In The Media

Policy Briefing: Defence

(feat. David Perry, Elinor Sloan, Jean-Christophe Boucher, and Rob Huebert)

The Hill Times
January 9, 2017

‘We’re going to be under significant pressure from the Americans,’ say experts of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s influence on Canadian defence policy

Canadian Global Affairs Institute Senior Analyst David Perry:
“I think we’re going to be under significant pressure from the Americans by the new president-elect’s administration once it’s formed to increase what we’re contributing to NATO. That’s been a perennial pressure under virtually every American administration. I certainly think that when President-elect Trump becomes president, if he goes even halfway to carrying forward with the type of rhetoric he has displayed towards that alliance and the under-contributions by a number of members — and Canada is 23 out of 28 member nations in terms of our contribution as a share of our gross domestic product, now at under once per cent of GDP—we’re going to face a lot more pointed and more vocal pressure to do more.

“I wouldn’t necessarily see that pressure being limited specifically to our contributions to NATO. Canada, more broadly, and North America benefit from a whole host of different programs that we work with collaboratively with the United States, where they carry the bulk of the load financially in terms of human resources,” he said at the Senate National Security and
Defence Committee on Nov. 14, 2016.

University of Calgary Research Fellow Centre for Military and Strategic Studies Robert Huebert:
“From an alliance perspective, we are starting to see some people challenging the issue of the founding elements of NATO. The reason I say we need to have an independent submarine capability is that, as we’ve seen in this presidential election, we cannot assume we will always have a United States that will have Canadian interests at heart. In the long term, we have to be sensitive to that. We need to ensure that we have an independent capability if the worst type of environment, i.e., an America that returns to isolationism, is ultimately in the cards somewhere down the road. “A more isolationist America, which I think Trump summed up when he pointed to the Baltic states and said, ‘You have to pay more for NATO membership,’ goes against everything we’ve said in terms of proper deterrence. It’s that attitude that you have to pay for more. I think that’s the first thing you have to worry about,” he told the House of Commons National Defence Committee on Nov. 1, 2016.

Canada a ‘huge laggard’ in cyber security at a time when threats growing: experts

At a time when U.S. intelligence agencies are warning of Russian cyber attacks used to interfere with the American presidential election, experts says Canada must be vigilant, and invest in its cybersecurity strategy. 

by Denis Calnan (feat. Elinor Sloan, Jean-Christophe Boucher, and David Perry)

Cyber security needs to be a greater priority for the federal government in a time when state actors are increasingly taking clear risks to meddle in other countries’ affairs, say several analysts.

The federal government conducted consultations on concerns and possible solutions for cyber threats and espionage from Aug. 16 to Oct. 15, 2016. A report on those findings is now being developed.

“The outcomes from this review will guide and inform policy and program decisions that will make our critical infrastructure more resilient to cyberattacks and help keep Canadian citizens safe online,” said Jean-Philippe Levert, a spokesperson for Public Safety Canada in an email to The Hill Times.

The review comes at a time when intelligence agencies in the United States are warning government officials that Russia interfered in the American presidential election.

Canadian security experts warn that Canada has to increase its vigilance. “Cyber threats out there are increasing,” said Elinor Sloan, a professor of international relations at Carleton University.

“There are more and more attacks perpetrated everyday than there ever were before, and they’re perpetrated by non-state actors—but especially by state actors,” Prof. Sloan said.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has cyber threats listed as a key priority, and its website states that, “Cyber intrusions orchestrated by hostile foreign states, such as the one in the summer of 2014 against the National Research Council of Canada, are also increasingly of concern.”

Meanwhile, Public Safety Canada states on its website that “Sophisticated attackers can disrupt the electronic controls of our power grids, water treatment plants and telecommunications networks. They interfere with the production and delivery of basic goods and services provided by our governments and the private sector. They undermine our privacy by stealing our personal information.”

David Perry, senior analyst and a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said that claims of espionage and interference with the U.S. election “should really be driving it home to us how pervasive cyber action by other countries have been and could be in the future, for Canada.”

He added: “That overt and that brazen of an action I think should be giving people a lot more pause.”

Canada “has been a huge laggard in this field,” wrote Jean-Christophe Boucher, an assistant professor in political science
at MacEwan University, in an email to The Hill Times.

Prof. Boucher, who is also a research fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, added that while Canada is now diverting money towards cyber protection, “it isn’t a clear priority for military officers.”

The federal government’s 2016 budget proposed spending “$77.4-million over five years, starting in 2016–17, to implement new measures to improve the security of government networks and information technology systems,” which would “ensure that the government can better defend its networks and systems from cyber threats, malicious software and unauthorized access.”

However, the budget only earmarked $27-million to be spent before 2018.

Canada is “starting to train some officers into cyber warfare, but there is a serious lack of commitment (especially from the military) and an incapacity to think outside the box in terms of what you need in recruitment and other things for cyber capacity,” wrote Prof. Boucher.

“Overall we are really in the infancy of this capacity in Canada and we would be unprepared to do anything right now.”

Mr. Perry said one of the things that should come from the government’s cyber security review is a directive to its intelligence agencies to engage in offence cyber activity, in a manner in which Canadian entities would not just be reactive, but would be ahead of the potential threats.

He stressed that the cyber realm is one that is interconnected with everything, including defence infrastructure.

“Most of the equipment that we’re buying for defence is basically some kind of a vehicle or an aircraft, or a ship, that is a mechanism for transporting a super computer that basically connects that piece of equipment with other ones and  processes data from different kinds of sensors and turns it into usable information,” said Mr. Perry. “Cyber defence is
part of just defence of Canada,” he added.

Government must stop dragging out decision on peacekeeping mission, say defence analysts

Meanwhile, experts are divided on whether the UN is the best mechanism to contribute to peace efforts, and whether Africa is where Canada should be setting its sights. 

by Denis Calnan (feat. Jean-Christophe Boucher and David Perry) 

Details of exactly what the federal government wants to do in an African peacekeeping mission with the United Nations remains a mystery, but if it does want a three-year deployment, as it has suggested, experts say it may want to pick up the pace and make some decisions.

“I’ve been quite surprised at the fact that the mission hasn’t been in place,” said David Perry, a senior analyst and a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“One of the clearest things this government was interested in, coming in, was re-engaging in UN peace operations. And it’s surprising to me at how long it’s taken to get a new mission of some kind stood up,” he said. “Three years might be stretching how long this government is going to be in office if they don’t actually get it out the door really soon.”

Jean-Christophe Boucher, an assistant professor in political science at MacEwan University, echoed similar sentiments. “It is taking way too long to make a decision which probably tells you that either the Canadian Armed Forces are resisting such policy, or that there is not a really good deployment in Africa that would fit into a good liberal narrative,” he wrote in an email to The Hill Times.

“We know they are considering Mali and other states, but they seem to still be debating the deployment,” said Prof. Boucher, who is also a research fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

“It may have something to do with the cost,” said Ian Smillie, president of the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development, who was speaking to The Hill Times not as a representative of the organization, but as an individual expert in foreign policy.

“The foreign aid budget has been under review now for several months and there’s been no roll-out. They’re saying it’ll come in February,” he said.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.) told The Toronto Star in November that Canada will make a three-year commitment to UN missions in dangerous regions in Africa. However, Mr. Sajjan’s press secretary, Jordan Owens, backpedalled afterwards as she told the Huffington Post Canada that a decision by cabinet is still yet to be made, and that the minister “got a little bit ahead of where we are as a government.”

It is leaving observers wondering why the government’s messaging around the mission is so convoluted, and why a decision is taking so long to be made.

“Minister Sajjan still refuses to provide any details on a UN peacekeeping mission promised by Prime Minister Trudeau back in August, despite the multiple tours to Africa by cabinet ministers, meetings with counterparts, and a promise to make an announcement before the end of 2016,” wrote Conservative MP James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman, Man.), his party’s defence critic, in an email to The Hill Times.

And while many details remain scarce, it seems Canada is dedicated to sending 600 Canadian soldiers.

Prof. Boucher said these soldiers will mostly be in a specialized capacity, such as in logistical or medical roles. The new defence policy, that is being debated at cabinet level right now, may have more details on what to expect in this mission.

Outside of the government, experts are divided on whether the UN is the best way to contribute to an international mission. “Each mission in Africa will be messy, with high risk of casualties, with little bang for either Canadian reputation or resources,” wrote Prof. Boucher.

“I don’t think that UN peace support operations are the real kind of priority for Canadian defence contributions internationally.

I think there’s other contributions we can make through NA TO, for instance, [that] could be more valuable,” said Mr. Perry. “But if the government’s interest is in doing a UN mission, which seems to be both for the sake of kind of making the point of doing a UN mission as well as a belief that that is…one of the better contributions that Canada can make to international peace and security, then we should … look for a mission that best serves our own interests, and that the Forces that we commit would have a reasonable prospect of accomplishing what we set out for them to do,” he said.

When asked for an example, Mr. Perry said none of the options in Africa are appealing, but Mali may be the best choice.“There are some credible partners to work alongside if we went there, the French, in particular,” he said. “Every one of these mission options carries a significant amount of risk, and the situations on the ground are all fraught with a whole bunch of potential problems for whatever Canadians we deploy there.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Smillie agreed that there are significant risks in all the possible missions in Africa, but said “it’s a good thing we’re returning to peacekeeping operations.” “It’s good we are getting back into the game,” said he said. “We talk a lot about the United Nations and we talk a lot about wanting to be members of the Security Council and so on, but we haven’t, for more than a decade, played much of a role in peacekeeping.”

Mr. Smillie said that both humanitarian aid and development need to be considered along with peacekeeping, which also need to be kept independent.  

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