Canadian Defence Policy

A prominent feature of the public policy debate on national defence in Canada is also present in many other middle-power states: namely, the effort to find a reasonable balance in national defence policy between obligations to support the integrity of national territory and national sovereignty, and the obligations to contribute to international peace and security in more troubled parts of the world.

The current period of public discussion of defence policy, including discussions on military procurement, presents an opportunity to articulate an approach to national and international security concerns consistent with the values and approaches that seek to minimize the resort to force and violence in global affairs and to maximize attention to alternative means for the peaceful settlement of disputes and to building durable peace based on justice and equity.

The lack of a broad consensus on where Canadian policy should be headed creates strong opportunities to enter the debate with credible approaches and alternatives.

Human Security Framework

With its focus on protecting the state, Canada’s traditional security approach is becoming increasingly irrelevant and ineffective in a world in which most wars take place within, not between, states.

The most immediate threats to the security of vulnerable people in troubled societies derive from unmet economic and health needs, political exclusion, denied rights, social and political disintegration and the criminal and political violence that invariably attend such conditions.

The primary threats, in most cases, to the security of people are not, therefore, external military forces bent on attacking the territorial integrity or sovereignty of their state. Thus, the primary contribution to the security of these people is not likely to come from armed forces.

Instead, the most urgent requirement is to build the favourable social, political and economic conditions that mitigate these insecurities, including, but not limited to, military capacity.

Project Ploughshares supports a reworking of Canadian defence policy and capabilities to meet these 21st century challenges. Such a comprehensive approach would incorporate support and funding for the 5Ds:

  • Development: to reduce poverty and generate economic conditions conducive to sustainable human security;
  • Democracy: to promote good governance, political inclusiveness and respect for human rights;
  • Disarmament: to limit the availability of weapons, especially to non-state groups;
  • Diplomacy: to pursue the peaceful settlement of disputes;
  • Defence: to restore and maintain stability through military contributions to multilateral peace support operations.

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