Debates of May 3rd, 2006
House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was norad.
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John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members
The Speaker Peter Milliken
(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)
May 3rd, 2006 / 6:20 p.m.
Peter MacKay Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agencymoved
That this House support the government's ratification of the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Agreement.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this special debate this evening, and support this motion.
I should indicate at the outset that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Carleton—Mississippi Mills, the very able Minister of National Defence. I urge all members to support the government's ratification of the North American Aerospace Defense Agreement, commonly known as Norad, which is before the House for debate.
Canada is indeed a fortunate country. We have met many challenges over the years to remain united, and we are prosperous and free. Much of our success can be traced back to one overwhelmingly important fact of national life, and that is for 60 years Canadians have enjoyed a level of security unparalleled in the modern world. Yet comfort cannot give way to complacency on security matters.
Not only has this security protected us against direct threats to our physical well-being, but it has given us personally and politically the freedom to construct our democracy, to expand our economy, to welcome new citizens here and to ensure that all Canadians have the opportunity to grow and develop in this extraordinary country of ours.
National security is multi-faceted. As circumstances change, we are often obliged to consider the relative importance we accord to each of the many priorities in this area. That said, there remains one incontrovertible responsibility. A country not prepared to protect itself against outside threats will certainly have to face them one day.
The government will stand up for Canada. We will deliver on our promises to provide a strong Canadian military, aided and with the leadership of our very capable Minister of National Defence who has exceptional personal career experience in this field. We will deliver on our promise to provide a strong Canadian military with the resources to protect us at home and meet our obligations abroad.
Our greatest resource is all of the dedication and skill of the brave men and women who serve in our armed forces. They are outstanding people, doing a superb job and working for Canadians at home and around the globe.
All members will agree that, with an enormous country, a small population and the ability to defend Canada properly, we need to work with others. This is why we place such importance on our military alliances with other countries such as Australia, as the Pacific Rim takes on increased importance in the modern world.
Our membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the North American Aerospace Defense Command have been more than just a bedrock of Canadian defence. They have also been the pillars of our foreign policy.
Our membership in NATO has always been for us the primary way of working with Europe in response to shared security concerns. For decades, NATO has stood as a bulwark against threats by the Soviet empire, threats directed not only at western Europe but at us all.
Today, the political landscape in Europe has changed forever, and Canada was at the forefront of the successful efforts to redefine the role of NATO in the world, as we can see in southern Afghanistan, where we head a multinational force and are preparing the way for handing over powers to NATO in the coming months.
Our Norad commitment is closer to home. Since 1958, Canada and the United States have jointly managed this military organization that monitors and defends North American air space. Norad is responsible for detecting and warning of attacks against North America from aircraft and missiles.
As part of its mandate, Norad participates with civil authorities in the surveillance and control of Canadian and U.S. airspace. In August 2004 Canada and the United States also reinforced their commitment to this binational command's existing functions by amending the Norad agreement to allow its missile warning function, which it has carried out for nearly 30 years, to be made available to U.S. commands responsible for missile defence.
Norad is not however involved in the U.S. missile defence system. While Norad shares its missile warning function with the United States commands, it has neither the authority nor the capability to act on the information. As a binational command, Norad is a unique defence alliance. It is a place where men and women of the Canadian and U.S. armed forces come together as equals in a common cause.
The benefits to Canada have been substantial. First, Norad has been central in protecting us from any direct military attack. Second, it has ensured that Canada has a strong and permanent influence on U.S. decisions that engage Canadian interests. Third, Canadian Forces have developed a level of cooperation and coordination with American forces that have served us well, not only in Norad but also in NATO and other multinational operations. Fourth, Norad has given generations of Canadian policy makers invaluable access and understanding of U.S. military thinking.
The Norad agreement has been renewed nine times since 1958 with substantial revisions to the agreement on four of those occasions, in 1975, 1981, 1996 and in 2006.
As was the case with NATO, the strategic environment in which Norad operates has shifted dramatically and so these latest revisions are among the most substantial ever. The most important change is the expansion of Norad's role to include maritime warning. My colleague, the Minister of National Defence, will discuss these operational details in more detail in his remarks to the House this evening.
Another change to the Norad renewal is that it has become a permanent agreement. Until now, each Norad renewal has been for a limited time and if the two sides did not renew the agreement before a specified expiry date then the agreement would lapse and that is in fact the case today. If we were not to pass this by May 12, the agreement would lapse.
There is a suggestion that Canada and the United States would get together for a limited time to cooperate in countering specific threats. By implication, this way of proceeding suggests that if those threats were to recede or even disappear, then the alliance could disappear. Surely, as we all know, the threats that we face today, I would suggest, will be with us sadly for many years to come. As we saw in the attacks on the World Trade Centre, we can never be certain of what the next threat might be or from where it might come.
Defence is different than policing where much of the work begins after the crime has been committed. We do not maintain our security or military forces in order to deploy them after an attack, to say the least. We have them to prevent the attack from taking place at all, to deter, to intercept or to eliminate that threat if possible before it eliminates us.
The Conservative government of Brian Mulroney tackled the need for permanent commitment to the bilateral issue when it signed the free trade agreement with the United States. There were many predictions at that time that Canada would disappear and that our economy would be left in tatters. Is there any respected commentator in the world today who would make that argument now? Are we not the country running a substantial bilateral trade surplus, I ask rhetorically?
The simple truth is that North America is our region. Geography is destiny and our destiny as a country is grounded ultimately in how we manage this enormous continent in cooperation with our neighbours. Canada will continue to look after its own affairs as the United States will do within its own borders, but increasingly, how we manage our affairs at home depends on how we manage our responsibilities toward one another. We see this in the environment, energy, water quality and coastal fisheries, among other examples. It is a long list and growing.
We can either retreat or react as each new challenge arises or we can look ahead and try to anticipate where that bilateral management challenge will arise, so that we have the procedures and policies in place to deal with them before they become difficult.
I will conclude now by suggesting that the Norad agreement is yet another important step in the evolution of a sovereign and free Canada. I urge the House and all members present to give its unanimous support for this important pillar of Canadian society.
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Mr. Speaker, I am in great support of what the hon. member said and the agreement. The minister mentioned the threats that are in place today would be in place for a long time to come. Would he give us more detail and his thoughts of what those threats are and in particular the maritime threats and how they were handled in the past? I would also ask the hon. minister, if the maritime threats were handled correctly in the past, then why are we adding this part to the agreement?
Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, it raises an important issue of why the addition of maritime security. Suffice it to say that in recent years we have come to recognize in Canada, as I would suggest the Americans have as well, that one of the largest vulnerabilities of the continent right now is on the water. Currently, there is a lack of surveillance at our ports and there are challenges that exist in terms of the amount of container traffic coming in to both countries right now. The water is an enormous, vast expanse of territory to cover.
Having the Norad capacity and ability to oversee incoming threats on the water is a great advantage and great security to our country. As for the source of those threats, I need not list them but only say that the terrorist threat is ever present. Sadly, we know of the existence of al-Qaeda operations on the continent and the source of terrorism can come from many corners of the globe.
I would suggest that having this added dimension of maritime security, coupled with the importance and the stress that we place on surveillance of any incoming ballistic missile, is the type of agreement that we need to be a part of. We need to be at the table. We need to be able to give input on important decisions that affect our national security.
Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS
Mr. Speaker, would the minister clarify some issues? I am not sure that everyone in this chamber or those listening understand the full, intricate details of what the Norad mission is and what the future of it will mean.
I have a definition for the minister to respond to if it is possible or, if not, he can get back to us later. It says:
--our two governments agree that Norad''s aerospace warning mission for North America also shall include aerospace warning, as defined in Norad's Terms of Reference, in support of the designated commands responsible for missile defence of North America.
The minister knows the House voted in the last Parliament that Canada would not be part of missile defence. I wonder if this does not in any way preclude Canada's possibility or even acceptance that we may in some way be part of the U.S. missile defence shield.
Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, the House has pronounced itself. This country has made it clear that we have no intention of being part of this system of which the hon. member is referring.
I would tell the member that this amendment reinforced the Canadian and U.S. commitment to preserve the existing functions of the binational command that has served both countries for well over 50 years.
Norad is not about ballistic missiles. I would suggest it is not involved in a U.S. missile defence system. The U.S. northern command is charged, however, with a ballistic missile defence mission for the continental U.S. and Alaska, of which we are not a part.
We may share information. We may in fact share the type of information necessary to make important decisions in the future, but this new Norad agreement does in no way alter the existing relationship that we have had in place for many years, nor has it given the authority for the Americans to override our sovereignty in any way, shape or form.
I hope that answers the hon. member's questions. I look forward to his participation in the debate this evening.
Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the government for the steps that it has taken to give Canadians the security and stability that they look for.
Would the minister enlighten us a little more with regard to how the review will work? There is the fact that we are now tied to Norad on a permanent basis, which I think most people understand the importance of, but how will the review work? Is this a review that will come before Parliament every four years? Is this a review that is just an automatic grandfathering? What type of mechanism is there to review in four years?
Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Alberta. I know that he has a very strong interest in support of our armed forces and an interest in this subject matter.
I am glad he asked the question because it does allow for a further explanation. While this agreement will, in principle, come again before the House potentially in four years, both parties, the United States and Canada, have the opportunity, should they desire such a debate at that time and should circumstances require, to bring it back before their respective houses or simply exchange the type of diplomatic letters that are often used to renew this agreement.
However, it does put in place a more permanent agreement. It does allow for review. It does allow, in fact, for either party to pull out of the agreement, giving 12 months notice. To that extent, this Norad agreement is on much more stable footing today and will be when it passes through this House.
The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer
I wish to remind all hon. members that this is a regular debate, so in order to partake in questions and comments, I would ask that they stand in their proper places.
Resuming debate, the hon. Minister of National Defence.
Gordon O'Connor Minister of National Defence
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be participating in today's debate on the renewal of the North American Aerospace Defence Agreement.
The defence of North America is something this government takes very seriously and we know that the militaries of Canada and the United States do so as well. The pilots, aircraft technicians, radar operators and air controllers, and the men and women who keep a close eye on our continent and work 24 hours a day to ensure our safety, will tell us that Norad is not just another agreement between two countries. It is a reflection of their commitment to protect their loved ones and their fellow citizens.
Norad is about protecting people. It is about providing for the safety and security of our citizens. That is why we worked with the United States to renew the Norad agreement, an agreement that has been revised to meet the specific challenges of today, and an agreement that demonstrates the longstanding friendship that exists between Canada and the United States and stands as an enduring symbol of the willingness of the two nations to defend their shared continent in an unstable and dangerous world.
When the first Norad agreement was signed in 1958, North Americans were facing the terrifying prospect of attack by nuclear armed Soviet long range bombers. Developing a joint air defence system to protect Canada and the United States became a clear necessity.
Throughout the Cold War, Norad was on guard against the Soviet aircraft that would enter North American airspace to test Norad readiness, conduct attack simulations, and undertake electronic snooping.
I am reminded of one particular incident on a summer night in 1985 when Norad detected three Soviet bombers flying off the coast of Labrador. Norad responded by scrambling a CF-18 fighter from Bagotville, Quebec. Within minutes, the Canadian CF-18 pilot had located those Soviet aircraft and ensured that they ventured no further.
Norad has shown great flexibility over the decades, keeping pace with evolving weapons technologies from nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles in the 1960s to air and submarine-launched cruise missiles in the 1980s.
Norad continues to keep pace today. The traumatic events of September 11, 2001, underscored Norad's continued relevance in the new security environment. As events unfolded that day, Norad became our first line of defence and Canadians played a critical role. The person in charge of Norad's response that morning was a Canadian general and a Canadian navy captain was the command director in the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Centre at Norad.
Norad increased its alert-readiness measures, scrambled combat and surveillance aircraft, and in conjunction with U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and NAV Canada, coordinated the rerouting and grounding of every single commercial aircraft in North American skies.
Norad then launched Operation Noble Eagle, an ongoing internal air defence mission. As part of this operation, our two countries' air forces have flown more than 42,000 sorties and scrambled fighters more than 2,100 times.
Today, Norad is also working in close collaboration with other government security agencies.
For example, last February, Norad fighters—including CF-18s from CFB Bagotville, Quebec—worked with the FBI, RCMP, US Coast Guard and local police forces to secure the Windsor-Detroit area during the Super Bowl.
As a CF-18 pilot said on the day of the Super Bowl, “We want to let people know we are there and ready.” That is exactly what this government wants Norad to do—to be there and be ready to defend the citizens of Canada, and our neighbours to the south.
The renewal of Norad clearly supports this government's Canada first commitment to protect Canadians and defend our national sovereignty. It is the most cost effective and logical, common sense way to exercise control over our vast airspace. In fact, Canada bears only 10% of the total cost of providing aerospace defence for North America.
Norad gives us access to valuable training opportunities with our American allies, as well as to important defence related information and intelligence. Norad ensures that we have an important voice and influence in the continental aerospace defence issues.
Through the last half century, our participation in Norad has never inhibited us from making independent choices. Norad's unique bi-national command structure allows both of our governments to exercise exclusive control over our respective territories and command over our national forces.
Norad is not only being renewed, it is also being enhanced. First of all, the new agreement will renew Norad indefinitely. Norad will still be subject to review at least every four years, if not requested sooner or by each party, and it can be cancelled on 12 months' notice. But we are dedicated to a permanent agreement. The new agreement also includes a maritime warning mission.
North America is not shielded by the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Recent events have shown that terrorists can strike in unexpected ways. Keep in mind that some of our largest cities and population centres are located along our shorelines. Millions of tonnes of freight pass through North American ports every day. A terrorist strike against the ports of Halifax, Montreal or Vancouver, or even on the Great Lakes or the St. Lawrence Seaway, would be catastrophic.
That is why we must do everything possible to prevent this from happening—to make sure that North America and its citizens are safe.
That is why, for the first time in its history—building on nearly five decades of aerospace defence cooperation—Norad will work on developing an ability to contribute to the monitoring of our maritime approaches and our internal waterways.
Norad will process available data and advise the national commands of each country—Canada Command and US Northern Command—on issues of concern. Responding to maritime threats, however, will remain the responsibility of each of these national commands.
Canada and the United States have also agreed to let the Bi-National Planning Group expire. Established in 2002 to facilitate information sharing and coordinate contingency plans for defending against potential threats to North America, such as disasters or terrorist attacks, the Bi-National Planning Group has fulfilled its original mandate and recently issued its final report. Its functions will instead be integrated into a number of other bodies, such as the Permanent Joint Board on Defence, Canada Command, U.S. Northern Command, the Military Cooperation Committee, and of course, the new enhanced Norad.
At this very moment the men and women of Norad, Canadians and Americans, are maintaining a silent but effective vigil to keep our country safe. These often unseen sentinels are committed to protecting the lives of their fellow citizens, to protect us all 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Their work is critical for the defence of our national sovereignty and for the protection of our citizens.
We are now presented with the opportunity to make Norad a stronger organization. Norad has evolved considerably over the years keeping pace with the times and it must continue to do so. It is in the interests of North America. It is in the interests of our relations with the United States. Above all, it is in our national interest. A renewed and enhanced Norad is a clear indication how this government is putting Canada first.
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Mr. Speaker, as I said I am a big supporter so the member does not have to worry, but he might want to get his pen out because I have four quick questions. Before I ask them, for the record, my riding of Yukon is right beside Alaska, a few seconds from a missile base in Alaska and we had students who went to that base and protest. They are quite against that operation.
First, there is a huge expenditure in the budget for the military. Out of that money, which specific equipment would be for things that could be used in Norad, maritime and air equipment, and if interoperability is going to be used, what would be the specifications because of Norad in the contracts?
Second, it was great to hear the minister mention the word “Arctic”. That was fantastic and I thank the minister, but what out of that military budget is related to the Arctic?
Third, does the minister foresee any time when American ships would be in Canadian waters related to this agreement and could he give us an idea of how that would work?
Last, as the Bi-National Planning Group is disbanding, does that mean there is no further discussion related to land troops of a similar nature?
Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to answer the member's four questions as clearly as I can, starting with the last one.
The Bi-National Planning Group that was set up in 2002 is closing down. I mentioned a number of organizations that will take up its responsibilities, but essentially Canada Command and Northern Command are going to cooperate to see where they can combine on doctrine and agreement so that we have a seamless border if we have problems on it. We are not worried about closing down the Bi-National Planning Group.
With respect to American vessels in our waters, the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North America is divided. Canada has an area of responsibility and the United States has an area of responsibility. It is the same on the Pacific coast. The idea of this warning system is that if vessels were entering our area, we would note right away what they are. If they indicated that they were going to the U.S., we would then inform the U.S. that vessels had entered our waters and in two days they should enter U.S. waters, or whatever. The U.S. would do the same thing so that we could keep track.
Especially on the east coast, the tracks from Europe cross through both of our waters. Nearly all vessels go through both of our waters so it helps to keep track of which vessels are in the waters to add security.
With respect to the Arctic, yes, the $5.3 billion in the budget above the Liberal government's financial commitments will include a lot of activity in the Arctic, as we mentioned in our campaign last January.
With respect to equipment, yes, once we have the final plan from the military and it is approved by cabinet, we will be bringing forth equipment for the air force, the army and the navy. Where possible, we try to standardize with NATO on various technical aspects of equipment. Yes, equipment will be available for all three.