March 4th, 2024

Military ‘will be there’ for Canadians in emergencies despite resource strain: Blair

By The Canadian Press on January 25, 2024.

Defence Minister Bill Blair says the greatest responsibility of Canada's military is protecting Canadians, and his government intends to keep calling on the troops for help in domestic emergencies. Blair is shown in his office at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA – Defence Minister Bill Blair says the military’s greatest responsibility is protecting Canadians, and his government intends to keep calling on them for help in domestic emergencies.

Blair says he knows responding to natural disasters puts a lot of pressure on the Armed Forces, which is dealing with a personnel shortage of more than 16,000 troops.

His comments highlight a tension between the government and military leaders over how to best deploy those limited resources at a time when there are multiple wars around the world.

In a year-end interview, the commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command said the military can’t keep up with consistently growing demand internationally and here at home.

Bob Auchterlonie said his troops have been called to respond to natural disasters more often than they should be in recent years, including spending 131 days fighting wildfires this summer.

But Blair says it’s his expectation that the military will respond when Canadians need their help with fires, floods and other emergencies.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2024.

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