Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 23 - Evidence, September 24, 2003 - Afternoon meeting


QUEBEC, Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 1:10 p.m. to examine and report on the need for a national security policy for Canada.

Senator Colin Kenny (Chairman) in the Chair.

[English]

The Chairman: The hearings of the Senate Standing Committee on National and Defence will continue. We have with us this afternoon Lieutenant-Colonel Tremblay, Lieutenant-Colonel Sirois and Major Dufour.

Who would like to lead off?

[Translation]

LCol. Éric Tremblay, Commander, 5th Field Regiment of Canada: Honourable senators, the role of 5th Field Regiment (RALC) is to support the brigade's manoeuvre elements with supporting fire, howitzers and mortars. I am not referring only to indirect fire here but also to a capacity for coordinating, planning and observing fire from howitzers, mortars, attack helicopters and ground attack fighters.

Let me first point out our unit's problems and the threats we face.

At the global level, there is a perception that peacekeeping operations do not require an indirect fire capability. I have seen that in Kabul, in Afghanistan, the mere presence of canons and anti-mortar radars have a dissuasive effect on the belligerents and a very positive effect on the morale of Canadian soldiers.

One problem that is more specific to the unit is operational tempo. The fact that a sub-unit has served on an operational mission on a yearly basis for the last three years creates operational pressure. This pressure is exacerbated by the degree of participation of our personnel, who in addition to deploying overseas must help support individual training or attend career courses. This situation is further complicated by the ever-increasing incidence of psychological distress.

Third, constant rationalisation of training, equipment distribution and environmental limitations budgets without alleviating factors is also a problem. For example, the funds available are increasingly rare for training using simulation systems. Purchasing simulation systems would help reduce the time required for on-site exercises.

Now let us talk about the unique opportunities in the unit. At the global level, the refinement of weapons would be useful to increase range, accuracy and destructive effect, where necessary. The intelligent use of Canadian artillery requires scientific solutions. The purpose of these would be to minimize the collateral damage when we use artillery fire during our operations. Refined equipment would allow us to be more effective during peacekeeping operations.

More specific to the unit, the arrival of remotely operated aircraft and counter-mortar radar equipment has allowed us to identify and locate targets that can be engaged by indirect fire. Such equipment allows our soldiers to visualize the belligerent forces in the field, which allows them to accelerate the decision-making process and reaction time. So better options exist to thwart the enemies' intentions. These improved visualisation systems are therefore critical for our operations. Such artillery acquisitions are greatly appreciated.

The further development of the role of observers as supporting fire advisors and controllers has several advantages. It allows us to train with combined operations. The observers involved in those operations must become universal observers because they control the fire from combat helicopters, ground-attack fighters or howitzers and mortars. This allows for greater involvement with the team, more cohesion, and will increase the operational level of our ground force.

One of the unique challenges facing the unit, from a global perspective, is maintaining a viable indirect fire capacity within the army. An army is not effective if it does not have the capacity to use indirect fire to increase combat and gain a definite advantage over the enemy when doing manoeuvres.

From a brigade perspective, participating in joint exercises educates manoeuvre units on supporting fire. The simulation systems can create a certain cohesion and a team effort, albeit limited. However, it is important to go beyond simulation and go to a manoeuvre field to carry out the exercises. Such exercises are essential to maintain skills and knowledge, as well as to gain experience.

The pace of operations and level of participation to restore the balance between missions, tasks and available personnel must be managed. It is also important to permit the reconstitution of the unit using tools appropriate to the 21st century.

With an authorized personnel of 456 people and an actual staff of 414 persons, in other words a shortage of 50 people, it is difficult to bridge the gaps. We have 50 temporary or permanent medical staff; career changes have added to this number, for a total of approximately 125 people, which is 25 per cent of the staff we can no longer count on. That is the direct result of problems related to the tempo expected of our staff. Those who remain therefore have a much heavier workload because they must make up for those we cannot rely on for one reason or another.

[English]

Lieutenant-Colonel Sylvain Sirois, Commander, 5th Combat Engineer Regiment, Department of National Defence: I will give you the mission, and then I will touch on the following points: first, the unique opportunities to be found within the units; the problems found at 5 RGC; and 5 RGC's interface with the other units.

The mission of the unit is to support the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group to live, move and fight and to deny the same to the enemy. We are very versatile engineers — anywhere, anytime. We are a combat arm. Just like the infantry, the armoured artillery, we are also a combat support arm and enabler. We are also a combat service-support arm. We support operations by maintaining roads and infrastructures, including protecting drinking water and the like.

Our missions are never boring. Our tasks are always different. We have various types of engineering equipment. My soldiers are given the opportunity from time to time to change equipment and thereby acquire new skills. As engineers, we can be involved in accomplishments either in Canada or abroad. For example, we built a succession of bridges for the Trans-Canada Trail. We are involved in protection of schools and playgrounds, as well as mine-clearing activities. There is a great sense of accomplishment among my soldiers.

I wish to talk to you about the problems we find within the unit.You will find that what I have to say is similar to the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment.

Operationally, we have only two manoeuvre subunits to support four manoeuvre units within the brigade. In garrison, this is okay, because our priorities are assigned tasks. We support one unit after the other. However, when it comes to a mission, I have to assign a field squadron to a battalion of the armoured unit — the manoeuvre units rotate at four, I rotate at two. Recently, two missions went back to back to Bosnia. Two of the four manoeuvre units were sent. My two field squadrons were sent. The same squadron is going back to Bosnia on April 14. The squadron that went to Bosnia is going to Afghanistan.

We are very rarely deployed with the equipment we train with. I still have the old M113 fleet. There will be a new program that will make this vehicle a better vehicle, but we deploy with LAV III vehicles. In the short to medium term, I will have a LAV III variant, a track vehicle that has never been deployed. That means that each time we prepare to deploy, my soldiers need extra time to train on the vehicles we will be deploying with. It becomes a training burden. We are receiving too many types of vehicles, and not getting rid of the old ones — which means I have to keep the skills on the old fleet and acquire the skills of the new fleet. This is difficult, and presents another training burden.

The result of all of this is mental fatigue. Given the repeated missions, the training burden is mentally fatiguing for all my soldiers, especially the master corporals, sergeants and warrant officers. They are tired — and when I say tired, I am including mental illness or personal problems, such as divorces, separation, these sorts of things.

I work with the other units. As a result of our affiliation, I maintain communication with the other four manoeuvre units, and I train with them whenever possible. I have to do my own training, but I support their training as well.

Typically, a field squadron augmented with the necessary additional assets, either heavy equipment, heavy engineering equipment, armoured engineer equipment, water supply, that sort of thing, is assigned to a manoeuvre unit and begins training with them. The squadron is always task tailored, and changes for every task and every mission.

I have a third subunit, but it supports the non-manoeuvring units. It digs trenches, maintains roads and provides the drinking water. It performs general engineering support. I always have a small group of personnel detached to the brigade headquarters to help the brigade plan new operations.

In conclusion, I am very proud and fortunate to command an engineer unit. They are fantastic soldiers, very professional and dedicated. There are just too few of them. Too frequent rotation and a rapid introduction of new equipment have contributed to soldiers that are mentally tired.

[Translation]

Maj. Rénald Dufour, commander, 58th Air Defence Battery: Honourable senators, let me introduce myself. I am Major Raynald Dufour, commander of the 58th Air Defence Battery. To my left is the Battery Sergeant Major, Master Warrant Officer Ross.

The role of my unit consists in countering air threats capable of compromising the operations of Canadian formations. As the only anti-aircraft artillery unit in Land Forces Quebec Area, we are accordingly responsible for coordinating 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade's defence and use of the air space for generating a composite air defence artillery battery using reinforcements from other Land Force areas.

The real capability of the 58th Air Defence Battery consists, therefore, in providing an air space coordination centre and an operational JAVELIN troop, or short-range anti-aircraft missile with a maximum range of approximately 5.5 kilometres.

There are two types of problems that are unique to our unit. The first one is organizational in nature, which in turn causes an operational tempo problem.

Our main problem concerns the fact that we have no Canadian Forces Organization Orders and, consequently, no Canadian Field Force Equipment Table. Consequently, we lack an authorized equipment support list, which tends to create equipment shortages, either for command posts or support vehicles used during our operations.

One of the greatest advantages of our establishment, as far as Land Forces are concerned, is that we are considered an independent unit. This means that headquarters treat us like a sub-unit of the 6th Field Regiment. We assume the role of an independent unit, but with a battery's structure within a larger organization. We are therefore short of staff.

We have been integrated into the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group since the summer of 2002. We are directly linked to the 35th Canadian Brigade Group for reservists — I will come back to that point later.

Every summer, we are required to conduct a JAVELIN course, which consumes most of the unit's material and human resources. We accordingly find it difficult each year to maintain the minimum standard of leadership within the unit.

With regard to unique opportunities in the unit, we are one of the few brigade units to have a total force made up of 40 per cent regulars and 60 per cent reservists. The unit had the chance to supply individual reservists during rotations 9 and 10 of the OPERATION PALLADIUM. This year, it will have the opportunity to send troops during the OPERATION ATHENA. This will undoubtedly be a unique experience.

Since we are a mixed unit, we are the only unit in the 5th Brigade required to conduct recruiting. The 35th Brigade sets our objectives for recruitment. This year, these objectives have been set at approximately 18 people.

In garrison, we work in partnership with the 5th Brigade Group units. We also work very closely with the 35th Brigade. Because the unit reports to two brigades, it is sometimes difficult to find the right balance.

During operations or field exercises, the JAVELIN troop is normally assigned to a combat unit and the unit's senior staff is located in the airspace coordination centre and advises the commander of the 5th Brigade Group.

In order to maximize the resources, we often do our training with other anti-aircraft units, especially in the field. For example, in about two weeks we will go to Petawawa for actual firing exercises.

[English]

Senator Wiebe: I have a specific interest in reservists; as such, I appreciated very much your comments in your written presentation about the role you are playing. You state here regulars and reservists, 40 per cent and 60 per cent. Is that 40 per cent regulars and 60 per cent reservists, or is it the other way around?

Maj. Dufour: It is 40 per cent regulars and 60 per cent reservists.

Senator Wiebe: These reservists have signed on for a period of time; correct?

Maj. Dufour: We are talking mainly Class A, four days a month. We have very restricted funds with respect to Class B.

So even though we are trying very hard to produce reservists, the problem we face is that we cannot provide constant leadership at the senior NCO level because we do not have enough funds. When the opportunity arises for them to deploy on tour or to go work within a sector's school, they actually take these jobs, and we end up with a vacuum at the leadership level, at the senior NCO within the reservists, sir.

Senator Wiebe: When you are talking about the leadership level, you are talking about whom?

Maj. Dufour: Sergeants and warrant officers, sir.

Senator Wiebe: You are talking about the leadership level, not on the base here but at a particular reserve unit; correct?

Maj. Dufour: That is right.

Senator Wiebe: I want to congratulate you for the work that you are doing. The reservists are an asset that we certainly have not fully realized since World War II, to be quite honest with you, because at one time we were all reservists, or they were all reservists.

I am concerned about the difficulties with cohesion that we heard about this morning. It is my understanding that, whether you are in the reserves or regular army personnel, when a request comes to go to Bosnia or Afghanistan, it is basically volunteers, whether you are a reservist or with the regular army. In filling that quota, hence, you are sending over people who are interested, dedicated to the role that they are planning to fill there. I can see a greater drain with a call for Afghanistan vis-à-vis Bosnia, because Afghanistan is new. Someone who has gone to Bosnia would probably like to go to Afghanistan.

Hence, the problem is one of recruiting, that we are unable to recruit enough personnel to fill the vacancies that are left when these people volunteer to go to Bosnia or to Afghanistan. I am raising this because I think it is the result of our first report. The Department of Defence engaged upon a pretty aggressive recruitment program — including advertising — to bolster the ranks.

What is your opinion vis-à-vis that program? From what I hear, it has not been very effective — because of your lack of numbers within your units. Is that a fair assessment?

Maj. Dufour: Obviously, the people that have an interest in serving their country have been serving a long time. Those people who are volunteering from the reserve have different expectations. Some volunteer with the intent of serving the country; others have financial expectations. Regardless, it is hard to keep a member of the reserve for a long time, particularly when a mission is involved, simply because their job may not be guaranteed into the future. That one factor alone is influential; sometimes reservists express a desire to go on an operation, but explain that they have a job and sometimes family back home.

Senator Wiebe: That is on the reservist end of things. What about the regular army side of things? The advertising campaign was basically for reservists, but leaned more towards trying to increase the numbers in the regular army.

LCol. Tremblay: Senator Wiebe, I was in charge of the long-term planning for the Canadian Forces for the Vice- Chief at NDHQ over the last year, before I took command of my regiment. As you have signified, more incoming soldiers do not necessarily generate more outgoing soldiers to the unit. You need to train the newcomers, and depending on their classification or trade that could extend from one to three years or so — provided there are the right number of instructors to sustain the inflow into your organization.

For the number of tasks we have right now, 60,000 does not cut it. If the number were 75,000 to 80,000, it would increase the size not only of the players on the ice, but also the coaches on the bench, so to speak, and the schools. It would generate the forces necessary, to go and fight or to or conduct peace operations overseas.

Senator Wiebe: I will not name the units, but we were at one last summer in which the new recruits were having an awful time trying to keep themselves busy, basically because of an insufficient number of instructors.

LCol. Tremblay: We are professionals, to start with. We try to mitigate the situation by identifying the resources. I do not want you to believe that we are not doing our share to fix the problem. However, the problem is only fixable, to a certain point. The total generation capability is quite limited. As you are suggesting, yes, there are some standing platoons that are increasing as a result of the recruitment.

As you know, somebody who is not occupied tends to do other things. Hence, before we actually can train them, they are already thinking about doing something else. It is obvious that if we are not able to meet the challenge or the reason for joining in a timely way — for the adventure, the leadership challenges — they will look for something else.

Senator Wiebe: In our second-last report, we recommended slowing down the tempo in terms of our commitment to places like Bosnia and overseas, for the very reason that we are losing a lot of our great instructors and that it is time we got them back home here, to build up what we have. We received a tremendous amount of criticism about that recommendation, much of which came from armed services personnel. Some said that they joined because they wanted to go over and serve, and that if they were not going overseas, to heck with it, they would leave the army.

How great a problem is that? Are we walking a thin line here?

LCol. Sirois: I will tell you, sir, that my corporals, soldiers and lieutenants are ready to go, but the middle leadership, the master corporals, the sergeants and the warrant officers, are tired. We are asking a sergeant to train for a mission for six months, to go on the mission for six months, come back and go on a course for six months, and then come back and train somebody for another three months during the summer time. In other words, we are saying to him: ``You cannot take your leave this summer; you will have to take it in October.'' That works if the sergeant is a hunter; however, if he has a family, he is not taking leaves with them.

Most of my sergeants and warrant officers have family life difficulties, because they are never home. They are not there in summer because they are training somebody else. When they are on training duty here in Valcartier, they can go home during the evenings and on weekends; however, if the training school is in Gagetown, they only get home on long weekends — and that does not amount to a summer vacation. It is not the same as spending three weeks with their family.

It is the middle leadership who need a break — not the soldiers, not the corporals, not the young officers, not the Majors or the lieutenant-colonels, but the middle leadership, that is, the master corporals, the sergeants, the warrant officers and the Captains. It is that group of people who are being asked to do the most, both here and abroad.

Senator Wiebe: How do we solve the problem?

Maj. Dufour: First, we need to establish our training with the right number of people. We need to stop taking people from the units to teach during the summers and then come back — which is what we are doing now. We need our numbers to show strength.

Senator Wiebe: As you just told us, it can take up to three years to train an individual. The recruiting drive has been fairly successful, but we do not have the people to instruct the new recruits — the people who do the training are all are all overseas — as a result of which they are sitting around doing nothing.

Other than by pausing, how can we fill that gap? And if a pause is the wrong approach, what is the approach that we should adopt? Those are the answers we are searching for; it is why we are here.

LCol. Tremblay: Senator, I read a great book this summer: While Canada Slept: How We Lost Our Place in the World, by Andrew Curran. I really bought into some of his arguments. I believe that it is in our best interest as Canadians and as a country to participate, not to isolate ourselves. The Suez Canal crisis is an example of that.

If things do not change, I think isolation is waiting for us. As a government, you may have to reduce the tempo, if you are not ready to increase the size of the Canadian Forces. The former Chief of the Land Staff said that we are just too small for the tasks we have. So just reverse it: Give us more people, and then we will have enough people to put on the ice, more people to put on the benches, and more people to put in our schools, to reduce the burden on the overall forces.

Senator Wiebe: That is the end goal many of us would like to see, but it will not happen overnight. How do we arrive at that goal, without burning out the corporals and the sergeants, as you said previously? We are in the process of doing the recruitment, we still do not have the people to train them, and we still want to do our world duty by sending our troops into these theatres. We are just like you; we are looking for answers also.

LCol. Sirois: Sir, it takes 10 years to produce an instructor — for a sergeant on a fast track to be a good sergeant.

Senator Wiebe: It seems to be the best instructor would be someone who actually serves in a theatre.

LCol. Sirois: Right, and lot of the guys have missions abroad. It takes 10 years. The other side of the coin — and I will say it in French — is that we are recruiting in dents de scie. One year, we have 10,000 recruits, the next year 2,000, and the following year 3,000. Our schools, our training establishments cannot sustain that. We have to have a steady training requirement. In some years, we may have more people than we should, others a little less, but by engaging in this dents de scie approach we are going to create problems. There will be a huge gap in the rank structure. We are feeling the effects of having reduced a lot of people 10 years ago.

LCol. Tremblay: It seems to me that the problem is not the recruitment, because if you invest you will get the recruitment, but it is one of guaranteeing that you will retain people in the organization. One way of retaining your people is to make sure that what they came in for, the challenges, is there. If the environment meets their expectations, you will keep them.

In reality, there are 51,000 trained personnel within the Canadian Forces. When you take into account those on medical restrictions, that number falls rapidly to between 48,000 and 49,000 people. Hence, to say that the total strength is 60,000 is fallacious, because really we are looking at 48,000. Hence, when you split that number proportionately between the army, the navy, the air force and the joint force, it is obvious that the flexibility of every commander is very limited.

Senator Cordy: Thank you for your openness with us today. Some of the things we are hearing are not new to us. We have heard them in our travels across the country — and it does not matter which branch of the military we are talking about. The men and women in the military are doing extraordinary work. Considering the lack of resources, both financially and in human terms, everybody is performing above and beyond. However, as you said earlier, and as we have heard before, you cannot keep that up forever.

I should like to continue along the lines of Senator Wiebe's questioning — in other words, recruiting and training, and keeping people in the military. Your point is well taken that it is difficult to do long-term planning, if one year there are 5,000 new recruits, the next year 2,000 another year, and so on. As well, we are paying dearly for the reduction 10 years ago, when we in fact encouraged people to leave the military at that time.

In terms of your long-term planning for the military and the numbers you need, is the leadership taking into account the numbers of people on medical leave, or the people who are taking parental leave, something that would have been unheard of 20 years ago?

LCol. Tremblay: There are two different things here. Benefits like parental leave and others —

Senator Cordy: — which are all good things.

LCol. Tremblay: Absolutely. However, suppose in my unit there are 12 people on parental leave and I am only able to replace four of them — because the legislation enables me to grab some funds to provide for their replacement. However, the individual on parental leave may be hard to replace if their technical skills and experience are strong; it can limit the number of individuals actually able to replace our members who are going on parental leave.

Hence, while we welcome those benefits the reality is such their flexibility is limited because of the size of our forces.

Senator Cordy: In other words, what looks good on paper and the availability of financial resources to replace people does not necessarily work in practical terms; correct?

LCol. Tremblay: It is the reality of the numbers and the availability of personnel. For example, a captain with three or four years experience who is able to bring down fire from the guns, the mortars, attack helicopters or close air support is not easy to replace. Those types of skills are not easily found in the Canada Forces because it takes years to build those skills and that experience.

Senator Cordy: The advertisements on television portray a life of excitement, adventure and all those things. Once people are recruited, do their opinions about military change?

LCol. Sirois: Madam, I will give you an answer from my personal background. My wife's son-in-law joined the forces a year and a half ago. While he was waiting for his training, he shovelled snow in Kingston for three months following a storm, those types of things. He eventually became attached to a unit, not my unit but another, and we will be deploying him to Bosnia, although he would prefer Afghanistan. However, he joined to do just that, and he is happy. He will find overseas what he joined for. However, he is also a soldier, a corporal, and has not participated in three, four, or five previous missions. Because of the tempo, these guys get what they want. It is the leadership that is tired. The young guys, once they have completed the training process, find what they are looking for. However, the garrison part is boring.

Senator Cordy: How long are they waiting to be trained?

LCol. Sirois: Sometime a year, depending of the trade. A number of trainees are required; otherwise, resources are being wasted. It depends on the trade.

Senator Cordy: In the meantime, you said, they are doing jobs like shovelling snow.

LCol. Sirois: Including things like working in the QM. They may not have joined to do those sorts of thing and often their morale is pretty low. However, once they have completed their training and are gearing up to go on mission, they are really happy. Where they lose interest, are bored, is in the middle — for example, if they do not get deployed, are in a static job, or are waiting for training.

When I was a young lieutenant, I completed my training in nine months. Today, the same young lieutenants are training for three months. During the other months, they are doing garrison training — polishing equipment, cleaning shovels and that sort of thing. They are not using the equipment, which is the boring part. Lack of funding is the problem. However, once a young recruit is in a training cycle, he or she is getting ready to go to an operation, the enthusiasm builds.

Senator Cordy: And the problem is lack of people to do the training.

LCol. Sirois: I would have that problem, yes.

Senator Cordy: Hence, the problem is in middle management, to use a non-military term; correct?

LCol. Sirois: Correct. Middle management are the people who are tired. They are the people we employ everywhere. In my present unit, several of my soldiers, my middle management, have to be sent on course just before deploying. Hence, I have to train my soldiers without their leadership. That is a reality. Both levels need training. I have a lot of soldiers, but the personnel required to provide training, expertise and supervision are not there, because they do everything else.

Nevertheless, once we train them, they are happy. They go into the field and do their jobs. Granted, they do not have as much as supervision and may not learn as well as we would want them to, but they are ready to go and they are really keen.

Senator Cordy: How do we solve that problem? Part of the problem goes back to the time when recruiting was very low and when people were being let go from the military. We need to build up middle management, this experience within the military. Hence, even if we were to recruit a lot of people — and I understand recruitment is up — that does not solve the problem of middle management, because they do not have the experience.

Is there a solution we can recommend?

LCol. Tremblay: Senator, if we increase the size of the Canadian Forces, the strength of the ranks will increase.

There are bombardiers in my units who are qualified master bombardiers. I would be more than happy if I could get them a sergeant designation, put that additional stripe on their shoulders. However, I do not have the numbers. If the numbers grow, the problem of middle management will not be that much of a problem, because you will be able to move them up.

Maj. Dufour: When we are a part of an operational unit, the tempo is very high and there is a requirement to move these people around, to give them a break. There is a lot of restriction on the amount of money allocated to allow people to be moved around. As a result, we have had to keep people longer than expected, to serve in units, In the long term, obviously, fatigue will set in and, at the extreme, people will have to make hard choices about what they want in the future.

Hence, dedicating more money toward allowing people to move around would allow us to give them breaks at certain points, to share the pain with other people, to ensure that nobody is being burnt out at the end of it.

Senator Cordy: We want more than a bit more money, right?

LCol. Tremblay: Yes.

LCol. Sirois: We are losing a lot of good instructors. This year we lost three sergeants in one unit. There is a job that will allow them to go home at night. However, I could not move them to our training school in Gagetown because we could only move 30 people around the country, in that trade, in that rank level. We lost three good instructors because we did not have the money.

Senator Cordy: Is there any provision for using retired military people in the situation that you just described, people who are retired from the military who would act as civilian trainers for the military?

LCol. Sirois: We are already doing that, senator. We are hiring these people to observe training procedures, to tell the commander if we are doing well. We are already doing that. However, money is still limited. It takes money to hire these people.

Senator Cordy: True.

LCol. Sirois: It also takes a commitment from us that we are going to keep them longer than one month any time.

Maj. Dufour: There is also another aspect. Soldiers look for role models, and the person doing the training, the instructor, needs to be a role model for these trainees. It is during that period that the young person will be influenced, will form an image of military life. Hence, we have a duty to ensure that the instructors, especially at the lowest level, are quality people. Sometimes, retirees may not be a suitable role model, one that we would like a young person to look up and say, ``I want to be a sergeant like my instructor.''

Senator Cordy: It might be good in the short term, but then they will be in the field for four or five years and, as you say, as such may not be a potential role model.

LCol. Tremblay: Yes.

The Chairman: Tell me if I am following the discussion properly. Your message, Colonel, is that because there were no funds to transfer the three sergeants you wanted to transfer they left the service; as a result the taxpayer is going to pay a lot more money to bring in three replacements, train them and move them up to sergeant level. It is that simple, correct? Why cannot the brass figure it out? Why is that such a difficult problem for people with four stripes on their shoulders to figure Even a senator can do that math.

I am being a bit facetious, I know, but it cannot be that simple. There must be a more fundamental block that what you are describing.

Why is there not someone at headquarters who understands that it is going to cost more to lose those three sergeants than it is to recruit and train three new people and move them up through the system? The extra money would be available to spend on new equipment.

LCol. Sirois: I spent two years at headquarters, and I really enjoyed my time there. I am going back there in the next year or so. The people there, the generals, know this. Treasury Board rules stipulate that money cannot be easily transferred from place to the other.

The Chairman: You are sounding more and more like a senator right now. In any event, you are saying that you have had public service rules imposed on military roles, imposed on common sense.

LCol. Sirois: That is right. The rules are there to ensure that money is not wasted. It is hard to change those rules. There are difficulties fighting these rules. I worked with a director in Ottawa. We had difficulty training our carpenters and our tradesmen. There was the scoop to recruit them. My boss tried to change this; he worked at it for two and a half years, and then got fed up and went home.

The Chairman: What I am hearing you say is that you need to let the managers manage.

LCol. Sirois: Yes.

[Translation]

Senator Meighen: When recruiting, is it possible to have a system that would favour one group of individuals over another? For example, if there were a shortage of welders, would there be a recruitment bonus or is it more subtle than that, where you would give preferential treatment to one class of individuals at the expense of the others?

LCol. Sirois: The bonus program is already in place. In some cases where we had to recruit specific skills, bonuses were offered and we were able to fill certain positions.

In fact, some previously trained officers were entitled to a bonus, without having to go through the military college. Some plumbers and woodworkers were also hired thanks to the bonuses. But not everyone wants to join the armed forces. There is no specific program that will resolve all these problems. We must resort to several smaller programs for various groups. Some programs are already in place.

Senator Meighen: In my view, the advertising agencies for the Canadian Armed Forces are not very clever. The advertisements do not seem to be very effective. As a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, do you have anything to say about the recruitment programs? Are you asked for your input or advice? Are you invited to participate in such programs?

Maj. Dufour: There are some recruitment programs that attract interested individuals. The members of the Canadian Armed Forces are in the best position to attract interested individuals. A healthy climate and happy people are the best recruitment assets.

A number of your questions dealt with the attractiveness of the armed forces. It is often taken for granted that those who join the forces will stay there. Several members of the armed forces will soon have 20 years of service, which may lead to a shortage of staff.

There seems to be a lack of initiative to encourage members of the armed forces to stay with us. In the next ten years, it will become increasingly difficult to replace a master warrant officer, a captain or an experienced sergeant.

Senator Meighen: The average age of your staff is increasing, is it not?

Maj. Dufour: Yes it is.

Senator Meighen: How do you explain that, given that people do not stay? In fact, I presume you have been a member of the armed forces for a number of years?

Maj. Dufour: For 29 years, senator.

Senator Meighen: I see.

[English]

The Chairman: On behalf of the committee, I should like to thank you all very much. We appreciate your attendance here. That problem that is being described is a very frustrating one. We would welcome further thoughts as to how to come to grips with it.

I think we have a sense of the problem, but we do not have a sense as to which button to push to generate a solution. It may be something we can focus on, to see if there is something we can do to start addressing it. There is no question that the obvious solution is more money and more people — we would all like that. We are dancing around solutions such as addressing the rules that seem to limit managers from managing, and the committee will talk about that more and reflect on that more.

On behalf of the committee, I wish to say that we are very proud of the work you and your men and women are doing. As parliamentarians, we have great respect for the work you are carrying on. I would ask you to convey the message to those who work for you that Canadians are proud of what you are doing. The work is very important, and we must find solutions to those problems that you are addressing.

Our next witnesses are Major Luc Lafrenière, Major Michel Ouellette and Captain J.R.A. Bissonnette.

Welcome, gentlemen. Proceed please.

[Translation]

Major Luc Lafrenière, Commander, Headquarters and Transmissions Squadron: The unit's role is twofold. The first role is to provide the commander of the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group with communications that he and his staff require to maintain command and control of the forces assigned him.

The second role stems from the first. We are also responsible for providing headquarters with administrative and logistical support during deployment.

Finally, I also serve as a sponsor of all transmission troops in the brigade units.

The authorized unit establishment for performing these tasks is 237 members, of which 202 are with the Signals Squadron and 35 at headquarters, plus two civilians.

The uniqueness of the unit is attributable not only to the highly specialized role it plays within the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group but also to the fact that for the past 15 years it has employed reservists both in garrison and during operations. This unit would find it difficult to accomplish all its tasks without the reservists in its ranks.

In my opinion, integration is easier in the signals trades than in the combat arms trade primarily because of the equivalency of the knowledge associated with these trades. An information systems technician or military lineman has practically the same knowledge as his peers in the civilian world. Consequently, any civilians who join the Communications Reserve with experience or a profession similar to the above trades will find it easier to join our ranks. With the exception of the information systems operator, for which there is no equivalent in the civilian world, this is generally what happens.

Now let us talk about the unique problems in the unit. The main problem currently facing us is a lack of depth in our personnel. When I first arrived this summer, the unit positions were 95 per cent filled. To fill the identified positions for our mission in Afghanistan, however, we will have to fill 44 per cent of our positions using personnel from outside the unit. The very nature of the mission means that certain occupation groups will have to be strengthened or even added. We must also deal with the fact that many people will be unable to deploy owing to health, family or operational tempo reasons. We must also deal with these imponderables.

In short, the unit that will deploy to Afghanistan in January and February will bear little resemblance to the unit I took command of in June 2003.

[English]

The Chairman: Thank you very much, Major. Major Ouellette.

Major Michel Ouellette, Acting Commanding Officer, 5th Canadian Service Battalion, Department of National Defence: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. The role of my unit is to provide logistical support to the brigade. The unique problem facing the unit is that no matter who is on the mission we have to support them constantly. For us, there is no break; we are constantly supporting those leaving.

As a result of that — and this is my second point — we have to reorganize ourselves constantly. We are creating a national support element, and because of that the unit has to reorganize each time there is a deployment. In addition to that, we have very limited resources right now in personnel and equipment. Another problem facing us — it is an infrastructure problem — as a unit is that we are in two different buildings, which results in a lack of cohesion in the unit, because they are separated from us.

We have a fair amount of women in our unit, so we are very used to working with women.

Our battalion offers about 18 different trades. In our specific unit, we have a great expertise at the lowest level. As well, at the very lowest level, there is a high degree of responsibility, and it is based on their specific trade.

In terms of how we work with the other units in the brigade, we provide all the combat service support, the logistics, to the brigade. We provide driver courses, combat supply courses, et cetera, to the brigade. We are providing to the brigade combat transport, supply and maintenance.

The Chairman: Thank you very much, Major.

Captain Bissonnette, please.

[Translation]

Captain J.R.A. Bissonnette, Commander, 5th Military Police Platoon: The role of the 5th Military Police Platoon is to provide the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group with support during operations by delivering police and security services in the field. The 5th Military Police Platoon must also enforce the disciplinary policies of the commander of the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group.

Our role is twofold. We must support the mobility operations, by providing command and control for the brigade's road network. We must also provide support to security operations, which includes detaining our own staff and prisoners of war.

The unique problems in the unit are the following. First of all, our work vehicle, the ILTIS, is not armoured enough for some of the tasks we are required to perform in the battlefield.

Motorcycles were an indispensable tool for traffic control, but these were withdrawn from the Canadian forces last year no doubt to be replaced by all-terrain vehicles of the ATV type. In my view, that type of vehicle does not meet the criteria of the task we must perform.

As for personnel within our unit, we have three seven-person sections in which no corporals have been assigned to platoon headquarters. A seven-man section is inadequate to perform tasks independently, and the platoon headquarters need reinforcements. We have therefore opted for two sections of ten persons each. We need another section to ensure greater flexibility.

We are also lacking in specialists. Our unit has no chief clerk, no signalman and no weapons technician. We depend on the other brigade units to fill these positions.

As to minimal staffing at headquarters, 5th Military Police Platoon is a small unit that does not have as much flexibility in the higher ranks. There are only two officers and five non-commissioned members at headquarters. Everyone must assume a number of ancillary duties in order to meet the demand. For each ancillary duty in a unit, there are at least a dozen extra tasks that must be shared.

In terms of housing, we must now share a number of services such as bathrooms and showers with another unit located in the same building. In our building there are two showers for almost 50 people.

As to what is available for our unit, I mentioned the vehicles. We have one vehicle for every two people. This is no doubt the highest vehicle/person ratio within Canada's Armed Forces. It is an advantage that gives us greater mobility and flexibility in theatre.

The average age in our unit is 34.6 or 35 years. This average remains fairly constant. Our staff is mature and can work independently on the battlefield. Our youngest member is 25 years of age.

How does our unit work with the other brigade units? We have no police jurisdiction in the garrison. Another military police unit has that responsibility. We support the local military police and when necessary, we also support the brigade units in off-base deployments.

In theatre, we support the units according to our roles and our duties. We work with the G1 staff for disciplinary situations and with the operational staff for operational duties, prisoners of war, refugees, transients, and others.

Senator Meighen: I would first of all like to welcome you. Generally speaking, the problems that you have raised are not all that different from what other officers have told us. Moreover, Captain Bissonnette, in his presentation, mentioned some rather interesting and even unusual things.

Can you tell me why the motorcycles were withdrawn?

Capt. Bissonnette: That question should be put to the Army Command.

There were a number of reasons why the motorcycles were replaced by another type of all-terrain vehicle. One of them involved training. It is more expensive to train someone to ride a motorcycle than to operate a four-wheel drive all-terrain vehicle. The Army Command could give you more information on that.

During my career with the military police, I have noted that the British military police use motorcycles. It has been shown, in a number of conflicts, whether it be the Gulf War or the present conflict in Iraq, that the motorcycle is an indispensable tool, providing greater speed and flexibility than a four-wheel drive all-terrain vehicle.

Senator Meighen: We have taken note of your comments. I would now like you to explain why you have no police jurisdiction in garrison.

Capt. Bissonnette: The 5th Sector Support and the local military police belonging to the 5th Sector Support have that jurisdiction on the base. Our jurisdiction is limited to operations or campaigns. If the brigade deploys to Gagetown or Fort Drum, we are responsible for military police services. However, our jurisdiction does not extend to the garrison. In the garrison, the Five Sector Support military police has that jurisdiction.

That means that the white vehicles on the base belong to another unit. Our jurisdiction is limited to campaigns — or green vehicles, if you prefer.

Senator Meighen: Does this situation exist elsewhere, or is this a special case?

Capt. Bissonnette: That is how our sector operates.

Senator Meighen: But the system does not necessarily operate in the same way on other bases?

Capt. Bissonnette: That is correct.

[English]

Senator Forrestall: I want to express my appreciation for the very fine escort I have had all day. Might I suggest that you buy them all Hummers.

[Translation]

Senator Meighen: Captain Bissonnette, you are the only one to have raised the issue of accommodation. Does this problem apply only to our unit or does it exist elsewhere? Is it simply a matter of image?

Capt. Bissonnette: The units separated in 1997. At that time we shared the same building, and we continue to do so. The building is rather old and there is not enough room for all of the staff. For example, we only have two showers for all of the staff. Of course, the showers at the Detention Centre are available. However, those are for the inmates. So we only have two showers for 50 people. We have not yet found a solution to this problem. We are more or less waiting for the next stage in the relocation process.

Senator Meighen: This problem could easily be settled with a few renovations, if there were enough funding available.

Capt. Bissonnette: Of course. All we need are extra showers.

Senator Meighen: Major Lafrenière, you made some interesting comments about the reservists. This is a group that is of great interest to my colleague Senator Wiebe and to myself. Other sections of the army could no doubt learn a few things from you.

You seem to depend a great deal on the reserves. Does this pose any particular problem? You made a comparison between some civil and military occupations. However, when troops are deployed, are the reservists more reluctant than the other soldiers?

Maj. Lafrenière: No, senator, no more than normal.

Senator Meighen: Would they be problems for their employers?

Maj. Lafrenière: No. But that is another question. I believe that the Canadian Armed Forces have made some improvements when it comes to the reserves.

I first worked with reservists in 1988, in the Iran deployment. The reservists at that time were given rather short shrift. The first ones to be sent back were the reservists. Often, the reservist had turned down a job because he expected to be deployed for six months, so he was inconvenienced.

Today, there are firm training and employment contracts for the reservists. So their treatment has improved.

Senator Meighen: For a job within the armed forces?

Maj. Lafrenière: For an armed forces position, according to the length of the contract. So they are not considered to be second-class citizens. The reservists are clearly better treated than they were 15 years ago.

With respect to the missions, this is how we proceed. When positions must be filled and we must rely on reservists, a notice is posted throughout Quebec. There is then a competition to evaluate the capabilities for deployment. In general, we have no problem filling these positions.

Senator Meighen: Would the reservist not run the risk of losing his job because he will be deployed outside the country?

Maj. Lafrenière: Most of these people are rather young. Contrary to the U.S. National Guard, these are not doctors or highly-skilled professionals. The average age is 25 and younger. So the problem does not really exist.

Senator Meighen: That is an interesting answer, because it appears that the problem does exist elsewhere in Canada. Indeed, 50 per cent of people suveyed said it would be desirable to prohibit employers from firing a reservist, while 50 per cent were against such legislation, fearing that employers would stop hiring anyone who might join the reserves.

Maj. Lafrenière: Those who are in the reserves are, for the most part, young people who have not yet found a permanent job. If the number of reservists with full-time employment were to increase, such legislation would be necessary when the deployment lasts six months to a year. Without that type of law, in those circumstances, we would not be able to fill our senior officer positions. At this time, corporals and reserve soldiers are mostly young people who have not yet had an opportunity to find civil employment.

[English]

Senator Banks: Major Lafrenière, Major Ouellette and Captain Bissonnette all referred, as have your predecessors, to simple numbers problems. You said that at the beginning, you commanded a unit with 95 per cent of it is complement and that currently you will deploy a unit with 44 per cent from away. We have heard that from the six people who preceded you today, as well.

One of the things that was talked about earlier was the medical problem, and the witness mentioned gold-bricking, which is, if I remember correctly, a euphemism for people who find a way to get sick, to stay sick and to continue to be paid. We have not yet asked the officers that are closer to the ground whether this is a real problem. Is this a pervasive problem? Do new definitions exist, to keep people away from their duties — definitions that are now in place but which did not used to be in place? Also, is there — I guess I am looking for the worst-case scenario here, to which I hope the answer is no. Has a culture developed of people using the system, in this case the military system, with new definitions, new criteria, new thresholds of people gold-bricking?

Is that a problem? I hope that the answer is no, but we have heard about it a lot.

Maj. Lafrenière: Part of the reasoning put forward this morning was the lack of military doctors, I believe. Currently, we have only three doctors on the base, and they have all been deployed. They have to undergo training. We are lucky we have doctors. They are civilian doctors; as such they are not familiar with the system and have not built doctor-patient relationships. Hence, I will not say that what you described is not happening; there are always individuals — usually the same ones — who play the system, and we get to know them in our own units.

If an employee goes to a civilian doctor — let's say it is the first time the doctor steps foot on the base — complaining of stress, of not feeling well and of not sleeping, and if the doctor asks the patient what he or she thinks would be a good remedy and the patient suggests a two-week break and the doctor signs a note prescribing that, I have no say in it.

In the past, we may have said to the doctor: ``That guy just fooled you, because the next two weeks will be physically demanding and that guy is known for this type of thing.'' We are not allowed to have exchanges of that type any longer. I am not allowed to ask why someone has been given two weeks off. An example might be an individual who knows that there will be a march with a rock sack in two days who does not want to participate. However, it is not widespread. The problem would not be any worse than in society as a whole. There will always be people who take advantage of the system.

Senator Banks: In other words, it is not out of proportion to the rest of society. It is not a contributing factor to the fact that you have to get 44 per cent of your people from away; is that correct?

Maj. Ouellette: As to my 44 per cent, I would say, no, a lot of them are truly sick or have family problems. Also contributing is that fact that the role has been expanded; instead of having a detachment of two or three people, current missions require four people, say, so I have to find that fourth person somewhere.

A few numbers of this 44 per cent would be related to what you described, but quite frankly I do not really want them with me in theatre. If someone has a job to do but finds a reason not do to it, another individual will always end up doing it, and it will always be the same person filling in. I do not want to penalize the good members of the unit.

Maj. Lafrenière: It is not yet a culture, but we have to kill it before it becomes a culture.

Senator Banks: How would you do that?

Maj. Lafrenière: In our unit, for example, we know those who are likely to play the system as opposed to those who are really sick. We get to know them.

We meet with the doctor. All the main players are there, but it is not a big crowd. The chain of command is there. We discuss with the doctor — and the padre is also there — certain situations. Often, the doctor only has technical expertise. Often, the doctor needs some military background, to help make a better decision in the future. There are some people, only some of them, that seem to be on sick leave for too long, which is unacceptable for an operational unit like ours in the brigade. If someone is legitimately sick, fine; generally, a quick fix is all that is needed, and then we carry on. However, when it drags on for a year, a year and a half, two years, we cannot use those people. It affects morale, and so on. A chain reaction occurs.

That is why sitting down with the doctor is helpful. It enables us to give him some background on the individual, which in turn might help the doctor. It may lead to the doctor to saying, ``Perhaps this individual does not need a year; I will shorten that.''

This is one step we took, to try to eliminate this problem.

Senator Banks: It is not coercion, is it?

Maj. Lafrenière: No.

Capt. Bissonnette: I do not know whether this was mentioned this morning, but we have good programs in place to help individuals get back to work on the problems that of accumulate annual leave while sick — what we call the thirteenth month salary. An individual who is on sick leave for the entire year, away from work, accumulates annual leave. As such, that person gets a cash-out at the end of the year. Therefore, they are paid a thirteenth month salary. In the perception of others, it is not really fair.

When I try to explain that to my wife, who is a federal public service employee, who does not get half of those benefits, she wonders what is up with that.

Therefore, that is a problem that the higher-ups, the brass, must address.

Senator Banks: Is the problem more difficult when you are dealing with civilian doctors as opposed to doctors who are in the service?

Maj. Lafrenière: Yes, sir, because the military doctors have seen a few things before. They have been in operation before with us. We see them at the mess, also, so we can talk with them there. Military doctors have been around; they know what is going on.

There are 28 special programs available to help soldiers — program that bypass the chain of command. As well as seeing a doctor, an individual can go to a social worker to access three or four programs. He can go here and there. There is a lot of help out there, but it is not coordinated. It is my opinion that if we do not get a grip on this the individual in question will go from program to program, and we will be left with no say in the matter.

Senator Banks: I am not sure I understood the answer to my question, which is, precisely, what do you think can be done about that. There is no doubt that PTSD exists; it is real, there are varying degrees of it, and it requires a recovery time.

How do we solve that problem? Do we solve it simply by getting more doctors into the military?

Maj. Ouellette: No, sir. However, one way to solve it is not to have individuals running from doctor to social worker, and so on, involved in activities we do not even know about. It is not that we need to know the details of the sickness as such, but we need to be aware that the individual in question is seeing someone. Right now, no communication seems to be reaching us. We may only find out something through a peer or via a weird conversation in the cafeteria.

The chain of command wants to be involved, to keep abreast of matters regarding an individual, but if we do not know what help an individual is seeking how can we help?

Senator Banks: As champions of individual rights, however, you would say that it is none of your business.

Maj. Ouellette: However, you want us to help. Often, one of the first questions a social worker will ask is whether the individual has received any help from the unit, from the chain of command. How is that possible, if we do not know the details of his case? We are not being informed. As I said, I do not need to know the details of why someone is being followed by a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but I do need to know that the individual is seeing someone. I can then pay attention and try to help him out.

If I do not know, how can I help?

There are currently two lines of communications. One way to fix it is for us to be more aware of what is going on at the unit, with our personnel, without being involved in the details.

Senator Banks: It is very difficult.

The Chairman: I want to follow up briefly on Senator Banks' questions. With respect to civilian doctors, I would presume they look at the files of these individuals. Do the military doctors not make a note on the file that a particular individual is working the system?

Maj. Ouellette: I do not understand the question.

The Chairman: I understood that you felt that when an individual went to a military doctor that doctor was more likely than a civilian doctor to recognize whether an individual was working the system to his or her advantage; in other words, a civilian doctor is less likely to understand.

Does the civilian doctor see the individual's file? Does the individual take his or her file to the civilian doctor? If so, would there not be a note on file from the military doctor that this patient is frequently at the doctor with no clear indication that he or she is ill?

Maj. Ouellette: I do not know whether that would be noted on file, but we do not have access to those medical files.

The Chairman: I understand that, and nor should you. However, the doctors should have access to it. One doctor can give another doctor the file.

Maj. Ouellette: And he does.

The Chairman: And he does?

Maj. Ouellette: Yes. There is always a file with the doctor.

The Chairman: If we had a military physician here, I guess the question I would ask is this: Is this person in complaining of serious problems all the time when, in fact, he just needs two aspirins.

Maj. Ouellette: I am sure the type of discussion has taken place, for opinions or advice or whatever. However, as to whether those types of notes are on file, I personally do not know.

The Chairman: My second question is this: How does one's Col.leagues react to the gold-bricker?

Maj. Ouellette: Yes, sir, there is peer pressure. For those who really need medical help and are off short term, there is no peer pressure. However, for those who stay away for a long time, their behaviour is usually noticed by the troops. If an individual's colleagues determine that he or she is abusing the system, the troop will be angry at that individual and will at times giving the person a hard time at work. That is the way it happens within the troops, when someone does take advantage of the system.

The Chairman: Does that correct the problem, or does it augments the problem?

Maj. Ouellette: It augments the problem for us. A person who is being targeted by his peers, who is feeling pressure from his peers —

The Chairman: That person has another reason to get sick.

Maj. Ouellette: Harassed or whatever, and then he creates all kinds of administrative problems.

The Chairman: Are there any rewards in place, or motivation, for people to show up to work every day? In other words, what are the positive incentives for people who are doing their job, pulling their weight? Is there any way of recognizing them?

Maj. Ouellette: There is a variety of ways. We complete an annual report on everyone. If someone is working hard, it is reported in writing. There are assessments throughout the year, and thereby an opportunity to notice someone who is doing a good job. There may be times where we will have a nice task to assign, and we might give it to the most deserving person.

Senator Banks: As you said, peer pressure can either be a positive thing, if somebody is genuinely working the system, or a negative thing, if a legitimate psychological difficulty is present. Is there an effort in the Armed Forces to make people aware of how serious, when it is legitimate, things like stress and other illness are, and that they do, in fact, occur?

Maj. Ouellette: We do have that process in place, sir.

We have something called the platoon commander's hour, where we pick a subject to discuss. If subject is stress or PTSD, we will discuss its ramifications. If we see something within the unit involving harassment or something similar, we are required to do those briefings, to discuss all aspects of the subject, in front of the troops.

We have all received training on this, and it is something we have to do every year. So, yes, we have something in place right now to deal with this at the unit level, and we do talk to the troops directly about that.

Maj. Lafrenière: In addition to this, the forces are studying implementing ``mandated programs,'' where every individual in a unit must go through a series of programs. Currently, a day and a half of training is dedicated to this subject, just enough to make everyone aware of potential programs, including stress and physical illness. There is additional training for the leaders.

Senator Forrestall: As leaders in your own particular areas, have you noticed any pattern of absenteeism related to the, say, opening day of hunting season or fishing season or the final two or three games of the World Series, for example? Do you track this?

Is this as well a source of problem and, if so, are you a little more understanding, apt to be more forgiving, than you are with the malingerer, the gold-bricker?

Maj. Ouellette: Not really, sir. Absenteeism is not a big problem. However, if after investigating we find there is a problem, we deal with it, usually, by fining the individual. However, there is not an automatic fine; sometimes, there may be a problem at home. Most times, if a punishment is involved, it is generally a one-time thing. The punishment is usually harsh enough to be a deterrent, and word gets around. No, absenteeism is not a big problem.

Senator Forrestall: My next question is about policing, the jurisdictional reality of different levels of police authority. What authority do your police have if one of your men is engaged in or you have reason to believe he is engaged in improper actions? What territorial authority do they have to pursue that? Can they leave the base, say? Can they come and go from inside? Can they travel the provincial highways in pursuit of a drunk driver that you have seen on the base?

Capt. Bissonnette: The military police have jurisdiction on the base, and that is it. In the case of an outside investigation that involves a military individual, our police may shadow a file, but the civilian police — municipal, provincial or RCMP — will be the lead investigator. The military police, or another agency, like the National Investigation Service, will shadow a file until it comes to end.

It is only on a base or within DND environment that the military police have full jurisdiction.

Senator Forrestall: Are you happy with that? You do not see any problems with that; correct? It works, in other words?

Capt. Bissonnette: It works, yes. It works well here. In other regions of the country, things may be different, for example, in those provinces where there are only RCMP and a few municipal police. All in all, however, there are no major problems with it. The lines are generally very clear as to each force's jurisdiction.

Senator Forrestall: Who would you call if there were a murder on the base this afternoon?

Capt. Bissonnette: With respect to those types of incidents, the National Investigation Service would deal with it. However, in the case of a murder, the civilian police would be called in. There are certain offences or criminal acts that the military police do not have the jurisdiction to investigate. However, it there were something major that was within our jurisdiction, we would conduct the investigation here on the base.

Senator Forrestall: Does the system work well; is it a good system?

Capt. Bissonnette: As far as I am concerned, yes, it is a good system. Everyone knows the limitations of each other's boundaries, if I can use that word.

Senator Atkins: I have a recruitment question. When a person signs up to join the military, they can indicate a preference, I assume, as to what they would like to do. What per centage of those requests would be fulfilled after basic training?

Maj. Ouellette: I do not have an answer to that. The recruiting staff would be in a better position to respond. They have those statistics; I do not.

Senator Atkins: I would assume, though, that if they have indicated an interest in your unit, after training they would be the best recruits you could receive, would they not?

Maj. Lafrenière: In my particular case, when we receive new people, they have already been in the service for about a year and a half. The other aspect of your question involves preferences.

When an individual goes to a recruiting centre and indicates an interest in a particular trade, if that trade is not opened at the time of recruiting the individual will often agree to study another trade, do that for a couple of years, in the hope that he will be the first one selected to transfer to his preferred trade when and if it opens up.

Senator Atkins: We have been to the Canadian Forces School of Communications and Electronics in Kingston. We were very impressed with the whole operation. We toured different trucks, looking at the signal equipment. They were describing communications problems between the trucks and an artillery unit, say, and we asked them how long it takes to get components for their equipment. They told us, with a certain amount of exasperation, that sometimes they do not get the components they need. Then they told us that the irony is that, in many cases, they could go to RadioShack to purchase the components but that they are not authorized to do so. Do you have any comment on that?

Maj. Ouellette: I do not have any comment, but I have heard that often.

However, with respect to the supply side, there are rules and regulations in place. There are contracts with particular suppliers that we to honour. Although it may be attractive to run somewhere and purchase something we need, there are other considerations — for example, guarantees. There are considerations that lot of people are not aware of. Some while it may be easy to run to Canadian Tire and purchase a tool, or whatever, we have a system in place. It is there to be followed, and we have to respect those guidelines that are given to us. That is the way it is.

Senator Atkins: Do I detect a certain amount of frustration?

Maj. Lafrenière: The sergeant-major and I just came back from Afghanistan, and we are signals supply. We learned two things in Afghanistan: first, that those young soldiers that you saw at the school are doing a great job out there, which surprised a lot of people; and second, that we are short on parts over there. They are scrambling all across Canada to get parts for us, yes. There are two things at issues here: the contractor having the parts, and us stocking up.

Maj. Ouellette: Money is also a factor, because we have a budget that we have to respect. We have to set our priorities. There are many factors related to this. If the stuff is in the system, it is better for us to wait for it than to go out and buy it, because we are limited in terms of our buying power locally.

Capt. Bissonnette: However, I have seen more flexibility in the last 10 years. Perhaps there is a case for the regular supply chain in terms of certain specialized equipment, but in other aspects it is easier to go out and buy things. Maybe the different trades have different procedures. However, today, when I see something that will help me in my training, as long as I follow the rules of buying I can purchase it. Years ago, I could not do that. There is more flexibility in the system today than there used to be.

Senator Atkins: By the way, I was not suggesting — I think I can speak for all of us here when I say we have been very impressed by all the people in the military we have met, at all ranks. Personally, I have been overwhelmed by their interest and commitment to the job, and by the way they perform their duties.

Are there any diabetics, and how do you deal with it?

Maj. Ouellette: We do, sir, have diabetics. Usually, they carry their own insulin kit. It bears a tag. We have a way of identifying them as being a diabetic, or whatever. I think they carry an orange container, which contains medical information.

Senator Atkins: They are able to participate in normal duty; correct?

Maj. Ouellette: No. As long as the individual is able to do the job, we use him or her.

Senator Wiebe: Just two quick follow-up questions, if I may. Does the army administer aptitude tests to new recruits, to identify the line of work the recruit is interested in doing? Is anything like that done?

Maj. Ouellette: Not at the recruiting centre. I am sure aptitude tests are given, but not in terms of aptitude towards a specific trade. They have to go through the basic training and then to a school.

Senator Wiebe: Suppose that during basic training a young man or woman came to you and said, ``I would love to be a nurse,'' or ``I would love to be an electrician,'' or ``...a military policeman.'' If you were to administer an aptitude test, the results of which indicated that that may not be a suitable career or field of study, that might be helpful. Perhaps you are not the right people to ask, but is there any type of assessment procedure?

Capt. Bissonnette: It depends on the trade. Within the military police, we do not have a physical, but we do an assessment. Once a recruit is in the system but before joining the military police, he or she goes through an assessment centre, controlled by the Military Police Branch. Hence, we choose the individuals that will join the Military Police. However, it is not a physical, such as a march; they are administered an aptitude test, to determine whether they can be employed independently, because usually our military policemen or women are out there by themselves.

Senator Wiebe: I want to go back to the discussion about gold-brickers, those who people who come up with excuses for not pulling their weight. Is there any way that the army can relieve that individual of his or her responsibilities, for example, fire them or let them go?

Maj. Lafrenière: At the moment, no, sir — well, let me rephrase that. If a person who plays the system is not diagnosed as having a permanent category as a result of his injuries, there is no way to kick him out right now. We let the medical system handle it on a case-by-case basis, incident by incident.

If the medical system recognizes that an individual has been in for a seventh time in, say, the last six months with the same problem, there may be a determination that that individual is longer fit, at which time more extensive tests be will administered, and after a year or two he or she might be released. The problem is that those people who are on chronic leave, if you want, are not being replaced in the unit. So, I am still short a position.

Maj. Ouellette: If I may sir, the process is usually one where an individual is checked out and if the condition is found to be bad he or she will be put on a temporary, six-month leave, which can usually be upgraded to a second six months. If the condition does not improve, the individual becomes permanent. Once the individual is on permanent leave, his or her name goes on a medical holding list. A medical board will then make a determination as to whether the person can stay or not, or change trade, or simply be kicked out the Canadian Forces, for a medical reason.

Senator Wiebe: So there is a process in place.

Maj. Ouellette: There is a process, and the best person to talk to about it is the Commander of the 5th Field Ambulance. They have all the details about this.

[Translation]

Senator Meighen: It has been suggested that new candidates wanting to join the armed forces should be subjected to tests, in light of PTSD, in order to determine whether there is a risk related to stress and offer appropriate advice if necessary. I believe that one of the witnesses made this suggestion. Are there any such preventative measures?

Maj. Lafrenière: There is a whole host of data on PTSD. The military is beginning to become aware of the existence of this problem and how to deal with it. One of the ways to counter this type of situation is to ensure that the units are cohesive and emphasize team work and communication. We know that each individual will react to stress differently. So it is very important for the leadership to know the staff under their command. A detachment commander in charge of four or five people must know who they are, and this applies to the rest of the rank and file. In order to do this, you have to take the time to get to know everyone.

For example, 44 per cent of my unit is comprised of recruits. The training takes place in two ways. It is not always easy to find the time to get to know each individual person. Nevertheless, once you are on manoeuvres, it is essential that you be familiar with those who are under your command. We now have PTSD training available for all of those who are in charge, including the lower ranks.

Senator Meighen: Of course, cases such as General Dallaire's are not easy ones to deal with. Who could have predicted how badly what he saw in Africa would affect him? Individuals react to stress in different ways.

[English]

Maj. Ouellette: In fact, sir, PTSD is fairly new to us. Even for this brigade, three weeks ago a working group spoke to us in Trois-Rivière about stress, and PTSD was one of the subjects. Our awareness is improving. What came out of that working group is that we have asked our medical people, if possible, to create a training package on stress. Currently, we do have first-aid training, and so on — a five-day course; we have asked for a day-and-a-half or two-day training package on stress for the troops.

We are getting more involved in this, because it is a reality.

The Chairman: Gentlemen, I should like to thank you very much for the time and effort you have given to your presentations and for the candid exchanges you have had with us. It is very valuable to the committee to have a conversation like this. We only learn by coming out and meeting people with the people who are dealing with these issues on a day-to-day basis. You are looking at a group of amateurs; we are working our way up a very steep planning curve. We appreciate you assisting us in getting a better understanding of the issues facing the Canadian Forces.

There is one message I should like to leave you with, that is, the pride we, as parliamentarians, feel as a result of the work you and the men and women working for you do on a day-to-day basis. I would ask you to convey that message to the troops. Please tell them that Canadians are proud of the work the troops do, that they respect the work they do. We want to thank you on behalf of Canadian for what you do for us on an ongoing basis.

We are very grateful for that, and we appreciate your assistance to us today.

Senator J. Michael Forrestall (Deputy Chairman) in the Chair.

The Deputy Chairman: I now welcome Lieutenant-Colonel Danielle Savard, Commander, 5th Field Ambulance and Lieutenant-Colonel Pierre St-Cyr, who is the Commander, Support Unit 430th Helicopters Squadron.

Which of you wishes to go first?

[Translation]

Lieutenant-Colonel Danielle Savard, Commander, 5th Field Ambulance: Honourable senators, I would ask you to give me a few minutes to briefly explain my duties within 5th Field Ambulance. The main responsibility of 5th Field Ambulance is to assume roles 1, 2 and 3 within the Valcartier brigade and within the 5 USS Valcartier base itself. Our operational role is to provide operational support, either medical or dental, for roles 1 and 2.

One of the problems for 5th Field Ambulance — and I believe that the commander mentioned it earlier this morning — is the flagrant shortage of doctors in the military.

Out of the 14 military medical positions in Valcartier, only five have been filled, with one person on maternity leave. This shortage has greatly affected us.

We also need qualified personnel to act as aftercare workers. We do not have sufficient personnel to provide adequate bed care.

Moreover, with the operational turnover, medical officers are constantly called up for missions, be it rotation 10 for PALLADIUM, or rotation 14 — which is coming up, or ATHENA.

Civilian physicians of course remain to form part of the rear guard. These physicians cannot be deployed.

The renewal of the primary care infrastructure is another Major challenge facing the Field Ambulance. The purpose of renewing the infrastructure is to deal with the problems of medical officers by reorganizing physicians in the rear guard. However, this will not solve the problem of recruiting medical officers.

Now, let's talk about the opportunities specific to the 5th Field Ambulance. In this unit, we did something innovative; we set up a simulation workshop. Among other things, the workshop uses simulation dummies. The workshop is designed to ensure that medical technicians have state-of-the-art instruments and appropriate training so that they are able to provide the care required during missions.

Obviously, Valcartier patients do not require very complex care, unlike the sort of care that bullet wounds might require. However, training is needed to prepare for situations found in theatre. Thus, the SIMMAN dummies we acquired for the brigade have been very successful at the Field Ambulance. These initiatives make it possible to enhance and increase the confidence of our medical assistants. They have also provided technical support for medical assistants.

This technical, or technological, support has also aroused interest at Laval University. Representatives of the university visited us to examine our new instruments, since they are not yet in general use.

Our new technology is highly appreciated by both civilian physicians and medical officers. We are considering providing all our medical assistants in Quebec, and even across Canada, with training on the system. We are the only unit in Quebec with a simulation centre equipped with simulation dummies. If you have the time, we would be pleased to invite you to tour the facilities.

This is a brief overview of the challenges with which we have been faced and the tools we have to guarantee and enhance medical support for all our members.

[English]

Lieutenant-Colonel Pierre St-Cyr, Commander, Support Unit 430th Helicopters Squadron: First, thank you for the opportunity to express myself in front of this important committee.

I have been a tactical helicopter pilot for 22 years. I was appointed commanding officer of the 430th Helicopters Squadron on July 3. This is my fourth tour at that unit, so I have spent a lot of time at Valcartier.

Our mission at 430 is to provide combat-ready tactical aviation forces to support Canadian defence policy anywhere in the world. That being said, I should like to point out to the committee that the tactical aviation unit has been deployed 31 times in the past 17 years, each deployment being a six-month tour. We have only four units in Canada, and we were deployed that many times. We have people in our unit who have more rows of medals than they have hooks on their shoulders.

As well, we have been deployed at five different national operations throughout the country. Keep in mind that each time a helicopter squadron is deployed outside, the squadron has to keep its focus. Its responsibilities increase. Currently, the 430 responsibilities go from the East Coast to the West Coast. In 2003, the average time outside the squadron is 65 days, so far, and we are not deployed. We are in garrison, supporting Canadians all over the country.

Our last tour to Bosnia was in 2001, and we are preparing to deploy there again in September 2004. When we are not deployed, we are training for deployment. At the same time, we have to find the time not only for professional development but also to support the rest of the Canadians.

Our problems result from the increase in the rate of operations, the reduction in strength, the lack of qualified personnel and the pressure applied on the available personnel that we have remaining in the squadron. That means long days, long hours and hard work. Let me tell honourable senators that we have, at 430, committed and dedicated people. They are willing to serve, and they are happy to serve. They are just getting tired at this time, and they need some kind of a break.

We are able to play the game, but the third period is getting very tough on us. We would like to sit on the bench for a time, to get back with our forces and be ready to serve Canada and Canadians in the best way we can. We have proven in the past that we can do it.

Before I close, I should like to introduce to you Chief Warrant Officer Daniel McCoy, who is with me today. We would not be pleased to answer any questions you might have.

Senator Cordy: Thank you very much. I was a member of the Kirby committee that released the health care report, so health care is of great interest to me. Whether we are talking about civilian issues or military issues, the concerns are often the same, particularly in terms of the number of health care professionals that are needed.

However, before I get into that, I would ask you to explain something to me. I am from Halifax, and I know the delivery of health care within the military in Halifax has changed. There are now a number of beds in the local hospital designated as military beds. The hospital at Stadacona is still open, and I understand that with respect to it anything that is considered to be serious with respect to military personnel is sent to the regional hospital.

Could you explain briefly how the delivery of medical services has changed within the military over the past few years in this area.

LCol. Savard: I will try my best.

Senator Cordy: You can speak in French, if you wish.

[Translation]

LCol. Savard: We have been forced to use civilian physicians since we do not have enough medical officers. This is a change. Another change is that we try to provide day care in most of our clinics. More and more day surgery is done. We also try to transfer our patients. What we understand by role 4 is that everything requiring reconstruction, such as surgery or neurosurgery, is referred to the civilian medical care system.

Our military infrastructure can no longer sustain medical treatment like surgery. In Valcartier, we still perform surgery. However, the infrastructure in Ottawa and Halifax can no longer sustain such services. This means we need to turn to the civilian system. For example, we need access to an operating theatre or a wing in which we can work. Thus, our own personnel can work on members of the armed forces and still maintain their skills in dealing with more complex cases.

This is why we are trying to work together and achieve some integration with the civilian health care system. This provides our personnel with the opportunity of encountering a greater number and wider range of surgical cases. At present, we are dealing primarily with knee and ankle reconstruction. Bullet wounds are not very common. A wing in a civilian facility would make it possible for us to become somewhat integrated and practice more readily in military theatre situations.

General Mathieu's intentions are therefore to ensure that our personnel maintain other clinical activities, not only within the armed forces but also outside.

[English]

Senator Cordy: In the Kirby report, we suggested that the government pay millions of dollars to open up more spaces in medical schools, because we found that a lot of high-quality students, who had graduated from university with a science degree, wanted to go into medical school, but there were just not enough openings. Is the military doing anything to try to encourage doctors to enrol in the military? Are there financial incentives to join the military?

LCol. Savard: There are certain financial incentives to encourage people to join. The recruiting centres are equipped with a new CD-Rom in that effort. One new initiative for newly recruited doctors, is to pay them almost $250,000 if they sign up for four years. If a military doctor were to leave the force before April 1, 2002, but then decided to join up again, he or she would also get that grant.

There is also the opportunity to sign up for only two years. Those people will receive $80,000. If, after two years, they want to sign on for another two years, they will receive an extra $100,000. However, they will pay taxes on that, so they will keep approximately half of it.

There is also a signing bonus for medical students, and that depends on how many months we have to sponsor them. A signing bonus could be between $40,000 and $180,000. These are grants.

Doctors want to be posted in certain locations such as Halifax, Edmonton or the province of B.C. Quebec is not one of those attractive postings Those are the locations that the doctors want to stay. When they sign on, we can guarantee them a four-year posting, but no more than that.

While they are with us, they are allowed to work in any emergency department in a downtown hospital, but there will be no extra remuneration for that.

We are also trying to encourage military doctors to sign up on the permanent reserve list. Here in Valcartier, the base surgeon is on the primary reserve list. He also does medical emergency work. We can offer specialties to the civilian hospitals, specialties such as emergency medicine, sports medicine, psychiatry and others.

Of course, we also have the Military Medical Training Plan, MMTP.

Senator Cordy: There seem to be a lot of incentives. However, there is the overall problem in Canada and in other countries of a shortage of medical personnel.

It is a step in the right direction to try to attract doctors into the military.

You talked about primary care renewal initiatives. If you talk to 25 people, each one will give you a different definition of primary care. When I think of primary care, I think of care for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, with all the best practices used by all medical personnel, not just doctors but also nurse practitioners or medical assistants in your case. How do you define primary care?

LCol. Savard: We would consider primary care to employ doctors, nurse practitioners or physician assistants, physiotherapists and so on. It is multidisciplinary work, with those people working as a multidisciplinary team.

Senator Cordy: In what state of development is this initiative?

LCol. Savard: Currently, we have four sites in Canada dealing in primary care renewal? Those have been in operation for a year. I am referring to the sites at Edmonton, Kingston, Bagotville and Esquimault. A report was provided to General Mathieu in September, and we expect a response from our people in Ottawa by the end of December. Then we will know what is working well and what is not.

Our primary care facility includes an x-ray lab and other assets that we have in the military, which are similar to those found in the civilian area.

Senator Cordy: I was pleased to hear that you have high-tech equipment. Not every province can say that. You told us that people from Laval have come to see this equipment. Does Laval have a medical school?

LCol. Savard: Yes, it does. I have two brothers in the externship program, and that is why they came to us.

You may have heard of the simulation mannequin. I believe there is one in Halifax, Edmonton and Petawawa. I believe Petawawa sent their theirs overseas so that people could practice and maintain their skills. The simulation mannequin is used to practice the different protoCol.s that doctors, nurses and other medical people need to know.

Senator Cordy: Is there any exchange of medical personal or information between Laval and the military base? Do you just tell one another what is going on and that is it? Is there an avenue where you could actually work together?

LCol. Savard: I know a bit more about Laval, and they know a bit more about us right now because our medical simulation workshop has been in the news recently. Other than that, we have little communication. However, just recently a team from Laval visited our site and to see our ``sim man.''

Senator Cordy: Could you take any of their interns?

LCol. Savard: No. We need to be accredited. We are in the process of trying to have every site in Canada accredited. That was the case when we had hospitals. We no longer have hospitals, although we have one facility that we do call a hospital, and that is in Halifax. We have clinics where we can perform minor surgical procedures in the other locations.

Senator Atkins: You talked about doctors, but what about nurses? There is a desperate need for nurses. Do you have any incentives for them?

LCol. Savard: I cannot answer that. I checked the situation as it relates to doctors. I cannot remember if there is a bonus or incentive for nurses. I do know that we are short of doctors and pharmacists. Across Canada, we should have about 60 pharmacists, but we have only got only 40. However, we are not at a critical stage.

If I remember correctly, by 2005, the military will have only 25 per cent of the doctors that we should have. With respect to nurses, we may have 120 positions and we may be 20 short. However, that is just a guess. We do have shortages in other fields, but the most critical shortage relates to doctors.

Senator Atkins: In what category would you put a radiologist technician?

LCol. Savard: I believe that we have most of the x-ray technicians and lab technicians that we need. However, the same personnel are called upon to go our overseas locations again and again. We may have to review our requirements in the future, particularly if our personnel are being sent to field hospitals more often. I can get back to you if you want on that. Currently, we can meet our requirements with civilian technicians.

Senator Atkins: What about dentists?

LCol. Savard: We have only a platoon of dentists, and I know there are shortages. The dental branch is separate from the medical branch. However, we do work together.

Senator Atkins: I was most disappointed when the National Defence Medical Centre was closed down. It provided incredible service, not only to the military, but also to the RCMP. Nothing has replaced that. Do you have a unit where you can send someone who needs attention?

LCol. Savard: I cannot answer that because I think that would be taken care of in Ottawa. I think some transfers are done to the veterans' hospital there. Patients used to be sent to the NDMC for care.

Senator Atkins: Patients were treated for all sorts of illness at the National Defence Medical Centre. It was an incredible operation. It was closed down to save money, but nothing has been built to replace it.

LCol. Savard: My understanding was that NDMC was closed but that somebody else took over. That was in the 1990s if I remember well. I first worked in 1989, so that was a little before my time.

Senator Atkins: Do you work with other branches of the military such as the navy? Is there an inner service relationship?

LCol. Savard: I did work at the joint headquarters in Kingston where I had dealings with the medical side of the air force and the navy. As you know, on the medical side we are all one family. Whether you work for the navy or you work for the air force, everyone works for the medical unit. The standard operation practices may be a little different, but our duty is meet the needs of the navy, the air force or the army. Everybody treats the patients. Everyone believes in primary care renewal. We have one goal, and that is to meet our military operational goals overseas.

Senator Atkins: You talked about 31 missions.

LCol. St-Cyr: Yes, sir, 31 missions in which tactical aviation was involved. My squadron, the 430th Squadron, participated in each one. We have accomplished eight missions. We sent people on each one of them.

Although the air force is not present, as such, in Afghanistan, members from the 430th Squadron will be deployed in Afghanistan to man the unarmed air vehicles, the ``UAVs,'' as we call them. We are drawing on people from my squadron to be deployed in Afghanistan, so that would be mission number 32.

Senator Atkins: How do they determine the rotation of human resources?

LCol. St-Cyr: We have four tactical helicopter squadrons in Canada. One of them is not deployable because it is a school. We cannot touch the school if we want to maintain the rotation of the people. Therefore, we have only three squadrons that can be deployed. A squadron takes over for a one-year period in theatre. One squadron is preparing to be deployed, and the other one is coming back from rotation. Every two years a squadron is back in Bosnia or other places.

Currently, we have a shortage of personnel in each of the squadrons, so we have to ask someone in the two other squadrons, who has either recently been deployed or who is resting, to join us and be deployed again. It is not unusual to find people who, almost every year or every 18 months, are back in theatre.

We are trying to manage the people according to their skills, their qualities, their qualifications, and form a unit within the squadron, and deploy again.

Senator Atkins: Is there a chance that some of the personnel could miss a rotation and have to remain overseas for a longer period?

LCol. St-Cyr: The longest tour of duty we have seen is six months. The personnel then come back. The shortest period back in Canada is eight months, before being sent back again for another six months. That is the worst case we have seen so far.

Senator Smith: My question is for LCol. Savard. Earlier this afternoon our witnesses expressed the concern that a number of people were producing medical certificates so that they would not be called upon to perform certain duties. Those certificates were not bona fide. How would you assess the current situation in that regard?

LCol. Savard: This is not an easy question. As a pharmacist with a medical background, people come to me with a credible story and sometimes I believe them. However, sometimes you know the person is not telling you the truth. Doctors can also recognize this and they will not give out a medical certificate. However, some people are very good liars. When you take your car into a garage to have it fixed, you can describe the problem and the mechanic can easily examine the engine and determine the problem. It is not so easy to diagnose a patient's complaint or determine whether he is lying.

Senator Smith: We heard that the incidence of this is at an all-time high. Are there loopholes in the system that perhaps should be addressed in some way? Should the system be reviewed?

Let me give you an example. I am aware of a particular federal institution — and I will not name it — which recently drew up a provision that, when someone is away on a medical certificate, after a certain period of time there must be a second opinion, and that second opinion is not to be from a doctor that the employee chooses, it is to be a doctor who is chosen by an independent person and who is a specialist. Do you have such a provision?

Several people referred to this issue earlier today and, quite frankly, I thought they were courageous to talk about it. I suspect that some of their colleagues may question why they raised the issue. However, we should hear about this. If there are loopholes that should be addressed, somebody should be thinking about it and doing something. What is your reaction to those comments?

LCol. Savard: Perhaps Chief Noël could respond, and then I will add my comments.

[Translation]

Chief Warrant Officer Donald Noël, 5th Field Ambulance: I will try to answer your last question. Your question was: Why are there so few medical officers?

As a transition measure, we have been forced to take on civilian physicians in order to fill the gap. There is a cultural difference between civilians and medical officers, and this requires some adaptation on their part. At present, we are working on helping civilian physicians adapt to military practices. In Valcartier, a great deal of work is being done on this, and I believe we are on the right track.

A few years ago, every unit had a medical officer. We had hospitals with medical officers, surgeons and internists.

Over the past 15 years, however, their numbers have fallen from 120,000 to 50,000 today. Medicine has changed. Nowadays, we can no longer justify having 50 surgeons. We have therefore been forced to reduce the number of medical officers on staff. Thus — as in the civilian sector — we have seen a reduction in care. We have therefore had to take on civilian physicians, and are now in the transition period.

So there have been some changes in this area, and those changes may prove beneficial.

Another important change has been the Privacy Act. Commanders feel that they are not being given as much information as before. We have had to adapt and work within that perception. This applies both to the chain of command, to unit commanders, and to the medical system itself. I believe a great deal of work is being done so that we can all understand one another, and so that the commander of a given unit is kept appraised of his staff's medical condition without infringing on patient privacy.

The transition has led to some cultural changes, and to new procedures that require adaptation. Sometimes, that adaptation has led to ambivalence.

[English]

Senator Smith: What do you think of a system that, after a certain point, requires a second opinion from specialists? Is that worth thinking about?

LCol. Savard: In a sense we do have one. I will explain the process. When someone claims that he is sick, he sees the doctor and, for 30 days, the doctor can sign the medical certificate. After that, when it is longer than 30 days, the patient must see another doctor, the base surgeon. The base surgeon will review the file and he can sign a medical certificate for up to 60 days. He will not see the patient, but he will review at the file and agree or disagree that 60 days is appropriate. If the number of days is higher than that, more than 90 days, then the patient sees another doctor is at our headquarters. The doctor is part of the 4th Health Service Group, in Montreal. They review the file.

If a doctor concludes that a patient should be seen by a psychiatrist or another specialist, the patient will be referred.

As a C.O. of 5th Field Ambulance, when I am uncertain about how to proceed, I call on the base surgeon, who is a major and works for me, and I ask him to verify the situation. This is exactly what he is doing for everybody else. I can get that second opinion quite quickly.

In some cases, civilians will give our people sick leave, but that is reviewed at a certain level.

After 120 days, the person falls into the medical category. Then we have a first temporary medical category, a second temporary medical category and then the matter goes to a group of doctors in Ottawa who sit together and review the file and decide whether the person should be on permanent sick leave. If they agree on that, then that file becomes an administration problem. They may decide that the person should be relocated, but they keep him on because they need someone with his skills. Alternatively, they may decide that there is no position for him. It may be that the person should quit the military.

I do believe that there is some kind of follow-up.

Senator Smith: I need not pursue this, other than to simply say that, in the event that the status quo does not solve the problem of loopholes then we will have to put our thinking caps on, and talk to the appropriate people and try to resolve this issue. No one wants loopholes that can be taken advantage of.

Senator Wiebe: My question is for LCol. St-Cyr. Does the 430th Squadron fly the Griffon?

LCol. St-Cyr: Yes, sir, we do fly the Griffon.

Senator Wiebe: Is that what you used in Bosnia as well?

LCol. St-Cyr: Yes sir. We used eight of them.

Senator Wiebe: How can that aircraft do?

LCol. St-Cyr: In what sense sir?

Senator Wiebe: I understand that they were asking a lot of that aircraft. There was talk of putting armoured plating on it and using it as an attack helicopter. They had all sorts of ideas about what they should do with it. However, they forgot that they had to leave some capacity for gasoline. Just what is that helicopter capable of doing?

LCol. St-Cyr: The Griffon is a Bell 412. It is a version of the civilian airplane called ``Bell-412.'' Pilots think that it is a great airplane to fly. It is stable and it has a good avionic package inside. It has a good range in that it can travel quite a distance before it requires to be refuelled. However, it is a civilian airplane.

Putting armoured plating, armoured seats, and door guns on it, certainly reduces the agility of the plane. It is not an airplane that was designed to serve the military as were the Black Hawks or the Cobras. It is not an attack helicopter; it is a transport helicopter. We are told to do the best we can, given the limits of that machine, and so far we have been able to serve the Army, not as they wish, but as best as we can.

With armoured plating on these helicopters, it means that instead of being able to transport 12 troops, we will be transporting fewer, perhaps four, five or six. It does restrict our ability to do certain things.

In Bosnia, that airplane was well used to do surveillance or some observation work. It is a good platform for that. However, what we need to improve is our surveillance capability with some kind of forward looking system, such as the Ersta. That is supposed to be being purchased by the Forces. That helicopter is a good, stable platform for using some kind of observation kit which could be attached to it.

We can build too much onto that helicopter because it has limited power, and we have to be very careful with it.

The Deputy Chairman: I understand they have solved some of the difficulties we were having with the doors of the Griffon. The civilian authority was asked to examine those doors, and whether they saw fit to ground the vehicle until such time as the doors were fixed. I do not know what happened at the laboratory when there was an examination of what, potentially, could have been a very bad incident. I am one of those people who is particularly frustrated with the prospect of allowing the inadequacy of our equipment to continue. This is not a comment on the professionalism of those who fly or those who maintain these machines.

I am not happy with the prospect of turning the Griffon into a combat vehicle. As drivers, we all know that when we turn the lights, the heater, and the air conditioning on at the same time in our cars, we will not go uphill very fast. There is no energy left. I do not know where the answer lies.

I am concerned by your comment that the crews are tired and overtaxed because of improper rotations. I hope this is not to the point where it might impair safety. I am certain that, if that were the case, those responsible for these decisions would not allow that to happen.

Obviously, you have thought about this. How could we give effect to some downtime to the men and women who are on armed deployment? I do recognize that they are there to serve, and that is what it is all about. Has it occurred to you how we might achieve some downtime?

LCol. St-Cyr: Yes, sir. First, let us go back to that door problem. That incident happened here in Valcartier. We found out that the door functioned normally. It was found that the usage was excessive. It is a matter of fact that we do open the door more frequently to embark and disembark troops. It is also a fact that sand, snow and ice conditions at some point do affect the structure of the plane.

We are initiating a new process to ensure that those difficulty areas will be inspected more often than the company recommends because safety considerations are paramount. We will make sure that everything is done to eliminate problems.

As to the findings at the laboratory, the matter is still under investigation, sir, and at this point I do not know too much about it, so I cannot talk about it.

On your other point about how can we extend the time our personnel spend on the ground before being sent abroad again, I would point out that we need more people. The Canadian Forces have recognized that. They are currently in the process of recruiting more pilots. The doors are opened to those who left to work on the airlines and who want to come back, for whatever reason. We do have an approach on this. Our policy is to increase the number of pilots we have in the Canadian Forces.

You must bear in mind, sir, that the process to get your wings is long. It involves at least a two-year commitment in a school, as well as going through the syllabus and multiple tests. It is a long process, and we lose people in that process, because we keep only the best. I do not know how many are going through the system and will remain, and get their wings at the end.

That being said, we are trying to regenerate the number of pilots. That will be the issue. If we have more pilots, proportionally, fewer people will be required to go abroad. That also applies to our technicians, who share this problem.

The attraction outside the military is real. Presently, many companies are hiring technicians, and people are leaving the military to work in the civil area.

I know that the Canadian Forces are doing their best to recruit and train people. They have recognized the problem, and they are doing their best. However, I would propose — and it is outside my box — that we look at the law which allows reservists to participate in the missions outside the country.

The reservists are allowed to come and they are welcome to come. The problem, the showstopper, is that their employment, unlike the Americans, is not guaranteed by their employers. The Americans are allowed to go out, and when they come back, they will go back to the same work environment. It is protected.

If, one day, we have a law in Canada to the effect that, if somebody leaves Bombardier or leave Bell Helicopter to come with us, when he returns he will be guaranteed his job, then maybe more people will be attracted to go abroad. We would have more people in the pool so fewer people would be required to go back and forth on a frequent basis.

The Deputy Chairman: Senator Wiebe had to excuse himself because he has been very active in a program in Canada, persuading corporations and businesses to allow their people to join and be active in the reserves.

I am sure Senator Smith will relay that comment.

[Translation]

Senator Meighen: Some would say that if such legislation is implemented, someone likely to join the reserves would never be hired by an employer.

LCol. St-Cyr: In my view, that is a question of culture — not military culture but Canadian culture. Do Canadians consider our military values as important as they consider Canadian values? Canada has made commitments outside the country. Perhaps we should review our entire perspective to ensure that companies agree to letting an employee leave for a set period, so that he can perform his social duty towards the Canadian community, and then come back to his job. We can take the US as an example, but there are other countries, like Finland, that have a compatible social and military approach. We should see what lessons we can draw from their models.

I do see that some businesses hesitate to hire a member of the reserves, because they know that member can be called up for six months at a time. It is a cultural issue.

[English]

The Deputy Chairman: On behalf of the chairman and members of the Senate committee, I extend our sincere thanks to you for having taken the time to be with us, and share with us, in a frank and open way, information in response to our questions. It is only when we understand better that we can try and persuade our Col.leagues, and hopefully persuade Canadians, to help sustain the capability of our Canadian Forces if we are to remain active in the world. As I look around the world, nothing would suggest that now is the time to retract. It should be the time to cautiously expand.

Senator Banks: LCol. St-Cyr, I do not know whether you have read any of our previous reports, but you mentioned that your crews were tired and beat up. Is that true of all the Canadian Forces? We have taken great cognizance of that; in fact, in a recent report we say that eventually all of the Canadian Forces must take a hiatus, because they are overtired, overstretched, overtaxed, undermanned and underfunded, et cetera. We recommended strongly a pause for the Canadian Forces, that they should come home at the end of their current commitments and rejuvenate themselves. This recommendation was greeted with a lot of surprise at the time, but it is now happening out of necessity.

I want you to know that we take very much to heart the fact that the troops are tired and overworked.

The committee adjourned.