The army should be the last resort in the event of a disaster, says General Eyre
Canadian soldiers at Burnt Island, Newfoundland, on September 28, 2022, after the passage of post-tropical storm Fiona.
The Chief of the National Defense Staff says the Canadian Armed Forces are too often called upon as a first resort when it comes to responding to natural disasters – like post-tropical storms.
Testifying before a parliamentary committee on Thursday, General Wayne Eyre said all levels of government must build capacity to respond at the municipal and provincial levels.
With the increasing frequency and intensity of these natural disasters, we are increasingly called upon to respond not necessarily as a force of last resort, but in some cases as a first choice, he asserted.
The Chief of Staff made the comments as hundreds of military personnel are on the ground in Nova Scotia, Île-du- Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador to help communities after post-tropical storm Fiona hit in late September.
Hurricane Fiona damage is visible in Morell, Île-du -Prince Edward, September 27, 2022.
Federal, provincial and municipal governments were again urged to better plan and prepare for natural disasters as they become larger and more frequent.
The Director of the Canadian Red Cross, Conrad Sauvé, this week called on governments to reduce their dependence on the army, by creating a civilian intervention force – what some call a humanitarian workforce – ready to respond to disasters and other emergencies.
General Eyre has previously expressed concern that the country's reliance on the military for national situations is negatively impacting the military's ability to train and prepare for other missions, including defending Canada against potential attack.
These growing demands for support also coincide with a severe shortage of military personnel, which prompted General Eyre on Thursday to issue a sweeping order to senior commanders to end all non-essential activities, in favor of increasing recruitment and retention of personnel.
The Chief of Staff has stated that a civilian disaster response organization would need many of the capabilities the military offers, including an organized labor pool and the ability to deploy.
This is the real value of what we offer, he explained to the committee. And any similar organization, any additional organization should provide the same ability or type of attributes.
The General Wayne Eyre, August 8, 2022
However, he acknowledged that the Armed Forces will always have to be ready to respond to requests for assistance at home, as their primary task is to protect Canadians.
Given the #x27;scale of the disasters we face, we must always be that force of last resort, he acknowledged. The Canadian Armed Forces must still be there as the ultimate insurance policy for this country if there is not sufficient capacity.
The Chief of Staff was appearing before the Commons committee to discuss the threat posed by Russia, during which he painted a gloomy picture of the security situation around the world because of Moscow and China .
Russia and China are not just looking at regime survival, but regime expansion, he observed. They consider themselves to be at war with the West.
He added that the greatest threat to these two governments comes from their own populations, and that these governments are trying to undermine liberal democracies and the credibility of Western institutions to ensure that our model of government is seen as a failure.
General Eyre later said that the rules-based international order, which has maintained relative peace and security since the end of World War II, is faltering and must be defended.
The gravity of our time should be obvious to everyone, he said.