NATO and the Canadian Armed Forces

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Even before the signature of the North Atlantic Treaty, Canada was among the first public advocates of regional defence arrangements. Mister Lester Bowles Pearson, then Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, negotiated the Treaty. Article 2 was nicknamed the “Canadian article”. In a related speech, Mister Pearson expressed that “We must, of course, defend ourselves, and that is the first purpose of our pact; but, in doing so, we must never forget that we are now organizing force for peace so that peace can one day be preserved without such force.”

A few years after the development of the NATO, Canada dispatched a mechanized brigade group to West Germany where it remained until 1993. No. 1 Air Division, Royal Canadian Air Force, was also established in Europe with four bases in France and West Germany. The Royal Canadian Navy also contributed to NATO by assigning a ship to the Standing Naval Force Atlantic the same year that it was stood up. Since then, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships have been attached to the Standing NATO Maritime Groups.

Today, Canada remains a strong supporter of NATO and is committed to doing its part to help her allies. For example, five Canadian Armed Forces members are currently deployed as part of the Kosovo Force. Additionally, about 540 Canadian Army members are deployed to Latvia, where Canada is the framework nation for the robust multinational enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group. In the Middle East, the NATO Training Mission – Iraq is currently commanded by Major-General Fortin. The Canadian Armed Forces has supported NATO enhanced Air Policing on a rotational basis with many other NATO allies, providing an Air Task Force as part of “Operation Reassurance” since May 2014. Finally, the investments in Canada’s 2017 Defence Policy will position the country to spend 32 percent of its defence expenditures on new major equipment, exceeding NATO‘s target of 20 percent of annual defence spending.

Outside the NATO banner, Canada has sent 200 personnel on a rotating basis to Ukraine and will continue to do so until the end of March 2019. Under “Operation Unifier”, more than 5 000 Armed Forces of Ukraine candidates have participated in the training since August 2015. Since August 2014, Canada has also participated in the global coalition to combat Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Under “Operation Impact”, Canada has deployed CF-18 Hornet fighters, tactical aviation, a Role 2 medical facility, explosive threat trainers and Special Forces advisors. On average, 850 Canadian Armed Forces personnel are part of this operation daily.

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Another Canadian Armed Forces ally that spans across international borders is the United Nations. Even before the formation of this international organization, Canada was among the original signatories of the Declaration by United Nations. The country was then a founding member of the United Nations. Lester Bowles Pearson was later elected President of the seventh session of the General Assembly. When the Korean War began in 1950, the United Nations Command was established. Canada contributed a brigade group, a naval task group, and a strategic airlift squadron. The United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission was established in 1953 to supervise the implementation of the armistice agreement and from the beginning, the Canadian Armed Forces posted one officer to the Commission, making this Canada’s longest United Nations commitment. The following year, the first Canadian Armed Forces members to serve with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization were sent. There are still four officers deployed in Canada’s contribution to this peacekeeping operation. The earliest armed peacekeeping operation, the First United Nations Emergency Force, was Mister Pearson’s creation and he is considered the father of the modern concept of peacekeeping. For his vision, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957. In its current Defence Policy, Canada has made a firm commitment to increase its support to United Nations peace operations. Canada will focus on providing Canadian personnel and training for United Nations peace operations and supporting United Nations reform efforts to make peace operations more effective. Last year, the Canadian Armed Forces deployed an Air Task Force to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. Eight helicopters and approximately 250 personnel are supporting the mission by providing it with the capability to medically evacuate United Nations forces using aviation assets.

Canada has been also supporting since 1985 the Multinational Force and Observers, an independent international organization created by agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel, with peacekeeping responsibilities in the Sinai, since 1985. About 70 Canadian Armed Forces members are based in Egypt, providing key leaders for the headquarters and experts in logistics, engineering, and training.

One of the roles of the Canadian Armed Forces is to defend Canada and help defend all of North America. This is done through several agreements and constructs. This includes the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), founded in 1958 to monitor North American airspace and maritime approaches and defend North American airspace. Since the establishment of NORAD, its deputy commander is always a Canadian General Officer. In the 1960s, Canadian CF-101 Voodoo fighters would intercept Russian TU-95 Bear Bombers flying near the North American airspace buffer zone. In 1979, Canada agreed to construct two Region Operations Centres, as part of the Joint Surveillance System. In 1985, CF-18 Hornets were assigned to the command and have since then regularly launched, intercepted and escorted Russian Tu-95 bombers. As recently as 26 January 2019, a NORAD E-3 Airborne Early Warning and Control System, two F-22s Raptors, and two CF-18 Hornets positively identified and intercepted two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers attempting to enter the Canadian Air Defence Identification Zone.

Partnerships signal Canada’s commitment to work together with allies, partners, and the broader international community to address common security challenges and contribute meaningfully to global security and stability.

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