As a result of heavy rain and melting snow throughout April, Quebec continues to face the consequences of significant flooding. As of May 13th, thousands are still recovering, with the Laurentians and Outaouais being the most affected. Flooding has also occurred throughout Ontario and New Brunswick, causing officials to keep close watch over the rivers between the provinces. More than 7000 homes have been flooded in Quebec alone, with another 16000 in New Brunswick. Stepping up in these regions, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are highlighting the non-conventional efforts of the Canadian military and their duty to protect Canadian security in ways that often go unrecognized.
Approximately 2000 military personnel are and have been helping to control and stabilize the floods. What makes this possible is the ability of troops to be flexible. While 1600 military personnel are on missions abroad, more are able to stay at home to protect Canada from a different kind of security threat: natural disasters. Two years ago, in the 2017 flooding, “2600 personnel from 72 Army units, four Royal Canadian Air Force Squadrons and three navy reserve units were used”. This year, the provincial governments asked the CAF for assistance as soon as it was realized that the flooding continued to increase. This was confirmed by Quebec’s Public Security Minister, Geneviève Guilbault on April 12th. Consequently, troops were deployed where needed. Troops were spread out throughout the province of Quebec to combat various water levels in different areas.
In all three provinces, dikes have been built and stacks of sandbags have been created. Now that the majority of private property has been secured, the CAF is prioritizing the rebuilding and securing of key infrastructure from damage. Such infrastructure includes city halls and main roads. In Quebec, restoration work has set to begin the week of May 21st. Soldiers have also been instructed to help with clean-up operations. Many factors remain unclear, such as the number of resources required to undertake restoration, however, it is expected that these issues will be resolved once the work starts. Defence Minister Sajjan stated that the CAF will remain in New Brunswick as long as they are needed. As of late April, Ontario has had 2300 CAF troops undertaking the same efforts as those in Quebec and New Brunswick. With flooding likely to increase as a result of global climate change, the CAF is poised to play a vital role in protecting Canadians from environmental vulnerabilities.
This past week, I’ve had the honor to speak with Private Jacky Wu from Markham who joined the CAF in 2017. He has been helping in the area of Westmeath, ON with 33 Domestic Response Company. Private Wu’s responses show the significance of the CAF at home and abroad. It is important to recognize their adamant commitment to security at home as it is often overlooked.
Question: How has your personal experience been helping out with the flooding in Ontario? What have you enjoyed/learned?
Private Wu: My personal experience has been more than outstanding. There is nothing more satisfying and rewarding to know that I played a part in saving the homes and critical infrastructure that allowed people to continue on with their lives with the least disruption as possible. My most memorable experience was being a part of a team that extracted an elderly couple with severe mobility issues from a flooding home in a very challenging environment. It was a great feeling to know that because of my team, the elderly couple is safe from further threats and have improved their lives.
Question: What is the CAF prioritizing in the area now that the flooding has stabilized?
Private Wu: The flood level here in Renfrew county have been slowly lowering but the situation still remains serious and remains a concern for the local residents for the near future. The Canadian Armed Forces have been providing assistance under the request of municipalities and the Government of Ontario. Based on the resources we have at our disposal, we follow a system of triaging by prioritizing critical infrastructure to ensure the safe movement of emergency services.
Question: In what ways are the CAF involved in Canada apart from its conventional military operations? Do you think it’s important for the Canadian public to know that the CAF is available for assistance within Canada, such as during the Quebec flooding?
Private Wu: The Canadian Armed Forces play an important role in defending Canadian interests at home and abroad. We complete all tasks that lie within that broad description and that includes helping Canadians during times of need such as in this operation. Whether it’s floods, forest fires, natural disasters, Canadians should rest assured that the Canadian Armed Forces are always ready to respond to anything under any conditions to help out our fellow Canadians.