Canada’s Defence Minister Anita Anand says boosting and protecting the country’s armed forces is a “top priority” amid a changing global geopolitical landscape, recruitment problems and ongoing efforts to address sexual misconduct in the military.
“I’ve continually said that my top priority is to make sure that all members of our armed forces are protected and respected when they put on a uniform in service of this country,” Anand told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday, during an interview to mark Remembrance Day.
“The world is getting darker for a number of reasons, one of which is Russia’s illegal, further invasion of Ukraine,” Anand said. “I definitely take note of that changing global strategic environment where we have aggressors trying to make their mark against the allied nations, and what we need to continue to do, and will continue to do, is to be unified.”
The Canadian government has been supporting Ukraine with multi-million dollar aid packages, military equipment and training for Ukrainian soldiers, and Anand said that support will continue in the long term.
In the meantime, the Canadian military has been struggling to recruit new members. Earlier this fall, the Canadian Armed Forces sounded the alarm over a severe shortage of recruits to fill thousands of vacant positions. Part of the problem was the fact that military recruitment and training centres were shuttered because of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in only 2,000 people being enrolled in the military in 2020-21 – less than half of what was needed — The Canadian Press reported.
The military has also been grappling with numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, some involving high-ranking officers, which led to calls for an internal culture shift. Anand told Your Morning that since her appointment as defence minister, she has been working to address the issue and that includes bringing in an external monitor, Jocelyne Therrien, to oversee efforts addressing sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces.
“We’re continuing to make progress by increasing resources for the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre,” Anand said.
Anand was also asked about the more than 23,000 veterans whose disability claims have yet to be processed by Veterans Affairs Canada. She said that addressing the backlog “is extremely important to our government…since 2020, we’ve committed $340 million in an effort to make sure that that backlog is reduced.”
Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay has told The Canadian Press that the initial claims are taking 25 weeks to process. However, that does not take into account how long the paperwork sits before it’s processed.
“By spring/summer 2023, we expect service standards to return to normal,” Anand said.
Watch the full interview by clicking the video at the top of this article.
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