By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs
Ottawa, Ontario — At the time of the 2017 Canada Army Run (CAR), 455 Canadian troops were deployed to Camp Ādaži, Latvia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup (eFPB)
One year later, Canada’s military commitment in the region has been renewed and will continue through to March 2023. And there will be more boots on the ground as well, with the troop component increasing to 540.
In a gesture of comradeship to his Canadian comrades, Lieutenant-Colonel Agris Ozoliņš, Latvia’s Defence, Military, Naval and Air Attaché in Canada, arranged for a team of Latvian military members to take part in CAR 2017 here in Canada.
So it is fitting, with the renewal of Canada’s commitment to the eFPB, that LCol Ozoliņš is bringing another Latvian team to CAR 2018 in Ottawa to once again, as he told us in an extensive interview last year, “stand shoulder-to-shoulder” with their Canadian comrades and say thank-you for their contributions.
To mark the occasion of CAR 2018, and our ongoing friendship with the Latvian people, we present excerpts of that interview below.
How did you arrive at the idea of having Latvian troops participate in CAR?
I had an idea that it might be something where we can be together, shoulder-to-shoulder, as Canadian troops are shoulder-to-shoulder with us in Latvia. And it’s also an opportunity to say thank-you to all Canadians.
I met with the families of troops in Edmonton who were heading to Latvia. It was a touching moment, like always when troops leave for deployment, and I saw a lot of support from the families. And this is the best way to say thank-you, because my soldiers cannot address each Canadian separately.
And of course it’s also an appreciation of the military – what Canada does for European security – and not only the Baltics. There are tens of thousands of people running and we will run together and talk about Latvia and our partnership and say thank you to as many people as possible.
What are some of the most popular sports among Latvians?
Ice hockey is definitely Number 1 in Latvia, same as in Canada. It unites us. Mountain biking competitions are very popular. Basketball is quite popular as well. Then soccer, and beach volleyball is very popular. We’ve done very well in a couple of Olympic Games.
You’ll be visiting the Canadian War Museum as well. What do you expect from that?
One is an educational thing. Each country looks at history from its own perspective. It’s always interesting to learn something new – that the world is bigger and there are events which influence the future, even if we don’t have complete knowledge of them. The other is, we want to honour the people who sacrifice their lives. Soldiers are soldiers. They do their job to the best of their ability and sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice.
What else unites Latvia and Canada?
We feel very close with Canada. I don’t know if that’s just the ice hockey or that a lot of Latvians found a home in Canada.
One of our former presidents, Vaira Vike-Freiberga [the first woman to lead a post-communist nation in Eastern Europe], came to Canada as a child at the end of the Second World War with her parents. She grew up in Canada and came back to Latvia and became president.
Also, Canada was amazing when we started to build our army. Canada was the first country that supported Latvia joining NATO in March 2003. I remember that time. We were getting support when it was needed the most.
Canada’s support is still very much appreciated.