SUPPORT US

In The Media

North Korea’s threats show that Canada needs to be part of U.S. missile defence pact

by Colin Robertson

Globe and Mail
April 3, 2013

Canadian prime ministers have three files with a permanent place on their desks: national security, national unity and the U.S. relationship. When those files intersect, they require special attention.

Sooner rather than later, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to reconsider the Canadian decision to stay out of Ballistic Missile Defence. > 

The catalyst is North Korea.

Kim Jong-Un is the third in his family to lead the Hermit Kingdom, and this month has all but declared war – including threats to target North America. Normally, sabre rattling by tinpot dictators can be managed or contained. But not when the sabres are ballistic missiles.

“Nuclear threats are not a game,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned on Tuesday: “Aggressive rhetoric and military posturing only result in counter-actions, and fuel fear and instability.”

Coupled with the improvements that Iran is making to its own ballistic missile capacity, the threat to North America is now clear and present. The United States has moved aircraft and warships to the area and announced that it will increase its ground-based interceptors in California and Alaska.

Canada has a conflicted history when it comes to nuclear weapons and domestic defence from them. Though we were present at the creation – nuclear-energy research during the Second World War in Canada was vital – we eschewed the development of nuclear arms for ourselves. Instead, we opted to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes through the CANDU reactor.  (We were later deceived by the Indians, who developed their own nuclear weaponry using plutonium derived from a research reactor provided by Canada.)

Placement of nuclear warheads on Canadian soil, as part of our alliance commitment, tormented John Diefenbaker and the resulting BOMARC controversy contributed to his government’s undoing. Lester B. Pearson, who succeeded Mr. Diefenbaker as prime minister, faced similar dissent but concluded that our obligations to NORAD and NATO required participation. Mr. Pearson, who had won the Nobel Peace Prize over the Suez crisis, was derisively labelled the ‘defrocked prince of peace’ by a young Pierre Trudeau.

Two decades later, prime minister Trudeau faced similar divisions in his own cabinet over testing of cruise missiles on Canadian soil. Mr. Trudeau allowed the testing, arguing that “it is hardly fair to rely on the Americans to protect the West, but to refuse to lend them a hand when the going gets rough.”

In good company (with Australia, France et al), prime minister Brian Mulroney rejected participation in the U.S. “Star Wars” missile-defence program because Canada “would not be able to call the shots.”

When Ballistic Missile Defence was developed under George W. Bush, prime minister Paul Martin opted out, to the confusion of his new defence chief and ambassador to the United States, both of whom thought that he was going to sign on.

A divided Liberal caucus, especially the opposition from Quebec, had helped change Mr. Martin’s mind.

Mr. Bush was advised that newly-elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper would not welcome a renewed request. Mr. Bush found this puzzling, reportedly asking what would happen if a North Korean missile, aimed at Los Angeles or Seattle, wound up heading towards Vancouver or Calgary.

The rest of the alliance, as well as Australia, Japan and South Korea, have signed onto missile defence. The Israelis’ Iron Dome recently demonstrated the defensive worth of anti-missile technology.

Critics see Ballistic Missile Defence as a latter-day Maginot Line – costly, unreliable, and provocative. If you want to detonate a nuclear bomb in the United States you would not send it by missile. NORAD, they argue, provides sufficient defence. But continental defence has been integral to Canadian national security since MacKenzie King and Franklin Roosevelt parleyed at Kingston in 1938. We were architects of NATO because of our belief in collective security.

The U.S. defence umbrella has guaranteed the peace since 1945, and has coincided with the greatest growth in trade in world history. Canada has been a principal beneficiary, with marginal premiums. Some Canadians, wrote Mr. Trudeau during the cruise missile debate, “are eager to take refuge under the U.S. umbrella, but don’t want to help hold it.”

Membership in the alliance entails obligations. But it also brings great benefits that serve our national interests.

Incorporating our satellite and land-based tracking facilities into Ballistic Missile Defence could make a difference in shielding Canadians should the missiles be launched. A Senate report in 2006 concluded that an effective BMD “could save hundreds of thousands of Canadian lives.”

Protecting Canadians (and Americans) was the logic of the original DEW line and NORAD, our bi-national aerospace defence agreement that has served us since 1958 and now includes aspects of maritime defence.

Last summer, ministers John Baird and Peter McKay prepared a memorandum for Mr. Harper presenting Ballistic Missile Defence options. The Prime Minister decided the timing was not right. Circumstances have changed. BMD should now be incorporated into our ‘Canada First’ defence strategy.

A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is vice president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior strategic advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP.


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTERS
 
UPCOMING EVENTS


No events are scheduled at this time.


SEARCH
EXPERTS IN THE MEDIA

Global Times: BRICS summit displays the potential of a new future

by Editorial Staff (feat. Swaran Singh), WSFA 12, June 24, 2022

Oil's Dive Won't Bring Any Immediate Relief on Inflation

by Alex Longley, Elizabeth low, and Barbara Powell (feat. Amrita Sen), BNNBloomberg, June 24, 2022

China To Tout Its Governance Model At BRICS Summit

by Liam Gibson (feat. Stephen Nagy), The Asean Post, June 23, 2022

Soutien aux victimes d’inconduites sexuelles dans l’armée

by Rude Dejardins (feat. Charlotte Duval-Lantoine), ICI Radio Canada, June 23, 2022

Defence: $4.9 billion for radars against Russian bombs

by Editorial Staff (feat. Rob Huebert), Archynews, June 23, 2022

The Hans Island “Peace” Agreement between Canada, Denmark, and Greenland

by Elin Hofverberg (feat. Natalie Loukavecha), Library of Congress, June 22, 2022

What the future holds for western Canadian oil producers

by Gabriel Friedman (feat. Kevin Birn), Beaumont News, June 22, 2022

At BRICS summit, China sets stage to tout its governance model

by Liam Gibson (feat. Stephen Nagy), Aljazeera, June 22, 2022

Crude oil price: there are no changes to the fundamentals

by Faith Maina (feat. Amrita Sen), Invezz, June 22, 2022

Few details as Liberals promise billions to upgrade North American defences

by Lee Berthiaume (feat. Andrea Charron), National Newswatch, June 20, 2022

Defence Minister Anita Anand to make announcement on continental defence

by Steven Chase (feat. Rob Huebert), The Globe and Mail, June 19, 2022

Table pancanadienne des politiques

by Alain Gravel (feat. Jean-Christophe Boucher), ICI Radio Canada, June 18, 2022

Russia Ukraine conflict

by Gloria Macarenko (feat. Colin Robertson), CBC Radio One, June 17, 2022

New privacy Bill to introduce rules for personal data, AI use

by Shaye Ganam (feat. Tom Keenan), 680 CHED, June 17, 2022


LATEST TWEETS

HEAD OFFICE
Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Suite 1800, 150–9th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 3H9

 

OTTAWA OFFICE
Canadian Global Affairs Institute
8 York Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 5S6

 

Phone: (613) 288-2529
Email: [email protected]
Web: cgai.ca

 

Making sense of our complex world.
Déchiffrer la complexité de notre monde.

 

© 2002-2022 Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Charitable Registration No. 87982 7913 RR0001

 


Sign in with Facebook | Sign in with Twitter | Sign in with Email