Keynote address by Minister of National Defence Anita Anand to the Halifax International Security Forum


Halifax, Nova Scotia

November 19, 2021 


Distinguished delegates

Acting Chief of the Defence Staff, General Wayne Eyre; Deputy Minister of National Defence, Jody Thomas. 

Honoured guests; 

U.S. Congressional Delegation; 

Friends from near and far, welcome to Nova Scotia, welcome to my home, welcome to Canada, and welcome to the 13th Halifax International Security Forum.  

It is wonderful to have you here with us. 


I would like to acknowledge that we have come together today on the traditional ancestral territory of the Mi’kmaq people. 

Before we begin, I want to provide you with a brief update on the situation in the interior of British Columbia.  

This is a very difficult time for our friends and neighbours out in the west. Dramatic mudslides and floods have cut off roadways, railways, and supply chains. These conditions pose a grave danger to the safety of communities and critical infrastructure. 

They have led to a declaration of a state of emergency in the province of British Columbia. 

And in such crises, we know that Canadians will always come together to support one another. 

Two days ago, on November 17, a Canadian Armed Forces reconnaissance team arrived in British Columbia to assess the situation.  

And right now, Royal Canadian Air Force helicopters are conducting damage assessment, and last night, soldiers from the Immediate Response Unit based in Edmonton arrived in Abbotsford, British Columbia.  

And I want to assure you and Canadians at large, especially those in British Columbia, that we have thousands more personnel on stand-by ready to support the province. Our Armed Forces, and the entire federal government, will continue to do whatever it takes to step up in this time of need. 

As a daughter of Nova Scotia, I want to say how happy I am to be back home. As Peter mentioned, I was born in Kentville (down in the Valley) shortly after my family immigrated here in 1965. After going to school and growing up here, I returned to study law at Dalhousie University. Some of my closest friends still live here, and I come back as much as I can to visit our family’s cottage in Chester. I have extremely fond memories of this province – you probably can tell that from my smile. It is my birthplace and it is my home. 

I would like to begin by thanking Peter van Praagh and everyone at HISF for their extraordinary work in organizing this year’s forum.  

And as Peter mentioned, we live in a time of relentless change. Indeed, that video was a stark reminder of what we’ve all experienced over the last two years. Stability, clearly, has become difficult to maintain.  

And our challenge is to understand this constantly evolving environment. And we need to anticipate, we need to adapt, and we need to act in the face of current and emerging threats.    

And the same time, we need to pose the question, and seek responses to this question: 

“How can we be a force of stability in such an unpredictable world?”    

I will examine three key issues confronting our country in responding to this question 

First, cultural change in the Canadian Armed Forces; second, equipping our military; and, third, peace and stability at home and abroad. 

1. Culture Change

First, cultural change in the Canadian Armed Forces. Canada has always striven to be a force of stability around the globe. This is clear from the mere existence of this symposium, but beyond that, your lives have been dedicated to peace and stability and multilateral relationships. Our armed forces have consistently played a key role in this mission. 

But in order for Canada to be that force, our own house, and our institutions themselves must be in order. 

At this time, one of the key threats that we face is from within. 

There is a crisis of culture, and of confidence, in our Canadian Armed Forces. And it is a crisis of misconduct that has resulted in broken trust.  

I want to be clear that this is not just a women’s issue or a survivors’ issue – it is an issue for all of us. Those who are harmed are not women alone. This crisis is hurting morale and recruitment in the Canadian Armed Forces. And I believe that for our military to be effective, our troops must feel safe, they must feel protected, and they must feel respected wherever they are, whatever they are doing. 

Thus, my top priority as Minister of National Defence is to build and oversee cultural change in the Canadian Armed Forces in a positive and enduring way. 

Why? Because we have an obligation to protect those who protect our country so that they feel supported, respected and safe. For too long, too many members of our military have suffered harm at the hands of our own institution.

They have been let down by people that they should have been able to trust. They have experienced misogyny, racism, and discrimination among other harmful acts.

Canadians should be eager and proud to wear the uniform, and the public should, in turn, be able to have trust and confidence in their military. 

Rebuilding that trust is crucial. And along this journey of transformation, I know that there are so many members of the CAF who are eager for this cultural change to occur. They want to “be the change.” I take my hat off to you. 

We have a long road ahead of us to ensure justice and accountability for everyone who has been harmed, and to make sure every member of our workforce feels safe, protected, and respected.   

I am ready, and I have already begun this work.  

In one of my first acts as Minister of National Defence, I accepted, in full, an external recommendation to move the investigation and prosecution of military sexual misconduct cases out of the military, and into the civilian justice system.    

Moving these cases to the civilian authorities is an essential step forward in building trust and confidence for survivors of sexual misconduct. 

This move demonstrates that we are serious, I am serious, and committed to transparent institutions free from conflicts of interest. 

This is a first step, and there is no quick fix that will make these problems go away overnight. 

In addressing this systemic problem, I am consulting directly with survivors’ groups, external experts, individual survivors, National Defence employees, and Canadian Armed Forces members about changing the culture of this institution. 

Though our military faces serious challenges, our Canadian Armed Forces without doubt form a crucial element of our nation’s fabric.  

The past year is reminder enough alone. Let us turn now to examine some of these contributions and the importance of equipping our military.

2. Equipping our Military

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Armed Forces have done whatever it takes to help the people of this country. 

In the early days of the pandemic, we all remember them so well, and Peter’s remarks are a testament to the suffering that Canadians and citizens of this world experienced – but it was our military brought Canadians home from regions overseas suffering from COVID-19 outbreaks. 

Under Operation LASER, the Canadian Armed Forces helped to protect vulnerable Canadians in fifty-four long term care homes in Quebec and Ontario. And I want to pause to just think about that service. 

People were dying in those long term care homes. That was where the most number of deaths were occurring. 

And where were our Armed Forces, but in that very place of devastation – helping the elderly of our country. 

Through Operation VECTOR, our Armed Forces helped distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines across the country.  And as Peter mentioned, this time was especially meaningful to me because I was serving at that moment as the Minister of Public Services and Procurement.  

And my every day was spent working to ensure that the vaccine contracts that we executed in August 2020 ensured that deliveries were made to our country, to our shores.  

And we procured millions of doses for Canadians. How did we do that? How did we end up leading the world in vaccine procurement and administration? A large part of gaining traction with our suppliers was to ensure them that deliveries that came to Canada would in fact be distributed to the provinces and there administered. 

And we needed to show that we as a country are ready. The Canadian Armed Forces were key in this project. They are the personification of readiness. 

For example, in total, the CAF assisted over one hundred Indigenous communities with COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including by rolling out vaccines to forty remote and northern communities. 

And it was Moderna in particular that we had to assure that we wanted to use that vaccine in our northern communities, and we had the ability to do that with our Canadian Armed Forces. 

And as part of Operation GLOBE, our military delivered humanitarian supplies, including personal protective equipment, to our friends and neighbours in the Caribbean and Central America.  

At a time when our military is being called to serve under new and challenging conditions, I am committed to ensuring that they have the equipment, training, and support they need.

Our commitment to our military is best encapsulated by our government’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged

Unlike defence policies released by previous governments, our 

Liberal government’s defence policy is fully-costed, fully-funded. Which means that our military can count on sustained and reliable investments that meet the demands of evolving security challenges.

Rather than cutting back on defence spending, our government has pledged to grow our defence investment by more than 70 per cent, between 2016 and 2027. We will not waver in this commitment. Our national interest demands no less. 

Despite the global pandemic, we are still on track to increase our defence spending from 18.9 billion dollars in 2016-17 to 32.7 dollars billion in 2026-27.  

And despite supply chain issues and other industry challenges, over 90 per cent of our major capital equipment projects are on schedule and on budget.  

We live in times that require Canada to step up, and we are doing just that. 

Just a few kilometres away from where we are standing is a shipyard that has already built three new Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships. Two more are in production, and one – the Canadian-built HMCS Harry DeWolf – is circumnavigating North America as I speak.   

Our government’s commitment in our Armed Forces is ironclad, and we will continue to invest in this institution in close cooperation with our Allies.  

Turning to our allies, Canada has no more important ally than the United States. And I thank the U.S. Congressional Delegation for their attendance here, their continued support of this important conference. 

And let me say that Canada has no more important ally than the United States. Alongside our American partners, our government is making the investments necessary to modernize NORAD – a system that has kept Canadians and Americans safe for over sixty years. 

Our government’s most recent budget lays the groundwork for NORAD modernization by making new investments in situational awareness, modernized command and control systems, research and development, and modern defence capabilities to deter, to defeat aerospace threats to this continent. 

And this discussion of NORAD leads to my third and final theme this afternoon – peace and stability at home and abroad. Let us begin by examining the work Canada is doing with our allies to protect peace, stability, and freedom beyond our own neck of the woods. For the last seventy years, the rules-based international order has underpinned the stability of our world.  

3. Peace Abroad

From this world order has flowed unprecedented prosperity, security, and despite Peter’s words about the last two years,

optimism.   Optimism.  

Optimism based on multilateral partnerships and alliances. 

And it is today’s accomplishment that the rules-based international order is one that we must ensure remains for the years to come. 

But at the same time, we need to acknowledge that this order is under strain. It is under strain from countries that think that “might makes right,” and from authoritarian states that are exhibiting reckless behaviour. 

In the face of these challenges, it is more important than ever to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Allies and partners and to ensure that multilateralism remains strong.

Canada’s position is clear. Rather than giving up on a system that has kept us, and the world, safe and prosperous, we reaffirm our commitment to it. 

For Canada, this means increased cooperation with our Five Eyes partners, NATO allies, and the United Nations missions supporting peace and stability. 

We favour cooperation in the face of escalation.

Around the globe, on the uniforms of soldiers, aviators, and sailors, our Canadian maple leaf represents this undying commitment. 

In the Indo-Pacific, Canadian military ships, aircraft, and sailors maintain a solid presence. Under Operation NEON, we are working alongside our partners to enforce UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea.   

And through Operation PROJECTION, Canadian warships work in lockstep with our partners to maintain a meaningful, and interoperable, Allied presence in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world, as we saw with the sail-through in the Taiwanese strait. 

In Central and Eastern Europe, our Forces are hard at work supporting allied assurance and deterrence measures.  

Currently, Canada leads one of NATO’s four multinational enhanced Forward Presence Battle Groups to deter Russian aggression in the Baltics and Poland.  

Canada also commands the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 with HMCS Fredericton as the flagship, and it is participating in a NATO enhanced Air Policing mission in Romania.  And importantly, ever so importantly, in Ukraine, Canada has been present since 2015 under Operation UNIFIER – training thousands of members of Ukraine’s security forces to help the country remain sovereign, secure, and stable. 

Through Operation IMPACT, our Forces continue training and building conditions for stability in the Middle East. 

And right now, Canadian Armed Forces and civilian police officers are working with the United Nations in South Sudan, the 

Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Cyprus, Haiti, and the Middle East.  

Through the Elsie Initiative, we are helping to increase women's participation and leadership in peace operations.

And through the Vancouver Principles, we have brought together more than 100 countries to take action to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers.  

Now let’s move closer to home, where Canada and the United States continue to expand our cooperation on continental defence and in the Arctic.    

We are working together, for example, to enhance Arctic security through multinational activities like Operation NANOOK and Exercise ARCTIC EDGE.   

To ensure that our North remains strong and secure, we deeply value the expertise of those who know the region better than anyone else – those who call it home.  

Indigenous peoples, territories, and provinces have played a central role in developing Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy Framework – our vision for the future of a region that is so crucial, so important to our planet. 

And while conventional security challenges are a very serious concern, some of which I have described today, we are facing a security challenge that will define our generation – in climate change. 

More and more, our military is being called upon to support communities during natural disasters like floods, like fires, like ice storms.  

And since January 2020, our Armed Forces have responded to twelve provincial requests for assistance during natural emergencies across this country – including one this week in British Columbia, that is set to last for at least 30 days, and if needed, longer. 

It is clear that the effects of climate change demand both a crisis response and long-term strategy.  

And to overcome the challenges posed by climate change, we must invest in the equipment and infrastructure of the future so that our armed forces can continue to carry out their missions successfully. That's important, no doubt.

All of us must move climate security to the top of our priority lists.

This is why at the NATO Summit this summer, Prime Minister Trudeau announced Canada’s intent to host a NATO Centre of Excellence on climate and security.

Our way of life – not just in Canada, but around the world – depends on preserving the only home we collectively occupy. 

As with environmental challenges, threats in cyberspace cannot be resolved by one country alone. 

Around the world, countries are feeling the impacts of malicious cyber activities. Cyber security is a priority for Canada and is a priority for me personally. Our defence policy, StrongSecureEngaged recognizes that defending cyberspace is essential to protecting our people and protecting our interests. 

Cyberspace is an increasingly complex and contested threat in our global environment. Disinformation campaigns, intellectual property theft, and malicious actions against critical infrastructure, often occur just below the threshold of conflict — blurring the line between military and civilian activities. 

Against this complicated backdrop, we need collective, coordinated responses to help maintain cyberspace as an open, reliable, and secure environment.

This is why Canada has a clear and transparent legal framework that allows our Communications Security Establishment, which is our national cryptologic agency, to disrupt foreign threats to Canada in cyberspace.  

We know that cyber security is best achieved by working in lockstep with our allies. And this is why this past June, Prime Minister Trudeau highlighted Canada’s ongoing commitment of sovereign cyber effects to NATO, on a voluntary basis – aiding the resilience of our alliance in the face of cyber threats from our adversaries.   

Beyond operating in cyberspace, Canada and our Allies and broader partners must not be afraid to clearly define and defend the rules of responsible behaviour in cyberspace.    

In July, we joined NATO and Five Eyes allies in calling out the People’s Republic of China and its state-backed actors for compromising an estimated 400,000 Exchange servers – and we will continue to work alongside our allies to protect our citizens and institutions from these unacceptable acts. 

In short, cyber security is fundamental to our national security. 

Delegates, friends and colleagues, 

The world is facing complex and pressing security challenges, and Canada is no different.  

My agenda, as Canada’s new Minister of National Defence, is clear. 

One: My work begins with leading a transformative and lasting change in Canada’s military culture, to ensure that the institution can continue to carry out its mission. 

Two: My work means ensuring that our military is equipped for the challenges that it faces every day in executing StrongSecureEngaged, is top of mind. 

Three: My work means that we continue to tackle threats here at home and abroad, including cybersecurity, climate change, and acts of aggression from nations that seek to challenge the rules-based international order. 

My friends, Canada’s path forward is clear. We will continue to be a reliable partner to our friends, to our allies, working in support of our highest values – democracy, freedom, and human rights with the goal of bringing to life our shared vision of a better future. 

In a world that feels increasingly unpredictable and 

overwhelming, conferences like the Halifax International Security Forum have never been more valuable.  

Your work, our work, our conversations together, this weekend, have never been more valuable.  

Important conversations await us.   

They allow us to think critically and clearly, and to build stability in a world of flux.    

I look forward to working with you today and in the days and months ahead along the path to a more stable, and a more secure, and a more just world.

This is our collective responsibility and this is my commitment. 

Thank you so much. 

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