March 2020 - Strategic overview

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  • Security and prosperity have historically represented two key strategic interests for the Government of Canada. These strategic interests depend on global stability, a rules-based international order, and a credible collective defence.
  • By conducting domestic and international operations and activities, the Canadian Armed Forces enable the Government of Canada to promote and protect these interests, ensuring Canada remains secure, continues to prosper, and exerts a positive influence on the international stage.

Strategic overview

  • Increasingly, instability abroad can directly undermine the security and prosperity of Canada and its citizens. Thus, defending Canada and Canadian interests not only demands robust domestic defence, but also requires active engagement abroad.
  • As an instrument of national power, the military is an important and unique capability that the Government of Canada can use to protect national interests, promote Canadian values, and demonstrate leadership in the world.
  • As such, domestic operations enable the Government of Canada to protect and support its citizens, while international military operations can be employed as tools of foreign policy to promote and secure Canada’s strategic priorities globally and within international organizations.

Operations and activities

  • Canada’s defence policy, Strong Secure Engaged, outlines a vision for defence in which Canada is strong at home, secure in North America, and engaged in the world.
  • To meet these objectives, the Canadian Armed Forces conduct operations and activities from disaster response to building the capacity of partner nations to traditional defence tasks.
  • To employ Canada’s military abroad by launching a new operation or renewing, modifying or terminating an existing operation, the Government of Canada exercises Crown prerogative (the powers and privileges accorded by common law to the Crown).
  • As it relates to decisions to deploy the Canadian Armed Forces, the Crown prerogative may be exercised by Cabinet, the Prime Minister, the Ministers of National Defence and Foreign Affairs jointly, or by the Minister of National Defence alone. The sensitivity, complexity, and risk to Canadian Armed Forces members are factors in determining whether the decision requires Cabinet, Prime Ministerial or Ministerial authorization. This approach also ensures the broad interests of Canada are advanced through military deployments.
  • Operations and Activities – Domestic and continental. Defending Canada is the Canadian Armed Forces’ top priority. Above all else, the Canadian Armed Forces must ensure the defence and security of Canada. This begins with the defence of Canada’s sovereignty, including through surveillance and control of Canadian territory and approaches.
  • Domestically, the Canadian Armed Forces also assist civilian authorities in natural disaster response, search and rescue, and other emergencies. This enables the Government of Canada to fulfill its primary obligation to protect and support its citizens.
  • In North America, Canada will continue to defend North America in partnership with the United States through the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is a binational military command responsible for aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning.
  • Through the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Canadian Armed Forces conduct continental operations to defend against shared continental threats and address common challenges.
  • Operations and Activities – International. The Canadian Armed Forces conduct operations across the globe to combat threats to global stability thereby reinforcing security and prosperity at home.  
  • Such operations reinforce Canada’s role as a reliable partner and prominent global player, as well as influence organizations and fora empowered to make decisions or influence international peace and security. In this sense, active military engagement abroad allows the Government of Canada to pursue its foreign policy priorities and promote its strategic interests.
  • Canada’s participation in international operations and activities manifests Canada’s desire to be a value-added ally and partner both within multilateral and bilateral fora. Multilaterally, by engaging in these activities, Canada contributes to fulfilling strategic goals as a member of the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Five Eyes, and the North American Aerospace Defense Command. Bilaterally, this enables Canada to further strengthen and advance its relationships with key like-minded allies, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.
  • International operations and activities allow Canada to not only engage in, and contribute to global peace and stability, but also to set direction and exert influence in the global peace and security domain. For example, as a result of Canada’s robust military contributions to the Global Coalition against Da’esh, Canada is one of [REDACTED] countries that set the strategic direction for the Coalition’s activities. Additionally, the Canadian Armed Forces’ enduring presence in Latvia and Ukraine, frequent air policing operations in Romania, as well as naval operations in the NATO region underscore our commitment to European security.[REDACTED]
  • In addition to operations abroad, the Canadian Armed Forces build and maintain relationships with allies, partners, other militaries and multilateral institutions through active defence diplomacy. These cooperative relationships enhance knowledge, understanding and interoperability, allow for the exchange of best practices, and contribute to success on operations.
  • Through Canadian Armed Forces operations and activities, both domestic and international, Canada supports and protects its citizens, increases its ability to exert influence, acts as a global player, advocates for its priorities and promotes its strategic interests internationally, ensures the rule of law, as well as helps uphold the rules-based international order.

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