(Ottawa) The debate on Canada’s participation in the American ballistic missile defense program has been revived. Defense Minister Anita Anand says that option, which was ruled out in 2005 by former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin, is back on the table. The war in Ukraine has completely changed the game in terms of the defense of the North American continent, according to her.

Minister Anand indicated that this option will be assessed as part of the defense policy review announced in the last federal budget following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This review will also modernize NORAD.

The Minister has reignited the debate in the country on this thorny issue at the very moment when elected officials in Washington are once again showing their impatience with Canada’s slowness to increase its military spending in a way that meets its obligations to NATO.

“We are examining this option in depth to determine the means that must be taken to ensure the defense of the continent. We’re going to have a lot to say about that over the next few months. […] The war in Ukraine makes this exercise even more necessary today, “said the minister on Tuesday, after a speech on the future of defense before the Canadian Institute of Global Affairs.

In a unanimous report released on June 2014, the National Security and Defense Committee recommended that, “In order to protect the sovereignty, security and national interests of Canada, the Government of Canada enter into an agreement with the United States to participate as a partner in ballistic missile defense”. But the Trudeau government did not act on this recommendation.

According to MP Pierre Paul-Hus, Canada has no choice but to join this program if it wants to ensure 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 program. It is a mistake not to have been a partner from the beginning of the program when we have been partners of NORAD for 60 years,” said Mr. Paul-Hus.

He recalled that the National Defense Committee of the House of Commons had looked into this question in 2018, following the threat that North Korea had left hanging over the continent.

“I went to the NORAD base in the United States to discuss it and at that time I asked what the American forces would do if a missile was aimed at Canada. The base commander’s response was pretty clear, “You’re not in the program. We have 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.

The Bloc Québécois has indicated that the geopolitical context justifies such a review. “The current global context, disrupted by Russian aggression, forces us to note the obsolescence of our military defenses, particularly in the north of the territory and in terms of the protection of airspace. We therefore call for an exhaustive study to assess the means that will allow us to ensure the security and defense of our borders,” said MP Christine Normandin, Bloc Québécois spokesperson for national defence.

“Above all else, the government must study the ins and outs of Canada’s possible entry into the U.S. program to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent in the most efficient and beneficial way for the Canadian economy. Quebec, world leader in aerospace,” she added.

The NDP reiterated its opposition to such an initiative. “Our position on this has not changed,” NDP Deputy Leader Alexandre Boulerice said.

Canadian Global Affairs Institute President Dave Perry hailed the Trudeau government’s decision to reassess the option of participating in the US missile shield.

“The world is very different since the Canadian government last spoke out on this issue in 2005,” Perry said.



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