Modernizing Canada's Smaller Armed Forces for Bigger Challenges

By Baril, Maurice | Canadian Speeches, January-February 2000 | Go to article overview

Modernizing Canada's Smaller Armed Forces for Bigger Challenges


Baril, Maurice, Canadian Speeches


Today I would like to explain to you where the Canadian Forces are going -- now and into the next century -- and how we are planning for our future security needs.

The challenge faced by the Canadian Forces senior leadership is to think beyond the immediate needs of today and plan for the long-term. Too often we have focused on the fires on our doorstep, and ignored the smoke on the horizon.

This problem of "fire fighting" has been compounded by the fact that pinning down our security and defence needs has been more difficult over the last 10 years. During the Cold War, there was a certain amount of stability in planning for a conflict in central Europe. We could expect to face so many divisions, so many tanks, and so many jets. When the Cold War ended, so did the clarity of our task. We no longer had a clearly defined threat, and we were unsure of how the world would change.

The recent coverage surrounding the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall brought back -- for me at least -- memories of how, 10 years ago, we thought we were on the brink of a new world order. Dramatic advances in arms control, the spread of democracy, and new hopes for a revitalized UN spurred on these high hopes.

The initial euphoria, however, quickly revealed a more complex reality. Although the dark days of the Cold War and the ideological confrontation between East and West were over, the world continued to be both uncertain and turbulent. And even though Canada did not face the threat of a direct attack, there remained dangers to our national sovereignty and serious challenges to international peace and security.

Although predicting the future is sometimes a fool's paradise, we in the defence community cannot escape doing it. It is our professional responsibility to analyze and prepare for the security challenges of the future. Our analysis in the 1994 White Paper of the post-Cold War world suggested that conflict would remain a feature of the international system. In particular, we were struck by the increasing incidence of failed states where societies broke down with civil war and humanitarian tragedy the unfortunate by-products. There was no doubt that, on certain occasions, the international community -- including Canada -- would have to respond.

That was why the government determined that Canada must maintain multi-purpose, combat-capable forces. Without them, Canada could not respond to the kinds of crises that our analysis foreshadowed. These kinds of forces would be required to undertake three main roles: defending Canada, defending North America together with the United States; and contributing to international peace and security in co-operation with our allies.

Here at home, the Canadian Forces must be prepared to defend Canada as a sovereign nation. We must also be able to provide assistance to civil authorities, carry out surveillance of our vast territory, secure our borders against illegal activities, and provide disaster relief and search and rescue services.

At the same time, Canada is an active member of the global community. Our economic future depends on the global stability required to trade freely with other nations. As a major trading nation, we are therefore compelled by our interest to protect and promote international peace and security. As a democratic nation, we are committed to furthering respect for international law and human rights. And as an allied nation, we are dedicated to collective action to resist aggression and enhance regional stability and co-operation.

Canada's defence policy is, and remains, sound. The policy laid out in the White Paper of maintaining multi-purpose, combat-capable forces, able to operate across the spectrum of conflict in concert with our allies, remains as valid today as it was in 1994.

Recent experience has shown us that Canada requires combat-capable forces. Peace support missions in the last decade have become more unpredictable, more dangerous, more complex, and are more likely to involve combat. …

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Modernizing Canada's Smaller Armed Forces for Bigger Challenges
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