Canada will be purchasing additional tanks to replace the ones being sent to Ukraine, Defence Minister Anita Anand said.
Her comment comes on the heels of an announcement Friday that Canada will be sending an additional four Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, bringing the total number of tanks being sent by the government to the embattled country to eight.
However, Canada’s contributions to Ukraine’s war effort have come amid concerns about the Canadian Armed Forces’ capacities here at home.
“I am always concerned to make sure that the Canadian Armed Forces have what they need to serve and protect this incredible country,” Anand said, speaking to The West Block host Mercedes Stephenson in an interview, aired Sunday.
“What that means is we are going to be purchasing additional tanks for the Canadian Armed Forces.”
These tanks, she added, might not be exactly the same as the eight Leopard 2 battle tanks Canada gave to Ukraine.
The Canadian military, Anand said, wants to ensure it has “the most innovative and modern solutions.”
“So it’s not necessarily the case that the Leopard 2A4 is going to be the replacement vehicle,” she said.
“We have to make sure that we are recapitalizing with the most up-to-date technology that is interoperable with our allies, as we have done in the past, as we are doing with the F-35.”
As Canada works to rebuild its supplies, Anand said she’s pushing to ensure our “priority placement” in the supply chain while “doing whatever is necessary from a domestic innovation perspective.”
“So we’re working very quickly in terms of the Canadian supply chain, in terms of international procurement, as well as capitalizing Ukraine with the equipment that it needs to fight and win this war,” she said.
The promise to purchase more tanks comes as Canada faces serious challenges with recruitment and retention of personnel in the Canadian Armed Forces.
While it is supposed to be adding about 5,000 troops to regular and reserve forces to meet a growing list of demands, the military is instead short more than 10,000 trained members – meaning about one in 10 positions are currently vacant.
In addition to a lack of recruits, the Canadian military continues to face longstanding challenges in procuring new equipment, maintaining ageing gear, and tracking down replacement parts.
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The ongoing challenges within the Canadian military have left the top soldier in the country concerned.
In an interview with Stephenson aired in late January, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre warned that Canada’s military would be “hard pressed” to do anything more than simply meet its NATO pledges as it grapples with these issues.
“We’re not the only ones facing the people crunch. I’ve had good chats with Australia, New Zealand, NATO counterparts — this is a phenomenon across the West – tight labour force, not as much interest in military service,” Eyre said.
“That worries me from a collective ability to defend democracy at large,” Eyre said. “We’ve got to do our part with getting our numbers back up … I am concerned, but I’m concerned for the wider West as well.”
While military officials aren’t placing blame on any single issue with respect to the recruitment and retention problems, the Canadian Forces have been shaken in recent years by a sexual misconduct crisis that touched even the highest ranks, along with wider attention on systemic racism.
The reputational problem has been compounded by concerns about the presence of right-wing extremists and racism in the ranks, which a review said last year were factors “repulsing” new recruits.
Anand announced last year that fixing the military’s culture was her top priority.