Defence Policy Update Released

By Dr. Ann Griffiths, 10 April 2024

As you have probably heard, the has government released the long-awaited defence policy update. It’s entitled “Our North, Strong and Free: A Renewed Vision for Canada’s Defence” (available at Our North, Strong and Free: A Renewed Vision for Canada’s Defence - As the title suggests, there’s a focus on the North and the protection of that vast area.

In addition to the focus on the North, it’s filled with promises of things that Canada will do. Thus,

Canada will harness innovation in hypersonic and cruise missile defence, undersea surveillance, space domain awareness, Arctic operations, and other areas. We will strive to adapt to rapid technological change faster than our adversaries and as fast as our allies. We will improve defence procurement to rapidly identify and acquire the military capabilities needed to maintain operational advantage and build a strong defence industrial base to help meet Canadian defence and security needs through reliable, high-quality production at a scale necessary to meet the security needs of Canada and our allies. (p. 12)

Decision-making will speed up, innovation will increase, procurement will be fixed, Canadian defence industries will grow, personnel shortages will be dealt with (“Canada will provide its military with the right people, in the right numbers, to enable our members to succeed in the missions that Canada asks of them” (p. 19)), training will be modernized, and so on….

The language used for submarines is less committed – the government will “explore options for renewing and expanding our submarine fleet” (p. 24). The government will also “explore options for enabling our Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels to embark and operate our maritime helicopters at sea” (p. 25).

It’s a beautiful document written in inspirational and enthusiastic language. But it’s a lot of talk, and not a lot of walk. Strong Secure Engaged also promised to boost recruitment, and not much has changed since that promise in 2017. The government has been exploring submarines for some time now – isn’t it time to stop exploring and start deciding/acting. (See Philippe Lagassé and Dave Perry’s article “Canada’s New Defence Policy Commits to Exploring Instead of Committing” in The Globe and Mail, 10 April.) It’s great that the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships might get helicopters, but why didn’t they get the capability in the first place? Defence procurement has been glacially slow and painful for years and various governments have attempted to fix it. What’s new in this policy? And so on.

I really want to believe. But I’ve heard this song before. And promising money after 2025 is a rather hollow promise since it’s likely that an election will be held in 2025 and a new government will be in place. 

Am I being too cynical? Any comments?


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