(Ottawa) The debate over Canada’s participation in the US anti-ballistic missile program has been rekindled. Defense Minister Anita Anand says the option, ruled out by former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2005, is back on the table. In their opinion, the war in Ukraine completely changed the game in terms of defending the North American continent.
Posted at 5:16 p.m
Minister Anand pointed out that this option will be examined as part of the defense policy review announced in the last federal budget following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This review will also modernize NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
The minister ignited the country’s debate on this sensitive issue just as elected officials in Washington are again showing their impatience at Canada’s slowness in increasing its military spending in a manner consistent with its commitments to NATO.
“We are carefully examining this option to determine the means that need to be taken to ensure the continent’s defenses. We will have a lot to say about this in the coming months. […] The war in Ukraine makes this exercise even more necessary today,” the minister said Tuesday after addressing the Canadian Institute of Global Affairs on the future of defense.
In a unanimous report released in June 2014, the National Security and Defense Committee recommended that “to protect the sovereignty, security and national interests of Canada, the Canadian government enters into an agreement with the United States to participate as a partner in ballistic missile defense.” But the Trudeau government did not follow this recommendation.
The minister’s statements provoked many political reactions. The Conservative Party was quick to support Canada’s participation in the US missile defense system.
According to MP Pierre Paul-Hus, Canada has no choice but to join this program if it wants to ensure the full defense of the North American continent with the United States.
“In the Conservative Party we have been saying for years that we have to be part of this programme. It is a historic mistake not to have been a partner of the program from the start when we have been a partner of NORAD for 65 years,” stated Mr. Paul-Hus.
He recalled that the Lower House’s National Defense Committee considered this issue in 2018 following the North Korean threat on the continent.
“I went to the NORAD base in the United States to speak about it and I asked at the time what the American forces would do if a missile were aimed at Canada. The base commander’s answer was very clear: “You are not in the program. We are under no obligation to help you if a missile is aimed at Canada. “We have to be part of the program and pay our share if we want protection,” Paul-Hus said.
For its part, the Bloc Québécois pointed out that the geopolitical context warrants such a review. “The current global context, disrupted by Russian aggression, forces us to take note of the obsolescence of our military defenses, especially in the north of the territory and in terms of airspace protection. We therefore call for a comprehensive study to evaluate the means that will allow us to ensure the security and defense of our borders,” explained MNA Christine Normandin, spokeswoman for the Bloc Québécois for national defense.
“Most importantly, the government must review the details of Canada’s potential membership in the American program to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent in the most efficient and beneficial way for the economy of Quebec, the world leader in aerospace.” She added.
The New Democratic Party (NDP) reiterated its opposition to such an initiative. “Our position on this has not changed,” said NDP deputy leader Alexandre Boulerice.
Canada’s Global Affairs Institute President Dave Perry welcomed the Trudeau administration’s decision to reconsider the option of participating in the US missile shield.
“The world has changed a lot since the Canadian government last spoke on this issue in 2005,” Perry said.