Meet the Minister
Jul 15, 2004

22 Sept 2004 – The Royal Canadian Military Institute (RCMI) was the site of a recent Joint Research Conference on “Roles for Canada and NATO” presented in conjunction with the Atlantic Council of Canada and the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies. This conference, organized by Col (ret) Brian MacDonald, RCMI’s Chair of Defence Studies, offered thought-provoking dialogue on many key aspects facing the defence and security world today.

The conference coincided with the Prime Minister’s address to the United Nations on the need for UN reform. This triggered much interest within the room, and conference organizers obliged by providing printed copies of the speech during a break in presentations. The Hon William Graham, Minster of National Defence, arrived near the end of the day’s discussions, and expressed a desire to “listen to the ideas that have come out of your discussions around today’s timely topics.” FrontLine has compiled a tightly edited (for space) summation of excerpts from his speech at the conference. Check for the full text.

The issues you tackled in this conference – the new strategic environment, the changing nature of peacekeeping operations, the diplomatic, defence and development interface in stability operations – these are the very issues that are having a profound impact on the Canadian Forces (CF), on Canada’s contribution to global peace and security, and on our planning for the future. So I’m pleased to join you here this evening… to discuss these matters with such a distinguished and informed group.

Hon William Graham speaks at RCMI. (Photo: Eric S. Morse)

… I firmly believe the place of respect that Canada occupies in the world is one that is due, in large part, to the role that our armed forces have played, and are continually called upon to play, in world events.

… I’ve had the opportunity to become quite familiar with many of the issues now facing Defence.… I like to think that I bring to this new task some useful insights from my previous experience [as Minister of Foreign Affairs] and a real appreciation of the importance of Defence and all that it stands for.

… I’d like to discuss… my priorities for Defence over the next 12 months. I will be concentrating on three things:

• Defence Policy Review
The Defence Policy Review [will] impact… my other two priorities.

First of all, the Defence Policy Review builds on the examination that was conducted in the fall of 2002 – an examination that featured extensive consultations with a variety of stakeholders. Canadians from around the country also had the chance to express their views.

We expect to complete our review in the fall. After which, we intend to seek the views of Parliament through the committee process. This should permit ample opportunity for public discussion and input.

And, while all of this is taking place, I will continue to consult personally with key defence stakeholders. I certainly recognize that organizations such as yours have much to contribute to the discussion.

I can’t tell you exactly when our review will be submitted to Parliament, but I can tell you… that it… will identify Canada’s key defence priorities. It will… help us determine what kind of military Canada will need in the future… [It] will also establish the most appropriate balance between our continental and foreign responsibilities… Some of the options we’re exploring include expanding our surveillance and counter-terrorism capabilities…

The review will also look at working with the United States… to protect North America against emerging threats… The review will build on our 3-D approach to global intervention. It will look at how the [CF] can continue to participate in a wide range of international operations.

… the government will increase the size of the [CF] by 5,000 Regular personnel. This will allow our military to assume an even larger role in bringing peace, security and democracy to troubled nations.

We [also]… plan to increase the Army Reserves by 3,000 personnel… to respond to domestic crises, including natural disasters and chemical, biological and nuclear emergencies…[this] will be funded through new investments by the government. And I’m working to have these new resources featured in the next federal budget.

• Modernize our Equipment
… we’re looking to completely re-equip the Canadian Forces… we’re combining existing and emerging systems to enhance the capabilities we’ll need in future missions or to create new ones that would give us greater flexibility and versatility.

… But I want to stress that the modernization of our military is not complete. For example, we’re now experimenting with unmanned aerial vehicles and looking to enhance our defences against nuclear, biological and chemical attacks.

Pending the outcome of the Defence Policy Review… we’re committed to investing in the most relevant mix of capabilities …

• People
Our people – military and civilian alike – remain our most valuable resource… The high operational tempo… has had an impact on our men and women in uniform and their families…they need… a break.

This is why we’re now moving to reduce our operational commitments and begin a period of regeneration… reductions will allow us to do some much-needed training, professional development and equipment repair…

Although the [CF] have always delivered when called upon, we’re committed to doing a better job in balancing operational deployments with family life and training needs.

In Conclusion
… the government has placed Defence at the forefront of its overall agenda over the next 12 months. And we are absolutely committed to providing the Department and the Canadian Forces with the policy guidance, people, equipment and funding they need in order to meet the challenges of the future.

I could not think of a more interesting and critical time to be at Defence. I can think of no portfolio… whose challenges are of such significance to our country, and I am certainly aware of the challenges and great responsibilities that this job entails. And for that reason, I will particularly appreciate your informed support and advice as we work to shape Defence for the coming decades.

© FrontLine Defence 2004