As fall comes to Canada, we find ourselves in another federal election and each of you is on the campaign trail, diligently working towards re-election or election to a seat in our House of Commons.
The election will fall on 19 October; three days shy of the first anniversary of a horrific day in our history, the dastardly shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at our National War Memorial and the attack on our Parliament by the same gunman.
By the anniversary of this painful event, those of you who have been elected will be planning your political agenda for the coming months and years. While you and your respective parties are planning the future of our nation, I implore you to consider the following.
You will be sitting in the single most important building in our nation, our past, present and future has been and will be contemplated, argued and decided within these majestic stone walls. This is a responsibility that cannot be taken without due consideration.
Historically, the future of our military has traditionally been decided on the motive of “Political Agendas” and not necessarily what is ultimately best for our nation. So many important decisions have been based solely on politics.
The Canadian men and women who form the Canadian Armed Forces and respective elements of the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Army are volunteers. They are our sons/daughters, brothers/sisters and fathers/mothers. They have answered the call to protect this great nation of ours.
This is a calling that we as Canadian citizens cannot take irrelevantly, each sailor, soldier and member of the Air Force has sworn an oath to Canada and therefore, to each of us to defend our nation. We must remember that the profession of soldier is the only career where the potential for sacrificing your life is a primary understanding of the profession.
Historically we have lapsed grievously in our support for our military, arguing over equipment and replacements for our under-supplied Armed Forces, to the extent that our military is defending our nation with museum pieces. We would not purchase a ticket with an airline whose entire fleet of helicopters is over fifty years old, but we expect our military to fly them.
I am proud to say that my grandfather served with the Canadian Army in 1944 and honoured that my son is currently serving in the RCAF. I served in the CAF Reserves in the 1980’s. I did an operational tour with the Navy, my ship was given a two hour life expectancy from the time war was declared, and not from the time we actually entered battle. Today several of those same ships are still in commission, actively defending our coastlines and serving in foreign waters.
The replacements of these ships are still being argued, and quality and numbers of ships are steadily being cut back, again for political agendas.
Canada is first and foremost a maritime nation. Our economy is based on the free and un-restricted movement of commerce, from raw material to retail, 90 percent of our nation’s trade will move by ship!
Unfortunately most Canadians do not know or understand the important role the Royal Canadian Navy plays in the security of our nation and the free movement of our commerce. With three ocean coasts to patrol, Atlantic, Pacific and Artic, the navy as it exists today is spread unreasonably thin. Then we also task the Navy to work in foreign waters with NATO, humanitarian aid, anti-terrorism and fighting piracy, the Navy’s capabilities are spread even thinner.
There has never been a more important need for Canada to have and support a strong Navy. This past week alone, three maritime events have taken place that demonstrates the potential to jeopardize Canada’s economy and security.
A Chinese Task Force of three destroyers, supported by an auxiliary support ship was operating off Canada’s West Coast unimpeded. China has declared their intentions to operate throughout the Pacific Ocean including our West Coast and Artic.
Also last week a new Russian ship, designed to gather intelligence from the vital undersea network of communication cables was operating on our East Coast, 100% of the world internet activity is passed through undersea cables. Economic chaos would ensue, if this network is cut and Canada becomes isolated from the internet.
The potential problem to Canada if our free movement of shipping was interrupted, was demonstrated on the East Coast last week. Two ships carrying fuel and gasoline were delayed arriving in Halifax, sparking a province wide shortage of fuel. Imagine the destabilization of Canada’s economy if these ships were prevented from arriving with their vital cargoes, to fuel our nation.
“The Safe and Timely Arrival of Ships,” is an absolute necessity in our modern economy!
In reality, the RCN does not currently possess the ships or sailors to carry out the tasks, we as a nation have mandated.
The fleet of the Royal Canadian Navy has been politically driven to a reprehensible state.
Today only one destroyer remains in service; built in 1969 she is now forty-six years old and with her age is experiencing many issues. The Navy no longer has sea-worthy support ships and has been forced to lease auxiliary support ships from foreign Navy’s to keep our own ships at sea.
This leaves only twelve Frigates that started construction in the late 1980’s to defend three oceans and carry out the mandates of the RCN.
Despite the current state of the fleet, one important constant remains, the professionalism, dedication and capability of our sailors. These young men and women continue “to go down to the sea in ships,” despite the hardship, lack of equipment and support, they have always risen to the tasks we have given them.
The men and women who have volunteered to serve our nation have always stood ready to carry out the orders that we as a nation give them. They know they have the support of over a million Canadian veterans that have worn the uniform before them and carry the legacy of many thousands of Canadians that have given the ultimate sacrifice.
It is time that we honour our portion of the Oath that they have sworn to us and provide the support and equipment they need to defend Canada.
I am not advocating for unrestricted spending for our Armed Forces. I am campaigning for responsible and timely decision making. We need to base our decisions on what is best for the defense of our nation and the men and women who volunteer to serve Canada. Party politics MUST be left out of the process for these biased decisions are at the detriment of our nation.
After this election, there will be a memorial for Cpl. Cirillo and the events of 22 October 2014. Many of the representatives in the House of Commons will vividly recall that day first hand, the shattering sound of gunfire resounding through the corridors of the Parliament Building, the sudden fear, realizing that you are under an armed attack, desperation of barricading yourself in the caucus rooms and offices as the strong acrid odour of gunfire from a firefight, fills the room. Followed by the long terrifying wait, staring at the tables and chairs piled against the door, wondering if the attack will burst through the barricade or will someone come to your rescue!
I hope that you have burned that memory, hard into your consciousness.
For a brief, few terrifying moments, you, our politicians were thrust onto the frontline in defense of Canada. Scrambling to build barricades from tables and lining up apples and any other “weapons” of opportunity for your self defense.
So when discussions and debates are brought forward in our House of Commons, you can ask yourselves, “What type of apples do our brothers and sisters need to protect our nation and what quality of table, will we provide our sons and daughters to defend themselves, and how long will we make them wait?”
“Heart of Oak,” is the proud anthem of Canada’s Navy and speaks of the glorious days of the past, Wooden Ships and Iron Men. Oak is no longer a material for building navy ships. In today’s modern world oak is best suited for tables not barricades or wooden promises!