June 20, 2022
Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand unveiled major details of a new $4.9-billion plan to upgrade Canada’s NORAD continental defence systems amid what she described as “new threats” from autocratic regimes and new weapons being developed by other countries.
The $4.9 billion will be spent over the coming six years but the funding is part of a longer-term plan that will see the government spend $40 billion over the next 20 years to beef up continental defence.
“More than six decades ago, against the backdrop of the Cold War and the threat of a Soviet-era air attack, Canada and the United States established the world’s only binational military command,” Anand said, describing a “pressing need” to respond to threats like hypersonic and cruise missiles.
“NORAD has continually adapted and evolved in responses to new threats. Today, we turn another page and begin NORAD’s next chapter.”
Anand said there are new threats emerging on a “seemingly monthly” basis.
She spoke with reporters from CFB Trenton to make the announcement on Monday, but the details of specific spending commitments were not provided to media. Anand said the precise breakdown of how the money will be spent is being finalized, and said it will focus on five specific areas.
Those will include a new northern approaches surveillance system, an Arctic over-the-horizon radar system for early warning radar coverage from the Canada-U.S. border to the Arctic Circle, as well as a polar over-the-horizon radar system to provide early radar coverage.
A new system called “Crossbow” will also see early warning sensors deployed across the country to identify incoming threats, and the modernization of NORAD will also launch a space-based surveillance project to use satellites to probe for threats approaching from around the world.
Anand told reporters that the $4.9 billion was new money in addition to the $8-billion increase to Canada’s defence spending announced in the most recent federal budget.
Her office later corrected that information, saying the $4.9 billion is money that was already accounted for in the $8 billion announced in the budget this spring.
Canada ‘less secure’ as world grows ‘darker’
The significant spending announcement comes as the stakes are becoming sharper for countries that fail to prioritize their own defence and security amid a world Anand has said is “growing darker.”
During a speech to defence and security industry leaders earlier this year, she emphasized that the more “chaotic” state of the world means Canada would 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 at the time.
“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.
“Threats are evolving quickly, from hypersonics to cyberattacks 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 that speech.
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.
On Monday, Anand said the reality is that “the world changed on Feb. 24.”
That was the date Russia invaded Ukraine, and Anand said the spending being announced now is just the beginning of a much broader plan to update Canada’s defence and security posture.
She referenced the work underway to draft a new defence policy, and did not rule out whether civil defence planning or bunkers could be included in that new vision.
Gen. Wayne Eyre, chief of the defence staff, also commented on the question of civil defence.
He said the country needs to look at effective deterrence for potential attacks, including deterrence by “punishment” and deterrence “by denial.”
“Part of that is the ability to intercept,” he said, pointing to the capabilities of air-to-air missiles.
“The other piece is denial by resilience — national resilience — so we’re going to have to explore that more as part of our policy update.”