Canada needs to beef up its mis­sile de­fence — now

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL - Sen. David Wells New­found­land and Labrador

As the show­down be­tween United States and North Korea con­tin­ues over the Her­mit King­dom’s nu­clear pro­gram and es­ca­lat­ing mis­sile tests, the need for Canada to re­visit its bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fence couldn’t be more ap­par­ent. Or more ur­gent.

One for­mer Cana­dian na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Richard Fad­den, re­cently told a Cana­dian Global Af­fairs In­sti­tute con­fer­ence that it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore the North Kore­ans would de­velop the ca­pac­ity to hit North Amer­ica. That time is here.

The pri­mary tar­get of any such at­tack would likely be the United States. But ei­ther as a re­sult of Canada’s com­mit­ments to the United States un­der NATO’S Ar­ti­cle 5 — which states that an at­tack on one is an at­tack on all — or the prox­im­ity of its ma­jor cities to our shared bor­der, this coun­try would get dragged into such an event. De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan ac­knowl­edges that the threat to Canada from bal­lis­tic mis­siles is real.

This gap in our na­tional de­fence dates back to 2005, when then prime min­is­ter Paul Martin opted out of a pro­posed bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fence pro­gram shared with the United States. He cited the im­pact of the sys­tem on the global se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment, con­cerns about its ef­fec­tive­ness and its cost in the con­text of other needs. The last six months have, quite sim­ply, changed the game.

Canada’s most se­nior of­fi­cer at the North Amer­i­can Aero­space De­fence Com­mand (NORAD), Lt.gen. Pierre St-amand, re­cently put it bluntly to the House of Com­mons na­tional de­fence com­mit­tee — that, un­der the cur­rent con­di­tions, “the United States is un­der no obli­ga­tion to de­fend Canada in the event of a bal­lis­tic mis­sile at­tack.”

Given all of this, it is now time to take an­other look at join­ing the Amer­i­can bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fence sys­tem. Canada sim­ply can­not af­ford the risk of re­main­ing iso­lated and un­pro­tected in the event of a mis­sile at­tack.

Dis­cus­sions should be­gin im­me­di­ately. But it should be noted that Canada wouldn’t sim­ply be opt­ing into an Amer­i­can sys­tem — there’s much that this coun­try can of­fer to en­hance both coun­tries’ col­lec­tive se­cu­rity.

Min­is­ter Sa­j­jan should look at the Cana­dian Forces Base Goose Bay in Labrador as a piv­otal link in any new mis­sile de­fence pact with the United

States. The pri­mary mis­sion of its air force base, known as 5 Wing Goose Bay, is all ready to sup­port NORAD op­er­a­tions for the pro­jec­tion of air power on the north and north­east coasts of Canada and to sup­port mil­i­tary train­ing for the Cana­dian Armed Forces, its al­lies and NORAD.

Even though the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment has not ac­tively con­sid­ered join­ing the Amer­i­can pro­gram since can hear each other, even if it means yelling. They’ll talk about how sad it is young peo­ple can’t buy houses, about the fail­ure of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, about their pets and their hob­bies. The same sce­nario plays out reg­u­larly on latenight flights, evening into the early morn­ing hours; there’s al­ways some­one whose en­ter­tain­ment is more im­por­tant than any­one else’s.

But it’s not only the yakkers — who, be­lieve me, in­vari­ably have a tone of voice that cuts glass and ren­ders head­phones ob­so­lete. Heck, they have a back­ground speak­ing role on 2005, the U.S. mil­i­tary and its con­trac­tors have con­tin­ued to look at the base in the con­text of their mis­sile de­fence pro­gram. It would ap­pear to be the per­fect lo­ca­tion for radar and in­ter­cep­tor in­stal­la­tion.

In the years since 2005, there have been lower-level dis­cus­sions, in­clud­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of in­stalling a high-tech radar sys­tem at Goose Bay as an of­fer­ing to the U.S. for Cana­dian par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Pen­tagon’s mis­sile shield. From the Amer­i­cans’ per­spec­tive, this radar could have the ad­van­tage over other sen­sors as it would be able to give sev­eral min­utes’ ad­vance warn­ing of a mis­sile at­tack on North Amer­ica’s east­ern seaboard. The Amer­i­cans would pro­vide the radar sys­tem and Canada would of­fer the sup­port and prime ter­ri­tory re­quired.

That’s just one ex­am­ple of how Canada could put its mil­i­tary as­sets to use, up­ping this coun­try’s role in pro­tect­ing North Amer­i­can in­ter­ests in tur­bu­lent times. It seems like a small pre­mium for Canada to pay in or­der to be cov­ered by the pro­tec­tion of the Amer­i­can mis­sile de­fence pro­gram. Es­pe­cially now.

Cana­di­ans de­serve the best de­fence avail­able. To get it, we’ll have to pull our weight in shar­ing this re­spon­si­bil­ity — a pro­tec­tion that all NATO part­ners share ex­cept Canada.

“On ev­ery sin­gle plane that flies, you will be within three rows of two wide-awake peo­ple who know each other — or, worse, don’t know each other.”

ev­ery sin­gle film on the in­flight en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem, no mat­ter how high the vol­ume.

How about this sce­nario? It’s un­ex­pect­edly snow­ing, the air­line an­nounces it wants to load the air­craft quickly to get to de-ic­ing and stay on sched­ule, but the aisle is blocked by a man in his late 50s or 60s who ab­so­lutely must stand and fold his coat prop­erly — even though it’s go­ing into the cram-fest known as the over­head bin, and will come out a rum­pled mess any­way. He must choose his elec­tron­ics be­fore sit­ting down. Must care­fully place and re­place his sec­ond bag in the over­head (no cramped feet for him).

The best part is that the act­ing troupe “Men of a Cer­tain Age” are guar­an­teed to be per­form­ing on one out of ev­ery two air­craft that you fly on. Their time is crit­i­cally im­por­tant, and they want you to know it, even if it means miss­ing a con­nec­tion. Yours is not. (Oh, and if they don’t reprise “You can stand and wait un­til I’m done,” when you’re try­ing to get off the plane, you can be sure that they will per­form the long, but aptly ti­tled, “What do you mean I can’t use these wire­less head­phones/ elec­tronic equip­ment? It’s my equip­ment, I want to use it, and you’re just stupid pro­fes­sion­ally trained air crew.”)

Now, I know these are small things, pass­ing events in the march of days that will even­tu­ally end. But like so many things, they mark they fact that we can have a clear ig­no­rance that we share the world with oth­ers, and owe them the same cour­tesy we’d ex­pect. Just look around once in a while.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the 1 a.m. out­side-the-el­e­va­tor loud ho­tel dis­cus­sion; the hot­ness of your girl­friend mat­ters lit­tle to me. Sorry.

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