The Context of Canadian Defence Policy

The Canadian Armed Forces’ first mission is the defence of Canada and its second mission is to do what it can to defend North America. The CAF’s third traditional mission is to be deployed according to government dictates to out-of-Canada missions to aid allies.

Canada’s real role in the defence of itself and consequently the defence of the northern part of North America – the front door of the United States – is primarily one of reconnaissance. Canada must have or acquire the very best technologically advanced interceptor aircraft, surface ships and undersea capability to always know who is approaching our air, sea and undersea territory and usher them away. And of course, Canada must share the results of its reconnaissance with our United States ally.

What was once called information war, propaganda or even espionage has now emerged as “hyper-war” or even “cyber-war” and constitutes a cheap and relatively riskless way of putting pressure on an opponent or of interfering in the efficient running of an opponent’s society. The question for Canada is what are we willing to put into these new and highly complex operations? Do we have sufficient skilled people to deploy? Are we willing to shift from the defensive to the offensive (which was strongly implied in SSE)?

The most important aspect of Canadian defence policy that remains unstated is its political context. With a small but deployable military, Canada has to pick its slots and declare to the world what we are prepared to do and where we are prepared to do it. If we seek political leverage – and we should – one or two significant deployments on land, sea or air would increase it.

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