Liberals announce $1.4B investment in Ottawa's Dwyer Hill Training Centre

Previous governments had planned to move the military's counter terrorism unit to a new facility at the Trenton air force base. Land was expropriated for that purpose, but the federal Liberals will instead upgrade the existing facility in Ottawa.

Construction project will replace aging buildings with 23 new facilities

Chief of the Defence Staff Wayne Eyre looks on as Minister of Defence Anita Anand speaks during an event releasing the Advisory Panel on Systematic Racism and Discrimination final report during an event, Monday, April 25, 2022 in Ottawa.
The 10-year construction project is designed to meet the needs of JTF2, Minister of Defence Anita Anand, pictured here, said Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Liberal government is spending $1.4 billion to upgrade facilities for the Canadian military's counter terrorism response unit at its current Dwyer Hill Training Centre in Ottawa.

The federal government had previously planned to move Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) to a new facility at the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton, but after expropriating land for that purpose, it will instead upgrade the existing facility in Ottawa over the next decade.

The construction project is designed to meet the "long-term growth, training, and high-readiness operational" needs of JTF2, Defence Minister Anita Anand said in a news release Tuesday.

The Dwyer Hill Training Centre is located at the intersection of Dwyer Hill Road and Franktown Road in Ottawa, about 50 kilometres from the city's downtown.

The project will replace 89 existing structures with 23 new facilities, according to the release. Those buildings will include offices, a shooting range and medical and training facilities.

Anand estimated about 2,000 jobs will be created over the life of the project, spread across more than 150 subcontracts designed to encourage bids from smaller contractors.

A fighter jet on a runway near a Canadian flag.
The federal government had previously planned to move its counter terrorism unit to a new facility at the Trenton air force base, pictured here. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

JTF2 is a special operations unit of the Canadian Armed Forces tasked with combatting international and domestic terrorism. The unit was created in 1993 and expanded shortly after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

In January 2007, the federal government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the JTF2 was to be relocated to CFB Trenton, while the Dwyer Hill property would be evacuated by 2010.

To expand the Trenton base, the government took possession of nearby land, including 90 hectares in August 2012 from neighbouring farmer Frank Meyers.

The expropriation of Meyers' land prompted widespread support for the farmer and protests on his behalf.

Despite the expropriation, JTF2 was never relocated and the Liberal government confirmed to reporters in 2020 those plans had been scrapped.

Now, the existing facility will be upgraded.

The 2014 shootings at the National War Memorial and inside Centre Block on Parliament Hill prompted a review of the decision to move JTF2 to CFB Trenton, to see whether it was "still in line with Canada's counterterrorism needs," Anand told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Tuesday.

The review found keeping JTF2 in the National Capital Region better meets operational requirements, "and it's in line with our allies' approach, so that we keep counterterrorism sources close to our seat of government to be able to respond to possible threats," she said.

"We need to be near the capital and that's why Dwyer Hill is being retained as the site."

Construction is set to begin this May.

LISTEN | Anand's full interview with Ottawa Morning:

Defence Minister Anita Anand details the plan to upgrade the training centre, and looks ahead to President Biden's visit to Ottawa.