Evidence of meeting #11 for National Defence in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was arctic.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

James Fergusson  Professor, Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba, As an Individual
Robert Huebert  Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Calgary, As an Individual
Stephen Saideman  Paterson Chair in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, As an Individual
Lieutenant-General  Retired) Walter Semianiw (As an Individual
Anessa Kimball  Associate Professor of Political Science, Director, Centre for International Security, École supérieure d’études internationales, Université Laval, As an Individual

4:35 p.m.

Paterson Chair in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, As an Individual

Dr. Stephen Saideman

We would be vulnerable anyway, because their system doesn't work that great either.

4:35 p.m.

Professor, Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. James Fergusson

That's highly debatable, Steve.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Yes, and we're not going to have that debate right now.

4:35 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I must say that when I was in university, C+ was one of my better marks.

With that, Mr. May, you're going to take it out.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm sure that's not true. I'm sure you did much better in school.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Everybody here thinks it's true.

4:35 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

March 21st, 2022 / 4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Dr. Saideman, I'm wondering if you can quickly speak to climate change as a factor in continental defence. How are these types of emergencies affecting CAF's ability to defend the continent? Maybe you can propose some solutions or alternatives.

4:35 p.m.

Paterson Chair in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, As an Individual

Dr. Stephen Saideman

I can do better on the first than on the second.

The reality is that the CAF is spending more of its time dealing with floods, fires, ice storms and pandemics because climate change is making a dent on our climate. There are no two ways around it. It means that the CAF has less money, less time and fewer resources to deal with other problems. There's just the time thing about it; it interrupts training cycles and it interrupts other things. The CAF is strained. The pandemic has strained the CAF more through the variety of ways in which it has helped the country deal with the pandemic. That simply makes it harder to do so.

There are others who could talk more clearly about what it means for the permafrost to be softening and how that will make it harder to maintain bases and develop new bases [Technical difficulty—Editor] up in the north, but every investment that we put in the north is going to be very, very costly. Climate change is not going to make it cheaper. It's going to make it more imperative, because we [Technical difficulty—Editor] to be rescued. We're going to need more assets up in the north, because it is going to be a passage that people will be going through.

What's the solution to this? I think the first thing is that we need to tell the military that domestic emergency operations are not just an inconvenience getting in the way of expeditionary operations. They are a co-priority with these operations elsewhere. Again, we've faced greater harm from these emergencies than from any foreign aggression in any recent time frame. We need to put more effort into making this part of their day job and not just something that gets in the way of their day job. It's about priorities.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Thank you.

Dr. Fergusson, in your opinion, how does cyber capability factor into continental defence?

4:35 p.m.

Professor, Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. James Fergusson

Well, you have to understand that I am very “old school”, so I like to keep defence and security separate as much as possible. They overlap too much. Given modern cyber requirements and the digitization of the armed forces, though, cyber-defence is vitally important for the armed forces, for their capabilities, to do the missions they have to do.

The problem becomes that if you start to extend that into the security world, the private sector, the policing [Technical difficulty—Editor] sector agencies, now you have a complex number of actors involved, with varying interests. Certainly, the number one priority for the defence establishment is to protect its own.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Just quickly, how do the naval capabilities that Canada is acquiring improve Canada's ability to contribute to continental defence?

4:35 p.m.

Professor, Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. James Fergusson

The future surface combatant—I think that's the term they use now—is an important add-on. The problem, in my view, is that the Royal Canadian Navy wants this capability, certainly to modernize but also to be able to integrate with our allies and, I'll put it this way, “sail the seven seas”.

What the new class of ship, given its capabilities...and it depends upon the components or the interceptors. Those ships provide a potential significant ability to provide defence against sea-launched cruise missiles and potentially, in the future, sea-launched hypersonic missiles coming after North America. If you go further down the road, which has been tested by the United States, there's the potential to provide also a layer of ballistic missile defence, at least from sea-launched ballistic missiles.

It all depends on what you buy, but it is a vitally important contribution to North American defence if the navy doesn't go along to think that it's about going over there, not home. That's always been a problem for Canada.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Thank you to all of our witnesses.

I think that's my time, Mr. Chair.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Yes. Thank you. It's more than your time.

To our witnesses, thank you on behalf of the committee. We have had uniformly excellent presentations over the last few weeks, and you have continued that fine tradition. Thank you to each one of you.

With that, I will suspend while we re-empanel for the second hour.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I'm calling this meeting back to order. We have, as our second set of witnesses, Professor Kimball and General Semianiw.

I'm going to ask you to pronounce your name, because I'm clearly not pronouncing it correctly.

4:40 p.m.

Lieutenant-General Retired) Walter Semianiw (As an Individual

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I'm Lieutenant-General Semianiw.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Okay. Thank you, sir.

I think there was a second baseman for the Blue Jays who had that name, but he wasn't a general.

With that, colleagues, I'm going to ask Professor Kimball to give her opening five-minute statement.

Thank you.

4:40 p.m.

Dr. Anessa Kimball Associate Professor of Political Science, Director, Centre for International Security, École supérieure d’études internationales, Université Laval, As an Individual

Thank you for the honour of this invitation. These past several weeks, as crisis shifted into invasion and now war in Ukraine, ensuring a diversity of voices at these reflections is crucial to ensure that different types of expertise inform future policy-making. I will now turn to the essentials of this meeting.

Canada must maintain multidomain awareness and response capacities to ensure its sovereignty. In addition, Canada has sunk substantial costs into NORAD and NATO [Technical difficulty—Editor] defence and co-operative security institutions were tasked with delegated power and the resources to respond to multiple threats. That notwithstanding, NATO promises also require that the Canadian government invest in a credible defence [Technical difficulty—Editor]. Both of these institutions are good investments and help keep Canada's status as an honest international partner, supporting collective defence and security, realistic. NORAD ensures Canada has access to all-domain warning, command and control on the continent, while NATO gives Canada access to collaborating and communicating regularly with 29 states and global NATO partners. The UN and EU have increasingly delegated crisis management actions to NATO [Technical difficulty—Editor] because NATO is better equipped to do it through the partnership for peace and the centres of excellence. In fact, the most recent peacekeeping operation sent by the UN dates back to eight years ago.

While undoubtedly there are important threats to Canada from the internal environment, which is the first category I discussed, these include levels of push-back on the masking mandates combined with the roots of populism and anti-liberalism producing what was called by foreign media a “siege” of Ottawa several weeks ago. A national capital's economic productivity, liberty of circulation and quality of life was paused with a moderate coordinated effort and a large-vehicle symbolism [Technical difficulty—Editor] power in our country. Even though we talked about American support financially, it remains clear that it was Canadians in the streets of Ottawa protesting. We cannot forget this fact. These individuals were motivated by what is going on in Canada less than possibly what is going on in the U.S., including rumours that it was linked to Trump.

One portion of this group's motivation was frustration with the state of the informational environment concerning the pandemic. The asymmetry of information quality and cohesion of policy between the federal and provincial levels in the pandemic has highlighted the importance of transparency and coordination in information transmission [Technical difficulty—Editor]. Violent extremism, racial- or gender-motivated violence and the challenge of adapting to a diverse and respective military culture with CAF are also important threats to efficiency, readiness and morale. These are internal threats to Canada requiring consideration.

It is worth noting that some of the key protesters or organizers of the Ottawa protests are former or actual CAF members. CAF has a history of extremists, supremacists and conspiracists in its ranks. Some of those people have already shifted attention from the pandemic to support Russia against western sanctions, an indication that these people will continue to work against Canadian interests.

Each of the next threats that I underline, which I have grouped together, has critical institutional links to NATO and NORAD. They are ordered so as to reflect [Technical difficulty—Editor] of threats. Today's threats do not stop at borders and often fail to take a physical shape, as we saw mostly in the Cold War. This complicates deterrence. Finally, the actors engaging in those activities simultaneously work to reduce the chances of credibly attributing anything to a single actor, again complicating our capacity to respond.

Among these I include hybrid conflict, which adds misinformation and cyber-attacks but also includes the use of non-regular actors that we are seeing. These are mercenaries, private actors brought into conflict zones.

The misinformation or false information is robot-based, as in AI-based, and includes the use of humans who simply transfer false stories and promote false rumours. Cyber-attacks can also target critical infrastructure, banking, retail or government institutions. We have seen this in NATO partners. In fact, NATO's cyber-defence centre of excellence began with seven members in 2006 and is the most populous today, with 28 NATO members.

Again, we are seeing that these states collaborate, and Canada needs to gain greater access to these environments and bring those resources back home.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Can you finish up in a moment, please?

4:45 p.m.

Associate Professor of Political Science, Director, Centre for International Security, École supérieure d’études internationales, Université Laval, As an Individual

Dr. Anessa Kimball

Yes.

I saw that colleagues already talked about missiles. These remain a continuing threat. Canada has one foot in, one foot out with ballistic missile defence. It's problematic functionally, should a territorial missile arrive. There's research from 2018 talking about how NORAD might be used to address Canada's issues concerning strategic defence, and I would be happy to share that.

Territorial sovereignty in the Arctic was covered by colleagues previously, but I would add a couple of things. Russia has used the Arctic Council to securitize an institution that explicitly sought not to be brought into the political game. We see this very clearly. Russia is willing to destabilize multiple institutions to achieve gains in Ukraine. Canadian investments in Arctic sovereignty pale compared to American and U.S. investments.

Taken together, Canada has some level of partner support in managing or responding to these threats, but it's simply not doing enough.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I'm sorry, Professor Kimball, but we've blown through the five-minute presentation time.

4:50 p.m.

Associate Professor of Political Science, Director, Centre for International Security, École supérieure d’études internationales, Université Laval, As an Individual

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

I'm sure you'll be able to work it back in with questions.

With that, we'll turn to Lieutenant-General Semianiw.