2nd Session, 41st Parliament,

Volume 149, Issue 150

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Honourable Leo Housakos, Speaker

National Defence

Diversity Targets

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Canadian Armed Forces are at the core of who we are in our nation. These men and women serve and protect our nation and our values at home and around the world. They are the few who protect us all and we owe our safety to them. This is why I’m deeply troubled to hear that Minister Kenney and the military want to reduce the representation targets for women in the military from 25.1 per cent to 17.6 per cent.

Canadians want to serve in the military, take pride in this goal and they feel that they should be supported in this decision. A reduction in diversity targets will send the opposite message and marginalize women. Why are the targets being reduced?

[Translation]

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Senator, we will continue to encourage more Canadians to join the Canadian Armed Forces. I’m sure you have seen the advertising in that regard. I know that you do not like ads, but I have seen excellent National Defence ads that encourage the largest possible number of young Canadian men and women to join the Canadian Armed Forces. That is what we will continue to do.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: Thank you, leader. I saw the ads to which you refer. I was very pleased that there were ads to encourage women and visible minorities to join the military.

Why on one hand are you setting out ads and on the other hand reducing targets?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: We increased the Canadian Armed Forces budget by 27 per cent. Recruitment, training and member retention are key priorities for the Canadian army. Last year the regular forces recruited 4,500 members. We also worked on reducing DND’s back-office expenses while improving front-line operational capacity, and that is what we will continue to do.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: I have a supplementary question. The Canadian Armed Forces is legally required by the Employment Equity Act, like all federal organizations, to work towards increasing the diversity of its workforce. How would reducing the targets be in compliance with this?

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: As I mentioned, Senator, we will continue to work on encouraging young Canadian men and women to join the Canadian Armed Forces. As I said, we increased the Canadian Armed Forces budget by 27 per cent to support recruitment and training efforts.

[English]

Senator Jaffer: I have another supplementary question. Retired Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps said last month that “increasing the number of women in uniform, particularly at the senior levels, is essential for addressing sexual misconduct in the ranks.”

If we know these are the consequences, why are we considering reducing the targets?

(1400)

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: Senator, as I said, we will continue to encourage young Canadian men and women to join the Canadian Armed Forces.

 

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