CANADA is in an “era of polarization” as Canadians increasingly turn to political leaders who offer “a different and different” view of the world, the country’s national defence minister says.
The military chief of staff and a prominent political leader are among the names being floated for prime minister, as voters look to a prime minister who will “speak for all Canadians” as they prepare to cast their ballots for the Nov. 6 election.
“The reality is that we are in an era of polarization.
It’s really happening now,” Air Chief Marshal Robert Fletcher said Tuesday in an interview.
“I think it’s important that people understand that there are other voices that you can listen to and have an opinion on.”
While many people in Canada still believe the Conservative government is in charge, the military chief believes it is more inclusive than in the past.
“We’re in an age of polarization and that is one of the things that we need to address,” Fletcher said.
“What I’m seeing is people taking to social media to express their opinions.
People are asking what I’m going to do about this.
People need to understand that this is an election, and we have a mandate.
We’re here to serve Canadians.”
Canada’s defence chief is facing criticism over his comments about his military’s role in the fight against ISIS in a report by CBC News.
The general also said it was “unacceptable” for his remarks to be used against him.
“That’s the nature of our job.
If you’re going to say things that you think are inappropriate and inappropriate and offensive, that’s fine.
I’m just not happy that this has become the topic of debate and criticism,” Fletcher told CBC News on Tuesday.
“In a democracy, that should not happen.
And I think the fact that we have to take a stand, that we’re a democracy that’s accountable, that means that we should have a free and fair debate.”
The general is facing a barrage of criticism over comments he made during an interview with CBC News last week, including a suggestion he believes the US is waging war on Canada to achieve its goal of becoming a global power.
The defence chief told the broadcaster he believes that “the United States is waging a campaign against Canada, and it’s aimed at undermining Canada and it is trying to undermine Canadian democracy.”
He also said he believes Russia is trying “to undermine the U.S. influence in the world.”
“I would say that the U-S.
is an aggressive nation.
And the Russian military is an ambitious and aggressive nation,” Fletcher added.
“And I think we’re being watched very closely by our allies.
So I think there are many of them that are looking to see if we can be part of that alliance.”
The military chiefs comments were a stark departure from the defence minister’s comments from last month, in which he described Canada as a “partnership” in the battle against ISIS.
The prime minister has since taken to Twitter to say he’s heard Fletcher’s comments and “not really much of anything” has changed since then.
“He is correct that the Canadian military is a partner, but he is also correct that our military is doing its job in this fight against ISIL,” Fletcher’s spokesperson, Col. Mike Zemanski, said in a statement.
“This is an issue that is of particular concern to Canadians and Canadians need to know that the prime minister will continue to support Canada’s military, and will continue, as a matter of urgency, to work closely with the Canadian Forces to secure our country.”
In response to Fletcher’s remarks, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Staff said in its annual report on Tuesday that it was concerned about the comments.
“While we do not expect any immediate changes to our positions regarding our military’s commitment to the coalition, our members have consistently expressed concerns that some members’ comments have led to a negative perception of the military and, therefore, our readiness,” it said.
Fletcher has said he is not looking to make a “political” statement during the election campaign.
He said he was “not concerned about political messaging” in general.
“People have been telling me for a long time that the media is the enemy,” Fletcher, a former lieutenant colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force, said Tuesday.