School of Policy Studies

School of Policy Studies
School of Policy Studies

Why Canada misfired on ballistic missile defence

The Globe and Mail  -
September 26, 2017

"Most military advisers find it a very odd stance that Canadian politicians have taken, that we don't get on board with ballistic missile defence [BMD]," asserted retired chief of defence staff Tom Lawson in a recent interview.

But the Canadian decision to remain outside the U.S. BMD system – a position that has transcended four successive governments – is odd only if you think of BMD in a military, national security and foreign policy context. It is not odd at all if you consider BMD to be fundamentally a domestic political issue. And that has been the central reality around BMD in Canada for about 15 years.

Canada's first forays into BMD discussions with the United States began during the Jean Chrétien government. In those days, the military leadership in Ottawa was pressing the politicians hard, especially the defence minister, for Canada to sign on to BMD. What this meant in practice was never entirely clear, because Washington was going ahead with BMD with or without Canada. The United States did not need nor seem to want anything from Canada financially. Nor did they have designs on Canadian technology to build their system or Canadian territory to place it.

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