CAF sees demand increase due to natural disasters and faces staff shortages


The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is feeling the pressure of demand as calls to respond to natural disasters increase.

Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Paul Prévost, a senior officer of the Strategic Joint Staff, addressed the House of Commons National Defense Committee and told MPs that the projected increase in the intensity and frequency of Extreme weather in Canada, as well as broader changes in the Arctic, could lead to increased demands for emergency military assistance.

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« It’s best to think of the Canadian Forces as the force of last resort, » Prevost told members of the all-party committee.

He said there had already been an increased demand on the Canadian Armed Forces over the past decade to respond to floods, fires and snowstorms.

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In 2021, the military received seven requests to respond to provincial natural disasters.

This compares to four requests per year between 2017 and 2021. The military received an average of two requests per year from 2010 to 2017.

“In other words, the Canadian Armed Forces’ involvement in responding to natural disasters has more than doubled every five years since 2010,” Mr. Prévost said.

The growing demand comes at a time when the Canadian Armed Forces are facing recruiting challenges.

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Prévost said the Forces have 63,871 regular members, 29,247 reservists and 5,241 Canadian Rangers.

« In total I would say (we are) short-staffed (by) 10,000 where we would like to be and for that reason (that’s) everyone on deck at the moment in order to recruit and retain as many CAF members than we can,” Prévost said.

Approximately 700 Canadian Armed Forces members across three provinces and seven different regions are working alongside federal, provincial, territorial and municipal partners to assist Atlantic Canada in the aftermath of post-tropical storm Fiona.

A defense policy review is expected this fall, which will include information on the Canadian Forces’ response to disasters.

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Despite the challenges of integrating part-time soldiering into a full-time job, one reservist said the skills he learned, the places he’s been and the people he’s could help made it all worthwhile.

« I was in the Army Reserve for 22 years and I was committed to developing my leadership skills in a real environment and certainly in a demanding environment, » the Lt. Col. said. Drew Beauchamp, Commanding Officer of the Calgary Highlanders.

« For young people looking for an opportunity to learn leadership and an opportunity to serve their country, there is no better place than the army reserves, » added Beauchamp who was also part of the royal funeral procession. of Queen Elizabeth II in London in September.

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Beauchamp said attending the funeral really reinforced for him why he joined the CAF, and he hopes it can inspire others to join at a time when they are needed.

“It is a reminder that we must aspire to serve beyond ourselves and seek opportunities to make our city, our country and our world a better place,” he said.

« It was important for us to be there because of our special relationship with Her Majesty, » added Beauchamp. “It was also a solemn honor to participate in this slice of history.

“It wasn’t just members of the military – it was members of the National Health Service, the ambulance service and other civilian organisations. Although she dedicated her life to service, the people who dedicated their lives to service were there to celebrate her.

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