Look out for Canada's Interest in Military Co-Operation with U.S. (Security and Sovereignty)
Byers, Michael, Canadian Speeches
Military co-operation with the United States poses risks for Canadian sovereignty. We should invest in our defence and co-operate with the Americans, but on our terms, that favour our interests, and think carefully about what we're doing. From evidence presented at Vancouver, May 6.
We don't really know what the plans are for closer military co-operation between Canada and the United States... my task here is to examine the things that would need to be negotiated and the safeguards that would need to be provided so as to ensure that the most important military relationship in the world continues to function properly to the interest of both countries...
That said, what sorts of issues arise? The most obvious issue that arises is a question of Canadian sovereignty and what kinds of implications a closer military relationship between the two countries would have for Canadian sovereignty.
It so happens that the distinguished U.S. ambassador, Paul Cellucci, has taken a position on this issue, and I quote him here:
"If Canada joins the US in a continental approach to security, Canadian sovereignty will not be infringed even one iota."
With all respect, the ambassador is wrong. There's nothing wrong with delegating sovereignty -- countries do it all the time -- but this kind of an arrangement would have a substantial impact on sovereignty. Part of the reason for that is the technical definition of something called "operational control", and Ambassador Cellucci and others have said this isn't about command, this is about operational control. Operational control has nothing to do with sovereignty.
If you look at the definition of operational control in the NORAD agreement, 1958, and approximately every five years since, you find the following:
"'Operational Control' is the power to direct, co-ordinate, and control the operational activities of forces assigned, attached or otherwise made available... Temporary reinforcement from one area to another, including the crossing of the international border... will be within the authority of commanders having operational control."
That's a pretty extensive definition of what commanders of a joint force and integrated command could do with Canadian soldiers. I think most Canadians would think it amounted to a kind of command.
The second point on the issue of sovereignty is that theoretically, technically, and legally, countries have the option of withdrawing from international institutions. The United Kingdom, for instance, could withdraw from the European Union if it chose to do so. But everyone realizes that international institutions are sticky and that there's a serious political or economic price for withdrawal. Only the most powerful country in the world, the United States, can afford to withdraw from international agreements at will, as happened today with the International Criminal Court statute.
Canada is not a superpower. Even though it will have the legal capacity to withdraw from closer military co-operation, once it goes in, it would be very hard to get out. So what matters here is not legal sovereignty but practical sovereignty, the freedom to make decisions at the international level. Therefore, the kind of proposal that seems to be at play in Ottawa and Washington would have an impact on Canadian sovereignty as I think Canadians would understand sovereignty to be.
The second issue I look at in the report [report prepared by Professor Byers for the Liu Centre for the Study of Global Issues] is jurisdiction in the Arctic, which is also a sovereignty issue. If you applied the NORAD definition and extended it to naval forces, a U.S. officer having operational control over an integrated command could send a U.S. naval vessel into the Canadian Arctic without the specific permission of the Canadian government. That's a simple extension of the NORAD arrangement to naval forces. …