Canada First Defence Strategy
Canadians live in a world characterized by volatility and unpredictability. Looking back, it is clear that the peace dividend that resulted from the end of the Cold War was relatively short-lived. The 1990s saw the emergence of difficult security challenges, including failed and failing states, civil wars and global terrorism. Many countries, including Canada, were slow to fully appreciate and adjust to these new realities. During this period, governments dramatically under-invested in the Canadian Forces, leaving them seriously unprepared to deal effectively with this increasingly complex global environment.
Today we live in an uncertain world, and the security challenges facing Canada are real. Globalization means that developments abroad can have a profound impact on the safety and interests of Canadians at home. Indeed, the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 and those carried out since, demonstrate how instability and state failure in distant lands can directly affect our own security and that of our allies.
Ethnic and border conflicts, fragile states, resurgent nationalism and global criminal networks continue to threaten international stability. In addition, unequal access to resources and uneven economic distribution are proving to be increasing sources of regional tension even as existing low-intensity or frozen conflicts in Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and the Balkans remain largely unresolved.
The proliferation of advanced weapons and the potential emergence of new, nuclear-capable adversarial states headed by unpredictable regimes are particularly worrisome, as is the pernicious influence of Islamist militants in key regions. The ongoing buildup of conventional forces in Asia Pacific countries is another trend that may have a significant impact on international stability in coming years.
Canada also faces challenges on the home front. Catastrophic events such as floods, forest fires, hurricanes and earthquakes can overwhelm local capabilities. Over the last decade, our military has been called upon to assist civil authorities in dealing with a number of natural disasters, including floods in Manitoba and Quebec, the ice storm in Eastern Canada, and forest fires in British Columbia. As Hurricane Katrina has shown in the United States, such disasters will continue to occur, often with devastating consequences, and the citizens affected will expect immediate responses.
Other challenges to domestic security include possible terrorist attacks, human and drug trafficking, foreign encroachments on Canada's natural resources, and potential outbreaks of infectious disease. Should the need arise, the Canadian Forces are ready to play an important role in supporting their emergency management partners across Canada.
In Canada's Arctic region, changing weather patterns are altering the environment, making it more accessible to sea traffic and economic activity. Retreating ice cover has opened the way for increased shipping, tourism and resource exploration, and new transportation routes are being considered, including through the Northwest Passage. While this promises substantial economic benefits for Canada, it has also brought new challenges from other shores. These changes in the Arctic could also spark an increase in illegal activity, with important implications for Canadian sovereignty and security and a potential requirement for additional military support.
The Government has committed to making sure that Canada has the tools it needs to deal with the full range of threats and challenges to Canada and Canadians. The Canada First Defence Strategy represents a major step in this direction by giving the Canadian Forces the capabilities they need to operate effectively in today's - and tomorrow's - uncertain environment.