by Elinor Sloan
The Hill Times
May 28, 2018
In Strong Secure, Engaged (SSE), the government’s new defence policy, it committed to ensuring the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is prepared to carry out a range of operations simultaneously, including those to defend Canada, meet obligations under the North American Aerospace Defense Command, fulfill NATO commitments under article five, and contribute to international peace and security. In the latter category, the policy specifies a range of deployments, including: two large (500 to 1500 personnel) sustained; one large time-limited (six to nine months); two small (100 to 500 personnel) sustained; and, two small time-limited. One year after the policy’s release, what is the status of the concurrent operations commitment?
The armed forces is currently engaged in two large sustained deployments. Canada’s contribution to the U.S.-led coalition battling ISIS in the Middle East involves up to 850 personnel at any one time. Its NATO-led mission in the Baltic region has about 700 personnel all told, including the main force of an army battlegroup in Latvia and a dedicated frigate in the Baltic Sea/North Atlantic. Canada also has two small sustained deployments. Some 200 CAF personnel are in Ukraine training that country’s military forces, and roughly 70 personnel (i.e. just under the lower bar set by SSE) operate on the Sinai Peninsula as part of the Multinational Force and Observers. A current small, time-limited deployment is a frigate (about 240 personnel) in the Asia-Pacific region for exercises and defence diplomacy. All of the sustained deployments pre-date SSE. Similarly, the frigate in the Asia Pacific represents only the most recent contribution to longstanding, recurring, regional engagement.
Double counting the Baltic mission as a NATO and a peace-and-security mission, unrealized categorizes include one large and one small time-limited international security deployment. For the latter, an untold story is the many time-limited deployments that are smaller than the SSE numbers but sit well above the “just a handful” mark. Canada has one submarine (crew complement almost 50) in Europe and one in the Asia Pacific; until recently, it had four Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (crew complement almost 40 each) conducting maritime interdiction operations abroad; and, Canada has deployed an Aurora long-range patrol aircraft, along with 40 personnel to Japan to counter North Korea’s maritime smuggling.
Dr. Elinor Sloan is a professor of international relations in the department of political science at Carleton University, a former defence analyst with Canada’s Department of National Defence and a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.