Wednesday, 20 April 2016


 The Department of National Defence has announced that it is launching public consultations in the development of a new defence policy for Canada. This includes a Defence Policy Review public consultation paper, a website and even an e-workbook to be filled in.

Canadian Defence Matters is attempting to come up with some answers to the ten questions contained in the public consultation paper.

Although the Defence Policy Review bundles both the second and third questions under the heading of “Questions relating to defending Canada and North America”, the question of “What roles should the Canadian Armed Forces play domestically, including in support of civilian authorities?” is sufficiently complex to warrant a separate entry and response.

The Federal government of Canada, through the Canadian Armed Forces, has genuine domestic responsibilities. One of the most important responsibilities is to insure that Canada should never find itself in a position where, as a consequence of past decisions, the defence of our national territory has become the responsibility of others.

At a minimum, the Forces should maintain forces, both regular and reserve, capable of;

·        Mounting effective responses to emerging situations in our maritime areas of jurisdiction, our airspace, or within our territory, including the North.
·        Having the capability to demonstrate, on a regular basis, the ability to monitor and control activity within Canada's territory, airspace, and maritime areas of jurisdiction.
·        Maintaining a capability to assist in mounting, at all times, an immediate and effective response to terrorist incidents
·        Being prepared to contribute to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief at short notice and to sustain this effort for as long as necessary.
·        Being able to respond to requests for Aid of the Civil Power and sustain this response for as long as necessary.
·        Providing the assets necessary to assist, on a routine basis, other government departments in achieving various other national goals in such areas as fisheries protection, drug interdiction, and environmental protection.
·        Assisting in maintaining a national search and rescue capability.

Having said this, it is still important to remember that in Canada maintenance of "law and order" is the right and responsibility of the provinces. It is for this reason that the political authority empowered to requisition military aid is therefore a provincial Solicitor General, as provided for under the Emergencies Act. Based on this law a request for military assistance is by a provincial Solicitor General directly to the Chief of the Defence Staff (not to the federal government of Canada) who is obliged by law to execute the request. However, the Chief of the Defence Staff alone can determine the nature and level of forces to be committed.

The Canadian Forces do not replace the civil power; they assist it in the maintenance of law and order. While the military is legally free to decide how to deal with an issue in regard to which it has been called out, in most cases Canadian Forces will find they are working under the direction of the police forces or government of the province that has requested its aid.
It is also true that while the Canadian Armed Forces make an important contribution to the surveillance and control of Canadian territory, airspace, and maritime areas, responsibility for many of the Government's activities in these areas of jurisdiction lies with civilian agencies such as the Department of Transport and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Taking a “whole of government” approach means that in most domestic situations the Department of National Defence is not the lead agency. Not only can other departments of government accomplish most domestic tasks more efficiently, it would lead to a decrease in military effectiveness if the Canadian Armed Forces should devote too much of their limited resources to non-military tasks.

It is for these reasons that the Canadian Armed Forces should be trained and equipped for military tasks, not constabulary duties, and that the domestic support of civilian authorities should not be at the expense of the ability to fulfill the minimum requirements previously cited for the defence of Canadian sovereignty but rather they should enhance those abilities.

Defence Policy Review Public Consultation Paper

Defence Policy Review

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