Politics

Bob Rae says Ukraine should get all the weapons Canada can find

The word "hawk" and the name Bob Rae are seldom found in the same sentence — except when it comes to Ukraine.

The military is conducting an inventory of 'surplus' vehicles as Kyiv calls for urgent aid

Bob Rae, Canada's ambassador to the United Nations, speaks while holding a copy of the United Nations charter at the UN general assembly hall on Feb. 23. (John Minchillo/The Canadian Press)

The word "hawk" and the name Bob Rae are seldom found in the same sentence — except when it comes to Ukraine.

Canada's ambassador to the United Nations said recently that the federal government should give Ukraine every weapon it asks for.

Ever since the onset of major hostilities last winter, Rae — the former interim Liberal leader and former NDP premier of Ontario — has been one of the leading Canadian critics of the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Online and in major speeches, he's taken every opportunity to call out the Kremlin propaganda efforts which have been hallmarks of the nearly eight-month old war.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly this week, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy clearly outlined his country's military needs. CBC News also has reported that, in a letter to his Canadian counterpart three weeks ago, Ukraine's defence minister asked for more armoured vehicles, more howitzers and ammunition, and winter clothing.

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"It may be a career-limiting move for me to say this, but I don't believe we could say anything less than yes," Rae said Saturday on CBC Radio's The House.

"That's been my consistent advice to whoever, whoever, whoever is listening. Obviously, governments have to decide the pace at which they can do it."

To fulfil Ukraine's recent materiel request, the Canadian military almost certainly would have to dip again into its existing inventory of equipment.

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Rae said he's aware of Canada's military commitments to NATO and elsewhere — commitments that require the army and other forces to maintain a high degree of readiness.

"But I think we have to keep on pushing because the test of our success is not what we did last month," he said. "The test of our success is, are we meeting the needs that will allow Ukraine to achieve the objectives which it has, and frankly which we share?"

It's a point "we have to be clear about," Rae said.

A Ukrainian soldier sits on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) driving on a road near Sloviansk, Eastern Ukraine, on April 26. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

On Thursday, Defence Minister Anita Anand pointed out that Canada is in the process of shipping 39 armoured troop carriers to Ukraine — part of an earlier commitment — and said she is in a constant dialogue with her Ukrainian counterpart.

"We'll be continuing the discussions next week," she said. "It would be imprudent for me to provide more information prior to finalizing the situation."

Apart from the brand-new light armoured vehicles and upgraded troop carriers Ukraine has asked for, the Canadian army also has a whole stock of used vehicles, including hundreds of Coyotes, Bisons and tracked armoured vehicles (known as T-LAVs).

Most of them, if not all, are the process of being decommissioned or scrapped. Many of them saw combat in Afghanistan.

Documents recently tabled in Parliament show the military conducted an inventory of those vehicles recently to determine what might be donated to Ukraine.

Out of a stock 149 Coyotes, which are used for reconnaissance, the army found 62 "which are deemed to be in repairable condition, but would require significant repairs and parts which would take over 220 days to procure."

Spare parts are a big issue, defence experts have said, because Canada and its allies don't want to give Ukraine broken or unserviceable equipment.

The answer to a written question posed in the House of Commons, tabled this week, said that no other fleet of armoured vehicles (Bisons, TLAVs, or M-113s) could be considered surplus by the Canadian Armed Forces.

"These vehicles are required to support Canadian Armed Forces operational capabilities, including for spare parts and logistics management," the written response says.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Murray Brewster

Senior reporter, defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.

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