On guard for thee? Canada's shrinking military
Last Updated June 28, 2005
A boat pulls alongside the frigate HMCS Regina in the Gulf of Oman on April 6, 2003. They were on patrol as part of Operation Apollo Canada's contribution to the campaign against terrorism (Courtesy DND)It's no secret that since the end of the Second World War, Canada's military has been downsized in terms of personnel, equipment and budget. Canadian Forces have been pared down from well over 100,000 in 1956 to approximately 60,000 today. At the same time, government spending on the military has dropped from almost six per cent of the GDP in 1956 to just over one per cent in 2003.
This, according to the author of a Queen's University study, has led to the very real possibility that Canada's military could face extinction within the next 15 years if it doesn't get a serious government commitment. Douglas Bland says there simply aren't enough personnel in the Canadian Forces and insufficient resources to train more.
|Compare the Canadian Forces staffing levels since the Second World War.|
Canadian military critic and historian, Jack Granatstein in September 2002.And Granatstein says that unless a defence review is conducted and governments are given explicit, step-by-step guidelines to follow, the Canadian Forces could fade to nothing within 15 years.
So how has Canada's military got to this point? There are no simple answers, but here are some contributing factors:
A smaller military costs fewer dollars to operate. That's good news for a government that spends more than $37 billion in interest payments on the national debt.
One of the most obvious reasons is necessity. The Cold War is over and there has been a move toward demilitarization. Soviet bombers no longer probe Canada's airspace and Canadian land forces are no longer needed to counter the East Bloc threat to the former West Germany. In the absence of a tangible foe, the need for a large, conventional, standing military has diminished.
Canada and the United States
The Department of National Defence says the creation of the new Canada Command "is based on the new international security environment and a commitment to place greater emphasis on the defence of Canada and North America" and "It will also be consistent with Canada's commitments and obligations under the Norad agreement."
Ever since the 2001 attacks, the United States has been putting pressure on Canada to reinvigorate the Armed Forces.
The U.S. Northern Command, created on Oct. 1, 2002, says its area of operations "includes air, land and sea approaches and encompasses the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico and the surrounding water out to approximately 500 nautical miles. It also includes the Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands."
Like the new Canada Command, the U.S. Northern Command is "unified" and the Pentagon says, "The general leading each of the unified commands is called a combatant commander because they have the mission of fighting wars, when necessary. The nation's unified commanders, not the services, are responsible for integrating warfighting, logistics and joint training in theatre. The services (army, navy and air force) do not fight. The combatant commander fights."
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