Remembering the past – and looking to the future

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Pontiac Perspectives by Peter Gauthier


Pontiac Perspectives by Peter Gauthier

For Canadians, November 11 – Remembrance Day – is the occasion to honour the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace. The last century was marked by two World Wars, smaller yet equally tragic conflicts, including Korea and Vietnam, and attempts to bring about peace in troubled areas of the world.  This century continues the pattern – if not of world wars, certainly of more intense conflicts. With this reality, Canada must maintain modern armed forces while searching for and assisting in efforts to bring about a more peaceful and just world. This may seem an impossible task, but Canada has been a leader in establishing peace keeping forces. Thus, along with remembrance, Canadians should also take time to look forward to determine the best deployment of our armed forces.
The first role of any country’s armed forces is the defence of its people and land. For this, Canada has 95,000 active military personnel and 51,000 reserves. Most importantly, Canada has major allies in NATO and especially the United States. But this highlights one area of concern. NATO recommends that each member devotes two percent of its GDP to its military. Currently, the USA spends 4% of its GDP for this, but Canada commits only one percent of GDP to our armed forces.
To at least partially address this issue, the federal government has indicated that it intends to boost its military spending by 73% over the next decade. This will still not bring our defence spending up to 2% of GDP, but will significantly increase our military strength and will permit Canada to have a more active presence in conflict zones around the globe.
This raises the second requirement for our armed forces. Canada has a very
positive reputation for providing assistance to peace keeping, especially in relation to requests from the United Nations; however, very specialized forces are needed for this to be effective. Requirements are specific to each situation and our armed forces must be able to provide the necessary highly trained personnel.
So how should our military be equipped? How many aircraft and what type, how many land forces and what is their best mix of armaments, and our navy – currently Canada’s weakest component – how should it be reconfigured? Modern warfare demands sophisticated equipment of which intelligence and cyber-security top the list. To provide a reasonable answer to these demands, our government must provide long term and effective solutions.
As we continue to remember and honour those who have served Canada in the past, we must also take time to assess the current and future demands on our armed forces.