Friday, May 12, 2017

Canadians in Latvia to keep calm and carry on in face of massive Russian military exercise

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News

The Canadian military is taking a wait-and-see approach to a massive Russian military exercise scheduled to take place on the border of the Baltic states this summer — but the country it's being asked to protect is decidedly more nervous.

Defence officials in the United States said this week that they will pay close attention to the drills, which are expected to involve between 70,000 and 100,000 Russian troops equipped with tanks, armoured vehicles, aircraft and helicopters.

The exercise known as Zapad, or West, occurs every few years and Latvia's ambassador to Canada, Karlis Eihenbaums, says it is always a nerve-rattling time.

"The previous exercise was not very comfortable for us," he said in an interview. "We were always uncomfortable with these exercises because of the size. It's huge."

The fact Russian troops are practising to advance into the West is even more alarming.

"You cannot feel safe," Eihenbaums told CBC News.

Forces iron out challenges ahead of Latvia deployment
Canadians prepare to face cyberwarriors in Latvia mission
Canadian-led battle group to deploy to Latvia, to deter Russia

The timing is particularly significant for Canadian troops and aircrew.

The Russian exercise will kick off just as the multinational, Canadian-led NATO battle group in Latvia is fully activated, and as a flight of CF-18s resume air-policing missions over the Baltic.

The first of 450 Canadian troops are expected to deploy to their base near Riga, Latvia, next month, and they will be joined over the summer by hundreds of other soldiers from Poland, Italy, Spain, Slovenia and Albania.
Brig.-Gen. Simon Hetherington (centre) is commander of the 3rd Canadian Division which oversaw the training of the the troops deploying to Latvia. (DND\MCpl Melanie Ferguson)
Eihenbaums said the NATO deployment, coming in the face of the Russian exercise, will make for a time of extraordinary tension.

Some of that strain, at least for Western military officials, also involves the expectation that Russia will upgrade its missile defences in Kaliningrad, a sliver of land tucked between Poland and Lithuania. Moscow is thought to be permanently upgrading its nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missile systems, which are capable of hitting targets hundreds of kilometres away.
'Tripwire' battalions

The Liberal government agreed last summer to lead one of four NATO battalions that are being deployed in eastern Europe as a check against possible Russian expansionism.

The tiny Baltic countries are members of the Western military alliance and asked for the deterrence measures.

The battle groups have been referred to as "tripwires," much to the chagrin of the army, because in the event of a full-scale Russian military action, they would be quickly overwhelmed. In fact, the U.S. think-tank the Rand Corporation estimated in a 2016 report that the Baltic states could be overrun in as little 36 hours.

It is that kind of operation that Russian troops will be practising in September.

A spokesperson for the Department of National Defence, Col. Jay Janzen, said every sovereign nation "has the right to exercise its military forces and Zapad falls into that category."

He pointed out Canada will be conducting its own drill at the base in Wainwright, Alta. But exercise Maple Resolve involves just 7,000 troops.
Is there a threat?

Whether the Canadian military believes there's a threat from the manoeuvres on the Latvian border will depend on how Russian troops conduct themselves, said Janzen.

"If the purpose of the exercise is to prepare their troops, it is not a matter of concern to the Canadian Armed Forces," he said. "If they are close to the border and the intent is to send a message, that would be of concern."

The situation would be far less tense, Eihenbaums said, if Moscow invited NATO, or other international groups, to observe the exercise.

"What we would be happy to see is that our militaries would be able to monitor the situation," he said. "It would make this exercise more transparent, as it should be among neighbours if they are talking about mutual trust."

"Peacekeeping" Mission Must Start With Exit Strategy - Warns CAF

By: Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Make sure you have a plan to get out before you actually get in.

That is one of the main messages of an internal paper that military officials prepared last summer as they considered the challenges associated with the Liberal governments' promised return to international peacekeeping.

The paper also warns about the need to clearly explain why whatever mission the government chooses is in the national interest and expresses real concerns about the threat posed by terrorism.

The July 2016 paper was prepared by the strategic joint staff, which provides analysis and advice directly to the chief of defence staff, and was obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act.

It emerges as the Liberal government continues to dither over where to send up to 600 Canadian peacekeepers, despite pressure from some allies as well as the UN for a decision.

The Liberals had been leaning toward — but have since waffled over — sending troops to the African nation of Mali, where more than 100 peacekeepers have been killed, many in terrorist attacks.

The government won't say when it will choose a mission, or why it is dragging its feet, but the issues and concerns raised in the paper may explain part of the delay.

One is the need to start thinking about an exit strategy even before the first troops arrive.

The paper notes that while countries like Canada often want to make only short-term contributions to UN missions, history has shown that there is often "significant pressure" to stay longer than expected. Canadian soldiers joined a UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus in 1964 and stayed until 1993.

"From the outset of planning, consideration should be given to the sustainment and eventual withdrawal from the (operation)," the paper reads, adding that leaving is often "a delicate mission to execute."

The government was encouraged to essentially line up other countries to step into the breach once Canada's commitment expires — a task that could be easier said than done for a mission like Mali.

Part of the reason Canada has faced international pressure to go into Mali is because some of the European countries already there have had trouble finding replacements.

The paper also says that moral arguments about peacekeeping being the right thing to do aren't a good enough reason for deploying troops on specific missions.

"There is a legitimate moral component to this discussion, namely that Canadian participation … is the right thing for a nation with Canada's good fortune, wealth and means to undertake," the paper says.

"But the discussion must be wider than a moral one in order to define the national interest in more tangible terms and to provide some balance by measuring the risks and rewards."

The Liberals have said expanding Canada's participation in peacekeeping serves the national interest by contributing to a more peaceful and stable world.

But government sources have admitted they must do a better job explaining why the Liberals are intent on peacekeeping — a task that will become even more important once a mission is chosen.

Much of the paper focuses on the new dangers that have crept into peacekeeping, with officials noting that missions "are higher-risk and take place in more complex environments than before."

Special attention is paid to terrorist organizations, which the paper says "pose an undeniable threat in certain locations," especially when it comes to protecting troops and fulfilling a mission's objectives.

This is especially true for UN missions, the paper says, which aren't mandated to conduct counter-terrorism operations.

While Mali isn't mentioned, the findings are particularly relevant to the mission there, as groups such as terrorist groups such as al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb have repeatedly targeted peacekeepers.

Other factors to consider before choosing a mission, the paper says, are whether it is effective or could be made effective and what impact it could have on Canada's international reputation and national security.

"Canadian participation . . . should be grounded in a well-conceived and articulated strategic purpose, delivered via a strategy nested with other Canadian efforts globally," the paper concludes.

"It must reflect the contemporary operating environment, is mandated to have protection of civilians at its heart and should seek to promote responsible burden-sharing within the international community."

CAF "Peacekeeping" Mission Decision is Delayed for Months

By: Bruce Campion-Smith, Toronto Star

OTTAWA—Canada’s high-profile military mission to Africa appears off the radar for now with a decision on a deployment delayed, perhaps until fall, the Star has learned.

Political upheaval among key allies — notably the United States, France and Great Britain — is cited as the reason why Justin Trudeau’s government has pushed back its high-profile pledge to return Canada to international peacekeeping efforts.

The federal government does not want to deploy soldiers on a potentially dangerous mission only to find other nations have decided their priorities lie elsewhere, leaving Canada “stuck with a legacy mission,” one source told the Star.

One official at defence headquarters offered a blunt assessment of where the peace mission currently stood on the list of priorities. “It’s not on the radar,” said the source.

When asked about the delay, officials point to the political shake-ups around the globe, notably in Washington, where the unexpected election of Donald Trump as president and his unpredictable tenure in office so far has forced Ottawa to rethink priorities on issues from defence to trade.

But political change bubbles in other capitals too. Britons go to the polls in a general election in June. France just saw the election of a new president, Emmanuel Macron, who beat out right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen. That country has a significant military mission ongoing in Mali, one nation cited as the likely destination for the Canadian deployment.

At home, other issues are competing for attention. Next week, the Liberal government will unveil its defence policy review that will lay out a new vision for the armed forces and the promise of additional funding to pay for it.

That vision, expected to provide policy guidance for the coming two decades, will almost certainly include a nod to the record of Canadian peacekeeping around the globe. But it’s not expected to include any new details of forthcoming missions.

The government’s attention has also been distracted as the political front as the man tasked to sell that new vision — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan — is fighting for his credibility after being forced to apologize for inflating his role as an officer during an Afghanistan offensive.

And within defence headquarters, the fallout from the surprise January ouster of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, the second-in-command of the military is still being felt.

All that means that a decision on a peace support mission is now not expected for months yet. That timing means it could be more than a year since the Liberal government laid out its promise of personnel and funding for a mission — 600 troops, 150 police officers and $450 million over three years for a new Peace and Stability Operations Program.

An announcement on exactly where Canada would deploy those personnel on a peace mission had been expected by last Christmas. But there was no word and nothing yet in the months since.

Trudeau said in March that his government would not be pushed into making a decision, saying that any deployment had to be done “responsibly and thoughtfully.”

But months later, the government seems no closer to a decision.

“I don’t have a timeframe on that,” Sajjan told the Star in a recent interview.

“All I can tell you is we will make that decision as a government when we feel comfortable that we have all the necessary information, that we have a whole of government approach and definitely from the military side, one that is going to have an impact on the ground,” Sajjan said.

He conceded that the changes around the globe were, in part, the reason for prolonged discussions about Canada’s role in a UN mission.

“We do need to look at . . . the changing environment. We have to make sure that when we add in and say we’re going to do ‘X,’ we have to make sure that ‘X’ is actually going to provide added value to the UN,” Sajjan said.

In the January cabinet shake-up that made Chrystia Freeland foreign affairs minister, one of the tasks handed the Toronto MP was to “increase Canada’s support for United Nations peace operations.”

Alex Lawrence, her spokesperson, told the Star that the peace deployment remains under active consideration. “Our government is committed to international peace operations, and we are currently considering what precise role Canada can play,” Lawrence said.

But Canada’s hand could be forced when Sajjan hosts an international summit on peacekeeping at the end of the year.

Sajjan used last year’s summit in London to herald the willingness of the Liberal government to reengage in peace missions, declaring that, “Canada is committed to leading international efforts in peace support operations.

“Conflicts today are more complex than ever before and we’re serious about being part of the solution — that’s the reason we’re bringing our resources and skills to the table,” Sajjan said in a statement issued for the 2016 summit.

It could be awkward for the Liberal government to go into this year’s summit with nothing to show for the statements it made more than a year earlier.

Defence analyst Dave Perry says the delay in deciding a mission has already likely forced military officers and diplomats back to the drawing boards to update the proposals they first presented to the government.

“I would imagine given how long it has taken since some of those initial inputs were provided that revisiting some plans because events and things on the ground have changed significantly would be part of the delay now,” said Perry, a senior analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“Some of the plans would have been submitted a half year ago. Hard to think they would still be viable today,” he said in an interview.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Op-LENTUS 17-03 Flood Support Update

DND Report:

A total of approximately 2200 CAF personnel have been deployed to support Quebec citizens in the four affected regions: Montérégie, Outaouais, Mauricie and Montréal. Troops, along with aviation assets, engineer assets, and 12 boats from the Naval Reserve, are in place to support and react to the needs identified.

May 5, 2017: Within one hour of Public Safety receiving a request for assistance, the CAF sent liaison officers and reconnaissance elements to four regional coordination centres. There they met with provincial partners to determine how the CAF could help.

May 6, 2017: An immediate response unit of 400 military personnel departed CFB Valcartier to begin assisting in the four affected regions. The CAF also sent additional personnel to the regional coordination centres to pave the way for additional waves of troops preparing to leave Valcartier.
May 7, 2017: Hundreds more troops departed Valcartier. Total troop strength reached approximately 1650 spread out over the four affected regions.

May 8, 2017: The CAF put additional troops and equipment on standby to help if needed. These consisted of about 470 personnel from 31, 32, and 33 Canadian Brigade Group Domestic Response Companies, plus a Composite Reserve Engineer Squadron.

May 9, 2017: By this date, approximately 1830 military personnel were supporting flood relief.

May 10, 2017: The approximately 470 personnel that were on standby moved into affected areas and began assisting in flood relief. These troops are from 31, 32, and 33 Canadian Brigade Group Domestic Response Companies, plus a Composite Reserve Engineer Squadron. By the end of the day on May 10, 2017, approximately 2200 military personnel were supporting Operation LENTUS. More troops are now deployed for the operation in Quebec than the rest of all Canadian Armed Forces operations around the world combined.

There are currently seven RCAF helicopters deployed on #OpLentus -
one CH-147F Chinook from 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron from Petawawa and six CH-146 Griffons (four from 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron from Valcartier and one from each 438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron from St. Hubert and 439 Combat Support Squadron from Bagovtille).

As of May 10, 30 sorties have been flown, including two sorties by the Chinook, which did a sandbag resupply to Berthierville, Quebec.

May 11, 2017: HMCS Montréal arrived in Trois-Rivières. Approximately 160 personnel of the ship’s company will join the CAF troops already on the ground to support the citizens in this affected area. HMCS Montréal was originally anticipated to arrive in its namesake city this week to celebrate the 375th Anniversary of the City of Montreal.

The CAF is helping the civil and municipal security teams already on the ground by conducting tasks such as:

distributing and filling sandbags to help solidify existing structures and protect critical infrastructure
using military vehicles to help the civil authorities to maintain traffic on critical arteries and help evacuate citizens to safe areas patrolling to monitor critical infrastructure and safety of citizens
reinforcing dikes and walls to protect critical infrastructure such as water treatment plants and bridges

The CAF is also ready to support civilian partners such as the Canadian Red Cross in the supply of shelters.

RCAF Helicopter Rescues 3 Men from Boat off N.B. Coast

FILE: Search and rescue technicians are hoisted by a Cormorant helicopter during a Canada-United States coast guard ceremony in Halifax
FILE: Search and rescue technicians are hoisted by a Cormorant helicopter during a Canada-United States coast guard ceremony in Halifax
By:Alexander Quon, Global News 

Three men were rescued by a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter early Monday morning after their fishing boat ran aground and began to take on water in Miramichi Bay

The call went out to members of the Joint Task Force Atlantic (JTFA) at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday.

A Cormorant helicopter was then dispatched from the Royal Canadian Air Force’s base in Greenwood, N.S.

According to Alex Roy, a JTFA spokesperson, three people were on board the fishing vessel.

“The three were hoisted on board [the helicopter] and transported to Neguac, N.B. where RCMP and Emergency Health Services were waiting,” said Roy.

Roy did not have information on the status of the three rescued individuals.

FWSAR Budget Jumped by $1B - but Bidders were Unaware

By: David Pugliese, The National Post 

The Canadian government made a last-minute, billion-dollar change to how much it was willing to spend on its new search-and-rescue aircraft fleet, but didn’t bother informing the bidders trying to win the contract to build the planes of the change in budget.

In December, the federal government announced it would spend $4.7 billion to buy a fleet of C-295 planes from Airbus, including long-term support for the planes. The losing bidder, Italian aerospace firm and Airbus rival Leonardo, had been under the impression Canada could only afford to spend $3.4 billion, so had tailored its bid to that amount.

Leonardo has gone to the Federal Court in Ottawa to ask a judge to overturn the contract, arguing that the C-295 aircraft cannot fulfill the search-and-rescue missions as outlined in the requirements provided to industry. But it is also angered by the last-minute budget switch.

“If we had been told that was the budget then our bid would have been much, much different,” said retired Lt.-Gen. Steve Lucas, who is a consultant for Leonardo. “We still haven’t been given a straight answer on how the budget jumped to $4.7 billion.”

The new details about the fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft program are emerging as the Liberal government prepares to announce its defence policy review, likely to include a plan to spend tens of billions of dollars on new equipment.

The Department of National Defence acknowledged in an email to the Ottawa Citizen that companies were provided with the $3.4 billion figure in the information they used to develop their bids. But DND now says that information was “incomplete.”

“The $3.4 billion was a notional figure based on original estimates from 2011,” the DND told the Citizen, and did not take into account the full costs.

Documents obtained by the Citizen also show that at various briefings for industry in the run-up to the bidding deadline, federal officials consistently used the $3.4-billion figure.

DND told the Citizen that the acquisition process looked at overall cost, the capability of the aircraft being offered and the economic benefits the bids offered to Canada. “The winning bidder built its strategy around this scoring system with emphasis on the capability which included the requirement for modern and effective technologically advanced systems, and a robust comprehensive in-service support program to ensure availability of aircraft when needed,” DND said.

But Leonardo representatives are questioning why they weren’t told about the change in budget and why Airbus had information that led them to submit a bid with a significantly higher pricetag.

“It’s strange that (Airbus) would bid more than $1 billion over the stated budget and not be worried about doing that,” said Lucas.

If Leonardo had been aware the Canadian government was willing to spend more than the $3.4 billion indicated, it too could have improved its bid with more capability on the aircraft and more benefits for Canadian companies, he said.

Lucas, the former head of the Royal Canadian Air Force, said it is unclear what extra capabilities and services Canada will get for the added $1.3 billion. Leonardo has asked the federal government for further details but, Lucas claims, it has not received adequate answers.

Airbus declined the Citizen’s request for comment, saying that the federal government should answer questions about the contract.

When the Liberal government awarded the contract to Airbus in December, cabinet ministers highlighted the importance of having the right aircraft for the job. “With this technology, we are giving our women and men in uniform the tools they need to continue to deliver effective and essential search-and-rescue operations,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said.

The new planes will replace the RCAF’s 40-year-old Buffalo aircraft and older model C-130s currently assigned to search-and-rescue duties.

The RCAF will receive 16 C-295s. Their delivery is expected in 2019 but it is unclear what would happen were the Federal Court to find in Leonardo’s favour and overturn the government’s deal with Airbus.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Marc Garneau: It's Time for an ‘Honest’ list of Defence Costs

By Monique Scotti, Global News 

The Canadian government needs to be honest with taxpayers about the price-tag for upgrading our military equipment, says Transport Minister Marc Garneau, and the Liberals are preparing to unveil a “realistic set of costs.”

Garneau, a member of the government’s defence procurement committee, was called upon this weekend to answer questions from The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos, in lieu of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

READ MORE: PMO taps transport minister with defence interview in place of embattled Sajjan

Sajjan has faced sustained criticism over the last two weeks after he falsely claimed to have been the “architect” of an offensive in Afghanistan. He has since apologized repeatedly for that “mistake.”

The controversy surrounding the minister comes just ahead of the expected unveiling of the government’s long-awaited defence policy review.

Garneau said the document would be made public “very shortly,” but would not confirm if the review would include an immediate influx of new funds for the Canadian Forces.

READ MORE: Federal budget 2017’s lack of defence spending draws fire

Previous governments, including Liberal ones, have not properly assessed the real cost of purchasing new fighter jets, ground vehicles, ships and rescue planes, Garneau noted.

“I’m not going to talk about any of the details at this point,” he said.

“We’ve looked at it very carefully, we’ve calculated the costs very carefully. We’ve had them audited, we’ve had them checked by five different companies.”

Canada currently spends less than one-per-cent of its gross domestic product on defence (far short of the 2 per cent target set by NATO), and has cut back significantly on operating costs over the past decade.

“I’m ex-navy, I can tell you we don’t have resupply ships at the moment,” Garneau acknowledged.

“We don’t have a destroyer left. If we had to go into combined operations we’d have to work with the Americans in order to ensure area defence.”
Accepts Sajjan’s apology

As for Sajjan’s “mistake,” Garneau said that as an ex-military member himself, he accepts the minister’s apology.

“I know minister Sajjan very well and I serve with him on the defence procurement committee, and I can tell you that there is no one who is fighting harder to make sure that the men and women of the armed forces are properly equipped and taken care of,” Garneau said.

Asked why Sajjan would make such a provably false claim about the level of his involvement in a military offensive, Garneau said that’s not for him to answer.

“Mr. Sajjan will use his own words if he chooses to do so. I’m not going to interpret. I certainly accept his apology and I’m very glad he is the minister of defence.”

Senior British Officer Confirms Sajjan's Planning Role in MEDUSA

By Sandy Garossino, National Observer

It's been pretty rich watching Her Majesty's Loyal Amnesiacs carry on over Harjit Sajjan in the House of Commons this week.

By now everyone's heard about the CBC story by Murray Brewster, who reported that "(s)oldiers who were there in 2006 tell CBC News that Sajjan did have a key role, but at 'no time was he in on the planning of (Operation Medusa).'" (My emphasis--we'll come back to this).

Yet the claims of these anonymous sources--courageous types, these--stand in stark contrast with the contemporaneous 2006 letter of Brig-Gen David Fraser. Fraser, then commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan, said of Sajjan's contribution:

"his analysis was so compelling that it drove a number of large scale theatre-resourced efforts, including OPERATION MEDUSA..."

But in case that's not specific enough, on Wednesday, a retired senior British army officer, Col. Chris Vernon came forward and, in a radio interview on AM640 in Toronto, directly contradicted the CBC's sources.

In doing so, Vernon, who in 2006 was Chief of Staff to the Coalition Task Force Headquarters, makes it plain that whoever the CBC's sources were, they appear to have no direct knowledge of the small "cell" of officers who mapped out the early stage plans for Operation Medusa. A cell which included Harjit Sajjan.
British Army Colonel (ret'd) Chris Vernon, briefing media on Iraq in 2015 Source: YouTube
Have you heard Vernon's interview reported anywhere else than this one radio station? Me neither.

Do listen to the interview in full, but Vernon described Sajjan's contribution in the following way:

"(Sajjan) was a major player in the design team that put together Operation Medusa. He was able to put together an intelligence picture of the Taliban and the tribal dynamics west of Kandahar, without which we probably wouldn’t have been able to mount Operation Medusa. So that’s what he did. Pretty significant stuff.

Q: So it would be fair to say that he was integral to the operation:

A: More than integral. I know the word 'architect’s' been used and the minister has apologized for that, but he was a critical member of the planning and design team. He worked hand in glove with the Australian lieutenant colonel who was the lead planner. It was quite a small discrete group because we didn’t want it too wide in the early stages. And a critical part of it was played by Maj. Sajjan.

Q: What do you make of the Opposition Leader saying he’s committed stolen valour?

A: I’ve got no axe to grind, I’m a retired British army officer watching the Canadian press. I don’t think so. The only person who could be vaguely annoyed by that is the Australian lieutenant colonel to whom Maj Sajjan worked and actually I spoke to him yesterday and he’s not at all miffed by it.

In fact he reiterated from Australia everything that I was saying. You know, without Maj Sajjan’s input as a critical player, major player, a pivotal player I’d say, Medusa wouldn’t have happened. We wouldn’t have the intelligence and the tribal picture to put the thing together."

So, counting the Australian lieutenant colonel who wants Vernon to speak for him, there are three senior officers who were indisputably in the room planning Operation Medusa from the beginning. Fraser, Vernon, and the un-named Australian lead. Those accounts are internally consistent. The Fraser letter was written contemporaneously with the events themselves, rather than being dredged from memory some 11 years later.

All of them place Sajjan squarely in the centre of the planning of Operation Medusa, and all of them say, in effect, that his contribution was vital to its planning. "Pivotal." Admittedly, this is not being the architect of the project, but that description looks more like an exaggeration than the full-blown lie he's being accused of today.

In stark terms, these are the two versions:

These statements cannot both be true. If we accept the word of the CBC's anonymous sources, we have to reject the word of Col. Chris Vernon, a senior officer who was in the room.

It's worth remembering that Sajjan was decorated by the Governor-General for his service to Canada in the Afghan War. His observations on the poppy trade eradication strategy have been cited by Dr. Barnett Rubin, formerly a senior adviser on Afghanistan to the US State Department.

I think Canadians have to ask ourselves this. Are we being fair here?

Is this really how we honour the sacrifice of our combat veterans--with a cold and unforgiving judgment never applied to their predecessors?

Since when do Canadians not accept an apology, grant the benefit of the doubt to someone who's admitted his mistake, and judge a person on their job performance?

If memory serves, there used to be rules about these things, and I'm pretty sure there still are.

1,200 CAF Members Deployed to Quebec for Flood Assistance

By: Jeff Lagerquist,

The Canadian Armed Forces have deployed 1,200 soldiers to southern Quebec, tripling the number of troops initially sent on Saturday to fight an exhausting battle against rising flood waters.
Canadian soldiers fill sandbags in Luskville, Que., on Sunday. Troops were deployed to the Pontiac region of Quebec due to heavy flooding.
Canadian soldiers fill sandbags in Luskville, Que., on Sunday. Troops were deployed to the Pontiac region of Quebec due to heavy flooding. (SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Several communities -- including Montreal and Laval -- have declared a state of emergency amid some of the worst flooding parts of Quebec has seen in decades. Nearly 2,000 homes in the province have been flooded and about 1,000 residents have been displaced.

The additional military help follows a promise earlier Sunday by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. He told CTV’s Question Period that the number of military personnel responding to severe flooding will increase by the end of the day.

“We’ve got 400 military people on the ground. We are adding another 800 today,” Col. Pascal Larose told CTV Montreal Sunday. “We're basically going wherever the public safety (officials) want us to go.”

He said military personnel are already hard at work moving sandbags, checking residential flood-proofing, and assisting with evacuations.

Goodale added that marine assets will be deployed and a dozen helicopters and a Hercules – a type of aircraft — will be available to help those affected by the flooding.

“The forces are supplying everything they can possibly provide in these circumstances,” said Goodale.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also joined the relief effort Sunday. He tweeted a series of photos where he is seen filling sandbags and speaking with locals in the small municipality of Terrasse-Vaudreuil, west of Montreal Island.

Trudeau was joined by provincial and municipal colleagues, including his parliamentary secretary MP Peter Schiefke, Quebec minister responsible for the Monteregie region Lucie Charlebois, MNA Marie-Claude Nichols, and Terrasse-Vaudreuil Mayor Michel Bourdeau, according a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office about the “spontaneous stop.”

It remains unclear how long the military will continue to offer assistance during the flood, and what promises to be a prolonged and costly cleanup effort.

Larose said it is too early to provide such a timeline.

“We are going to stay as long as is needed,” he said.

Goodale also said the military is “ready to respond if necessary” in other provinces affected by the floods. In a tweet late Sunday afternoon, he said that Ontario has requested supplies and materials from the military, but no troops will be deployed there.

According to Goodale, military personnel are “prepositioning” themselves so that they are prepared if and when the call should come.

He added that they are closely monitoring the situation in New Brunswick and British Columbia.

The military response in Quebec is being bolstered by the Canadian Red Cross. The aid organization has mobilized more than 100 volunteers and established 12 emergency centres in the province.

Spokesperson Stephanie Picard told CTV News Channel more than 1,000 people affected by the floods have been assisted thus far.

“Our priority is really to be on the frontline and respond to emergency needs so that people don’t have to worry about those needs. They can think about going to a safe place in a hotel where they will be taken care of,” she said Sunday afternoon.

Picard said the Canadian Red Cross is prepared to mobilize more volunteers should the situation in Quebec worsen.

Meanwhile, many Quebecers and Ontarians are opening their homes to those who have been displaced.

Online accommodation marketplace Airbnb has activated its disaster response program in three cities in the region – Ottawa, Gatineau, and Montreal.

The initiative aims to connect those forced to abandon their homes, and relief workers, with Airbnb hosts willing to list their property for free.

The company says all service fees will be waived for those affected by the disaster checking in between May 4 and May 19.

"Our thoughts continue to be with the people of Montreal, Ottawa and Gatineau, and all who have been affected by these tragic floods,” Airbnb’s head of global disaster response and relief, Kellie Bentz, said in a statement.