NORAD and their
missile-related activities from the United States if
Canada comes out firmly against the U.S. missile
Is it possible for Canada to separate their NORAD
and missile-related activities? Will it be possible?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: Well, yes. They'd have to
convince the Americans because NORAD is a bilateral
I have a slightly different take on national missile
defence. I don't think the Americans have any intention
whatsoever of deploying it. They never had any
intention of deploying Star Wars, but it sure had some
geopolitical strategic implications. In fact, more than
any other factor, it brought the Cold War to an end.
The process we're talking about, national missile
defence, will go on for a decade or so. So they're in
the early stages of bartering, like buying a rug in a
bazaar: they'll make an offer, there will be
counter-offers. A lot more important things are going
to happen, and I don't think we have a crisis on our
If we were to split it, it would be a bilateral
negotiated settlement. But if we just pulled out and
said, “To hell with it, we're not getting
involved”, I think that would be a dumb move,
Mr. Bob Wood: Go ahead, Geoff.
Mr. Geoff Regan: General, what equipment would you
say would be top priority for the army to replace? What
piece of equipment would you acquire if you were
minister and had responsibility?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: Remember when I said I'd
resign if you asked me that question? I can't
resign from being a civilian, I guess.
Seriously, though, you have to tell me what my
priorities are in that white paper. If you want me to
run around and chase submarines, then I need
helicopters. The ships are useless without them.
Mr. Geoff Regan: But you're telling us that a
base really ought to have a brigade ready.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: And be able to replace
it, yes, that's right.
Mr. Geoff Regan: And to do that, what equipment is
necessary? What's missing now?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: More than anything else,
people. We need an enhanced vehicle fleet, personal
equipment, flak jackets—well, they're a bad example;
they're terribly old and will be replaced with the new
manning equipment. The small arms, personal weapons,
are pretty good, but the vehicle fleet is getting
tired, particularly the wheeled vehicles that move
logistics and artillery ammunition, things like that.
You need more of the LAV vehicles that are
coming online, but you
have to be able to train people on them.
You can dress it up and make it look pretty on the parade
square, but you've got to be able to train it—and that
takes bucks. Something all other armies are doing is
computer simulation, to try reducing some of the costs
of getting people more quickly into the field, and
working effectively with their weapons and equipment.
I started talking about simulation when I was deputy
chief of staff training in 1985. Now it's 16, 17 years
later, and I'm on the board of advisers of a company
that's going to provide some simulation—but it won't
be issued for at least another four or five years.
All that's possible. But the Auditor General and the
Conference of Defence Associations have done some
pretty detailed costing out of what it would cost to
stop the hemorrhaging and start the rebuilding
process. The numbers are significant, up to $2 billion
a year. But the problem is that having taken money away
since 1993 to pay off the deficit, it's hard to stop
the hemorrhaging and start the rebuilding without a
significant infusion of cash.
If the government decides not to do that, then the
military leadership is probably faced with reducing
people. Equipment takes ten years to get from the
drawing board to being issued. Operations and
maintenance—the navy, air force, and army have cut that
back dramatically. We're not going to win top gun any
more, because we're not flying around practising. So
the only thing we're left with is personnel. You get a
spike in expenses for a year as you buy people out, but
afterwards you save money dramatically. So they are
forced to look at cutting people.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you
very much, General.
Mr. Claude Bachand: No more questions.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Mrs. Wayne.
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: I just want to thank General Lew for
coming. I think he's done a fantastic job. Later, he
and I can debate whether women should be on the
submarines. But I think he's got his message across.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Mr. Benoit,
did you have a quick question?
Mr. Leon Benoit: Yes, I do. And I know you would
like to ask a question, Mr. Chair, so I'll just have a
Major General MacKenzie, to what would you attribute
the current level of attrition? How would you get right
down to the nuts and bolts of why people are leaving at
such a rate?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I would say the
repetitiveness of overseas deployments, because that
doesn't just affect the people actually deployed; it
also affects the people left behind, who make up the
difference in the units.
Very early on, when the RCMP started to deploy a large
number of people overseas, it established a pool of
personnel to fill in those vacant spots when people
were deployed on UN missions. That's the ideal thing to
The Scandinavian military does it and the Canadian air
force does it. But the army doesn't, and there's a lot
of extra work being done at home.
The repetitiveness of the UN tours is certainly one
concern. Another is self-esteem. I get a lot of phone
calls from people asking me whether they should stay in
or get out. They're upset with the lack of support they
receive. Morale is not bad—I keep coming back to
that. When they're told to do a job, they do it. But they're
disappointed that all the media coverage focuses on the
problem areas, and I can't control the media.
There was the airborne regiment in Somalia. Well, that
was one despicable act of torture and murder in the
100-year history of the military.
The average size
of the Canadian Forces since World War II is
96,000. That's the population of Sudbury. If Sudbury
had one despicable act, it wouldn't be considered a
trend. Yet it was a trend here: a bunch of white
racists running around the horn of Africa.
I've been back to Belet Huen three times,
and I'm mobbed every time I go back:
“Send back the Airborne, send back the Airborne—they
built our schools, they purified our water, they built
bridges.” The Canadian public never got told that
story. In fact, the Somalia fire was cut off just as we
were getting to that point. There was a period there
for the good news.
Mr. Leon Benoit: Yet I hear from soldiers
regularly that one of their greatest concerns is that
there is now no airborne to strive for. Becoming a
member of the airborne was the ultimate goal if you
were in the army, something you tried to achieve.
Now it's not there.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: I wrote a paper on this when
I was 25 and just Lieutenant MacKenzie—that of all the
nations in the world, Canada should have an elite
military. Forget about just the airborne regiment; the
entire Canadian army should be an elite force. My God,
it's only 17,000 or 18,000 people. They should all be
elite—the tankers, the gunners, the infantry,
everybody. Every one of those brigades could be a
commando brigade. As a foreign commander, I would kill
to have them fighting on my side.
Mrs. Elsie Wayne: Why don't you come back and be
the chief again?
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: It's a young man's sport.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you,
Mr. Benoit and, General, for appearing here. It's good
to have some frank discussion on this. This is
obviously a great concern, and has been for some time.
I would like to ask, is there no yardstick for
measuring military effectiveness? Other nations, other
countries, deploy troops just as we do. Is there some
model we should explore as a committee to see if it
could be applied to Canada? I sense that we don't
really measure effectiveness here by any fixed
standard. I'd like you to comment, or recommend a
direction for us to look on this.
MGen Lewis MacKenzie: Yes, it's a complex
subject—I shouldn't say controversial. Anybody could
tap-dance around the issue and tell you different ways
to quantify effectiveness: check what the physical
fitness scores are, or count up the weapons, or look
at what shape they're in, or what the marksmanship
But ultimately, you have to ask the highest level of
the organization, the brigade group, to do the
assessment. They have to go out to the field and do it,
and do it wet—using live ammunition and everything.
That's what the Americans do.
Five or six years ago, I was contracted to reorganize
the Irish army. It's about 15,000 or 16,000 strong.
What I recommended to them, and what they established,
was a national training centre—only at battalion
level. Why? Because their most challenging operational
commitment is one battalion in Lebanon twice a year. It
rotates with the United Nations every six months, and
they never operate out of that level.
So how do we tell if they can do the job? Have them do
it under controlled conditions in a training centre. If
the unit fails, now they know to fire the CO and
organize the battalion so that it can do the job.
You can go through the quantification. The Americans have
now declared two of their divisions non-operational
because so many of their people are away in Kosovo.
That caused a really serious concern in Washington when
the divisional commander said he wasn't operational,
not capable of deploying.
I dare say that if the vast majority of our units were
asked, they would have to to make that same statement.
Certainly every brigade would.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): Thank you
very much, General.
I believe that will conclude the meeting.
MGen. Lewis MacKenzie: Thank you very much.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Peter Goldring): The
meeting is adjourned.