Though it seems unlikely, debate over national security has reached a higher pitch and a University of Calgary initiative is the cause.
In early November, the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the U of C released a report calling for an overhaul of the Federal Government's National Defence policy. The Department of National Defence previously based decisions on a white paper published in 1994. White papers are the highest level of governmental policy statement and the CMSS report suggests that current circumstances warrant new direction for the DND.
"The world is clearly not the same as in 1994," pointed out Dr. Rob Huebert, professor in the Department of Political Science and Associate Director of the CMSS.
Huebert coordinated the research tasks and was responsible for writing the report, titled "Canadian Defence and Security in the 21st Century: To Secure a Nation." Dr. James Fergusson of the University of Manitoba and Dr. Frank Harvey of Dalhousie University also contributed research to the report.
Reaction to the paper has been mixed.
"The DND is still drafting its official response, but the report has caused considerable debate," said Huebert. His statement was reflected during question period in the House of Commons on Tue., Nov. 20. Leon Benoit, the MP for Lakeland accused Prime Minister Jean Chrétien of mismanaging Canadian Forces and asked, "When will you begin the process for a new white paper, so we can get back on our feet?"
"Why a white paper for next year, when our troops are leaving tomorrow?" replied the PM.
The report states that attention is critically needed in the area of domestic security, a relatively untouched issue in the 1994 white paper. As demontrated by the September 11 terrorist attacks, Canada is vulnerable to sudden attacks on key business and infrastructure centres.
"Some people make the argument that a Canadian city would make a good target," said Huebert. "An attack would send a message that the terrorists are against the United States and their allies. Canadians would also have to deal with fallout from a nuclear attack to the U.S., and successful biological attacks will certainly spread to us. The greatest threat in the world today is terrorism, and we will make more enemies with our involvement in Afghanistan."
The report also criticizes Canadian Forces' involvement in United Nations peacekeeping missions over the last decade. The missions carry a higher risk, are more complicated and require a higher level of military training to complete, an element Huebert feels may be lacking.
"The main problems facing the Canadian Forces are personnel and training," he said. "Although the people doing the training are excellent, the problem is resources allocated to training. When a budget gets cut, training is one of the first things to go."
The report also examines relationships between Canada and its allies and recommends the federal government attempt to restore credibility among NATO allies and achieve closer ties with Russia.
The Canadian role in continental defence is also closely examined, as Canada faces threats similar to those facing the U.S.
"The issue of missile defence is over," stated Huebert. "The unbelievable has become believable, and the U.S. has been shown to be vulnerable. They will make sure that no one can threaten them with missiles. We can participate in the effort, or not."
The report can be viewed in its entirety at www.stratnet.ucalgary.ca.