Defence minister Harjit Sajjan non-committal on armed drones for military

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will neither rule out or endorse an idea being pitched by Canada's top solider, General Jonathan Vance, the Chief of the Defence Staff, who yesterday told a Senate committee the military needs armed drones.

Top Canadian general is 'running ahead of defence review' says NDP MP

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan reacts to Gen. Jonathan Vance's comments that he wants armed drones for the Canadian Forces 1:03

Canada's defence minister says it's too early to say whether the Canadian Forces should be equipped with armed drones.

Harjit Sajjan was responding to comments made yesterday by the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance.

Vance told a senate committee he believes Canada needs a new fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAV's with the capacity to carry and fire weapons.

Sajjan is neither ruling out nor endorsing the general's proposal.

"General Vance was answering a question based on his experience," Sajjan said. "But this is a discussion that we'll have as part of the defence review."

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance speaks to reporters after a Senate Committee meeting 1:44

Sajjan is embarking on a full review of Canada's defence policy which is set to conclude by the end of this year. He is looking at what training and equipment the Canadian Forces will need going into the future.

NDP Defence Critic Randall Garrison thinks the defence chief may have jumped the gun with his pitch for armed drones.

"Well, General Vance is clearly running ahead of the defence review," Garrison said. "Before we decide what equipment of any kind we need we have to do the defence review."

Conservative Defence Critic James Bezan says he had not given much thought to armed drones before Vance brought up the topic.

"I definitely see the capability and the need when we're dealing with targets like ISIS," Bezan said, adding he wouldn't want to see armed drones on patrol over places like the Canadian Arctic.

Useful tool

Vance says the Canadian Forces could use UAV's for search and rescue missions and patrols over Canadian territory or in overseas operations.

"If we are in operations against a force like ISIS, the surveillance piece is important, but we also want to contribute to the strike," Vance said. "In my view there's little point to having a UAV that can see a danger but can't strike it if it needs to."

Vance acknowledged drones are controversial and he anticipates a debate over how they should be used.


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