Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 18.01.2018
The Governor-General of Canada, Julie Payette, is in Ukraine. She arrived in Lviv on the evening of January 17. While in Ukraine she will visit with Canadian soldiers who are working with Ukrainian soldiers at the Yavoriv military base under Canada’s “Operation UNIFIER,” which is a part of NATO’s training commitment to Ukraine. The Governor-General will also meet with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. Canada announced previously that it was seeing to expand its military assistance to Ukraine. Part of this assistance is that Ukraine now has access to Canada’s defence industry for the purchase of weapons.
The position of Governor-General is unfamiliar to many people, because Canada’s political system is unfamiliar. Canada is a constitutional monarchy on the British model. Elizabeth the Second is the Queen of Canada, the head of state. Because she does not reside in Canada but in the United Kingdom, Her Majesty has a representative in Canada called the Governor-General. The Governor-General of Canada is appointed by the Queen, on the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada. Being a constitutional monarchy, the Queen always takes the Prime Minister’s advice. Therefore, the Prime Minister actually chooses the Governor-General.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose Julie Payette, and she was installed as Canada’s 29th Governor-General on 2 October 2017. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette is well known to Canadians, as she is a former astronaut. She flew on two space shuttle missions. In 1999, while aboard “Discovery,” she became the first Canadian to board the International Space Station. In 2009, she docked with the space station again from the space shuttle “Endeavour.” Julie Payette is an engineer and an expert in robotics. A major contribution of the Canadian Space Agency to the space shuttle program and to the International Space Station has been robotic arms – known as “Canadarms” – used to place satellites into orbit, assemble the space station, and many other remote manipulation tasks.
The Governor-General of Canada is the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces because she exercises the powers and responsibilities belonging to the Queen. It is in her capacity as Commander-in-Chief that Governor-General Payette will be visiting Canadian troops in Ukraine on Operation UNIFIER and Canadian troops in Latvia in the NATO forward-presence battlegroup.
Canada is sending a signal. Governor-General Payette is visiting Canadian troops in Ukraine and in Latvia because the Trudeau wants to give prominence to Canada’s posture towards Russian aggression. Canadian soldiers are in two front-line states, Ukraine and Latvia, as a sign of engagement. While not in the fight Canada is near to the fight – which is more than most Western democracies.
While vastly inferior to the United States as a military power, Canada attaches more policy importance and gets more political advantage out of its commitment to Ukraine and to NATO forward presence than does the US. Prime Minister Trudeau visited Canadian troops in Yavoriv Ukraine on 12 July 2016. Now Governor-General Payette will visit them and also Canadian troops stationed in Latvia, where Canada is the lead nation in the NATO forward presence battlegroup (along with troops from Albania, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, and of course Latvia). The US currently has more than 220 soldiers, mostly military instructors, stationed at Yavoriv, Ukraine, and the US is the lead nation in the NATO forward presence battlegroup in Poland (along with Romania, the United Kingdom, and of course Poland). The US President has not visited these Americans serving serving their country to curb Russian aggression.
The visit of Governor-General Payette illuminates Canada’s military presence in front-line states to Russian aggression, Ukraine and Latvia. But it also illustrates that that commitment has to get a lot bigger if Putin’s War is going to be stopped any time soon. Canada has a mere 450 troops in Latvia. There are about 200 Canadian Armed Forces Members in Operation UNIFIER in Ukraine. In 1951, Canada created a brigade to serve in NATO’s forward presence in West Germany, and over 6,000 soldiers were recruited and went to Hannover in the first deployment. In 2018, Canada’s presence in Latvia and in Ukraine has to look a lot more like that if it is to seriously benefit Canada’s National defence. Ukraine has an army of a quarter of a million, and has approximately 45,000 troops engaged on the front lines in Donbas facing the Russian invaders. Canada needs to recover its Second World War or early Cold War level of commitment to global peace and security, and match the intensity of effort of Ukraine, if it is to adequately confront the existential threat to Western civilization posed by Russia at war.