Canadian soldiers on mission in Latvia are spending out of pocket for their military equipment to replace ‘outdated’ supplies provided by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). The troops have grown increasingly frustrated as the equipment purchased is “easily available on the open market.”
In an email obtained by the CBC, Lt.-Col. Jesse van Eijk, the Canadian battle group commander in Latvia, highlighted the “embarrassing” disparities between their troops and Danish soldiers.
“In general, it was concerning verging on embarrassing to see the differences in issued soldier equipment between us and the Danes,” wrote Lt.-Col van Eijk on May 12.
“This was only exacerbated by the fact they were carrying more advanced Canadian-made Colt Canada rifles, mounting more advanced Canadian Elcan DR sights, and the fact that most of the systems our soldiers lacked were easily available on the open market and not some sort of closely guarded technology,” he continued.
CAF members have had to upgrade their outmoded CG634 helmets with built-in hearing protection and headsets from online retailers. They also acquired their own rain gear, tactical vests and ammunition to maintain current standards of ballistic protection.
More than 700 Canadian soldiers are in Latvia to supposedly deter Russia’s aggression in the Eastern European region.
The Department of National Defence said procuring new military equipment for its troops in the region is in the works. However, they did not commit to any timelines or provide pertinent details.
“Ensuring the safety and well-being of our members remains a top priority,” said department spokesperson Jessica Lamirande. “Acquiring hearing protection for soldiers is a complex undertaking as it must balance noise reduction, weight, and the ability for users to effectively communicate.”
Lt.-Col van Eijk reiterated the equipment his troops need is not ‘top secret’ technology.
In April, Rebel News learned that troops stationed in Poland are on the hook for purchasing their own food. It has created financial stress for their families back home, who must rely on their savings or incur thousands of dollars in debt to cover food costs abroad.
As part of Operation Unifier, Defence Minister Anita Anada sent approximately 1,000 CAF members to train Ukrainian military personnel in Poland last October, with more arriving in February and March.
They are providing basic training to their Polish allies and a crash course in advanced engineering skills, including how to use explosives for demolition work, demining and how to operate the Leopard 2 tanks in combat.
Canada did not send military cooks on the mission. Instead, they received meals from the Polish military and received orders to eat at local restaurants.
On April 3, CAF pledged to expedite reimbursement for affected soldiers by "[taking] immediate steps to address" the backlog.
"We apologize to the members and their families for the distress this has caused and thank them for their patience," said Capt. Nicolas Plourde-Fleury, spokesman for Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC). "We want them to know we have implemented measures to support them better moving forward."
"Additional administrative staff were deployed in January 2023 and have been hard at work to clear the backlog and provide ongoing support to Op UNIFIER's members," he explained.
"The deployment period for financial staff has also been extended to create an overlap with the incoming replacement staff and increase the capacity to clear the backlog."
Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre and other Canadian military leaders have repeatedly said that caring for military personnel and their families is essential. CAF faces a high attrition rate citing poor treatment, pay concerns, a lack of housing, and rampant sexual misconduct.
"We're pissing people off," said retired lieutenant-general Guy Thibault, who previously served as vice-chief of the defence staff. "This may be the final straw that pisses them off.
"It's not really about compensation," contends Thibault. "It's just that they're not feeling valued."
In addition to receiving inferior military equipment to carry out their duties in Europe, the soldiers also face shortages of modern anti-tank weapons, systems to counter drones and a dedicated short-range air defence system.
To date, Ottawa has donated 200 armoured vehicles as part of a larger $500 million assistance package announced in November, with $406 million in air defence capabilities and an unspecified number of air-defence missiles.
In January, Anand said the need for Canada to aid Ukraine against Russia's invasion shows "the international rules-based order is under threat like it has never been under threat before."
It's expected that all 200 vehicles will be shipped to Ukraine by the summer to transport troops to the front line and assist in medical evacuations.