‘Be­gin­ning of your jour­ney’

De­fence min­is­ter tells RMC grads in­com­ing de­fence pol­icy will ‘hold up its end of the bar­gain’

Kingston Whig-Standard - - FRONT PAGE - STEPH CROSIER

The Chan­cel­lor of Royal Mil­i­tary Col­lege and Min­is­ter of Na­tional De­fence Har­jit Sa­j­jan took the op­por­tu­nity dur­ing his ad­dress to the grad­u­at­ing class of 2017 to point out how the mil­i­tary has failed its mem­bers in the past, but an in­com­ing de­fence pol­icy hopes to change that.

“This is the be­gin­ning of your jour­ney as lead­ers of the Cana­dian Armed Forces,” Sa­j­jan said dur­ing his speech. “It is an ex­cit­ing time, but I also want to ac­knowl­edge that the jour­ney to get here has been dif­fi­cult.”

With­out nam­ing Har­ri­son Kel­er­tas, 22, Brett Cameron, 20, and Matthew Sul­li­van, 19, whose deaths are be­ing probed by a board of in­quiry due out any day now, Sa­j­jan said tragedy had touched the RMC com­mu­nity.

“There are no sim­ple an­swers to how we deal with th­ese chal­lenges,” Sa­j­jan said. “There is no sin­gle cause we can erad­i­cate overnight. If there was, we would do ex­actly that.”

Sa­j­jan said that af­ter their com­mis­sion­ing on Fri­day, the class will have sub­or­di­nates that will fol­low them loy­ally, there­fore the “sin­gle great­est re­spon­si­bil­ity” will be to them.

“No mat­ter where you are de­ployed, what set­backs you over­come or what vic­to­ries you cel­e­brate, car­ing for those serv­ing with you is the most im­por­tant thing you will do while wear­ing the uni­form,” Sa­j­jan said.

“This is a re­spon­si­bil­ity and a priv­i­lege. You will have the hon­our to lead your charges in rep­re­sent­ing Canada on the global stage. You will demon­strate, in word and in deed, what makes Canada a great na­tion.”

Sa­j­jan ac­knowl­edged the chal­lenges RMC stu­dents face dur­ing their time at the col­lege, but said over­com­ing those chal­lenges has made them who they are to­day.

“Your val­ues, your courage and your strength to step up and do what is dif­fi­cult is what makes you lead­ers,” Sa­j­jan said. “You were chal­lenged by this in­sti­tu­tion, by your peers and by life it­self some­times, and you suc­ceeded.

“I am proud of you. Your fam­ily mem­bers and friends are proud of you. All Cana­di­ans will be proud of you.”

The min­is­ter then pointed out that “suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments” haven’t al­ways taken care of the Cana­dian Forces. This is where Sa­j­jan pointed out that his new long-term de­fence pol­icy will be re­leased on June 7. He said the pol­icy is an op­por­tu­nity for the gov­ern­ment to hold up its end of the bar­gain.

“In or­der to do that, we must have an hon­est and open as­sess­ment of where we’re start­ing from. Our peo­ple have done the best they can with the re­sources avail­able,” Sa­j­jan said. “But the fact is that our whole ap­proach to care is in­suf­fi­cient to meet the chal­lenges of a mod­ern mil­i­tary and the needs of our women and men who serve.”

He talked about how it has been dif­fi­cult for vet­er­ans to ac­cess the ser­vices they need to rein­te­grate into civil­ian life through “frus­tra­tions and red tape.” He said the mil­i­tary health-care sys­tem has also been too “one size fits all” and mil­i­tary health-care pro­fes­sion­als need more re­sources.

“This is not the mes­sage of grat­i­tude gov­ern­ment should be send­ing troops at the end of their mil­i­tary ca­reers. We need a new ap­proach,” Sa­j­jan said.

“Canada’s new de­fence pol­icy must put those who serve at its core. It must do more than pay lip ser­vice to the fact that our peo­ple are our most im­por­tant ca­pa­bil­ity.”

Af­ter an­nounc­ing it to the me­dia an hour prior, Sa­j­jan then told the au­di­ence of the new fed­eral tax ex­emp­tions for those de­ployed on named in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions, to which those gath­ered ap­plauded.

“Af­ter June 7, I hope you will feel that the gov­ern­ment will be mak­ing the changes nec­es­sary to hold up its end of the bar­gain. Be­cause we have no more im­por­tant ob­jec­tive than car­ing for you and your fam­i­lies in the years to come,” Sa­j­jan said.

“Grad­u­ates, the work you do at home and abroad will pos­i­tively im­pact the lives of Cana­di­ans and peo­ple around the world in im­por­tant ways. Your broth­ers and sis­ters in the pro­fes­sion of arms are al­ready do­ing so to­day, and you will join them.”

STEPH CROSIER/THE WHIG-STAN­DARD

Min­is­ter of Na­tional De­fence Har­jit Sa­j­jan gives the chan­cel­lor’s ad­dress at Royal Mil­i­tary Col­lege’s con­vo­ca­tion on Thurs­day.

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