Message from the Minister of National Defence

The Honourable William Sterling Blair, PC, COM, MP

One of the most important roles of any government is to protect its country and its people. In a rapidly changing world, we are committed to fulfilling this essential responsibility.

This is why our government has made significant investments in Defence, more than doubling the budget of the Department of National Defence between 2016-2017 and 2026-2027. But our world has evolved significantly in the past few years, and we need to do more to respond.

Here at home, Canadians are depending more and more on the Canadian Armed Forces—our Regular and Reserve Forces and our Canadian Rangers. Extreme weather events are causing provinces and territories to call on our military much more often.

In our North, we need to confront the reality of climate change. Our Arctic is warming at four times the global average, opening the region to the world, which was previously protected by the Polar Ice Cap year-round. By 2050, the Arctic Ocean could become the most efficient shipping route between Europe and East Asia. We are seeing greater Russian activity in our air approaches, and a growing number of Chinese vessels and surveillance platforms are mapping and collecting data about the region. Meanwhile, states are rapidly building up their military capabilities in ways that impact our security in the Arctic—including submarines, long-range aircraft and hypersonic missiles that move faster and are harder to detect. As the Arctic becomes more accessible to foreign actors, we need to ensure our military has the tools to assert our sovereignty and protect Canada's interests.

At the same time, Canada's interests do not stop at our border. Russia's illegal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine is an attack on the system of international rules and institutions that enable the security and prosperity of Canada and Canadians; we must remain steadfast in our support for Ukraine. Furthermore, as an increasingly assertive China challenges the international order in the Indo-Pacific, Canada must maintain a reliable, persistent military presence to uphold the global rules that underpin our prosperity and sovereignty.

Today we are confronted with a complex, generational challenge. The world is at an inflection point. Democracy, free trade, and the rules and values that underpin them are increasingly being contested by authoritarian states. In parallel, the character of conflict is changing as technology evolves rapidly. Ultimately, our closest values of democracy, freedom, peace, and fairness—which Canadians have fought and died to defend—are being challenged.

Our government is committed to preserving these values for the next generation of Canadians, so that they can enjoy the same security and prosperity that was given to us by our parents.

When the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended, many democracies—including Canada—scaled back defence investments and shrunk their militaries.

By 2013, defence spending had fallen to 1% of our gross domestic product.

Today, a more challenging and uncertain geopolitical context demands greater investment to protect Canada, work with allies and defend the rules and principles that govern a peaceful and prosperous international order. Since 2015, the government has steadily and significantly increased funding for the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence. In 2017 we released Strong, Secure, Engaged, Canada's defence policy, to ensure long-term, predictable, stable funding to National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Six years on, Canada's defence spending remains on an upward trajectory, consistent with our commitment to meet the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) Defence Investment Pledge. We are acquiring new fighter jets and maritime patrol aircraft, and new built-in-Canada Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels have been delivered to Canadian sailors. In 2022 we invested $38.6 billion to modernize our contribution to the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD).

Although we have made important strides to build up our Canadian Armed Forces, there is more work to do.

Our North, Strong and Free outlines our plan to do more: to build a Canadian Armed Forces that can keep us strong at home, secure in North America, and engaged in the world.

We will strengthen the foundations of the Canadian Armed Forces to enable future growth, by taking fresh, new approaches. To reverse an unsustainable trend of attrition, we will implement modern recruitment measures that can help us fill the gap between our authorized force size and our actual force size, and we will build a more supportive and inclusive culture to improve retention. To accelerate a process that takes too long to deliver the capabilities we need, we will adapt our defence procurement system to a faster, more competitive age, including through a renewed relationship with Canada's defence industry and a focus on innovation with trusted partners. We will invest in the modern military capabilities needed to deliver security to Canadians at home and protect Canadians interests around the world.

Through this policy, Canada will invest $8.1 billion over the next five years and $73 billion over the next 20 years in our national defence.

This significant increase in defence spending reflects Canada's commitment to reach defence expenditures of 2% of gross domestic product and invest 20% of our defence expenditures on equipment, as agreed by NATO members at the Vilnius Summit in 2023. The government is projecting our defence spending to GDP ratio to reach 1.76% in 2029-30 and initiatives under this policy also put Canada on track to exceed NATO's target of 20% for major equipment expenditures as a proportion of defence funding. Consistent with our commitment, this policy also lays the foundations for future growth in the Canadian Armed Forces, including through a more regular and rapid cycle of further review and investment.

Our North, Strong and Free supports our broader interests and values, as well as our engagement with allies and international partners. This policy will contribute to Arctic security, strengthen our role within NATO and advance our Indo-Pacific Strategy. It advances the goals of our Arctic and Northern Policy Framework. It will help Canada continue to support nations in crisis. Supporting our broader engagement in the world, it will contribute to United Nations initiatives in support of international peace and stability, including UN Security Council Resolution 1325, Defence commitments articulated in Foundations for Peace: Canada's National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers, and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. We will also build new partnerships with Indigenous peoples in the North, working together to advance our national defence together and prioritize reconciliation.

Our North, Strong and Free also supports Canada's industrial policy, and Canadian industry will find in this policy greater clarity and certainty to support our defence mission in Canada.

Of course, none of this work is possible without our people. Through this policy and ongoing measures, we are committed to investing in them—and ensuring they have the tools to do their jobs in a healthy, safe, and supportive environment.

To everyone at the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces: thank you for your dedication to protecting Canada. With this plan and the outstanding work already underway in our institution, I am more confident than ever in the future of our organization and its ability to carry out its vital mission.

The Honourable William Sterling Blair, PC, COM, MP
Minister of National Defence

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