The Honourable Harjit Singh Sajjan, Minister of National Defence
February 24, 2016
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Minister, as a senator from Canada’s Arctic Coast, I am concerned with the steady and significant military infrastructure buildup in the Russian Arctic, which I’m sure you’re aware of. Your mandate letter echoes recommendations made by two Senate committees to expand the Canadian Rangers to protect Canadian Arctic sovereignty and assist in search and rescue.
When will we see the increase in the size of the Canadian Rangers and by how many?
Hon. Harjit Singh Sajjan, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Our government is committed to sovereignty in the Arctic. The Rangers play a critical role. It’s not just the number of the increase; we also need to equip them well. Even before the defence review, we are looking at increasing. Right now, I am going through an informal review of recruiting, of making sure that the recruiting system can support what we need. So the numbers will increase. I don’t have the exact number just yet because I want to make sure that I have the proper briefings from my staff on that. When I do, it will be part of the defence review. If not, I’m happy to provide the numbers as soon as I get them.
I also want to expand. When you look at the Arctic, it’s even beyond the Rangers. NORAD plays a very important role in this. I visited NORAD and spoke with the commander directly. As part of the defence review, we need to take a look at this unique binational relationship with the U.S, which is NORAD, and how we’re going to suit the needs 10, 20, 30 years from now. We need to look at what type of potential infrastructure we need, what type of equipment we need and how we support our personnel. Also, it’s not just defence. There are many other aspects of the Arctic. We need to be involved with the other departments, whether it’s Fisheries and Oceans or some of the other departments that will be operating with the Minister of Science as well.
We want to take a full approach to this so that we have a much more cohesive approach for the Arctic that is even beyond just military, but it is one of the aspects that our defence review will look at in detail.
Senator Patterson: A supplementary: Speaking of equipment, I wonder if the government will consider expanding the Rangers’ mandate to allow them to operate in the marine environment, rather than just on land, so that it will support the operation of the Arctic offshore patrol vessels and also assist in marine oil spill and search and rescue.
Mr. Sajjan: Your Honour, that’s a unique idea that has come up. I hope, as part of the defence review, you can actually put that in there so that we can do a much more thorough analysis on that. I can’t, obviously, say yes, but I think this will be something we can take a look at as part of the defence review and integrating some of our capability, whether it’s going to be working with the Coast Guard, with our military or even within the RCMP as well.