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Canadian Defence Chief Cites Natural Disasters as Major Security Threat

The increased frequency of major natural disasters is one of the biggest security threats Canada will face in 2019, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance told Global News in a year-end interview.

“There are very few large military threats to Canada,” Vance said. But alongside global challenges like cybersecurity, “we face a significant threat almost every year now with natural disasters, forest fires and floods and so on that affect Canadians. So in our role to defend Canada and protect Canadians, that’s been significant.”

Last year, provincial governments called in the military to assist with six natural disasters, after concluding they couldn’t handle the scale of the damage on their own, Global reports. “Those disasters included the winter storms in Eastern Quebec and the Iles-de-la-Madeleine in November, sending hundreds of soldiers and transport aircraft to assist with evacuations from the B.C. and Manitoba forest fires, and deploying to take on the heavy spring flooding in B.C., New Brunswick, and on the Kashechewan First Nation.

The totals for both wildfires and flooding “represent sharp increases compared to years past, as climate change continues to cause more extremes that result in the droughts, storms, and thaws behind things like dangerous forest fires and floods.”

In 2016, by contrast, the military was only called in for one major disaster—the devastating wildfire, known as The Beast, that hit Fort McMurray, Alberta in May. “They deployed twice in 2015, four times in 2014, once in 2013, three times in 2011, and once in 2010,” Global states. The new demands at home “mean the military will need to increase recruitment or start to feel the strain, Vance said.