Canada and the Nuclear Security Summit

Why this week’s nuclear summit is an opportunity for Trudeau

The Globe and Mail

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Belgium and Pakistan, this five-minute video narrated by former U.S. secretary of defence William Perry should be required viewing for the world leaders gathering this week for President Barack Obama’s nuclear security summit.

The video describes the delivery, detonation and grim aftermath of a nuclear bomb set off in Washington, D.C. The central message is that a nuclear incident – whether through accident or design – is a “nightmare scenario” worth considering.

Mr. Perry, along with fellow public servants George Shultz, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn, created the Nuclear Security Project in 2007 after writing about the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Their ongoing work through the Nuclear Threat Initiative sets the context for this week’s summit.

For Canada, once the world’s biggest producer of uranium, there is an important role to play in helping to secure the materials needed to make a nuclear bomb.

Shortly after taking office in 2009, Mr. Obama set out his ambitious agenda for reducing the risk of nuclear weapons. During a speech in Prague, he boldy declared his goal of “a world without nuclear weapons,” and promised to press for congressional ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to negotiate a new arms-reduction treaty with Russia.

Progress has been modest. An arms-reduction treaty with Russia took effect in 2011; sanctions continue to be applied against North Korea over its nuclear and missile-testing programs; a dozen countries, including Ukraine, no longer have weapons-usable nuclear materials; and in 2015, after long negotiation, an Iranian nuclear deal was negotiated.

But challenges and threats remain. The U.S. Congress has yet to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin has mused about using tactical nuclear weapons and the Russians have cut off most security co-operation with the United States. And, perhaps most important, a series of nuclear summits aimed at securing, within four years, all vulnerable nuclear materials has come up short.

With this context in mind, a comprehensive agreement covering all nuclear materials should be the leaders’ goal this week. This means the global logging, tracking, managing and securing and eventual disposal of all fissile nuclear material.

For Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who described nuclear terrorism on Tuesday as “one of the gravest threats to international security,” there is a leadership opportunity.

For many years, Canada was the top uranium producer, but it’s now Kazakhstan. Together with Australia, the three nations account for more than two-thirds of global production. What if the three agreed to become permanent stewards of used uranium products?

They would permanently “own” their uranium and ensure that its waste, including radioactive and fissible material, was properly disposed of, perhaps in mines no longer in production. While this doesn’t solve the problem of existing nuclear waste, it would control most new supply.

The International Atomic Energy Agency would provide on-site accounting oversight and supervise the transportation of all uranium. Rates would reflect risks to make it commercially and politically viable.

Given their secure geography, Canada and Australia would have to take the lead in long-term global disposal, but this requires leadership and persuasion.

Saskatchewan is home to Canada’s uranium mines and the industry is one of the largest employers of indigenous people. People in Saskatchewan strongly support their industry. They recognize the value of nuclear medicine research, but they oppose nuclear waste storage. They will need to be convinced about the safety, security and economic returns of long-term stewardship.

Nuclear energy, which emits no carbon, is also a key piece of the solution to climate-change mitigation. China is betting heavily on nuclear energy in its migration from coal. France derives about 75 per cent of its electricity from nuclear energy. Nuclear power supplies 50 per cent of Ontario’s electricity.

The nuclear genie is out of the bottle. We have to do a better job of handling its waste and curbing nuclear proliferation. As both a producer and user, Canada can take the lead in the control and containment of our own uranium.

Managing the nuclear genie will depend on technological innovation and the kind of multilateral policy creativity that we hope to see in Washington this week. The alternative, as Mr. Perry’s video portrays, would be a nightmare.

 

Comments Off on Canada and the Nuclear Security Summit

Keeping weapons out of the wrong hands

Air travel is difficult enough without worrying about missiles

Colin Robertson  The Globe and Mail  Tuesday, Jul. 22 2014

The tragic fate of those aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, apparently downed by a surface-to-air missile, has sparked global public sympathy for the victims and condemnation for those responsible.

Our best hope of containing this threat to air travel is to act quickly by tightening international covenants on access to weaponry that takes down aircraft.

The source of the missile and launcher that downed Flight 17 appears to be Russian but there are other potential sources for would-be copycats. The sources for the Hamas rockets against Israel likely include Iran, Pakistan and China. The arsenal of the new caliphate, declared by the Sunni-led rebellion against the Iraqi government, now includes captured weapons made in the United States.

Since Cain and Abel too many still subscribe to the quip by the amoral arms merchant, Undershaft, in George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara, that “Nothing is ever done in this world until men are prepared to kill one another if it is not done.”

The arms industry is big business. Given human nature, it’s also a necessary business.

The Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI) estimates the global arms trade to be worth at least $43-billion (U.S.) and likely much higher because many states, notably China, do not release data on arms exports.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department reports that our exports of military goods and technology are worth $635-million (Canadian). Most of it goes to fellow NATO allies, but also to countries including Afghanistan, Egypt, Ukraine and Yemen.

Like most countries, we have in place elaborate export controls and safeguard agreements to ensure our weapons are “not prejudicial to peace, security or stability.” We don’t export to nations on the UN sanctions list or those with “a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights.” All goods destined for North Korea or Belarus require a permit.

Even then, no system is fail-safe.

India developed their nuclear weapons capacity in 1974, sourcing from CANDU reactors. It chilled Indo-Canadian relations for decades until Prime Minister Stephen Harper concluded a nuclear co-operation agreement in 2013 under safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In the arms bazaar, nuclear proliferation is the greatest danger.

Like his predecessors, President Barack Obama, is working to contain proliferation through negotiation, sanctions and international law. Slow and frustrating, there is discernible progress.

Notwithstanding current tensions, Russia and the United States completed a new nuclear arms treaty (START) in 2011, setting out new limits on intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.

Sanctions have brought Iran to the bargaining table in Geneva. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has concluded there is sufficient “tangible progress” to extend discussions beyond the July 20 deadline.

North Korea remains a problem, still firing missiles and rockets, despite continuing condemnation from the UN Security Council.

A series of international nuclear security summits – Washington, Seoul, the Hague – were initiated by Mr. Obama in 2010.

They have resulted in minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium, higher security standards at nuclear facilities and measures to detect and prevent the illicit trade in nuclear materials.

Canada has pledged funds to help non-proliferation efforts, ratified international covenants on suppression of nuclear terrorism and protection of nuclear materials.

There are similar efforts to curb and control conventional weapons, like that which brought down Flight 17.

The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, to which Canada was a founding contributor, obliges governments to voluntarily supply data on their imports and exports. Seventy nations, including Canada, have done so consistently.

The Wassenaar arrangement of 41 states, including Canada, aims at preventing transfers of conventional weapons or dual-use goods to illegitimate end-users.

As with nuclear non-proliferation, containing conventional weapons remains a work-in-progress.

Given previous Canadian leadership to curb land mines and small arms, the Harper government’s refusal to sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty is perplexing. It deserves a rethink.

Concerted international action, abetted by technology that improves detection and attribution, can work “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” the UN Charter says.

Chemical weapons killed and blinded tens of thousands during the First World War. Popular revulsion led to the Geneva Protocols proclaiming that “the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases … has been justly condemned by the general opinion of the civilized world.”

The prohibition against chemical weapons endures. When breached – most recently by the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria – there has been sanction and remedial action.

Every day, an estimated 5.4 million people board airplanes. By midday, air traffic over Canada and the United States alone reaches an estimated peak of 5,300 flights.

Confidence in global aviation safety obliges action by the international community. Air travel is difficult enough without worrying about missiles.

More Related to this Story

U.S. President Obama piles pressure on Russia's Putin to force Ukraine's separatists to cooperate in crash investigation of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

Video
Video: Obama pressures Russia, Putin in Ukraine crash probe

Video

Video: Recording may show attempt at crash cover-up
Secretary of State John Kerry expresses disgust over the Russian rebels' mishandling of victims' bodies at the Malaysian plane crash site. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

Video
Video: Kerry: “Drunken separatists are piling bodies into trucks”

Comments Off on Keeping weapons out of the wrong hands

Asia and Indo-Pacific Relations

Six ways Canada can boost its business ties to Asia

The Globe and Mail Published Tuesday, Dec. 10 2013

If you had any doubt that the much-proclaimed Pacific, actually Indo-Pacific, Century applies equally to Canada, then look to Harper Government’s new global markets strategy.

Seventeen of its 20 emerging markets and four of its six established markets border or access the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Critics argue that it signals a radical departure from our foreign policy. But, when you look at the details, the new policy is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

It also reflects recommendations of ongoing work by our think tanks, universities and businesses. There is broad consensus for more focus on new, especially Indo-Pacific, markets.

This reflects two broad trends: First, the reassertion of Asian economic power after a 150-year hiatus; and, second, the need to find alternative markets to the United States.

This quest for counterweights to the U.S. dates back to Sir John A. Macdonald. It has found new advocates with the realization that when it comes to getting the best price for our resources – oil, gas or lumber – we need a second market.

Looking westward makes a lot of sense but keep in mind the following:

First, an Asian policy is a misnomer. One size does not fit all. It is a continent of different regions, religions, ethnicities and languages. There are democracies and dictatorships. If we are to effectively advance Canadian interests we need to tailor policies by country, by region and by sector.

Second, with ties of family, Asian Canadians give us privileged access to Asian markets. They are our best salespersons to attract more talent to our country as either immigrants or students.

Canada is the envy of the world when it comes to practical pluralism. We need to market this advantage as we grow our population.

Recognize the importance of education as a service industry. It is Australia’s fourth largest export. Our government is getting its act together after initial ambivalence. But we are playing catch-up and are well behind the U.S, U.K. and Australia.

Third, use our history. We have trade links dating back more than a century through insurance, banking and shipping, missionaries, teachers and doctors.

Chinese diplomats ask why we do not do more with Norman Bethune. Whatever his politics, he is a Chinese hero. Why not, for example, Bethune scholarships modeled after the successful Fulbright program?

As we reform our Foreign Service, we should also target Asian Canadians who have the practical language skills and family ties that can make all the difference in closing a deal.

Fourth, we want to trade in Asia but first we must exhibit our bona fides on security. China’s recent declaration of an Air Identification Zone is not just a Japan-China-U.S. dispute. It is a challenge to maritime law and freedom of navigation. It threatens the strategic power balance in the region.

Half the world’s shipping passes through South China Sea. That is more than 41,000 ships a year, double the number that pass through the Suez Canal and nearly triple the total for the Panama Canal.

Our trade and commerce depends on these sea routes being secure.

We need to demonstrate that we are as invested in the security of the Indo-Pacific, especially the North Pacific, as we are in the North Atlantic.

This means building our promised fleet and deploying our submarines and maintaining the readiness of our expeditionary capacity.

On North Korea, our policy of controlled engagement is counterproductive. It limits discussions with the North Koreans to issues of regional security concerns, human rights, and consular issues. This effectively means no engagement with the North. This does not help our friends in South Korea.

Fifth, it means being there. We can’t achieve our ‘economic diplomacy’ goals without an active official Canadian presence. Unlike in the West, a government presence in Asia is a big deal. We need more consulates in China, India and Indonesia.

Just because Jean Chrétien, a Liberal, pioneered successful Team Canada missions of premiers and CEOs doesn’t mean that Stephen Harper, a Conservative, shouldn’t do the same. Remember Deng Xiaoping’s observation on white and black cats – it doesn’t matter as long as it catches the mice.

Sixth, our policy must have a democracy angle. It’s who we are as a people.

Mongolia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong – these are middle-income countries possessing nascent democratic institutions. Engage them, not just government-to-government and student-to-student, but party-to-party.

Ties of family and history give us advantages in Asia if we use them. Contributing to its regional security will help us to trade successfully in the Indo-Pacific.

China's swinging indicators for 2013 point to a bumpy road ahead for Beijing as it pushes forward with key reforms in the new year. Tara Joseph reports.

Economy

Video: China report card shows an economy needing improvement

A riot -- rare in the ordered city state of Singapore - breaks out when a foreign worker is killed when hit by a bus. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

Video

Video: Aftermath of riot in Singapore

Comments Off on Asia and Indo-Pacific Relations

North Korea, China, Canada and BMD

While we weren’t looking, North Korea got a lot more dangerous

The Globe and Mail Monday, Oct. 21 2013

While we focus on Iran and Syria, pay attention to North Korea. It possesses the full arsenal of weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological and nuclear as well as cyberwarriors.

The Kim dynasty – grandfather Kim Il-sung , father Kim Jong-il vKim Jong-un – is dangerously unpredictable. Tales from the Hermit Kingdom evoke Game of Thrones.

In the purge following Kim Jong-un’s taking power, the former Army Minister was dispatched by a mortar round. The family of Kim’s former girlfriend was forced to watch her execution then trucked off to the gulags.

The regime is also a regional menace.

North Korea was behind the assassination of the mother of current Korean President Park Geun-hye, the bombing in Rangoon that killed many in the South Korean cabinet, the abduction of Japanese citizens, and the sinking, by submarine, of a South Korean frigate .

Systematic human rights violations in North Korea remain “widespread”, reports Amnesty International. The annual report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights observed that the “use of political prison camps, frequent public executions and severe food shortages, coupled with the extreme difficulty of gaining access, make DPRK [North Korea] singularly problematic.”

Unanimous votes of concern in the UN General Assembly and by the Human Rights Council have had no effect. The UN Special Rapporteur has never been allowed to investigate.

Having withdrawn from the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, North Korea developed a nuclear weapon in tandem with a ballistic missile capacity. It recently reactivated a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor in Yongbyon.

North Korean missiles threaten North East Asia and they could potentially reach the west coast of North America. After a third North Korean nuclear test in February, the U.S. will spend a billion dollars to place additional interceptors in Alaska.

North Korea has been an exporter over several decades of conventional arms, nuclear reactor technology and ballistic missiles. Its client list has included Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen.

All of this activity violates UN Security Council resolutions. The decade-long Six Party talks that involving the two Koreas, Russia, Japan, USA and China and was aimed at curbing North Korea stalled out in 2008.

Recently, the Chinese have made efforts to both revitalize the talks and rein in North Korea. The Chinese, who chair the Six Party talks, hosted an informal session last month in Beijing. Importantly, the Chinese have now imposed export controls on materials that could contribute to North Korean weaponry.

China bears a lot of responsibility for the problem but it also has the leverage to effect change. Leading the effort to denuclearize North Korea would demonstrate that China’s new leadership is becoming more than a passive international participant.

China is far more averse to instability on its border than in the more distant Middle East. It would be more motivated to act (even militarily) on matters relating to a potential conflict with the client state on its front door.

But China will not act by a timetable dictated by the West.

Different from the West, China takes longer to re-assess what is in its best interests and to adjust policy accordingly. We need to remember this and to persist with patient diplomacy.

China is now the sixth largest financial contributor to peacekeeping operations and is currently fielding 1769 peacekeepers ( in contrast to Canada’s 157). Active Chinese involvement in sustaining and reforming international architecture is an essential guarantor of global peace and security.

For Canada, the North Korean threat has a couple of implications.

First, our growing commercial aspirations in Asia underline the need for secure sea lanes to ship our goods. This means getting on with our new warships. It also underlines the value of our submarines as key assets in sustaining maritime order in the Pacific.

Second, changing circumstances mean that we now need comprehensive ballistic missile defence (BMD) insurance.

We are effectively integrated into BMD through NORAD’s Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment mission. We also benefit from US policy to defend a two hundred mile band beyond the U.S. border in order to protect U.S. cities against fall-out.

But we would not be in the room when the decisions to launch are made. Nor do the current algorithms contain protection for Canadian cities like Calgary or Edmonton. Full participation in BMD would fix this.

We live in a world of changing perils and shifting poles of influence. This puts the premium on diplomacy that encourages all parties’ active participation. It also obliges us to look to our own security with the necessary hard power to back it up.

A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is vice president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP.

More Related to this Story

Comments Off on North Korea, China, Canada and BMD

Ballistic Missile Defence

It’s time for Canada to join ballistic missile defence: former diplomat  April 7, 2013 11:54 am Global TV

As nuclear-armed North Korea continues to threaten war, a former Canadian diplomat says it is time for Canada to reconsider its decision to not join a ballistic missile defence program.

“You can’t be sure whether something aimed at the United States isn’t going to strike Canada. Our interest is in protecting Canadians, ” Colin Robertson said in an interview on the Global News program The West Block with Tom Clark.

Robertson’s call comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un began mobilizing long range missiles and cleared his army to launch a nuclear attack on North America. Diplomats in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang have also received warning that their safety will not be guaranteed past Wednesday and have been urged to leave.

Although no one is absolutely convinced Kim has the capability to follow through with his threats, the United States has sent a land-based missile defence weapon to Guam, where it has a base. The weapon would detect any attacks and could likely keep Canada safe — even though both the Stephen Harper Conservatives and the Liberal government before that have both refused to endorse the protective umbrella.

“The circumstances have changed and it’s probably time to reconsider that decision,” Roberston said. “Why wouldn’t we be part of this, particularly because conditions are changed and now our homeland is threatened?”

If Canada joined ballistic missile defence, Robertson said, it wouldn’t mean putting weapons on Canadian soil.

Instead, Canada’s main contribution would be satellite technology to track missiles coming over the North Pole.

“This takes us back to Canada’s geography and our critical placement as kind of the backdoor, or the screen, towards America,” Robertson said.

While there’s an open invitation for Canada to join ballistic missile defence, Robertson said he doesn’t expect U.S. officials to pressure their Canadian counterparts into making a decision.

“They understand the Canadian position,” he said. “They do not want to be George Bush … Eisenhower or Kennedy – don’t push Canada because you create such a reaction in Canada, that becomes the issue. It becomes Canada versus the United States, and that’s not where they want this to be.”

TRANSCRIPT

Tom Clark:
Welcome back. The world continues to watch in disbelief as a sociopathic madman with nuclear weapons threatens war, urging foreign embassies to evacuate by this Wednesday; a warming that so far most countries have ignored. Kim Jong-Un has mobilized his long range missiles while clearing his army to launch a nuclear attack on North America. Now while no one is absolutely convinced that he has the capability to carry out its threats, the United States has sent a land-based missile defence weapon to Guam. Now should North Korean missiles be launched, the American defence system would keep Canada safe, even though both Liberal and Conservative governments in the past have refused to endorse the protective umbrella.And one of the people who is calling on Canada to join Ballistic Missile Defence is Colin Robertson, a former senior diplomat in Canada’s Foreign Service. Thanks very much for being here Colin.

Colin Robertson:
Good to be here Tom.

Tom Clark:
First of all, make the case why Canada should be involved? Why is that in our self-interest to be involved in ballistic missile defence?

Colin Robertson:
Governments have three general purposes: sound currency, keep law and order and our safety net at home, and external defence. This is external defence. We are potentially threatened now by recent developments in North Korea and Iran so that if they were to launch inter-ballistic missiles aimed at the United States, we can’t be sure that they wouldn’t land in Canada. And for that reason, we should protect Canadians.

Tom Clark:
When we talk about ballistic missile defence, are we talking about putting missiles on Canadian soil? What’s our involvement in that?

Colin Robertson:
That’s a good question. Less likely now they put interceptors in Canada although they could. More what they really want is to the use the technology that we already have, satellite technology, to track the missiles, particularly anything coming over the Poles; stuff coming across the Pacific, the Americans feel reasonably confident they can get from their various tracking stations: Hawaii, Guam, Alaska, California. But we could make a useful contribution from what we have in places like Goose Bay and across the country.

Tom Clark:
So this is like an extension of NORAD in a sense.

Colin Robertson:
This takes us back to the DEW Line. This takes us back to Canada’s geography and our critical placement as kind of the back door or the screen towards America which was the whole purpose behind our earlier involvement in things like the DEW Line, that led to the creation of NORAD, which protects North America, because you can’t be sure whether something aimed at the United States isn’t going to strike Canada. So our interest is in protecting Canadians.

Tom Clark:
In an article you wrote recently, you revealed that last year, Defence Minister
Peter MacKay and Foreign Minister John Baird went to Stephen Harper and laid out the case for Canada joining Ballistic Missile Defence. He turned it down. What do you know about that?

Colin Robertson:
My understanding is that the prime minister judged the timing wasn’t right.

Tom Clark:
Meaning?

Colin Robertson:
Meaning, the timing was not right to participate…

Tom Clark:
Politically.

Colin Robertson:
I would think politically, yes, at the time. My view is that the circumstances have changed and it is probably time to reconsider that decision. The rest of the alliance is part of missile defence. We, as members of NATO, support what the alliance is doing to provide ballistic missile defence within NATO in Europe but we have a kind of exemption, a cone, if you will, around Canada. Frankly we should be part of that. The Australians, the Koreans, the Japanese all see value in ballistic missile defence.

Tom Clark:
And the Europeans as well.

Colin Robertson:
Of course.

Tom Clark:
We’re sort of the outlier in this case by not being part of it. But when you take a look at the decision of two Canadian governments – Liberal and Conservatives. In 2005, Pierre Pettigrew, then the foreign minister, said no to ballistic missile defence – basically Paul Martin saying no. Now we have Stephen Harper saying no. So what is the Canadian political case for not joining in? Because Liberals and Conservatives have both now said no?

Colin Robertson:
The Canadian case is essentially that we’re protected anyways and that we don’t really need to participate because the Americans will include us in their umbrella as it is. But my view on that is do we want the Americans always providing our defence? A fundamental principle of Canadian security is collective security. We were the architects of NORAD. We went into NATO for that very reason; protection of the collective and it also gives us leverage. Why wouldn’t we be part of this particularly because conditions have changed and now our homeland is threatened? That’s the argument. The argument is this is in the Canadian interest.

Tom Clark:
In the minute or so that we’ve got left, I want to ask you what you’re hearing from the Americans on this because while we, as you correctly say, feel that we’re protected anyway, we’re just not going to join the automobile club because we’re going to get a tow if we break down. But what are the Americans telling you?

Colin Robertson:
The invitation is there. They are not, however, pushing us. They understand the Canadian position. They do not want to be George Bush, and if you go back to Eisenhower and others, Kennedy … Don’t push Canada because you create such a reaction in Canada that that becomes the issue. That is, it becomes a Canada versus the United States, and that’s not where they want this to be. They have what they need. It would be useful if Canada would joined, but they’re not going to put any pressure on us to join.

Tom Clark:
And very quickly in 10 seconds, when we turned it down in 2005, George W. Bush was in the White House. Was that the real reason why he said no to ballistic missile defence do you think? We didn’t want to be seen to be siding with George Bush?

Colin Robertson:
I think that the political calculation of that relationship with the United States, it’s the old Goldilocks’ rule, don’t get too close but don’t get too far away. It’s trying to find that fine balance that every prime minister has to try and find.

Tom Clark:
Colin Robertson thanks very much for being here today. Good discussion.

Colin Robertson:
Thank you Tom.

Comments Off on Ballistic Missile Defence

Canada, North Korea and Ballistic Missile Defence

North Korea’s threats show that Canada needs to be part of U.S. missile defence pact

Special to The Globe and Mail Published Wednesday, Apr. 03 2013, 9:27 AM EDT

(see also Andy Radia’s Canada Politics report and CTV report on Minister Toews  Question Period interview .)

Canadian prime ministers have three files with a permanent place on their desks: national security, national unity and the U.S. relationship. When those files intersect, they require special attention.

Sooner rather than later, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to reconsider the Canadian decision to stay out of Ballistic Missile Defence.

The catalyst is North Korea.

Kim Jong-Un is the third in his family to lead the Hermit Kingdom, and this month has all but declared war – including threats to target North America. Normally, sabre rattling by tinpot dictators can be managed or contained. But not when the sabres are ballistic missiles.

“Nuclear threats are not a game,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned on Tuesday: “Aggressive rhetoric and military posturing only result in counter-actions, and fuel fear and instability.”

Coupled with the improvements that Iran is making to its own ballistic missile capacity, the threat to North America is now clear and present. The United States has moved aircraft and warships to the area and announced that it will increase its ground-based interceptors in California and Alaska.

Canada has a conflicted history when it comes to nuclear weapons and domestic defence from them. Though we were present at the creation – nuclear-energy research during the Second World War in Canada was vital – we eschewed the development of nuclear arms for ourselves. Instead, we opted to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes through the CANDU reactor.  (We were later deceived by the Indians, who developed their own nuclear weaponry using plutonium derived from a research reactor provided by Canada.)

Placement of nuclear warheads on Canadian soil, as part of our alliance commitment, tormented John Diefenbaker and the resulting BOMARC controversy contributed to his government’s undoing. Lester B. Pearson, who succeeded Mr. Diefenbaker as prime minister, faced similar dissent but concluded that our obligations to NORAD and NATO required participation. Mr. Pearson, who had won the Nobel Peace Prize over the Suez crisis, was derisively labelled the ‘defrocked prince of peace’ by a young Pierre Trudeau.

Two decades later, prime minister Trudeau faced similar divisions in his own cabinet over testing of cruise missiles on Canadian soil. Mr. Trudeau allowed the testing, arguing that “it is hardly fair to rely on the Americans to protect the West, but to refuse to lend them a hand when the going gets rough.”

In good company (with Australia, France et al), prime minister Brian Mulroney rejected participation in the U.S. “Star Wars” missile-defence program because Canada “would not be able to call the shots.”

When Ballistic Missile Defence was developed under George W. Bush, prime minister Paul Martin opted out, to the confusion of his new defence chief and ambassador to the United States, both of whom thought that he was going to sign on.

A divided Liberal caucus, especially the opposition from Quebec, had helped change Mr. Martin’s mind.

Mr. Bush was advised that newly-elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper would not welcome a renewed request. Mr. Bush found this puzzling, reportedly asking what would happen if a North Korean missile, aimed at Los Angeles or Seattle, wound up heading towards Vancouver or Calgary.

The rest of the alliance, as well as Australia, Japan and South Korea, have signed onto missile defence. The Israelis’ Iron Dome recently demonstrated the defensive worth of anti-missile technology.

Critics see Ballistic Missile Defence as a latter-day Maginot Line – costly, unreliable, and provocative. If you want to detonate a nuclear bomb in the United States you would not send it by missile. NORAD, they argue, provides sufficient defence. But continental defence has been integral to Canadian national security since MacKenzie King and Franklin Roosevelt parleyed at Kingston in 1938. We were architects of NATO because of our belief in collective security.

The U.S. defence umbrella has guaranteed the peace since 1945, and has coincided with the greatest growth in trade in world history. Canada has been a principal beneficiary, with marginal premiums. Some Canadians, wrote Mr. Trudeau during the cruise missile debate, “are eager to take refuge under the U.S. umbrella, but don’t want to help hold it.”

Membership in the alliance entails obligations. But it also brings great benefits that serve our national interests.

Incorporating our satellite and land-based tracking facilities into Ballistic Missile Defence could make a difference in shielding Canadians should the missiles be launched. A Senate report in 2006 concluded that an effective BMD “could save hundreds of thousands of Canadian lives.”

Protecting Canadians (and Americans) was the logic of the original DEW line and NORAD, our bi-national aerospace defence agreement that has served us since 1958 and now includes aspects of maritime defence.

Last summer, ministers John Baird and Peter McKay prepared a memorandum for Mr. Harper presenting Ballistic Missile Defence options. The Prime Minister decided the timing was not right. Circumstances have changed. BMD should now be incorporated into our ‘Canada First’ defence strategy.

Comments Off on Canada, North Korea and Ballistic Missile Defence