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January '12

The Role of the Military in Canada

Owen Lackenbauer

Owen's comments were restricted to the Army and based upon The Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada who he represents.

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Today's army has roughly 20,000 regular soldiers and about 15,000 reservists.  If the Navy and Airforce are included the total would be about 65,000.  The reserves include 4,000 Rangers.  The Rangers are mainly Inuit who help secure Canada’s Arctic presence.

Canada’s Army Reserves used to train with outdated equipment but today it is like the regular forces and they have the best of equipment.  20% of Canadian soldiers  serving in Afghanistan and elsewhere were Reservists.  This was necessary to ensure the regular army had enough troops.   63 reservists from the Royal Highland Fusiliers served in Afghanistan.  They received 6 months of intensive training in realistic conditions. Training was very different from previous wars because of the nature of warfare including suicide bombing and fanatics with a hatred of western values and culture – all disguised under the banner of religion.  To serve in Afghanistan reservists sacrifice  a year of school or work.  Government legislation guarantees Reservists their job on their return. Returning to civilian life is often difficult for them and support systems are in place.

While Afganistan has been Canada’s primary focus we have been involved in no fewer than 16 international missions.  During the Afganistan mission 2500 soldiers rotated through every 6 month.  Our role was to train Afghan soldiers and police so they can take over from NATO forces.  Withdrawing from Afghanistan has been a huge undertaking as not just the people but also the equipment and supplies must be brought back.  This was expected to be completed by the end Dec. ’11.

While in Afghanistan, Canada provided humanitarian support such as rebuilding schools, roads and sewers; providing  medical aid; and vaccinating 370,000 children against polio.

During the First and Second  World Wars  and the Korean War Waterloo County provided many who fought with distinction. Significant numbers did not return.  There are very few veterans of these wars remaining today.

With Afghanistan, a new crop of veterans has emerged .  Like their predecessors, they fought for the universal right of people to education, security, free speech and self determination..

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