Security study deserves more attention


Security study deserves more attention

Canada a country without a national security policy

By Alex Binkley
True North Perspective

To Stand On Guard is a useful examination of security in Canada. However, its expose of our lack of a national policy suffered the misfortune of being released by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute during the midst of the latest round of Wikileaks.

As a result, it got largely overlooked by the news media although the national security issue did get some play thanks to comments by Jim Judd, the former head of he Canadian Security Intelligence Agency, about the courts interfering with security operations.

It deserves more consideration. Author Paul Chapin, a former diplomat and security expert, wants us to wake up to the dangers “from unbridled extremism, uncontrolled immigration, and friction due to resource scarcity.”

The cold war is over but the “The world is still plagued by disputes between states, civil wars and insurrections, an underground market in arms including weapons of mass destruction, and rogue states. The really bad news is that there is a new world war under way, still mostly low-intensity, pitting radical Islamists against Muslim governments in the Middle East and Asia and against democratic societies everywhere.” The goal of the extremists is “to convince people to reject the democratic way of life.”

The Institute is preparing a series on Canada’s national security and Chapin sets out the scope of the challenge. The Institute bills itself as non partisan, independent public policy think tank the focuses on matters concerning the federal government.

Canada doesn’t have a security strategy, Chapin points out. For all its fascination with law and order issues, the Harper government hasn’t touched the issue. The Martin government made a tentative start with Securing an Open Society: Canada’s National Security Policy, sort of security wish list.

“The document is notable for being the first to articulate what it describes as the country’s three core national security interests: protecting Canada and the safety and security of Canadians at home and abroad, ensuring that Canada is not a base for threats to its allies, and contributing to international security,” he says. “But the document’s objective is a modest one: not a strategy, but a strategic framework and action plan. The difference is important.”

A national security strategy “needs to state what you want to protect; assess how developments abroad and at home might harm you; describe the kind of future you want to have; and explain what you intend to do in the various domains of public policy to secure your future — political, economic, social, cultural, technological, military, and international,” Chapin suggests.

“Canadians should be worried about the new and disordered world they inhabit, what the main elements of a Canadian national security strategy should be, and what priorities should drive Canada’s policy over the next 10 to 15 years,” he says. “At issue is whether today’s generation can avoid the worst of the dangers lurking at home and offshore and pass on to their children the peaceable kingdomof Canadian history books.”

Chapin advances a variety of recommendations for objectives of a security strategy, some of which do get discussed from time to time but never as a coherent package. A lot of them will be contentious but that’s no reason not to discuss them. He suggests the government should:

  • reduce Canadian vulnerabilities by protecting the community at large in conditions between war and peace with antiterrorist legislation for the long term; communities susceptible to intimidation or recruitment by militants; better calibrating the flow of new arrivals to Canada; exercising greater control over entry to the country; fixing our dysfunctional refugee determination system; convincing the courts to how greater deference toward the security and intelligence services; and protecting Canada’s complex and interconnected critical infrastructure;
  • create layered defences against threats to national security through enhancing Canada’s capacity to know what is happening on its land mass and in its coastal waters; working toward a common security perimeter with the United States; rationalizing the North American defence architecture; participating in ballistic missile defence; and establishing a Canadian foreign intelligence service;
  • take action against threats through diplomatic activity on international issues that jeopardize international peace and security; devoting a much higher portion of our development assistance budget to improving conditions in states on the frontline of the war on terrorism and in failed states that are incubating the security problems of the future; marshalling sufficient resources to frustrate terrorist activities and disrupt the clandestine arms market; and sustaining and enhancing the capacity of the Canadian Forces to deploy and maintain forces virtually anywhere in the world they might be needed;
  • address the factors that nourish security threats by working with Muslim communities to undermine support for radicals and with other democratic states to disrupt and defeat terrorist networks; and targeting development assistance to alleviate poverty in countries prone to nurturing terrorism; and
  • modernize the international security architecture through more effective maintenance of international peace and security; enhancing the role of NATO and regional organizations; and developing new rules of international law to govern the actions of states in the war against terror — in particular, on intervention and the treatment of terrorist prisoners.

The full report is available at