Remarks during Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's visit to 4 Wing Cold Lake
Hello everyone! I am very pleased to be here accompanied by Ministers Anand, Joly and Vandal, and by the Chief of the Defence Staff Wayne Eyre.
Secretary General Stoltenberg. Jens, what a pleasure to welcome you back to Canada. The last time you were here with me was in 2019 where we visited CFB Petawawa. I’m very pleased to welcome you to Alberta this time, and I was really happy to be able to take you yesterday on your first ever visit to the Canadian Arctic.
It’s a pleasure for me to be back in Cold Lake. I have campaigned through here, but this is my first time visiting the base, so I’m really pleased to be able to thank the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who serve here. It’s my first time to the Cold Lake base, but it’s not my first time visiting 4 Wing.
In 1982, I’ve visited with my father 4 Wing, which was based in Baden-Soellingen, near Baden-Baden in Germany. And that was one of my first tastes of just how Canada’s commitment to NATO is deep and serious and continues today. Another family connection I was moved by, I got to see a plaque commemorating 417 Squadron, which is based here in Cold Lake, but that operated during World War Two in North Africa and Sicily.
And my grandfather, Jimmy Sinclair, was a Flight Lieutenant in in that squadron and was part of the war effort back then. So there’s a lot of family connections, as so many Canadians have to the Canadian Armed Forces and to our history and it’s a reminder how important it is that we continue to support the women and men who serve every day to keep Canada safe.
Over the last few days, we’ve had a chance to talk about the security challenges the world is facing. The Canadian Armed Forces have been able to show us their tremendous expertise. We’ve discussed the security threats posed by climate change and its unique challenges in the Arctic. And most importantly, we’ve had a chance to see Canada’s strength on the western and northern approaches to NATO.
This week marks six months since Vladimir Putin launched his brutal and unjustifiable invasion. Canada, with our allies and partners continues to support Ukraine. We cannot allow authoritarian regimes to use violence to redraw the borders of sovereign countries.
Putin thought he could get away with his unjustifiable war, but he underestimated the Ukrainians and he underestimated the solidarity of our Western democracies. NATO allies are more united than ever, and allied militaries are standing strong in our defence and deterrence postures. As you know, Canada leads the Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group on NATO’s eastern flank in Latvia. Approximately a thousand brave members of the Canadian Armed Forces are deployed in Europe as part of Operation Reassurance, where they work shoulder to shoulder with soldiers from across allied nations. Canada has also recently announced major investments to modernize our NORAD capabilities, which will contribute to strengthening NATO’s northern and western flank. These investments represent the most significant upgrade in Canadian NOAD capabilities in almost four decades.
We’re providing state of the state-of-the-art equipment our Armed Forces need in order to defend our security and our sovereignty. And we will be developing our northern capabilities in consultation and partnership with the Indigenous Communities that have called the Arctic home for millennia. To the members of the Canadian Armed Forces I’ve met this week, and all others just like them, who put their lives on the line every single day. Thank you for your service and dedication to Canada and Canadian values. All Canadians are grateful for your bravery and your expertise.
To the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, I want to say thank you for your service and dedication. All Canadians are grateful for your courage and expertise.
And I know from conversations with Jens and other NATO allies, it is always incredibly appreciated when Canadians continue to show up and step up and in so many cases, lead, as part of NATO operations, not just in Europe but around the world.
Here at Cold Lake Jens and I will be able to see firsthand the Canadian Armed Forces, combat ready forces, the world class, tactical fighter force training and all the contributions you’ve provided to NATO missions. This base, 4 Wing, is proudly home to some of Canada’s best fighter pilots. It’s also a hub for NORAD operations, as well as a launching point for Canada’s Arctic and northern operations.
Canada has a unique expertise in Arctic environments. Yesterday, Secretary General Stoltenberg and I visited Cambridge Bay in Nunavut. We toured a North Warning System site and the Canadian High Arctic Research Station and we spent a lot of time with Inuit community leaders.
We heard about the ways global warming is changing the Arctic environment and changing the very terrain on which our Canadian Armed Forces operate. It is clear to researchers, military experts and both the Secretary General and I that climate change is a risk multiplier. Not only are wildfires and floods increasing aid demands on the CAF, but globally, climate change is raising the risk of conflict. We need to take action to address its impacts on national and international security.
Last spring, NATO accepted Canada’s offer to set up a Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence here in Canada. The Centre will contribute, among other things, to guiding research, training and education.
Canada has also offered to be the North American home to NATO’s new Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic. The initiative will make sure that the alliance maintains its technological advantage and keeps us safe from threats in a fast and ever-changing world.
We’ve discussed many things with the Secretary General this week, but the bottom line is this. Our government will continue to make sure CAF members have what they need to do their jobs and to protect the freedom of Canadians and our allies and partners. Together with our allies, we are more united than ever. Here at 4 Wing Cold Lake, the motto is “Auf Wacht”, which translates to “On Watch”. A little relic from the time spent in Germany. That’s what our detection and deterrence missions with NATO and our steadfast commitment to NORAD are all about. Standing on watch and on guard to protect peace and democracy.
Thank you everyone for being here, and thanks again, Jens, for being here with us once more!
It is always such a pleasure to spend time with you. It is always such a pleasure to work alongside you and is always so important that we continue to stay united and strong in the face of a changing geopolitical environment. And Canada continues to be there at the heart of NATO.