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Dialogue Paper >> Security

A Dialogue on Foreign Policy

A Dialogue on Foreign Policy
A Better Canada, a Better World
The 1995 Policy Review and Since
The three pillars
Interdependence and multilateralism
The Canada-U.S. relationship
Recent global changes
Security cooperation
Canada's military security
Approaches to non-military security
Canada and North America
Globalizing prosperity
Canadian prosperity and global vision
Values and Culture
Sharing our values and experience
Promoting our culture
A request to Canadians


The events of September 11, 2001 showed that not even the world's strongest state is immune to sudden terrorist attack. As governments everywhere focus more intently on their citizens' security, Canada too must consider how to counter military and non-military threats both at home and abroad. These threats require us to consider international security cooperation, Canada's own military security and a range of non-military security issues.

Security cooperation

Canada and the United States are jointly responding to the terrorist threat by coordinating their approach to issues such as maritime surveillance and disaster response. We have signed the Smart Border Declaration in order to increase both the security and efficiency of our shared border through measures such as expedited clearance programs for low-risk flows of people and goods, expanded information sharing, joint targeting of container traffic, and integrated border enforcement teams. This cooperation increases our capacity to control border flows, facilitating beneficial traffic while inhibiting the movement of threats to our security.

On the international level, Canada is working with the United Nations and the G8 on a range of counterterrorism measures, such as aviation security standards, the disruption of drug-trafficking networks, information sharing, police and judicial cooperation, and keeping new technologies out of terrorists' hands. The UN has recognized the importance of fighting corruption and money laundering, which also funnel resources to terrorists.

The rise of militant non-state organizations has heightened concerns about nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological weapons of mass destruction. Existing multilateral agreements deal with arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament; and many nations are taking measures to control the sale and export of items that might be used to construct such weapons. More global cooperation is needed both to promote compliance with non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament agreements, and to ensure that non-state agents are denied access to banned weapons. The international crisis over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction underscores the importance of an effective UN Security Council prepared to address this very real threat.

Canada's military security

Central to Canada's security agenda are military forces capable of defending our country and supporting our foreign policy abroad. For many years, Canada's national defence policy has identified three core objectives: to defend Canada; to work with the United States in defending North America; and to contribute to international peace and security. Recently, Canadian troops have participated in international operations including the coalition in Afghanistan; peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, East Timor and Ethiopia-Eritrea; and the NATO-led intervention in Kosovo. Earlier, the valour of Canada's armed forces during combat in two world wars and in Korea united our nation in admiration and gratitude.

Canada now faces difficult choices about its military commitments. Since a nation's ability to influence international security decisions depends in part on its capacity to shoulder responsibilities, the kinds and level of military capacity that Canada has will affect our future role in the world. Increasingly, international forces are being called upon for a wide range of commitments: engaging in combat, restoring order, enforcing peace agreements, and protecting civilians. The coming years are likely to see high demand for military forces with varied capabilities. Canadians need to consider how our military can best support our foreign policy.

Approaches to non-military security

Canada has long believed that military capability is only one part of a broader approach to security at home and abroad. Our human security approach to foreign policy recognizes that the security of states is essential but not sufficient to ensure the safety of their citizens. It is also vital to address non-military sources of conflict that fuel societal instability and create environments in which political or religious extremism can flourish. In view of the dangers posed by fragile and poorly governed states, the international community must work with such states to strengthen their governing institutions and judicial systems, to hold their leaders accountable, and to support the rule of law. Stabilizing fragile states also requires conflict prevention and a sustained commitment to the reconstruction of states emerging from conflict. These tasks can be assumed only if Canada acts in partnership with other governments, multilateral institutions, private-sector actors and civil society organizations.

International partnerships are equally vital in addressing other threats such as poverty, infectious disease and environmental degradation. Preserving clean air and water are essential not only to Canada's own security but also to global stability in the decades ahead. Canada recently ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. We are working with the provinces and territories, and with industry, to implement this important international commitment.

Canada is addressing broader security issues through multilateral action on other fronts as well. A notable success has been the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (known as the Ottawa Convention). Canada has also done much to promote the establishment of an International Criminal Court to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity. While progress has been made toward establishing the Court, continued international efforts are needed to ensure the Court's ability to dispense truly impartial justice when national courts cannot or will not do so.

Canada also took the lead in supporting the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. Following the world's failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda, the Commission was initiated by Canada to examine international responsibilities in situations of imminent humanitarian catastrophe. Its report, The Responsibility to Protect, offers principles to guide a timely response by the international community when people are being inadequately protected by their own governments. While intervention may be required as a last resort, the responsibility to protect also entails responsibilities to prevent conflict and to rebuild conflict-torn societies. Since local conflicts often end up destabilizing regional and global systems, these principles of protection are an important part of broader security concerns.

  • Introduction
  • Previous: The 1995 Policy Review and Since
  • Current: Security
  • Next: Prosperity
  • Values and Culture
  • Conclusion
  • Questions for Discussion


    1. In promoting the security of Canadians, where should our priorities lie? Should Canada give a higher priority to military combat operations? To sectors such as intelligence gathering and analysis? Or should we focus on broader security measures, such as combatting environmental degradation and the spread of infectious disease? What should be our distinctive role in promoting global security?
    2. How does the military best serve Canada's foreign policy objectives: though national and continental defence; combat missions in support of international coalitions; peacekeeping; all of the above?
    3. Should Canada do more to address conditions giving rise to conflict and insecurity beyond our borders? If so, where?