Defence Minister Anita Anand says the world is “growing darker.”
Speaking at a conference of defence experts organized by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute on Tuesday, Anand emphasized the more “chaotic” state of the world means Canada will need to take a more “bold and aggressive” look at its own continental defence.
“We do live in a world at the present time that appears to be growing darker,” she said in a keynote speech to the conference.
“In this new world, Canada’s geographic position no longer provides the same protection that it once did. And in this new world, the security environment facing Canada is less secure, less predictable and more chaotic.”
Uncertainty has become the word du jour over recent years marked by the global economic calamity of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing supply chain struggles, coupled with societal unrest.
Then there’s the ongoing crisis of climate change and natural disasters, as well as geostrategic threats they pose to countries like Canada. Melting Arctic sea ice makes inhospitable regions more easily navigable, including for actors like China and Russia, who seem to make a habit of disregarding international laws.
As well, Russia’s unprovoked and horrific invasion of Ukraine has amplified many of the existing global economic pressures on supply chains while posing what Canadian officials have repeatedly described as an existential threat to the rules-based international order established after the Second World War.
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“Threats are evolving quickly, from hypersonics to cyber attacks to the re-emergence of great power competition. In other words, the world we live in today differs from the threat assessments that underpinned Strong, Secure, Engaged in 2017,” said Anand in vowing to update Canada’s defence policy.
She pointed to the work underway to craft an Indo-Pacific strategy for Canada and explicitly referenced “growing Chinese activity in the region” as a factor.
Anand also doubled down on the government’s commitment to keep supplying Ukraine with weapons as it defends its territory amid the Russian invasion, but warned: “we need to be ready for a more dangerous potential phase of this war.“
What's next for continental defence?
Anand added the federal government is weighing whether Canada should join the U.S. in actively defending against intercontinental ballistic missiles.
She said the government is taking “a full and comprehensive look” at ballistic missile defence as part of a larger review of what is needed to better protect North America from attack.
Canada famously opted out of the U.S. ballistic missile defence program following an extremely heated national debate in 2005. Yet the question of whether Canada should reconsider has repeatedly reared its head amid concerns about North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and souring relations with Russia.
Anand also promised more details soon on how Canada and the U.S. will improve North America’s overall defences, which military officials have warned are badly outdated.
“We will have a lot more to say on this in the months to come. But I want to assure you and everyone here that we are leaving no stone unturned in this major review of continental defence,” she said.
“We are taking a very bold and aggressive look at what we need to do for the defence of the North American continent.”
– with files from The Canadian Press