Military recruiting issues may be ‘more serious’ than senior brass suggest: Hillier – National

As the Canadian Armed Forces grapple with how to boost recruiting amid growing global dangers, a former chief of the defense staff warns the situation could be even worse than senior brass are letting on.

The current Chief of the Defense Staff, General Wayne Eyre, has warned in recent weeks that due to recruiting problems, Canada does not have the military « we need » to cope. to future threats – and that readiness within the CAF is « declining ».

« In reality, I believe the matter is much more serious than what Wayne has explained, » retired general Rick Hillier said, speaking in an interview with The west blockis Mercedes Stephenson.

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The Canadian Armed Forces are supposed to add about 5,000 soldiers to the regular and reserve forces, to meet a growing list of demands, but are instead more than 10,000 trained members short, meaning that about one in 10 positions are currently vacant.

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However, Hillier says the number he is hearing suggests the military is down « well over 10% ».

“Instead of being at 70,000 personnel, the Canadian Forces are probably operating somewhere at around 45,000 personnel – and of that number there is a significant percentage of them who are not operationally deployable or capable. “, said Hillier.

« So the capability of the Canadian Forces, what we rely on to take care of ourselves in Canada and then to represent us and protect our interests in the world and to take our values ​​with them, that part that can do that is tiny in this moment, and we need to change it.

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Military recruiting challenges persist as domestic demand grows: Defense Minister

Although military officials blame no problems when it comes to recruiting problems, the Canadian Forces have been rocked in recent years by a crisis of sexual misconduct that has affected even the highest ranks of the armed forces, as well as a greater attention to systemic issues racism.

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The reputation problem has been compounded by concerns about the presence of right-wing extremists in the ranks. Location is also proving to be an issue – most CAF bases and wings are in rural areas, while the majority of Canadians live in cities.

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Earlier this month, the defense chief issued an order setting a new direction for the army after years of deployments and operations at breakneck pace, making recruitment and retention of personnel his top priority .

“We have to rebuild the Armed Forces, we have to get the numbers back up,” Eyre said in an interview with The Canadian Press. « And we have to do it with a sense of urgency and priority because it affects our ability to respond around the world. »

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Dropping deployments and boosting recruiting efforts could be part of the problem when it comes to attracting new recruits, Hillier said, in addition to more high-profile support.

« If anyone thinks that Wayne Eyre, with all his abilities, is going to solve this problem, then they’re wrong. They’re wrong. He can’t solve this problem alone, » Hillier said.

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“We need a Prime Minister who will visibly show his support for the Canadian Forces.

“You need that kind of visible support. You need money for continued forces, and you need a full, active, priority mission to recruit young Canadians to come and serve our nation in uniform.

Until the recruiting issue is resolved, the Canadian Forces will continue to be « in enormous difficulty », he warned.

From Canada’s ability to respond to domestic emergencies, like the recent hurricane that hit the east coast, to the country’s ability to respond to global challenges through NATO or the United Nations, Hillier said the CAF are below.

« Our ability to do that drops to almost zero – and that’s not good for a nation that is a G7 nation, » he said.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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