Purser: Disaster Strikes
October 1, 2007 By Richard Purser
Canadians, who have grown used to ignoring their military almost as
much as Liberal governments have ignored it whenever they have been in
power at least from Trudeau on, got a glimpse of the limitations faced
by Canadian Forces when its Disaster Assistance Response Team took 16
days to deploy in South Asia after the Indian Ocean earthquake/tsunami
struck on December 26. And it cost Ottawa nearly $5.5 million to rent
Antonov aircraft to ferry DART’s equipment overseas, owing to the CF’s
lack of heavy-lift capability.
all accounts, the team acquitted itself well and made itself useful
during its stay in southeastern Sri Lanka (its last members were back
in Canada 46 days after deployment), but that’s more than can be said
for the government.
Whether the DART approach is the best one is
in dispute; some suggest a smaller, more mobile response unit on the
assumption that the first hours and days count most; others recommend a
focus on long-term post-disaster requirements through a seaborne
expeditionary force. This could perhaps have been settled in an ongoing
review of Canada’s foreign and defence policy, which was supposed to
have made its appearance by February. But the month ended with the
report still in limbo.
There was a positive move in the military
sector early in February with the appointment of a straight-shooting
general, Rick Hellier, as Chief of the Defence Staff, who could be seen
as a counter to the weak-kneed defence minister, Bill Graham, a master
of fudge almost equal to the foreign minister, Pierre Pettigrew, or the
prime minister, Paul Martin.
There was another moderately
positive move late in the month when the federal budget announced
increased defence expenditures of $6.5 billion over the next five
years, but there was no clear indication where this money would be
spent or when or whether it would contribute to previously announced
intentions by the government to increase Canada’s paltry forces by
5,000 regulars and 3,000 reserves.
But all this was reduced to
triviality by the government’s almost simultaneous announcement that it
was going to spit in the face of the United States of America and tell
our closest ally and friend that it could go to hell as far as Canadian
participation in the ballistic missile defence of North America was
This astounding act of malfeasance by Mr. Martin
renders futile any idea that Canada may have of improving its world
status. We can’t even contribute to our own defence any more! And we
are now rendered useless, as far as the US is concerned, in the war for
This is a tragedy, and Paul Martin is alone to blame.