Center for Strategic Decision Research


Responding to Current International Security Challenges:
The Canadian Approach

The Honourable Bill Graham, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Defence of Canada

It is a genuine pleasure to be here in this beautiful and historic chateau and to be able to discuss some of the most significant issues facing our individual countries, our collective alliances and the international community as a whole with friends and colleagues in what has become an internationally respected workshop. 

It is clear that we will have a chance to discuss a number of key challenges related to global security in the coming decade. This undertaking is commendable and necessary. But I think that you will agree that it is also an exceptionally daunting task. We witnessed how fast the international security environment can change after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. As British historian Eric Hobsbawm put it, “the only certain thing about the future is that it will surprise even those who have seen the furthest into it.” 

While the countries represented around the table this afternoon may have many differences, a common thread—a very important thread —linking us together is our commitment to work together to confront the new and evolving security challenges of the twenty-first century. These challenges include global terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and attacks on our computer networks. At the same time, threats of a more traditional nature now exist alongside newer destabilizing factors such as refugee flows, environmental crises on a global scale, and pandemics such as HIV/AIDS.  

To effectively address the threats that we face today—and will most likely face over the next decade— the most obvious lesson in a post-Cold War, post-September 11 world is that we must be prepared to confront global security challenges when and where they occur. 

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer summed this up when he said that “either we tackle these problems when and where they emerge, or they will end up on our doorstep.” And to effectively tackle these problems, we must modernize and adapt our armed forces to the twenty-first century security environment. 


This is the path that Canada is taking: 

  • First, we have put in place a new military leadership with a wealth of innovative ideas rooted in recent operational experience, both in Canada and throughout the world. Last year, for example, Canada’s new Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, was the overall commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. 
  • Second, we committed nearly thirteen billion dollars in new funding for the Canadian Forces in our most recent federal budget, the most substantial funding increase for our military in more than twenty years. This will allow us to increase the size of our armed forces, acquire new equipment, and provide the investment needed to fundamentally transform our military. 
  • And third, we have just completed a new defence policy statement that sets out a bold new course for Canada’s armed forces that is designed to meet, head on, the security challenges of the twenty-first century. 

With our new defence policy, we will be more focused on the protection of our citizens, our country and our continent. This includes the creation of a new national command structure in order to bring the best available military resources from across Canada to bear on a domestic crisis quickly and effectively, wherever it occurs, nation-wide. This is not a simple matter if you consider that our country covers six time zones, nearly ten million square kilometers, and some two hundred thousand kilometers of coastal areas. 

Geography also dictates that Canada’s defence depends upon maintaining a strong security partnership with the United States. This is why our new defence policy statement commits us to working with the United States to develop new and innovative ways to defend our shared continent. 


But our focus on protecting Canada and Canadians and defending the North American continent will not diminish the role that Canada plays internationally. Frankly, in today’s security environment, it is clear that we must be prepared to meet threats to our security as far from our shores as possible. I believe that my colleagues would agree that security in our individual countries ultimately begins with stability abroad. 

With the additional funding for the Canadian Forces and our new defence policy statement, Canada is committed to having a more significant and influential presence in the world. For example, the expansion of our Regular Force by nearly ten percent and the addition of significant new equipment will essentially double our capacity to undertake challenging international operations in any country or region in the world. We are also in the process of establishing a new Standing Contingency Task Force to respond rapidly to emerging international crises. 

As we enhance our military capacity, Canada remains committed to working with our allies and partners in multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, NATO and the EU. We also remain open to participating in less formal coalitions of like-minded states, as we have done in the international campaign against terrorism. 

That said, the ability to respond to the challenge of failed and failing states will, in the future, serve as the benchmark for Canada’s armed forces. Failed and failing states pose a dual challenge. In the first instance, the suffering that these situations create is an affront to our values. Beyond this, they also plant the seeds of threats to regional and global security, in particular by generating flows of refugees that undermine the stability of neighbouring states and create new regional political problems. More ominously, the impotence of their governing structures makes them potential breeding grounds or safe havens for terrorism and organized crime.  We have seen this all too clearly in countries like Afghanistan. 

Simply put, in today’s security environment, Canada is committed to meeting threats to our security where and when they emerge. 


This is why we are preparing to expand our military presence in Afghanistan. 

Canadian soldiers first deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 to confront the remnants of the Taliban regime and members of Al-Qaeda. Since then, Canada has consistently been among the largest contributors to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in the country. And our involvement and the involvement of our international partners in Afghanistan over the past few years is having a real and positive impact. It is improving the lives of the Afghan people. It is helping to stabilize the country. And it is enhancing regional and international security. 

But the situation remains fragile. Without an effective international military presence on the ground, there is a real risk that Afghanistan will fall back into the hands of the Taliban and once again become a haven for terrorists. And without security, the country risks a situation where local warlords, financed through drug operations and with equipment that outstrips that of the state, become the effective rulers of vast parts of the country. 

This is a risk that the world cannot afford to take. And this is why Canada is ready to commit itself so extensively in paving the way for a secure, democratic and self-sustaining Afghanistan. To that end, a Canadian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team will be deployed to the city of southern Kandahar by the end of the summer for a period of eighteen months, allowing us to put into practice our “3D” approach of coordinating Defence, Diplomacy and Development. We will also maintain an armoured surveillance squadron group with the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul until later this year. And, in early 2006, Canada will extend its presence in Kandahar by deploying a brigade headquarters of approximately three hundred Canadian Forces members and an army task force of about seven hundred personnel for a period of nine and twelve months respectively. 

What this means for us is that Afghanistan is Canada’s principal military operation and will remain so for some time to come. I had recent discussions with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, Dr. Abdullah, in Ottawa. In our meeting, he spoke of the invaluable role that our military, and the militaries of our allies and partners, are playing in helping to build a more stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan—an Afghanistan that no longer threatens international security or the safety of our citizens. 


So, addressing the challenge of failed and failing states is at the heart of Canada’s strategy to confront the new and evolving security threats of the twenty-first century. 

Together with our international partners, we will focus our diplomatic, aid and military interventions where threats to international security emerge—as we have done, most notably, in Afghanistan as part of the war against terrorism.

And to ensure that our interventions—particularly our military interventions—are effective, we are committed to modernizing and increasing the capacity of our armed forces in order to make them more relevant, more responsive and more effective. 



Top of page | Home | ©2003 Center for Strategic Decision Research