Canadian military general’s speech calling for transparency on defence issues now off limits

Gen. Wayne Eyre’s speech to industry leaders and retired generals is now being blocked from public consumption by his office.

Canadian military general’s speech calling for transparency on defence issues now off limits
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A public speech made by a high-ranking Canadian military general about openness is now a secret, as reported in the Ottawa Citizen

The office of the chief of the defence staff is now refusing to make public the contents of General Eyre's speech, going so far as to tell the Ottawa Citizen they would have to file an access to information request to obtain it, which could take up to two years.

The speech took place on March 7, and was part of the Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence. Defence Minister Bill Blair was also at the conference and spoke to attendees.

A public affairs advisor to the defence chief had no answer when asked why Gen. Eyre's office could not provide a transcript of the speech, as is commonplace.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, the Canadian military has always provided copies of the transcripts of such public speeches. They then typically post these transcripts online.

An Ottawa-based lawyer and retired colonel named Michel Drapeau commented on the situation, saying, “This decision is petty and unprofessional. There is no reason to keep the speech secret, and it raises the question that, if they are hiding this, then what else is being hidden?”

During the public speech broadcast on the parliamentary and public affairs TV channel, Gen. Eyre reportedly called for more open dialogue between the military and ordinary Canadians. He stressed the importance of making the public aware of the increasing threats to national security from across the globe.

As part of his speech, Gen. Eyre apparently said, "What we need is a wider national security dialogue across the country to raise our collective appreciation of the true long term threats and to do something about them."

He also reportedly made clear that it was important to "educate" the general public on military matters as to set the stage for increased funding to the Canadian Armed Forces.

Critics have argued that it's counterintuitive for the military to engage in such secrecy while also pleading for additional resources.

The issue has become so apparent that it's been reported the House of Commons Committee on National Defence has begun hearings into the minimal transparency and openness being demonstrated by the military.

As reported in the Ottawa Citizen, the Department of National Defence has also been accused of withholding a myriad of other documents. These include documents relating to fighter jets, shipbuilding and even personal documents CAF members use to obtain medical benefits.

According to CBC News, a recent internal memo from the Department of National Defence claims "only 58% of the Canadian Armed Forces would be able to respond if called upon in a crisis by NATO allies right now — and almost half of the military's equipment is considered 'unavailable and unserviceable.'"

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