Contributing to Global Security and Justice – Canada’s Role in the World Post-Afghanistan


The history of Canadian military engagements, whether in combat or in peacekeeping missions, demonstrates a unique characteristic of our nation. As a country, we take an ambitious approach to international affairs, not content to simply allow the events of the world unfold and to deal with the consequences as they arise.

Great Canadians from Lester Pearson to Senator Romeo Dallaire have shaped global affairs and profoundly contributed to military and international doctrine. This in addition to our proud and outstanding legacy in battle: Vimy Ridge, Juno Beach, Kandahar Province.

Ours is an enviable record of achievements that has contributed to global security and justice.

Many have raised the question, whither Canada’s Armed Forces after Afghanistan?

There has been much discussion about procurement projects but little devoted to assessing the goals at which our defence spending is aimed. Few have pointed out the fact that it makes little sense to devote billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money to procurement without a foreign policy objective to justify its purpose.

In other words, it makes little sense to put the procurement cart before the policy horse. At present that is what we seem to be doing.

So the question is what are Canada’s goals and how do we want to project our interests in the world? Here are a few thoughts.
In today’s globalized context, instability in a state on the other side of the planet can result in insecurity here and among our allies. As Senator Dallaire noted recently in the Hill Times, today’s threats are “increasingly diffuse and transnational.” To deal with these challenges Canada will require a force that is “affordable, yet highly-deployable.”

To wit, in this era, two important concepts have emerged – the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and the importance of mitigating threats before they spill over national borders.

Some people have come to believe that R2P is an intervention strategy of sorts.  The basis for the doctrine, however is prevention.  The major part of R2P is to do everything possible to avoid reaching the requirement for a military intervention, which makes the other two D’s, development and diplomacy, all the more essential.

On the first score, the R2P doctrine is increasingly becoming the framework through which we judge the legitimacy and necessity of a military intervention. Intended as a doctrine to compel the international community to intervene to prevent atrocities, it has also become a sound framework through which to judge the wisdom of a proposed military excursion. For example, Prime Minister Chrétien’s refusal to participate in the invasion of Iraq is a decision that appears wiser each day.

On the second point, that of state capacity building, Canada can and should be doing much more.

The Arab spring has demonstrated that the concepts of democracy, freedom, equality and human dignity and not unique to the Western world. The nascent democratic movements in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere auger well for our national security as no two democratic nations have ever fought a war.

But there still exist barriers to this progress, one of the most serious being poverty. One need only take a cursory glance at demographic maps of areas where extremism, radical ideology and violence perpetuates to see that these are also the regions suffering from the greatest strife and deprivation. Often exacerbated by religious, linguistic, class, economic or other cleavages, these areas of insecurity can be improved and threats mitigated before the process of radicalization and conflict.

Thus, development assistance, diplomatic engagement, trade, exchange of technology and business acumen are not only objectives in themselves but should be considered part of our national security interests as well as our foreign policy strategy and goals.

Sadly, we are today witnessing cutbacks in development assistance and a bureaucratic unwillingness coupled with a lack of political will to implement my Development Assistance Accountability Act, a law which I authored in 2008, the mandate of which is to ensure that all of our foreign aid is directed toward poverty alleviation.

Especially after the Afghanistan mission, it is clear that the “winning the heart and minds” mission and improving the situation on the ground is as important as defeating an enemy in combat. At the same time, development and diplomatic assistance cannot take place in an environment without security.

The Canadian Forces is composed of talented and capable people who want to make a difference in the world on behalf of their country and our multicultural society gives us a wealth of cultural knowledge to draw upon. Our armed forces are more than capable of helping to integrate the three Ds, Defence, Diplomacy and Development, and governments should work to increase their coordination with the work of NGOs, CIDA and Foreign Affairs.

In sum, it is in our national security interest to develop a real strategy not only for tackling existing threats, but also preempting new threats by working to alleviate the causes that exacerbate global insecurity. The Canadian Forces can and must play an integral role in such a strategy.

Therefore, Canada’s interests are best served by establishing a cogent foreign policy, a policy for our military arising out of our foreign policy (not a procurement shopping list), a rationalization of procurement to ensure our purchases are on time and on budget, as well as a beefed up and integrated diplomatic and aid capacity.

Finally, it must be done within a framework in which we as a nation in concert with our allies assess what are priorities are within the realities of fiscal restraint.

We are fortunate to live in a country made us of citizens who are deeply for the world and its people with an ambition to help and a record which proves we are more than up to the task.

For proof one need look no further than to the ranks of NGOs like World Vision, Engineers Without Borders, Development and Peace, Kairos, our diplomatic corps, and of the Canadian Forces, many of whom still in their teenage years yet willing to put themselves in harms way, brought together by a common desire to make Canada and the world a more just and secure place.

All that remains is for us to unlock their potential. If we do, there is no limit to what they can achieve on behalf of Canada.

Hon. John McKay P.C., M.P.
Liberal Party Critic for Defence