[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Thursday, November 21, 1996
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Good morning, everyone. I would like to welcome everybody here to our meeting of the national defence committee and also
extend a warm welcome to the Minister of National Defence.
Mr. Minister, if it's all right with you, we will proceed as soon as you're ready. What you can do is start off by introducing the people who are here with you. Then you can go at it.
Hon. Doug Young (Minister of National Defence and Veterans Affairs): Thank you very much for that, and good morning. I have with me the acting chief of defence staff, Admiral Murray, and General Leach and the head of the reserves across Canada, General Linden.
This morning I have a brief statement I would like to begin with.
I would first like to say that I am very pleased to be here today, for the first time, before this committee. We will no doubt discuss a number of issues relating to the Canadian Armed Forces. But first of all, I would like to make a few comments, especially since, so far, I have had the opportunity to speak with a number of men and women of the Canadian Forces in Eastern Canada. I will be in Western Canada next week.
I visited Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec. I was very impressed by the dedication, skill and professionalism of those I met. Even under very difficult circumstances, those people have always shown their pride and loyalty to Canada, be they members of the Army, Navy or Air Force.
In recent days we have again been put in a position as Canadians where we understand to what extent the Canadian forces are important to our country and to the international community. I have been very impressed with how the people who are involved in this institution respond when asked to do things that are appropriate.
The necessity of making sure the Canadian forces are prepared to respond - what I mean by ``prepared'' is not only prepared with the appropriate equipment and resources but prepared mentally - is extremely important. I want to say to members of the committee that in my short experience it's remarkable to what extent the men and women of the Canadian forces demonstrate day after day, through what they have to say as well as in how they act, that they are totally committed to carrying out whatever responsibilities the government feels are appropriate.
As our defence policy has evolved over our history, two elements, the defence of Canada and the promotion of international peace and stability, have long remained at the core. The most important mission of the Canadian Forces is the defence of Canada and Canadian sovereignty. This involves a myriad of duties beyond actually defending against possible armed attack, including search and rescue, environmental surveillance, fisheries protection and disaster relief.
The second core element of our defence policy reflects the role that Canadians want to play in the world. Even though the world is in the midst of incredible strategic change - consider the fact that NATO will likely expand to include former members of the Warsaw pact - our defence policy must continue to reflect to the values and interests that Canadians hold dear.
For example, we're active partners in collective security organizations such as NATO and NORAD because Canadians believe their own security is indivisible from that of our allies. The Canadian forces are frequent contributors to UN peacekeeping missions and other multilateral operations because Canadians believe they have a moral duty to promote stability and alleviate suffering. That's why since 1956 we've been all over the world. That's why we went to Bosnia, why we're still in Haiti and Bosnia, and why we are prepared to lead a multinational force to central Africa if one is required.
In that context, within the next few days, after meetings in Stuttgart tomorrow and Saturday, and the meeting in Geneva on the weekend, we will have a clearer understanding of what might be required from Canadian forces to support the international community's response to the refugee situation in Zaire and Rwanda. To that end, Lieutenant-General Baril went to the region earlier this week to do a military assessment, and he, as I indicated, will be chairing the discussions in Stuttgart with his military colleagues from a number of countries. Following that, all of us in countries that are prepared to participate if required will have a better idea of what may be the appropriate action.
Given the demands we have placed and continue to place on our military, our government is committed to giving the Canadian forces the tools they need to carry out their mission. At Gagetown and CFB Valcartier recently I've announced a number of important construction contracts, as well as major equipment projects for army personnel, including operational clothing and personal equipment, helmets, land mine detection systems, a command and control system, replacement turrets for Leopard tanks, grenade launchers, and a number of other items.
All the equipment in the world will not help the Canadian forces unless they have the people with the skills and commitment to do the job and to do it well. We have those people, both in the regular forces and in the reserves.
The question of reserves is something I want to deal with today. As I go through my presentation I want to make sure you're all aware a number of issues will come up that may require some further discussion and explanation, and we'll have a number of people here who can help with that, even after I leave you. But let me spend just a moment on the question of the reserves.
Let me first of all say how very pleased we are that people who have been involved in looking at the system over the past fairly substantial period of time are here with us this morning. I knowMr. Justice Dickson and General Belzile will be here to discuss with you, if so required, and particularly with the press, after I've made this presentation, their contribution to the restructuring of the reserves.
The reserves continue to play an essential role in the total force in Canada. That was set out in the 1994 defence white paper. They serve with distinction both at home and abroad, and the role they play in peace operations I believe desires special mention.
Currently about 250 reservists are serving in peace missions. Their skill, courage, and commitment are on constant display, whether in war-ravaged Bosnia or the impoverished slums of Haiti. But like the rest of Canada's defence organization, the reserves must adapt to meet new challenges. This means increasing their operational effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.
Much of what I will be explaining to you today and the material that will be circulated to you is a result of the work of the Special Commission on the Restructuring of the Reserves, this committee, and the Senate subcommittee on veterans affairs, but I do particularly want to point out the work that was done on this by my predecessor Mr. Collenette and General Boyle. As I say on every opportunity I have, much of what we are dealing with and what we are doing is the result of work done by others. I don't want in any way to imply that what we've done in the last month is something that has occurred just because I've arrived at the Department of National Defence. A lot of good work was being done by a lot of good people.
Today I'm providing you with a further update on our efforts to improve the reserves. We've circulated documents - I hope you have them - summarizing our accomplishments in this area, focusing on recent developments in the air, naval, and communication reserves, the militia, the Canadian Rangers, and cadets. This is a good-news story. The details of it are in the material we have provided to you. My predecessor, I know, appeared before this committee last spring to discuss...and you've seen the report. I must also mention Professor Granatstein, who is also a member of that commission and who is here with us today.
Let me quickly review. As I said, about 250 reservists are serving in peace missions abroad right now. The air reserve current strength is about 1,700. It will increase to about 3,000 under this plan, with the flexibility to increase further to 5,000. In the documents we've provided to you you'll see how that may occur, and under what circumstances.
The naval reserve current strength is about 3,800, in 24 naval reserve divisions. They will have the flexibility to increase to 5,000.
The communications reserve is currently at about 1,800. It's planned eventually to reduce that number to about 1,500.
For the militia, current strength is about 16,000. It will increase to 18,500, with flexibility to increase further to 20,500.
I want to make sure everyone understands how important we think it is to do this. These folks are absolutely essential to the success of the overall organization. That's why we're moving to try to demonstrate our commitment to the long-term viability of the reserves and the militia.
Lieutenant-General Baril has looked at the process that was suggested for restructuring the militia and I have approved it. Working groups will be established to act as we go through a consultative process. What we have as a goal is to have a new militia structure in place by November 1999. We will begin by replacing fourteen districts with ten brigade groups in April 1997. By November 1999 that number will be reduced to nine.
The way we will deal with this process is to assess units based on the following criteria: the unit's contribution to Land Force Command's operational requirements and activities; the unit's capacity to train; its ability to recruit and retain the number of individuals needed to maintain an effective unit strength; cost-effectiveness - the unit's ability, in other words, to manage effectively its personnel, operations, and maintenance budgets - the unit's historical performance and battle honours; and the unit's links to its community.
We're also looking at developing some new approaches for Canadian Rangers and cadets. The Canadian Rangers will be adding eleven patrols in the Northwest Territories, Quebec, and the Yukon. We will be establishing a new youth initiative, the Junior Canadian Rangers.
Other initiatives we are announcing are a revised pay system, which I know is important to many people...and I want to say as I announce this that we recognize our problems with trying to take care of pay for personnel. We're testing a new system. There have been a lot of bugs in this and we're trying to get it sorted out. A system is being tested in Prince Edward Island and we hope it will work and can be implemented across the system fairly soon and will provide a much better system for pay.
A reserve automated management system will be in place in 1998. It will combine personnel, pay, budget, and management across the entire system.
The accounting firm KPMG looked at how cost is attributed in the reserves and concluded that our methodology is sound, although they did point out some problems that we feel we can cope with and that we're in the process of trying to modify.
The other area of interest, which has been addressed by some jurisdictions, is job protection legislation for reservists.
I want to say, Mr. Chairman, that as I become more familiar with what I need to do and with what I have to be aware of in this job, we're going to have to do a little bit better as a national government with respect to how we deal with reservists in making sure they know what programs are available and what kinds of arrangements we can accommodate. I think the Government of Canada has an obligation to become a leader in this respect. We can't ask provinces and private sector employers to do any better than we're prepared to do for our people ourselves.
Mr. Chairman, in conclusion with respect to the reserves, in response to various initiatives, including the Special Commission on the Restructuring of the Reserves, we have implemented a number of recommendations. For example, in terms of the standing committee's report, we support and are or will be implementing 10 of the 12 recommendations. With respect to the Special Commission on the Restructuring of the Reserves, some 36 of the 41 recommendations will be implemented and acted upon.
As I said earlier, I hope that reflects our commitment to try to deal with this particular area of responsibility.
Let me conclude my opening remarks, Mr. Chairman. I know they've been rather lengthy, but I did want to deal with that whole question of restructuring of the reserves because it's something people have been waiting for now for some time.
Let me conclude by saying that we recognize - and Canadians are all too familiar with - the problems in the Canadian forces, which have attracted a lot of attention, but I want to emphasize the many positive aspects of what the Canadian forces do. It's a very large organization and there are a lot of people doing a lot of different things in every part of the country.
It has been brought to my attention that we have a lot more people now who have come into the Canadian forces on the basis of it being a job they want to do as opposed to a vocation. Many of us over the years may have thought of it as a vocation, and especially in the volunteer force that was the way people approached it. From the time they were children they thought they might want to be a member of the air force, the army or the navy. Now we have more people coming in for different reasons.
We have a very professional force, and although I recognize the problems that exist, I want to stress that my experience so far has been that the men and women of the Canadian forces are proud of what they do. They are very committed to continuing to do what the Canadians have done for so long around the world, and that is to be leaders in peacekeeping and peacemaking and in humanitarian aid missions.
To put a fine point on it, many of the men and women I've met are extremely concerned about the impact on them and their families of the ongoing attention being paid to isolated incidents, as unacceptable and intolerable as they may have been. So I hope that over the next few months,Mr. Chairman, we will be able to turn the corner and to make sure the people of the Canadian forces have the support they need to be able to continue to do the job that has served Canada very well over a very long time.
I personally want to thank you for having invited me to appear before you fairly early in my tenure, and I want to say that if you ask me questions that you know more about in terms of the answers than I do, what I will do is what I always do: I'll say there are people here who understand the technicalities, the numbers and the specifics, and we'll let them deal with them. I have never professed, in any of my portfolios, to have mastered them all. We have responsibilities from a policy point of view, but we have tremendously competent and professional people who understand the nitty-gritty and the nuts and bolts of what we do. I look forward to responding to questions from you, Mr. Chairman, and from other members of your committee.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.
We will now go to question period. You all know how it works. We have ten minutes for the Bloc, ten minutes for the Liberals, and then ten minutes for the Reform.
Mr. Brien, you may begin.
Mr. Brien (Témiscamingue): I would like to welcome the minister and those who are with him today. Welcome to our committee; it is a pleasure to have you here.
At the end of your presentation, you said you would not implement some of the committee's recommendations, including recommendation number 11, which was that an implementation committee be established that would be made up of an equal number of commissioners, officers from the regular forces and the reserves, to work with the Office of the Auditor General on an impact analysis of the implementation of the special commission's recommendations. In fact, you say you would prefer to have that work done by a private firm, KPMG.
That is understandable, but I would like to have some clarifications. One of the criticisms was that training a reservist costs nearly as much as training a regular soldier, i.e. approximately 90% of the cost of a regular soldier. Is that still true and do you plan on reducing costs to train reservists?
Mr. Young: In response to your question about the recommendations, I do not think it is a matter of rejecting them, but rather a question of understanding their importance and finding appropriate solutions.
In my brief, I did not provide much detail on the tasks of the militia, the reserves and others, but I can assure you that we will try to be as effective as possible under any circumstances. In fact, that is one of the reasons for the restructuring.
We still do not know what the final outcome will be, because the review will take two years. But the study by the accounting firm revealed some deficiencies in cost allocation, which we will correct.
I have told everyone that we have to be as specific as possible and react to those recommendations. I cannot really guarantee that we could have the same costs for the active forces and the reserves, but we will try to be as efficient as possible.
Mr. Brien: You do not have any clear objective because obviously reservists are used for different purposes. One of them is to reduce costs. Do you have a deadline for reducing the training costs of reservists to three quarters or half the cost of the training of a regular soldier? Do you have a specific objective you want to reach within two years?
Mr. Young: Our main goal will not be based on cost. Our goal will be to have a well-trained individual who can work effectively and who can be integrated quickly into the regular forces.
Obviously, we will try to be as efficient as possible, but I do not want to undermine the importance of what I said about our first goal, which is to have an individual who can easily fit in with the regular forces. I hope we can reach those two goals.
One of the purposes of the restructuring is to find ways to be more efficient and cost effective. As you know, there have been significant budget cuts over the past few years. We therefore want to spend the money available to us as wisely as possible.
We don't have any exact figure in mind for the costs of training a reservist as opposed to a regular soldier, but we could give that some thought.
Mr. Brien: You said one of your objectives was increased efficiency. Three or four years ago, your department was criticized by the Auditor General and others for the ineffectiveness of soldiers and reservists. I am sure that has changed, but do you think there is still a problem with reservists' training?
You say in your documents that an increasing number of reservists are involved in peacekeeping missions and other operations. Is there still a problem with training, and what do you plan to do about it?
Mr. Young: The commission dealt with the whole question of restructuring the reserve to make it more effective. Our goal is to ensure that reservists are as capable as possible of working as part of the active forces.
It is a challenge, because we know those people have many other interests, that their training is different and is not as extensive. However, our goal is to ensure that everyone involved is at the same professional level, and I can assure you we want to reach that goal as soon as possible. Right now, there are about 250 people involved in peace missions in various parts of the world, and the purpose of the restructuring and reorganization is to have people with the same level of training, skills and professionalism.
There is certainly room for improvement, and that is one the reasons we are suggesting changes, not only in the way brigades are deployed, but also in the level of training and in the turnover to replace those who leave us. Another important reason is job protection. I feel the Canadian government has not done enough to protect the jobs of reservists.
Some provinces have already dealt with that and in some cases the private sector works very well. But there is certainly room for improvement and we want to work on that.
If 1999 is our goal for restructuring, you can assume the restructuring and reorganization will have been completed for the entire training system and the brigade functional system.
Mr. Brien: Since you are here, Mr. Minister, I hope you don't mind if I expand on this because you said in your introduction that we could broach other subjects.
You recently toured Eastern Canada, you will soon be going out West and you will be announcing a number of different projects.
The idea of renewing the fleet and some of the helicopters is still being bandied about. When do you plan to make a decision and have you already thought about the budget? From what I hear, it would be a contract of over $2 billion. Has a date been set for the final decision and what will be your budget for those purchases?
Mr. Young: With the department's budget, we can purchase the military equipment mentioned in the white paper and the other purchases already announced by the government. I do not like to give any figures, because when we solicit bids, I prefer to have some leeway. But the Finance Minister and the government certainly don't plan on increasing our budget.
Next week I plan to ask for bids for the search and rescue helicopters that will replace the Labradors. As for the naval helicopters, we are still looking at the needs, criteria and everything else, but I hope to be in a position to announce the first phase of the purchases next week.
Mr. Brien: The first phase of the purchases. What about the rest?
Mr. Young: The government has not yet made any final decision on the naval helicopters, but we are still trying to define the parameters, in other words, identify our needs in terms of the number of craft and type of equipment.
Mr. Brien: Before the next budget?
Mr. Young: I am continuing my work and I will be ready, but we will have to see what the government decides.
Mr. Brien: My last question will be on the reserves. Perhaps I am wrong, but I understand they have a total budget of approximately $1 billion. Do you plan on spending that entirely on the reserve?
Mr. Young: At the end of the restructuring, there may be some changes, but for the time being, no changes are planned. We will work within the established budget, which is the amount you mentioned.
Mr. Brien: Fine.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Brien.
Mr. Young: There is one thing I would like to clarify. When I made my presentation, I am sure you noticed that I talked about flexible figures, for instance, that the militia could range from 18,500 to 20,500. We want to give a little more leeway to the program managers.
If they are very efficient, they can have more people in their programs. We think this initiative will bring positive results.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Mr. O'Reilly.
Mr. O'Reilly (Victoria - Haliburton): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I thank you, Mr. Minister, and the people who are with you, for attending.
Going through the structuring report and dealing with this committee over the last little while, the things you've touched on are great news. We're very pleased to see them being implemented, and we feel we've made some kind of contribution to it.
There are a couple of things I want to expand on or ask you to expand on. In particular, there's the pay system. I want some reassurance that reserve people are going to be paid properly. I think that was one of our main questions and concerns earlier on.
Also, the other expansion I would like is about the equipment for cadet organizations. For instance, you talk about new clothing for the rangers. Are the clothing expansions for all cadet corps or is it just for the rangers? I wanted to know what specific equipment was being set aside for the air reserves.
Those are three questions.
Mr. Young: As far as the clothing situation goes, we obviously have made significant announcements with respect to soldiers' clothing.
With respect to cadets, that's an ongoing challenge. There has been no special provision made other than trying to upgrade and improve the situation out of existing budgets.
I'm not prepared to discuss budgets for the air reserves or for anyone else beyond what the existing budgets are. We'll have to continue to review the situation.
But as I said to my colleague from the Bloc Québécois, one of the initiatives we have taken in the armed forces applies across the board. It is to try to provide as much flexibility to managers or to people who are in management kinds of positions. I don't want to change the armed forces into a local, private-company organization, but they are being given more opportunity to manage the overall budget envelope. They then see what they can do within that to improve their situation, whether it's increasing the numbers of people or perhaps acquiring equipment or even some capital construction.
Any change in budgets would have to be managed within the overall envelope. There might be some shifting from one area to another, depending on things for the next year or so, but the overall budget envelope will not change substantially. The Minister of Finance is not too partial to on-the-fly budgeting.
With respect to reserve pay, I can't give you any assurance any more than I can to members of Parliament or to public servants that there'll be a significant change in levels of pay.
What I can say is that I've learned we've had some terrible problems paying people what they should be getting under the existing structure. There have been some real glitches in the system.
All I can state today is that I am informed, as I indicated in my opening statement, that there is a pilot in Prince Edward Island that appears to be working that we might be able to roll out across the country to at least ensure that people who have the right to be paid under the existing pay structures are likely to get what's coming to them on time. We're trying to get the glitches out of the system. Hopefully in the new year that will be dealt with.
Mr. O'Reilly: Are there going to be any major changes to existing armouries to update and upgrade them to restore some of the historical significance they have in the community? Some of them have been modernized over the years, and this has taken away their historical advantage to the community. I just wondered what was being done in that area.
Mr. Young: In the restructuring of the reserves, I think there's an opportunity to have a number of situations addressed, but it's really going to depend. As we indicated, by 1999 that process of consultation and analysis will have concluded and determinations will be made as to who survives. Quite frankly, the approach that's being used can be described, to some extent, as ``use it or lose it''.
The historic value of any building - we've gone through this on a number of other fronts - is significant, and I'm aware of that. But whether or not they are going to be used in the context of the reserves, whether or not they are efficient, whether or not they're in the right location or whether or not there is sufficient support for them in the community and through the units that would normally use them is something that communities will have to decide.
I can assure you that from my point of view - I don't want to be difficult about this - I'm not interested in keeping any buildings in terms of the reserve or militia applications on the basis of their historic value.
Mr. O'Reilly: It's obvious that buildings are important to the community.
As downsizing has taken place over the years, people have to travel 50, 60 or 70 miles one way to maintain their involvement with the reserves. I hope that this trend has stopped. Maybe even smaller units in smaller communities are more efficient than large units only in the city, which are withdrawing from rural areas. I would hope to see that this trend also would -
Mr. Young: Again, I need to be very consistent. The objective here is not to provide community support. The restructuring of the reserves, or anything that we do, will be to try to have as efficient and effective an organization as we possibly can.
There's no doubt - I'm from northern New Brunswick, and I understand the historical significance of many of the units - how much tradition and emotion is involved. What we need to do is have people who can function in the forces, whether they come from the reserve or not. They should be very well trained and able to move in and out without any, or at least very little, difficulty. The only way we can do that is to make sure they have appropriate training accessible to them. This exercise over the next two years will provide opportunities.
As for the suggestion that we can maintain small units, it may be feasible in some situations to do that, but the onus will be on the proponents of whatever the plan is to make sure they fit into the overall strategy of making certain that the people we have, whom we're supporting and to whom we want to give as much support as possible, are able to function when called upon to do so with forces that are trained year in and year out in the regular system.
Mr. O'Reilly: Thank you.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Mr. Easter.
Mr. Easter (Malpeque): Just to start, I do want to compliment you on your closing remarks. I don't think it can be said enough that there has to be pride in our armed services. A few isolated incidents have certainly put a bad image of the armed forces out there, but that's not the total picture by any means. They do great peacekeeping work abroad.
On the assessment criteria for the reserves, you do talk about the unit's link to the community. I am wondering whether there are any criteria in terms of a regional or provincial presence across the country to ensure that there are reserve units and militia in each of the provinces.
Mr. Young: There's no doubt that this is what we would hope for and what will most likely happen. Again, it will be very much a question of communities wanting to be part of it.
Look within provinces. Those of us from some parts of the country know that on a per capita basis you often find more people.... For example, I've run into more people from northern New Brunswick in the armed forces than I would have thought I would meet so far in my visits. People tend to become involved for various reasons, both in the active force and in the militia. There's no doubt that the ideal situation is to not only have good representation across the country, but for it to be equitably distributed even within provinces.
The bottom line will be: are there sufficient numbers of people there? Are they interested? Are they capable of becoming involved in a situation that's efficient, effective and useful? At this stage, I don't think there's any real reason to doubt that this will not be the case.
So that's the objective. But whether it's across the country or within provinces...I think really over the next two years we're going to have to make sure people don't sit back and talk about it as a nostalgia thing at the Tim Horton Donuts outlet. They're going to have to be at the armoury or doing things that are required to be done to make sure they demonstrate their interest in a substantial way.
Mr. Easter: John asked most of the questions I wanted to cover, but on that point I think every effort has to be made to ensure there is at least some provincial presence. As you know, I'm thinking specifically of P.E.I. in this instance. If a presence is there, over time it encourages people to get involved, it makes them think of the military when reserve actions are out there in training, and it encourages young people - and you did mention the new move that will be made in that area - to get involved in the armed forces as a career. I think every effort needs to be made to try to ensure that happens.
Mr. Young: Mr. Chairman, let me assure the hon. member I didn't initially suspect he was speaking specifically about Prince Edward Island, so I didn't like to respond on that basis. But I think Prince Edward Island has a pretty strong record of being involved in this process. Even with the bridge, it's likely they will survive this restructuring, because there has been a long history of involvement.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Mr. Hart.
Mr. Hart (Okanagan - Similkameen - Merritt): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I welcome the minister and department officials.
I would like to start off by saying I very much appreciate the fact that the government did have the wisdom to look at the dissenting report of the Reform Party. I see that some of the recommendations were followed. I congratulate the minister and the previous minister on looking at all parties' suggestions in this important review.
As a brief aside, I would like to talk about two other issues before I question the minister on some of the reserve recommendations. The first is the Somalia medal. I did want to congratulate the minister on making the decision to issue the Somalia medal. I think Canadians generally feel the people did fine work in Somalia. There were unfortunate incidents there, and they are being dealt with, but the 1,400 service people who served in Somalia are finally being recognized for the fine work they did in Somalia. So I congratulate the minister on that issue.
The second item I would like to bring up is about more of a humanitarian cause right now. It has been in the media. It has to do with our military justice system in the case of Lieutenant Marsaw, who is on a hunger strike right now, asking for his case to be reviewed. As the minister knows, under the National Defence Act he does have the ability to review cases such as this, and I would like to point out that the previous Minister of National Defence had suggested there probably should be a review of the justice system. Therefore, for humanitarian reasons I would suggest, and I think many Canadians would agree, Lieutenant Marsaw does deserve a review of his particular case.
Mr. Young: Mr. Chairman, let me just say to my honourable friend that I want to thank members of his party - himself, Mr. Frazer, and General Ringma - and others who have approached me on this. I was very pleased that a number of my caucus members, after I became minister, approached me and suggested that recognition should be given to those who served with honour in Somalia. We were very pleased to do that. I know it has been well received within the military. No one, as my honourable friend has said, is suggesting we're not all too aware of the unfortunate incidents that occurred in Somalia, but I don't like situations where people are blamed for the problems of others. That's why even as a Catholic I've always had problems with original sin.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Young: On the question of the situation in Nova Scotia, I want to be absolutely clear on this. I will not review the situation. Whether it's in the military justice system or the civilian justice system, God knows there have always been problems with legal systems in this country and in many other countries. But we have a system that has existed in Canada for a very long time.
There may be and - I will even go beyond that - I'm sure there are situations that have to be corrected. We bring amendments to the Canadian criminal justice system on a regular basis. There have to be changes to the Canadian military justice system and they will take place.
I feel very very sorry for the family and the colleagues of the person who's presently taking extraordinary means to bring his situation to public attention. These situations are extremely difficult to deal with. There is a great deal of emotion involved. They are particularly devastating to family members, especially where children are involved. But I hope my honourable friend will understand there are situations that all of us, as politicians, have been confronted with and all of, as Canadians, have been confronted with that, depending on one's views, one's moral values and one's ethics, can be troublesome.
Taking these kinds of measures is not appropriate. They're obviously left to individual choice, but I have no intention of interfering in this matter. There is a process to be followed. It is available to anyone who feels that the system has not dealt with them fairly. I regret very much seeing this gentleman's parents of a certain age involved in this and, as I say, young children. I think it's a pitiful situation.
I won't comment on what motivates people to do that, because God knows, none of us could ever try to understand why one would put oneself and one's closest kin as well as colleagues through this kind of excruciating situation. It's not the way to deal with it, and it will have absolutely no effect on my getting involved in reviewing the case.
Mr. Hart: Thank you for the answer. It was very straightforward. I think it's unfortunate the minister knows he is the last court of appeal for these types of cases; he's made his decision and he will have to live with it.
Mr. Young: On a point of clarification, the legal process has not been exhausted, and I thank the hon. member for reminding me of my final responsibility. I think that's very useful. I think to become involved would preclude me from being involved at the end because my understanding of the situation, as a lawyer, is that if I interfere in the legal system it's not appropriate. From my point of view, it's not appropriate if you're dealing with civilian justice or if you're dealing with military justice.
I do understand the system well enough to know that at some time it may very well be appropriate for me or someone who bears the responsibility I have today to deal with this issue. At that time - it's not something I would look forward to - I will be prepared to look at whatever has to be reviewed.
At this stage in the process, I am sure counsel for Lieutenant Marsaw and anybody who understands the system recognizes there are procedures available not only to him but to other people who may be in the system today who feel equally that they have not been treated fairly. To intervene in one situation because a particular approach has been taken to draw attention to their plight is not the question, in my view.
The principle involved here is that when the process is exhausted - and I will not speculate on what the end result of that process might be - if there is any need to appeal to the minister, as is provided for in that process, then obviously the minister would have to respond. But at this stage I just don't think it would be acceptable or appropriate.
Mr. Hart: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. I think it's important that you clarified that, because to many Canadians it sounded as though you were closing the door completely on a review. Today you have clarified that and at least opened the door for a review once the process has exhausted itself and encouraged Lieutenant Marsaw to follow through with that process. Thank you very much.
The Reform Party feels very strongly that the Government of Canada should have a greater reliance on the reserve, and I'm pleased to see that many of the recommendations are moving in that direction. I think with our increasing, it seems, number of international commitments around the world, the reserves are going to play a very valuable and important role in Canada's defence posture.
In the Reform Party's dissenting report we suggested ten brigade groups. I see in your statement today you have said you will implement ten brigade groups, but I'm concerned that you say by 1999 you will reduce that number to nine. Could you tell me why you would reduce it to nine?
Mr. Young: As you know, the original recommendation from the commission was for seven groups. I've met with members of the commission, and they will certainly be able to express their own view on this, but I believe the recommendation of seven was based on strength as it was then. With the increased numbers I've alluded to today that can be involved, perhaps that number would not have been at seven had they been aware of those numbers.
Without getting too much into that - and I've endorsed General Baril's recommendations on this - we would go to ten, and the obvious change back down to nine would occur in Atlantic Canada, where the potential for a special arrangement could be arrived at based on the experience over the next two years.
We want to give a clear signal to everyone that within these overall brigades a lot of tough decisions will have to be made. But with respect to going back from ten to nine, it's a situation that would clearly result in Atlantic Canada moving from where it would be over the next two years at ten, to nine, as it's described in some detail in the document with an arrangement that we think would be acceptable.
In the context of where I am today after a month that feels like a year, the situation we're dealing with today is the result of a lot of work done by this committee, the senate committee and the commission, as well as a lot of work done subsequently by General Baril, General Boyle and Minister Collenette in trying to set up a situation that was acceptable to a lot of people. There have been an awful lot of consultations, discussions and input from folks who had an interest in this.
That's the rationale, to go to ten but to come up with an arrangement in Atlantic Canada that would accommodate some of the geographic realities that exist there as well as the demographics.
Mr. Hart: We were concerned that originally British Columbia didn't have a brigade.
Is my time up already?
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Mr. Collins.
Mr. Collins (Souris - Moose Mountain): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.Mr. Minister, it's good to have you here.
I had the opportunity to be out in Regina and talk to the reservists there, both from HMCS Queen and the Regina Rifles. They wanted me to pass on the message that they're proud to be reservists, the morale is very high, and they will continue to work at it. We have young people who come by train on Monday nights from areas like Langbank, which is 70 or 80 miles from Regina, but that's their commitment.
I'm concerned about whether you have a rating scale for the criteria. As I look through these, would we suspect that the one at the top would have a higher rating than when we get down to the unit's link to its community, or is there some graduated scale built into those criteria?
Mr. Young: I think it's implicit that there would be. As I indicated earlier, for example, the physical assets have enormous tradition, but if they're not in a situation that's going to be conducive to providing the person we want at the end of the day, they may not count for a whole lot.
Let's make no mistake about the fact that there's really one criterion. You can shape it with all the numbers you want, but we want an efficient professional reserve that can be integrated into the regular forces practically and instantly. That's not an easy thing to do, especially when we're talking about moving people around, training periods and facilities.
For example, on the navy side, I was in Halifax last week for the commissioning of HMCS Saguenay and -
A voice: HMCS Shawinigan.
Mr. Young: Oh! HMCS Shawinigan. Well, that's it, I had better find a new job.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Young: I was really taken aback, because.... Look, if you've looked at my CV, all of you are probably aware that National Defence has not been an area of expertise for me over the past55 years or so. I was really impressed by the fact that this is a reserve kind of operation. So if we're going to provide facilities to people and if we're going to increase the numbers, we hope we'll have a better working environment and a more efficient operation, and at the end of the day we want to have people who can do the job that the whole system is designed to produce.
I think that when you look at the criteria, whether they're weighed factors or not, at the end of the day the number of people who are available, the kind of environment they can work in and how efficient it's going to be - that's what's going to carry it. That's why the two years are going to be very critical to anyone who wishes to make sure they're still around.
Mr. Collins: I'm pleased that the numbers are going up. I happened to be a reservist, I think around the turn of the century. And I'll speak to the Pope about original sin because I think that's a very -
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Collins: I was with 406 Mitchell bomber squadron out of Saskatoon. I can tell you that even back then people who got into the reservist movement did it because they felt a commitment. I don't think that is any different today. They're still committed.
What I am concerned about, and I know you talked about it.... There is a responsibility for us as government to ensure how we are going to do that linking and networking where the employers are going to be involved. And I understand that there already may be 2,200 employers who have made a commitment. It seems to me that we have a big job here.
How do you see us as a government assisting so that employers do make that commitment? When a reservist says he's ready to be called up, how can we as government make sure he doesn't lose that link with his normal job when he returns?
Mr. Young: As I said, I think we're all very pleased that some provincial governments have already moved in that direction of job protection. I do believe, based on the information that's available to me, that the Government of Canada is not doing as much as it should to demonstrate leadership in this sector. There are some private sector companies.... Of course, many of them are involved in some way or another with defence kinds of activities and are very good at this. We can do better, and I'd be interested to hear from this committee as to how we can do more as a federal government to deal with this.
One of the things we're very concerned about - and we were talking about the professionalism and the competency - is the churn, the turnover. As my friend indicated, it costs money to train people to do these things. We still have a fair amount of turnover. Hopefully when we put together the new system there'll be an opportunity to try to keep people attached to the system for longer periods of time so we get a better result for the investment in their training.
But when you ask us what we can do, the obvious answer is that we can provide for job protection for Canadian public servants and we can make sure that Canadian public servants are aware of this opportunity. Some work has been done on it, but more needs to be done to assure people that they are protected when they get involved in this.
Mr. Collins: I have one other question. I'm convinced that cadet organizations are just facilitators as you move through to being reservists, especially in the area where I come from. We have it in Estevan, in Weyburn, in Moosomin and in Carlyle. Those communities really do see them as an integral part of their communities. I can't tell you what the cost is, but I can tell you the benefits. If we were to weigh those people in terms of their commitment to their community and where they will go in their working lives, I'm sure that people who take a look at CVs rate very highly youngsters who do, early on in life, make some commitment through that kind of training. I hope we continue to do that.
One of the elements that was raised is that we, as a government, tend to have a lot of surplus material. One could be computers. If we're going to go into the technological age, I would like to see us assisting these units by not putting all of our computers in storerooms when we could be making good use of them to assist in training at that lower level.
I make that comment as an observation. I don't know whether you want to respond.
Mr. Young: With respect to the cadets in particular, the budget is going to have some flexibility in it so that they can spend a bit more, but the objective, as I understand it - and somebody will correct me if I'm wrong - is to try to go to about 60,000 cadets from around 53,000 or 55,000, so there's an increase. I think you need to see a trend here with respect to cadets, reserves and militia. We're trying to increase the numbers of people in all of these sectors.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Thank you, Mr. Minister.
Mr. Brien, you have five minutes.
Mr. Brien: I would like to have some information on the radio communications system. A few years ago, some equipment was purchased. I would like to know whether the radio communications system is effective for the land forces and how much the new equipment cost.
Mr. Young: I cannot tell you offhand how much the equipment cost or how much more might have been spent, but I will send you the answer later.
I do not have all the details here, but last week, we announced a new communications and control system based on a system developed by the French, which will no doubt help the Canadian forces in their operations. I cannot tell you exactly how much it cost, but we did announce our intention to purchase a system that would be an improvement over the current one. I will make sure you get the information on the cost.
Mr. Brien: In fact, we already have a perfectly adequate, effective radio communications system that was purchased in the past few years. Some say the new system you bought is better suited for war operations rather than peacekeeping operations. Why spend approximately $180 million on a system that may not be absolutely essential, when there won't be any increase in the budget provided for in the White Paper, as you said yourself? Aren't you wasting money by buying a system that can only be used for war operations when all our operations are for peacekeeping? I would like you to answer that question.
Mr. Young: You must understand that military forces must always be prepared for war. Of course, we are very pleased to see them participate in peacekeeping or even peacekeeping operations, like in Bosnia, for example, but you must also understand that all those systems are not just to be used for one type of operation. There is no doubt in my mind that the military must have a far more sophisticated and effective communications system.
During peacekeeping operations, sometimes communications systems are unreliable and all sorts of people get information they perhaps shouldn't. So, even if the system we plan to purchase is used in aggressive, war-like circumstances, you have to think about the possibility of a war when you undertake peacekeeping or peacemaking operations. Those systems are very useful because they facilitate communication within our forces and also put us in a position of command and control, as could have been the case in Rwanda and Zaire, and they also enable us to hook into our allies' communications systems. It is absolutely essential to be able to work as part of a large force.
In many situations, we must be able to communicate with our allies. That interaction is critical.
Mr. Brien: An announcement will soon have to be made on the troops in Bosnia. The Americans have already announced how many of their soldiers will stay on. I don't necessarily want to know whether a decision has been made to return or not, but can you assure me that you will abide by the principle that our soldiers who go on a six-month peacekeeping mission will not be sent back within a year? Therefore, if we must send troops to Zaire or Rwanda, do we have enough people to send there who will not go back within a year of their return to Canada? Can you assure me that criterion will be respected?
Mr. Young: We will try to follow the established practices. I do not, however, want to speculate on the outcome of our discussions on the future of the Bosnian mission. The UN has to make its decision on that. Obviously, there is some speculation about the type of involvement and the number of troops that should be there.
I want to give you as much reassurance as possible. Of course, we realize that when we ask people to go on a mission abroad, it poses physical and psychological problems, and puts a tremendous burden on their families. We will do our utmost to not have to change our own rules too often. I cannot guarantee you that will never happen, because you never know what might happen. The government does not plan to impose unacceptable rotations, but I cannot give you my unequivocal commitment on that.
Mr. Brien: Thank you.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Thank you, Mr. Brien. If you don't mind, Mr. Young,I would like to ask you a few questions.
During the hearings about the reserve, several witnesses told us that they did not have much of a say about the budget allocated to the reserve nor about the way the money was spent. Is that still the case, or do local authorities have a say about the way money is to be spent?
Mr. Young: Mr. Chairman, the issue of available funding comes under an entirely different system, because the overall envelope is set in the budget, and then it is allocated. We would like to provide as much flexibility as possible to the people responsible for managing these funds. Actually, we are already doing that, as you know, with a system that has already been set up on bases. With this system commanders can even turn to the private sector for some services, such as food services. On some bases that I've already visited, the private sector provides the meals. So as you can see, there is some flexibility.
Is it enough? I believe that usually, it's not really a matter of how the money is being spent, but rather, it's a matter of knowing whether there is enough. We will try to make sure that people will have some flexibility in spending the amounts of money allocated to them, within certain parameters, but it will not necessarily be the amount that they would have liked if it had been up to them to set the amount of money available to them.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): I was also surprised to learn that some National Defence expenditures were attributed to the budget for the reserves.
One example is the salaries paid to certain generals, and I would like to ask you whether this practice will continue.
Mr. Young: No doubt there are some areas of duplication and overlap, because the regular force does provide some services to the reserve, for example. After the KPMG report, it appears that the department will try to attribute costs as directly as possible. There are going to be consultations, and I think that many people will have a few things to say about costs that are really attributable to a particular group or unit.
We are dealing with a very old system, and as I said, there are many grey areas. We want to be able to say with certainty, eventually, how much this is costing us. As the member was asking earlier, we want to be able to give the cost of training for someone who is in the reserve as compared with the cost of training someone who belongs to the regular force. We want to know how much it costs us to operate in one area rather than another, and whether are special agreements or arrangements that would favour certain situations rather than others.
So we will continue to work on this so that we can give you the clearest information possible about accountability and the attribution of costs.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Thank you very much.
I went over my own time.
Mr. Frazer (Saanich - Gulf Islands): Again, Mr. Minister, welcome. I'm hoping I'm going to be able to congratulate you. You had me concerned shortly after you took over your new portfolio when you were quoted as having said you were a peacemaker, not a warrior. In response to my colleague's question a moment ago you said Canadian forces troops have to be trained for war because that's a requirement. I presume in your visits to various units you have become convinced, if you weren't before, that it's vital that the Canadian forces, whether they be navy, army, or air force, be combat capable. Is that correct?
Mr. Young: Mr. Chairman, I hope everyone who is a warrior is a peacemaker. I think what I was trying to explain is that when I have my druthers I would rather make peace than war.
Mr. Frazer: Of course.
Mr. Young: But I have never had any doubt the Canadian forces, like any other military organization, are designed, meant, equipped, and trained to make war. We hope we won't have to do it, but that's what it's all about.
Mr. Frazer: If I hadn't been clear before, Mr. Minister, our special joint committee and the standing committee ascertained that it's easy to escalate down, but it's very difficult to move up if you don't have the training capability.
Mr. Young: We have found that out.
Mr. Frazer: I would like to go to a comment you made to a question from my colleague on turnaround time on peacekeeping missions abroad. You said you would ``try'' to honour the one-year separation. I question the government's commitment to that when we were about to commit 1,500 people to Zaire-Rwanda. First of all, we didn't have an extrication plan to get out of there at the end of six months or four months or whatever it was, and there's no guarantee we could have withdrawn without causing quite a bit of problems. If we had had to start rotating those people, I submit to you there's no way, with our other commitments, we could have honoured this one-year thing. Therefore I question the wisdom of the government in offering to commit another 1,500 people on an overseas mission.
Mr. Young: Let's be very candid about this. General Baril has been working day and night for the past several weeks with colleagues from around the world, trying to develop a plan to go in. I think, to be very careful with what I say here, there has never really been a specific plan to go in. It has always been very fluid.
The one thing we have to agree with on these things, and I know the hon. member has a lot of experience in this, is that once you get in it's difficult to get out and you may not have a plan to extricate yourself. One thing that I think was fairly clear with our mission to Zaire and Rwanda is that the Americans, the British, and others with whom we were speaking were as clear as we were on the duration. There never was, in any conversation I've had, anyone who indicated otherwise. As a matter of fact, four months was consistently the timeframe. Six months was something we had put in to make sure we could get a couple of months to turn it around and to get out.
As the hon. member would know, Mr. Chairman, the lift to get us in and out was basically American. We don't have the capacity, especially when we're talking about command and control, to move 1,500.
I don't want to get into a debate on whether or not we would have been able to get out if we had gone in. But I do want to say this to the hon. member. To the extent I can, I have to take the advice of the acting chief of defence staff. I have to take the advice of the air force, navy and army commanders on what their capacity is and what their capabilities are.
We were told, based on the existing missions in Bosnia and Haiti and with the possibility of a mission as it was defined to Zaire and Rwanda, that we could handle it. Believe me, nobody I know is happier. I'm sure there may be some other folks who are equally happy. But nobody is happier than I am that at this stage we don't appear to be in a situation where we have to do what the international community was looking to us to do.
Going to the nitty-gritty of your question, to the extent we can we will try to honour the rotation timeframes. But I think in a world where there is still a lot of potential for difficult situations developing, it would be foolhardy to say it is an absolute rule. We can't say it is an absolute rule, but we will try to do it. We were absolutely conscious of this commitment in the planning so far with respect to Rwanda and Zaire.
Mr. Frazer: Mr. Minister, I would just submit it should be a very wide exception.
Mr. Young: It should not be a regular one. I agree.
Mr. Frazer: I don't want to engage in an argument, but I would point out to you that when America went into Bosnia, it was a categorical one-year commitment. They've now extended it. I submit this is likely -
Mr. Young: It's happened many times. Situations are quite often different when it comes to humanitarian aid. I'm sure you, sir, are as aware as all of us that peace in Bosnia may be an oxymoron.
Mr. Frazer: Right on.
Mr. Minister, I want to pin you down a little bit, if I can, regarding your remarks on federal government support of reserves going on training. Do you intend to take positive action through cabinet to say to federal government employees they will put in place a scheme whereby a reservist can be given time off and not be in danger of losing his or her job?
Mr. Young: Mr. Chairman, I intend to recommend to my colleagues in the government that we should be demonstrating leadership and making sure even the existing arrangements are known. To be quite frank, as I've looked at this - again, I don't profess to have all the information - it appears as though one of the problems is the lack of information on what you can do now. I'm not sure we're disseminating this information across the system to make sure people are even aware of what they're capable of doing and what type of protection exists under the existing arrangements.
I think as a result of the report from the commission and with what we're doing as a government in terms of restructuring, we certainly need to be proactive in this. I intend to be. I would hope my colleagues will be receptive.
Mr. Frazer: Mr. Minister, there has been an overriding finding by everybody who has looked at the reserves and the regular forces. Unhappily, this finding concerns animosity between the regular and the reserve force, and concern about who gets what and who doesn't get what.
There has been a proposal made to somewhat alleviate or do away with this concern. The proposal is that the reserves might be better if they were assigned their own budget. Give the reserves a certain appropriate amount of money and then they spend it. They would pay for the use of regular force training systems, quarters, rations, the personnel who come to assist them and so on. So the reserves would manage their own budget. Has this been considered seriously in the studies you're doing?
Mr. Young: I have to be straightforward. I have not considered that in the time I've been there. Whether it was considered by others and accepted, rejected, or whatever, I can't say.
I will say, though, that ``animosity'' is one way of putting it. Some speak of ``envy''. Others speak of ``natural tensions'' and what not. I've found there's a fair amount of tension within the regular forces, depending on what you're talking about. If you're talking about submarines, some airmen get a little tense. If you're talking about equipment for Leopard tanks and new Coyotes and what not, gosh, people who like subs tingle a bit.
So I think what we need to do, quite frankly, is just to do the best we can. If we start putting in structures and organizations -
I understand the tension. That's why I wanted, in response to the question from the chairman, to state that we want to get into real costing to the extent we can, to know really who is responsible for what, rather than attributing...and I'm not familiar with all of it, but I understand there has been some offloading, or alleged offloading, of costs, where things have been fudged and attributed to certain activities where it may not be appropriate. I hope we can reduce that.
One of the things we have done - I'm pretty sure about this - is we have enclothed the soldier. We have not made any distinction between the reserves and the regular forces. What we're announcing is for everyone. We'll try to deal with these healthy tensions which exist among people in the various components of our armed forces, but I'm not sure we would ever make them go away even if we gave them the money.
Mr. Frazer: It may be the Auditor General's problem in coming to an actual cost for the reserve drove this thing -
Mr. Young: It will help.
Mr. Frazer: - because they went from $1.2 billion to $800 million. Nobody could pin it down, so there was a question about it.
Mr. Young: I'm trying to get, for my own purposes, regardless of the feeling out in the organization, a better grip on what the real costs are for various types of activities and so forth. I like dealing with numbers, so I'll keep chasing them.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Mr. Hart.
Mr. Hart: The mobilization plan is an important aspect of the reserve structure and it hasn't been addressed. We had suggested in our dissenting report that job protection legislation, for instance, could be instituted for levels three and four of mobilization, but to date, from what I understand, Canada really doesn't have a mobilization plan. There was a commitment by the previous minister to start working on that effort. Can the minister update us on that particular aspect of the reserves?
Mr. Young: Yes, I'm advised by Admiral Murray that as a result of that commitment mobilization planning is being looked at and a plan is being developed. As I say, we'll try to bring you up to speed on where we are at some point fairly soon. But to be very frank with you, it's not something I was prepared to deal with today. I'm told the planning is under way and some consideration is being given to developing a scheme that will take into account some of the concerns you and others have raised.
Mr. Hart: I also look forward to working closely with the minister on my private member's bill on job protection legislation - showing leadership by the federal government by example. If the minister isn't aware of that, I will send him a copy this afternoon.
I would like to ask you a little about the assessment criteria, in particular for reducing the units...two of them in particular: the unit's capacity to train and its ability to recruit. It seems to me that through the discussions this committee has heard and the research that was presented to us these two areas in particular are something imposed by other people. The units themselves certainly don't have control over their capacity to train, because that's a budget-driven situation, and also the ability to recruit.... I've talked to many reserve units that say they can put as many people as required, or more people, on the floor of the armoury, but because of the restrictions they are not allowed to. Land Force Command drives that problem.
Maybe you could address those two situations.
Mr. Young: Yes. I think we're attempting to demonstrate that in existing situations it's not likely that major new infrastructure will be provided anywhere. We have to look at a wide variety of criteria, because in some instances recruiting might be very easy or in others it might be restricted because of budgetary or other considerations. In other areas, the physical facilities might be there but the recruiting capacity may not.
I think that's why we have to have an array of criteria. We're going to be faced with different situations. For example, it might be reasonably easy to recruit in an area of high unemployment. However, there may not be facilities for training there or easily available within a reasonable distance.
I don't think any criteria will be definitive. And some of them may appear to be totally redundant, because in certain circumstances the capacity to do what is set as a criteria is being restricted even now. But I don't think that necessarily applies to every situation across the board.
The recruiting system also depends on what people think they're being recruited for and on how much of a commitment they're going to have to make. Because of the investment involved here, I think we're going to have to be very careful in making sure the people understand that the training they go through will provide them with the skills and capabilities we're looking for, which can be integrated quickly into whatever requirement appears.
I don't think that any one or two criteria in this list should be seen as necessarily applying to every situation, because some of the criteria will already.... For example, if you put in the criteria of existing facilities, obviously in some cases they would be able to say that the existing facilities are first-rate and there's no point in even looking at them, and in other areas the facilities will obviously be a criterion because they might require considerable upgrading.
Mr. Hart: The government has disregarded the idea of a conditional enrolment to the reserve force. Maybe you could touch on that briefly. It seems to me, after talking with many of the reserve units, that the time it takes to actually put people on the floor of the armoury right now and put them in uniform and get them trained is quite unreasonable.
It seems that in our society all other areas have a period of time that is considered a probational period. Basically, this would be an opportunity to put people on probation during the process of getting their paperwork and applications checked and all of those bureaucratic things that take a considerable amount of time. Why did the government not consider it at all?
Mr. Young: I think we have considered it. I'm told that an alternative kind of suggestion is being worked up and will be presented. It has to do with fifteen working days.... In any case, it hasn't been a question of disregarding the need to have some improvements. It's a question of what would be the appropriate approach, and again I would be more than happy to have information provided to you as to what kind of process is being considered at this stage.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Thank you, Mr. Hart. Monsieur Brien.
Mr. Brien: I would like to get back to the military justice system. Looking at it from the outside, I find it somewhat strange, because in some cases, I wonder whether it wouldn't be better just to have a single justice system rather than going through the military justice system.
Now I don't want to return to the details of the Somalia Inquiry, but we did see that General Boyle had access to a tremendous amount of resources to prepare his testimony.
I think we are entitled to ask some questions, and I do believe that the public is wondering about the independence of the military police when they are dealing with leaders in the Armed Forces. Perhaps people have the same questions about other police forces, but nowadays, people are wondering particularly about the military police.
The committee does not have a specific mandate, but you said earlier that it might be possible to improve that. Don't you think it would be a good idea to ask the committee to reexamine the military justice system, and perhaps even make any recommendations that might be necessary? Would you be in favour of that, since to the best of my knowledge, the committee does not have a very specific agenda for the next few weeks?
Mr. Young: Mr. Chairman, it may not be appropriate for me to suggest an agenda for the committee, because that's something the committee is in charge of.
But I would like to say that Canada's military justice system has evolved over a great many years. Over the centuries, it has been changed and perhaps improved. I don't believe that Canadians would necessarily agree that the military justice system is or should be similar to a civilian system.
Things are very different in the Armed Forces. People who go off in the morning to work at General Motors don't have to salute anyone, and they aren't asked to go off and work in highly dangerous situations.
You must understand that the environment that people operate in within the Armed Forces is very different from civilian or public life. That doesn't mean that they're are no problems within the system. Actually, we do intend to make changes to the system in the not so distant future.
As for the independence of the military police or their ability to operate within the system, there may be flaws in that area as well. In a democratic system, the police system is scrutinized. There's nothing new about that. This concern does not hold only for the military police of Canada. We had a royal inquiry into the RCMP. People are also looking at what goes on within the Sûreté du Québec.
I'm not sure that we should suggest overhauling the military justice system, given that you were talking about a system that would apply to both civilians and military staff. I don't think that would be possible or useful.
However, I am sure that we can improve the system. We may be able to note certain flaws or shortcomings, and I would certainly like to hear what your committee thinks, on this and any other issue having to do with the Canadian Armed Forces, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Brien: You mentioned some changes that you intended to make in the not-so-distant future. What do you mean by the not-so-distant future?
Mr. Young: I mean not tomorrow, but not ten years from here either. Sometime in between.
I have to follow a certain process in Cabinet. For instance, I have to have presentations approved, particularly if I'm suggesting legislation. It's always very complicated. As a result, I cannot give you a specific date. But we are working on that, as we are in all sectors. It's always possible to improve things.
There have been problems in some cases, but generally speaking, things work. I don't want to be mean or nasty, but I must say, Mr. Chairman, that when a force is present in several different regions of the world, we must acknowledge that problems as major and as deplorable as the ones we had in Somalia are a reality that we have to deal with. It's all very well to look at the problems that we currently have in the Armed Forces, both at home and within our allies' forces, but we also have to go further and look at what is happening within society. For instance, some people have raised the issue of the suicide rate just as some people have mentioned incidents that occurred in Somalia. But we also have to look at what is happening in other areas of society.
After all, we have to have legitimate parameters and criteria, because we don't want our objectives to be unrealistic or impossible to achieve.
Of course, that does not justify the problems, nor does it justify totally unacceptable situations, but I think that we have to be realistic.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Mr. Hart.
Mr. Hart: Mr. Minister, the special joint committee suggested the 67,600 level of the Canadian Armed Forces at that time was as low as it should go. The government subsequently changed that thought and said we should be cut even further, to 60,000 regular force personnel, which we're on our way to now.
I would suggest we are really cut to the bone at this particular juncture in Canadian military history, and the importance of the reserve is very strong. It's strong and it should be strong, because not only do we have domestic commitments the reserve force could help participate in but international ones, as we've seen with the Zaire situation. We have three international operations going on right now, and it's important that Canada, as a middle power, can exercise some authority in the world on the international scene.
I certainly would like to see the reserve force move into numbers equal to those of the regular force. I think that could be a long-term commitment of the Government of Canada, and because of the cost-effectiveness of the reserve force we should move in that direction.
Having said that, I think domestically as well there's an opportunity to tell Canadians that the reserves from coast to coast play an important role in national unity. Having people in air, land, and sea uniforms from coast to coast to coast plays an important role, like that of the RCMP, another national institution, in holding our country together. Whether it's through reserve units, militia units, or through the cadet programs across the country, it should be something that's encouraged and something that's considered money well spent by the Government of Canada for that particular reason.
I have one more question, about the size of the militia. We've now found out the goal is to have nine brigade groups. Originally it was seven. The commissioners in their report suggested there would be nine to eleven units per brigade group. Can the minister tell us if it's still the plan that there would be nine to eleven, or has the number been firmed up in any way?
Mr. Young: Yes. In the documents that have been distributed to you, we're talking about nine to fifteen units per brigade. It's still being worked out. It's being worked on, the vice-chief tells me.
Mr. Hart: Thank you very much. I'll probably have more questions for you in coming days.
Mr. Young: I would be very disappointed if that were not the case.
Mr. Hart: I do have a couple more aside I would like to touch on briefly. It was reported that the judge in the Major Hirter case wondered why charges weren't laid against his superiors. Can the minister comment on that? In particular, this case is of importance because I think the MacKinnon family was lied to in this particular case and there are still some unanswered questions.
Mr. Young: Mr. Chairman, I wouldn't want to comment on comments perhaps made obiter. I would have to see what the judge said and in what context.
We're going to try to do the best we can. I'm not sure we can have a perfect organization. I'm not sure that military people will always tell the truth. I can't guarantee that politicians will always tell the truth. I can't be certain that ecclesiastical leaders always tell it exactly like it is. We're just trying to be the best we can. We're not going to try to cover up anything.
In response to the hon. member's comments about what the reserves do and about the size and so forth, I do want to say that he's right, the regular forces are moving towards 60,000 and the reserves towards 30,000. I don't think we want to shrink the regular forces down to where the reserves are headed. We're going to continue to try to do as good a job as we can with the resources we have.
But there is one thing I want to close on, Mr. Chairman, which I think is absolutely essential with respect to what my honourable colleague has said. I think we have to do a better job of making sure.... Today we have two audiences. We have the men and women of the armed forces and the people who have been in or very closely associated with the Canadian forces, and we have the Canadian public. They are two very different audiences. And I run into this every day, whether we're talking about helicopters, submarines, clothing the soldiers, base closures, peacekeeping and peacemaking activities, whatever the case might be.
We tend to focus on our international role, and I think that's a very important role for Canada. We can exercise some influence because of the nature of what we've done over this century. But domestically - and perhaps it was just something that I've had in mind for a long time when I mentioned the name of the ship by addressing the wrong region - what we did in the Saguenay as an organization is important. It's not a question of being important on a political basis. It's important in terms of being able to help people.
One of things I want to mention to you and I'm glad to see...and I haven't had a chance to discuss this. We've discussed other issues in the past. I hope we'll have the support of all parties on this. I think spending the amount of money we spend as an institution and as a department - and I don't want to get into a propaganda blitz - is important. I think it's important that Canadians know what the Canadian forces do, not because there's a Liberal government in power or a Conservative government, or NDP, or Bloc Québécois or anything else, but what is done by these people, what's expected of them, how we do spend the Canadian taxpayers' money.
I fully intend over the next while to begin to develop some information programs and packages and what not to deal with what we do, how the system works, how money is spent, what it means to communities, what it means to the nation and what it means internationally, because I'm not at all sure that a person in a high school in Trois-Rivières, in Kamloops or in Halifax has any idea in God's world what the Canadian forces actually do day to day and month to month.
We're going to try to do some of that, and all of you on this committee could help us a great deal with it by making sure the information gets around, and as I say, not the political propaganda but the straight facts, what we do, what we don't do, how we do it, etc.
Mr. Chairman, part of what we do is very important in terms of how this committee functions. I want to thank all of you, not only for having invited me today...I know that over the past several years you've been very helpful. Hon. members today have mentioned a couple of things where it was clear that attention was paid to what they were saying and what they were recommending. I hope we can continue to do that and I invite you to continue to provide us with the kind of input that's extremely important to all of us.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): Thank you, Mr. Minister. We thank you for your visit and we appreciate the announcements you made this morning. They are, as you say, very welcome news.
I think my colleagues and I on all sides share your thoughts about the excellent work that our men and women in the armed forces are doing in Canada and abroad. As you say, we don't talk about it enough, but they really do an excellent job.
Thanks again, Mr. Minister, and you're welcome to come to see us any time.
Mr. Young: Merci.
The Vice-Chairman (Mr. Bertrand): We're adjourned.
Return to Committee Home Page