Canada aims to grow military with new ad campaign
Published Thursday, February 18, 2016 11:38AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 18, 2016 11:05PM EST
The Canadian Armed Forces is preparing to launch a new ad campaign in hopes of boosting military recruitment, CTV News has learned.
The advertisements will roll out on television and online, and are expected later in 2016.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan acknowledged Thursday that his department is looking to increase military staffing.
“We are not looking at reducing our personnel. In fact the conversation I'm having right now is about where do we need to increase some of the personnel,” Sajjan said Thursday at the Conference on Security and Defence in Ottawa.
Sources tell CTV News that senior military officials are openly complaining about a lack of military personnel.
The Department of Defence currently has approval to fund 68,000 full-time soldiers, but a government budget report says that only about 66,000 are employed. A larger gap exists in the reserves, where only 20,000 of the possible 27,000 part-time soldiers are staffed.
“If you don't have enough people assigned to actually fulfill all of those roles, then you run the risk that you can’t deliver on those operational commitments,” defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute told CTV News.
The news comes just a day after the Department of Defence announced that it had ended airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Instead, Sajjan said the government is taking a “more-forward looking approach” to the coalition fight.
Sajjan said the Canadian Armed Forces have been playing a “valuable role” in the airstrikes against ISIS, but “operational realities on the ground have changed since then.”
While MPs debated the issue in the House of Commons Wednesday evening, the government announced that its airstrike operations in Iraq and Syria ended on Feb. 15 – a week earlier than expected.
While the CF-18 fighter jets have been pulled from the mission, one refuelling plane and two surveillance aircraft will continue to participate. Canada will also triple the size of military trainers in the region, a move that some observers and critics have said will actually increase the risk for Canadian casualties on the ground.
But Sajjan said Thursday that ISIS is now “losing momentum” in the region, and Canada, like its coalition partners, must adjust accordingly.
The Conservatives have condemned the Liberal government’s ISIS plan, calling it a “shameful” step backwards in the fight against “the greatest threat to humanity.”
During daily question period in the House of Commons on Thursday, Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose slammed the government for pulling the fighter jets before the debate in Parliament even began. However, there is no constitutional requirement for the prime minister and his cabinet to seek approval from Parliament on military matters.
The NDP says the government must provide a clearer definition of the new effort and provide an exit strategy for the military trainers that could come under ISIS fire.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that it’s time to refocus the mission and look at broader humanitarian efforts in the region, including more aid and help for refugees who have fled ISIS violence.
The government is also looking to beef up anti-radicalization efforts at home. In a speech to the Conference on Security and Defence later on Thursday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale outlined plans for a new office specifically geared to combat radicalization on Canadian soil.
Goodale said that Canada should “aspire to be among the best in the world at understanding radicalization” and helping “those most vulnerable to its insidious effects,” especially young people.
He said that anti-radicalization efforts are already underway in several large Canadian cities, such as Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal.
The office would include a focus on outreach and strive to “maintain health, resilient communities,” Goodale said.