Canada Kicks Ass

Join U.S. missile plan or lose NORAD
Date: Saturday, May 17 2003
Topic: Canadian Politics


The Chr├ętien government warned yesterday that Canada risks losing its prized role in the joint defence of North American airspace unless Ottawa participates in controversial U.S. plans to deploy a ballistic missile defence system.
A pair of senior Liberal ministers, who made a detailed sales pitch in Parliament in favour of missile defence, also said joining the U.S. program would give Canada an "insurance policy" against possible nuclear attack.
"Participation in ballistic missile defence could provide some degree of Canadian influence over the development and functioning of the system. It would give Canada a say in the defence of its own territory," John McCallum, the Defence Minister, said during a parliamentary debate on the issue.

Mr. McCallum and Bill Graham, the Foreign Affairs Minister, have been seeking Cabinet approval to launch formal negotiations with the United States about joining its US$8-billion missile defence project, which is scheduled to be operational in late 2004. But rigorous opposition in the Liberal caucus has already forced two delays in Cabinet's decision, and final approval for the talks is unlikely before early June.


"If we do not discuss these issues we know one thing -- that we will be surrendering our voice, in fact our sovereignty, and ceding to the United States the role of unilaterally determining the shape of defence of North America, and that for generations to come," Mr. Graham said.
Mr. Graham and Mr. McCallum raised the spectre of a refusal to join the Americans jeopardizing the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), the binational military command responsible for protecting the continent from air attack.


Opponents of the U.S. plan, which involves deploying land- and sea-based missile interceptors, fear the Bush administration's ultimate goal is to develop a space-based "Stars Wars" system capable of launching pre-emptive strikes against enemies.
Mr. Graham said the U.S. plan does not include weapons-based missile defence and "it is very clear that the system that is proposed is far away from anything to do with the weaponization of space."
He cautioned a Canadian decision to stay out of missile defence would force the United States to launch its missile defence system through the U.S.-only Northern Command, shifting power for defending continental airspace away from NORAD.


"If missile defence becomes an exclusively American project and thus remains outside of NORAD, the role and relevance of this important partnership, so crucial for our participation in the defence of North America, will come into question," Mr. Graham said.
Canadian defence officials who currently share authority for air defence with the U.S. military in NORAD would be deprived of crucial military intelligence and surveillance information needed to protect the country from outside threats, he said.
Canada supplies NORAD's deputy commander, and senior Canadian officers share control of the daily operations at the Cheyenne Mountain, Colo., headquarters.


Joe Clark, the Progressive Conservative leader, said concerns about the future of NORAD are a "false argument." He said Canada shares power in NORAD because it provides a hard asset -- fighter jets and radar installations. Canada's role in a missle-defence system under NORAD would likely be small because our military has little to contribute to its operation, Mr. Clark said. "We would be bound to be playing a smaller role in missile defence."


The ministers said the government must protect Canadians. "Ballistic missile defence can therefore be considered akin to an insurance policy against future threats," Mr. McCallum said. "It could also be a defence against errant missiles aimed at the U.S. that could end up hitting Canada, as well as unauthorized and accidental launches."



From the National Post



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