Executive Summary

Canadians have benefitted enormously from the world we helped build. We came of age as a country in an era defined by a respect for international rules that have generated prosperity on an unprecedented scale. That prosperity depends on free and open trade with the world and stable conditions.

The return of war in Europe, with Russia's illegal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine, reminds us that military challenges to global stability violate state sovereignty and other fundamental principles of international law, impose terrible human costs, disrupt global supply chains, and raise the cost of groceries, fuel and basic necessities. Russia has demonstrated that it is a reckless and hostile adversary willing to undermine peace and stability in pursuit of its goals, which is a reminder that Canadians cannot take global security for granted. As a trading nation connected to and affected by everything that happens in the world, we have an obligation to Canadians to help defend and preserve the conditions that have made prosperity and security possible for so many, for so long.

Three powerful, connected trends are now reshaping our world:

  • Climate change is disproportionately affecting our Arctic. It is becoming increasingly accessible, and we are facing new security challenges in the region;
  • Autocracies and disruptive states are challenging the international order that keeps Canada safe and prosperous, propelled by Russia's flagrant violation of international law and China's attempts to reshape the international order to achieve its political goals; and
  • New and disruptive technologies are rapidly redefining conflict and what it takes to be safe and secure.
A Transfer of Command Authority parade between outgoing enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Group (BG) Latvia, Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) Trevor Norton and LCol Enno Kerckhoff takes place at Camp Adazi training area in Latvia on January 22, 2021.

Our best insurance against global uncertainty at home and abroad is a ready, resilient, and relevant Canadian Armed Forces, made up of Regular and Reserve Forces, and the Canadian Rangers. Ready, with sufficient numbers of well-trained, motivated and supported people, enabled by the right equipment in the right timeframes, and working with safe and effective infrastructure; Resilient, with forces that are sustained on operations for as long as necessary, can operate across the land, sea, air, cyber and space domains, and are digitalized and networked for the information age; and Relevant, with forces making robust contributions where it matters most to Canada, with capabilities that are suited to the type of contributions we need to make.

Alongside our diplomatic and security capabilities, a strong military protects Canada's ability to make sovereign, independent decisions in our best interests and limits our adversaries' ability to coerce or shape our courses of action. It gives Canada a voice in North American defence, secures NATO's northern and western flanks from military aggression or coercion, ensures our place in broader international partnerships, and creates the conditions for our future economic prosperity. A strong military also creates economic opportunities for Canadians, furthers collaboration with Indigenous and Northern communities, supports good, middle-class jobs, and builds up Canada's defence industrial base.

To ensure that our military has the resources it requires to keep Canadians safe in an increasingly unpredictable world, Canada is investing more in defence.

The most urgent and important task we face is asserting Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic and northern regions, where the changing physical and geopolitical landscapes have created new threats and vulnerabilities to Canada and Canadians. This includes upgrading our continental defences to ensure they can deter threats or defeat them when necessary. In achieving this, we will engage closely with Indigenous partners and northern communities, whose homes and lifestyle are directly impacted by Canada's security and sovereignty. In defending the region, we will continue to support the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework's principle of "nothing about us, without us".

Underpinned by additional funding of $8.1 billion over the next five years and $73 billion over the next 20 years, Our North, Strong and Free prioritizes the defence of Canada by investing in a ready, resilient and relevant Canadian Armed Forces.

The government is projecting our defence spending to GDP ratio to reach 1.76% in 2029-30. This is a significant increase in defence spending is a major step forward in our effort to reach 2% of GDP, as agreed by NATO members at the Vilnius Summit in 2023. Consistent with this commitment, Our North, Strong and Free also puts Canada on track to exceed NATO's target of 20% for major equipment expenditures as a proportion of defence funding, and lays the foundation for future growth in the Canadian Armed Forces, including through a more regular cycle of review.

To deliver on our vision for defence, job one is strengthening the foundations for future growth of our military in an increasingly challenging world.

This policy doubles down on our greatest asset—the members of our military—by boosting recruitment and retention and investing in them and in their families. We will rebuild the Canadian Armed Forces to its established size and lay the foundations required to respond to increased domestic and international demands.

We will also increase the readiness of our military by updating our Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force, Canadian Army and Special Operations Forces fleets. This includes investments in the accelerated maintenance and upgrades for all vehicles, ships and aircraft. It also involves recapitalizing and renewing aging military infrastructure across Canada to support training and operations and bolster our resilience to the effects of a changing climate.

We will make institutional investments in the Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence, building civilian capacity, advancing defence procurement reform, fostering innovation, and digitalization.

We will build a stronger defence industrial base to support a more resilient, modern and sustainable military, including through a significant increase in the production of NATO-standard artillery ammunition, investing in innovation and improving our defence procurement system.

We will also acquire new capabilities to defend against new threats to Canada.

To better protect our Arctic and northern regions from emerging and existing threats—such as advanced submarines, hypersonic and cruise missiles, surveillance activities— and to enhance our ability to respond to emergencies and disasters, we will establish greater presence, reach, mobility, and responsiveness across Canada, including our Arctic, through a network of northern operational support hubs, a fleet of airborne early warning aircraft, deployable sensors on our coasts and underwater, a satellite ground station in the High Arctic, enhanced foreign intelligence capabilities, and new tactical helicopters.

Canada is committed to defending North America against aerospace threats in partnership with the United States. To complement and build on investments already made under our NORAD modernization plan, we will further explore Canada’s integrated air and missile defence capabilities. This more robust approach to integrated air and missile defence will have significant benefits across all theatres in which Canada operates and strengthen our contribution to collective security.

We will also layer these defences with improved satellite capabilities, and enhancements to Canada's capacity in the cyber domain. We will establish a Canadian Armed Forces Cyber Command and, with the Communications Security Establishment, create a joint Canadian cyber operations capability.

When we are strong and secure at home, we can support our allies without fear of retaliation. In a world marked by great power competition, our investments will focus on our alliances and partnerships in the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions—two regions that are fundamental to safeguarding Canada's security and prosperity.

To better protect our members overseas and continue making meaningful Canadian contributions to international peace and security, particularly in support of NATO allies in Eastern Europe, we will modernize our forces and provide them with a greater ability to sustain themselves in conflict and strike at longer operational ranges than our adversaries.

We will broaden and deepen implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda within our own institutions and operations, and through bilateral partnerships and multilateral forums.

This is an ambitious program of work in a rapidly changing world. We will need to regularly adapt our approach and investments to the prevailing global context and Canada's national interests. Canada will move from the ad hoc generational investments of previous decades to a regular cycle of defence policy reviews. These reviews will be an integral component of new national security strategies, which will address Canada's broader approach to national security and be published on a four-year cycle. This new approach will ensure that our defence capabilities can grow and remain up to the task in a fluid and changing world, while also providing regular opportunities to engage Canadians and Canadian industry on investments in defence.

Our North, Strong and Free is an investment in Canada and Canadians. It is an investment in our security and sovereignty. It is an investment in the brave members of our military and in jobs across the country, in communities from coast to coast to coast, in the advanced technology innovation economy that will define our future, and in a more robust defence industrial base that will supply our troops and support tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs.

It is an investment in Canadian values and strengths, underpinning our Arctic and northern sovereignty, strengthening our diplomatic influence, leveraging our world-leading talent in cyber and space, advancing our shared goal of reconciliation with Indigenous partners, including through the Inuit Nunangat Policy, and advancing our ability to make uniquely Canadian contributions to global peace and security.

Finally, this is an investment in the alliances and partnerships that enable Canadian security and prosperity. Securing our Arctic will keep North America safe, allow us to support our allies abroad, and contribute to deterring global conflict. By bringing relevant, robust capabilities to NATO's northern and western flanks, Canada will make valuable contributions to our partnerships in Europe and the Indo-Pacific in defence of our shared security and prosperity.

Canadian Armed Forces members in a Light Armored Vehicle 6.0 of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia fire a 25mm cannon during Exercise IRON SPEAR 2023 II at Camp Ādaži, Latvia on 13 November 2023.

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