7. Global defence engagement

Addressing common security challenges requires the Canadian Armed Forces to operate regularly alongside and be interoperable with allied and partner militaries. Canada rarely operates alone, rather as a part of alliances and coalitions, typically as part of NORAD or under a United Nations and/or NATO mandate. Strong partnerships with allies, partners and regional and international organizations are critical to the effective execution of the defence mandate. Canada is committed to being a responsible international player that upholds universal values, contributes to peace building, and works together with partners to help enhance overall capacity and resiliency.

Cooperative defence relationships also support the advancement and promotion of broader government priorities – particularly national security, trade, international assistance, and foreign policy objectives. Defence contributes to this broader diplomatic activity in close cooperation with whole-of-government partners, including Global Affairs Canada, Public Safety and the organizations under its umbrella. The Defence team must be able to work together abroad with its whole-of-government partners, bringing all of the strengths of the Government of Canada to bear in a coordinated and coherent manner to address global issues. This may include working together with non-governmental organizations and civil authorities who regularly cooperate with the Government of Canada in the pursuit of common objectives.

Recognizing that Canada’s strategic interests are engaged in different ways in various regions of the world, Defence will employ a tailored approach to global partnerships. This includes maintaining a network of defence partnerships that is flexible and adaptable.

Beyond deepening its engagement with long-standing, like-minded allies, Defence will also pursue stronger relationships with other key countries, including those facing instability and those whose policies and perspectives are not aligned with Canada’s. Active engagement with other armed forces and defence ministries provides opportunities to build mutual understanding, enhance transparency, resolve differences, demonstrate leadership and promote Canadian values.

Defence diplomacy

Deep and meaningful relationships with international partners allow the Defence team to:

  • build greater situational awareness through intelligence cooperation;
  • enhance interoperability and operational effectiveness;
  • extend mobility and reach through logistics and diplomatic arrangements;
  • reinforce the capacity of partners;
  • promote defence materiel cooperation and export opportunities for Canadian industry; and
  • exchange lessons learned and best practices.

Most importantly, partnerships signal Canada’s commitment to work together with allies, partners, and the broader international community to address common security challenges and contribute meaningfully to global security and stability.

Canada’s global defence partnerships

Canada is engaged worldwide. Our commitment to NORAD, NATO, and Five-Eyes is unwavering. Canada and the United States share an unparalleled defence relationship forged by shared geography, common values and interests, deep historical connections and our highly integrated economies. This relationship is critical to every aspect of Canada’s defence interests and economic prosperity. NORAD was established in 1958 to deter and defend against aerospace threats to North America. Since then, the threats facing North America have evolved significantly in the air and maritime environment, as well as other emerging domains, and weapons technology, including ballistic and cruise missiles, has advanced tremendously. Canada’s policy with respect to participation in ballistic missile defence has not changed. However, we intend to engage the United States to look broadly at emerging threats and perils to North America, across all domains, as part of NORAD modernization. As NORAD approaches its 60th anniversary in 2018, Canada will work with the United States to modernize the Command to meet these and other challenges to continental defence. This is a prudent, holistic approach that takes into account all perils. Canada and the United States will jointly examine options to renew the North Warning System and modernize the Command, which is integral to fulfilling the NORAD mandate of aerospace warning and control, as well as maritime warning.

New initiative

To ensure the continued security of North America, the Defence team will:

  1. Modernize NORAD to meet existing challenges and evolving threats to North America, taking into account the full range of threats.

Beyond the continent, Canada will continue to collaborate internationally with the United States, consistent with Canadian interests and values, engaging in complementary activities that contribute to stability abroad, which in turn helps maintain security at home.

Canada remains committed to exercising the full extent of its sovereignty in Canada’s North, and will continue to carefully monitor military activities in the region and conduct defence operations and exercises as required. Canada’s renewed focus on the surveillance and control of the Canadian Arctic will be complemented by close collaboration with select Arctic partners, including the United States, Norway and Denmark, to increase surveillance and monitoring of the broader Arctic region.

While the Arctic eight (Canada, the United States, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia) rightfully remain the primary actors in the Arctic, Canada recognizes the increasing interest of non-Arctic states and organizations and will work cooperatively with all willing partners to advance shared interests on safety and security.

NATO is the foundation of Canada’s defence relations in Europe. Canada also enjoys a number of deep bilateral relationships with specific countries in the region based on shared interests and values. Foremost among these relationships is that which Canada shares with the United Kingdom, with whom Canada already enjoys deep and vibrant defence ties rooted in history, founded on shared values, and anchored by close cooperation across the defence enterprise. Similarly, Canada shares a strong historical and linguistic connection with France. Canada will nurture these relationships while seeking opportunities to further develop them.

Multilateralism in action

United Nations

Canada is fully committed to renewing its engagement with the United Nations and increasing its contribution to United Nations peace operations. The United Nations has a critical role to play in shaping the rules-based international order and makes important contributions to global stability, conflict prevention and the protection of civilians. Doing our part to contribute to United Nations’ efforts to promote and sustain global peace and security directly serves Canadian interests. A more peaceful world is a safer and more prosperous world for Canada, too. National Defence will make important contributions of Canadian personnel and training for United Nations peace operations, increasing the number of personnel in United Nations Headquarters, and enhancing training and capacity building efforts. The United Nations has recognized the changing nature and complexity of peace operations, and Canada welcomes the United Nations’ ongoing efforts to ensure that it, and member states, are able to adapt effectively. Canada recognizes that United Nations leadership of peace operations offers a number of important advantages: it endows interventions with legitimacy, facilitates burden-sharing, diffuses risk, and allows Canada and other countries to make contributions based on their particular strengths and capabilities.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Canada was a founding member of NATO in 1949 and the Alliance has been a central pillar of Euro-Atlantic defence and a cornerstone of Canadian defence and security policy ever since. NATO provides significant benefits to Canada’s security and its global interests. NATO membership also carries important obligations. Article 5 of the Washington Treaty guarantees that an armed attack against one or more Allies is considered an attack against all, which requires Canada to be prepared to respond. Membership in the Alliance – under Article 3 of the Treaty – also calls upon Allies to maintain their individual and collective capabilities to defend themselves and to resist attack. Article 3 underpins NATO’s ability to respond to an attack. Canada has developed capabilities that are designed to defend our vast territory, including maritime forces, fighter aircraft, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, air mobility, and air-to-air refueling. These capabilities are also critical to the Alliance.

While the crisis management activities of NATO have garnered much attention in recent years, collective defence and cooperative security remain core tasks of the Alliance, as does deterrence, which is becoming increasingly important in today’s security environment. Defence will continue to demonstrate Canada’s steadfast commitment to NATO by maintaining high-quality, interoperable, and expeditionary forces which Canada can deploy, as needed, to effectively contribute to NATO deterrence posture, operations, exercises and capacity building activities. Canada supports NATO efforts to ensure it is prepared to respond to a rapidly evolving security environment. Canada’s contribution as a framework nation to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence in Central and Eastern Europe is a testament to this commitment. Arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation efforts also contribute directly to the achievement of the Alliance’s core objectives, contributing to more secure, stable and predictable international relations.

Five Eyes Network

Building on our shared values and long history of operational cooperation, the Five-Eyes network of partners, including Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, is central to protecting Canada’s interests and contributes directly to operational success. This partnership, which originated in intelligence sharing, continues to greatly enhance our ability to understand and react to the global security environment, and enhances our interoperability with allies. The Five-Eyes community is an increasingly important forum for consultation and coordination on a wider range of key policy and operational matters, including the military use of space and collaboration on research and development. National Defence will continue to deepen its relationship with Five-Eyes partners, particularly as it relates to further expanding cooperation on space and innovation.

Canada is also a Pacific nation. Given the increasing importance of the Asia-Pacific to Canadian security and prosperity, Canada is committed to being a reliable player in the region, through consistent engagement and strong partnerships. We will establish meaningful strategic dialogues with key regional powers to exchange views on regional security issues and threats to regional stability, such as territorial disputes and the situation in the Korean Peninsula. This will include a continued presence in the region through high-level visits and participation in regional exercises. We will work closely with long-standing partners, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States on Asia-Pacific security issues. We will seek to develop stronger relationships with other countries in the region, particularly China. We will also increase our engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As Canada pursues membership in the East Asia Summit, the Department of National Defence will in parallel seek membership in the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting – Plus. Membership in this important forum will help Canada understand and play a more active role in the region’s security architecture. This will enhance our ability to contribute to stability and security in the Asia-Pacific. Additionally, we will continue to cooperate with our allies and partners in the region by enhancing our participation in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

In Africa, the Defence team will work within an integrated whole-of-government approach to advance Canada’s objectives, notably by contributing to peace and security through re-engaging in United Nations peace operations, providing training, supporting development and empowering women and girls. Our approach to Africa will seek to make tangible contributions to the stability necessary to advance Sustainable Development Goals and create the conditions for peace. To be successful, Defence will need to build new bilateral relationships in Africa, particularly with the African Union, given its leadership role in peacekeeping efforts in the region. Such relationships are an important avenue to address conflict prevention and help to stem the expansion of instability.

In the Middle East, Canada’s primary strategic interests will be to continue to contribute to regional peace and stability, along with countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and reducing the threat of terrorism. This requires strong relationships to ensure re-supply, material transhipment, aircraft over-flight and other diplomatic clearances for equipment and personnel in support of operations. The Defence team will continue to work with partners in the region to ensure stability, including through combined maritime operations, as well as to facilitate operational requirements through Defence Cooperation Arrangements and other diplomatic and logistics agreements of mutual interest. A strong focus on capacity building and participation in a wide range of operations will continue.

In the Americas, Canada will continue to work collaboratively with partners throughout the hemisphere to develop regional capabilities, encourage operational flexibility and foster military professionalization. Regular cooperation and engagement is critical to meeting the security and defence challenges of the region. Canada has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in areas such as capacity building, gender mainstreaming – the routine consideration of gender in public policy development – as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Canada will also continue to leverage its strong bilateral defence relationships in support of multilateral organizations such as the Conference of the Defence Ministers of the Americas and the Inter-American Defence Board, and maintain support for other government departments to counter the illegal movement of drugs, people, weapons, money and other transnational organized crime activity.

Defence diplomacy

A military cannot be engaged in the world unless it is present in the world, and this includes building and sustaining strong relationships with allies, partners, other militaries and multilateral institutions. These cooperative relationships enhance knowledge, understanding and interoperability, allow for the exchange of best practices, and ultimately contribute significantly to success on operations. This kind of continuous global military engagement is often referred to as defence diplomacy.

The Canadian Armed Forces’ current defence diplomacy efforts are focused on three key streams: (1) exchanges and assignments with Canada’s closest allies, particularly the United States and our Five-Eyes partners; (2) active and ongoing involvement in multilateral organizations, principally NATO and the United Nations; and (3) military representation in our diplomatic missions worldwide.

The positions across all three of these streams are filled through the Canadian Armed Forces’ “outside of Canada establishment,” or OUTCAN. This includes the Canadian component of NORAD headquarters and other formations in the United States, administrative staff and operational exchange officers, General Officers filling important leadership positions in United States and NATO headquarters, and Defence Attachés posted around the world.

Defence diplomacy is critical to successful global engagement and better understanding our complex world. Through direct, daily contact with the military leadership of countries around the world, the Canadian Armed Forces’ network of Defence Attachés helps develop a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the perspectives and motivations of global actors, and of regional security dynamics. Defence representation at Canada’s diplomatic missions enhances local engagement on a range of issues related to security and defence, and provides support to Canadian foreign policy and trade priorities. Perhaps most importantly, Defence Attachés build and sustain relationships that facilitate operational cooperation and communication, including in times of crisis.

To achieve these important objectives the Canadian Armed Forces will regularly assess the evolving security environment, foreign policy and operational priorities, and key capability development and training needs to determine the optimal placement of the OUTCAN footprint.

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