The army is overstretched for natural disasters, deplore specialists
Canadian Armed Forces personnel in Burnt Islands, Newfoundland and Labrador, on September 28, 2022, days after Hurricane Fiona hit.
A former top National security adviser Richard Fadden warned a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that successive federal governments had relied too heavily on the Canadian military to manage crises at home.
The military was deployed recently to help clean up after post-tropical storm Fiona passed through eastern Canada. About 500 military personnel are currently on the ground in Nova Scotia, and the government would like to have at least twice as many.
Having served in the Liberal and Conservative governments as an adviser to the Prime Minister's Security, Deputy Minister of Defense and Head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Richard Fadden assured MPs on the House of Commons Defense Committee that his comments were non-partisan .
According to him, the army's national emergency operations during natural disasters should only be used as a last resort.
That doesn't mean the Armed Forces should stand aside when Canadians are hit by tragedies like post-tropical storm Fiona, Fadden said.
Richard Fadden, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, appears before the Senate National Security Committee and Defense in Ottawa on April 27, 2015.
According to him, sending the army has become too easy. The problem, he added, is that in recent years the federal government has acted as if the military was the only tool it could turn to in times of disaster.
It's getting too easy for prime ministers — not this one in particular, but prime ministers in general — to just say, 'I'm going to send in the army,' Richard Fadden told the committee quadripartite, which studies the national emergency preparedness of the military.
And we do this without talking to provinces, municipalities and civil society about what they could and should do, he added, urging the federal government to undertake a thorough and independent review of all capabilities emergency response teams across the country, both federally and provincially.
Last week, a senior military commander told the committee that the number of requests for assistance that the Armed Forces receive from the provinces has increased rapidly over the past decade.
Major General Paul Prévost testified that in 2021 there were seven such requests for military intervention in provincial emergencies – floods, wildfires and other natural disasters. The period between 2017 and 2021 saw an average of four such requests per year. From 2010 to 2017, the average was two per year.
These numbers do not include the 118 calls for help that the military responded to during the pandemic, such as supporting exhausted healthcare personnel at long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec.< /p>
We probably don't have another tool in this country right now. I think it's really problematic for a sophisticated and complex government like the Government of Canada today, when disaster strikes, if a prime minister only has one only tool, pointed out Richard Fadden.
The idea of a dedicated force within the military to respond to natural disasters has been mooted frequently since Fiona hit the east coast.
Canadian Armed Forces service members in Burnt Islands, Newfoundland and Labrador, on September 28, 2022, a few days after Hurricane Fiona hit.
General Wayne Eyre, Canada's top military commander, said such a force would require more military capability. It's also a bad idea, Fadden said. Asking the Canadian Forces, for example, to operate a railway would be a mistake. Asking the Canadian Forces to get overly involved in disaster relief, in my view, is also wrong, he said.
The former adviser argued that disaster response robs the military of time it should be spending training for international engagements during a time of heightened international tensions with Russia and , to a lesser extent, China.
Johanu Botha, who heads the Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization, told the committee that the #x27;army was indispensable in a national crisis, as it connects the three levels of government – federal, provincial and municipal.
According to him, research conducted on disaster response has clearly demonstrated that soldiers will be needed in future natural disasters.
For Conrad Sauvé, President of the Canadian Red Cross, Canada has been caught off guard by natural disasters that require a rapid response, something the military can do.
With information from cbc