Wednesday, April 20, 2016


By: Lee Berthiaume, National Post (National Edition)

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS There has been a “proliferation” of ballistic missiles since former prime minister Paul Martin opted not to join the U.S. missile defence program in 2005, says Lt.-Gen. Pierre St. Amand, left, a deputy commander with NORAD.
A Canadian senior military commander responsible for protecting against airborne threats to North America says Canada would not be shielded from a ballistic missile attack.

But he also admitted he did not know of any direct ballistic missile threat to Canada.

Lt.-Gen. Pierre St. Amand, deputy commander of the joint U.S.-Canadian aerospace defence system, NORAD, made the comments Tuesday when he appeared before the House of Commons defence committee where ballistic missile defence was front and centre.

The Ottawa Citizen revealed this week the Liberal government’s defence review includes questions about whether Canada should join the U.S. in building a shield against foreign-launched missiles.

While the New Democratic Party opposes Canada’s participation, several Conservative MPs, including former defence minister Jason Kenney, favour reopening the debate.

St. Amand listed ballistic missiles as one threat among the many NORAD watches for every day. The difference between it and other threats is it is the only one in which Canada would not have a say in how to respond, he said.

“Canada will be advised (of an attack),” he said. “With respect to the defence itself, we’ll know that there is going to be an action taken because we’re sitting in the room … We’re kind of a silent observer, if you want.”

There has been a “proliferation” of such weapons since then-prime minister Paul Martin opted not to join the U.S. missile defence program in 2005, St. Amand said, before referring to recent developments by North Korea and Iran.

The U.S. spent about $100 billion over the last decade to develop land- and sea-based systems that would stop a limited ballistic missile attack from rogue states, like North Korea or Iran. (They would not protect against an all-out attack by Russia or China.)

St. Amand agreed with an opposition assessment that if there were an attack, the Americans’ ballistic missile defence system would only be used to protect the U.S.

But he added he did not know of any direct ballistic missile threat to Canada from North Korea or elsewhere. Rather, it could be targeted during a war because of its alliances with the U.S. and NATO.

“There’s nothing specific that I can talk about,” he said when asked about direct threats. “The fact that we have signed up to certain alliances, NATO, for example, and we are closely aligned with the United States, means we are in a sphere where we could be targeted.”

NDP defence critic Randall Garrison said the comment was proof Canada does not need to join ballistic missile defence.

“If there’s no credible or realistic threat from a state actor to Canada, then why would we enter into (missile defence)?” he asked.

But Conservative defence critic James Bezan said with North Korea and Iran continuing to develop ballistic missile technology, Canada needs to be prepared.

“They may be aiming for the United States, but (Iranian or North Korean missiles) could fall into Canadian territory,” he said. On a visit to Washington, Kenney also spoke in favour of Canada reexamining the issue.