Canada and Ballistic Missile Defence: Responding to the evolving threat

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About the Study

What is ballistic missile defence (BMD)?

Ground-based Midcourse Defense or U.S. BMD is the specific system within the U.S. global BMD architecture that would be used to protect Canada. It uses ground-based missiles to intercept and kinetically destroy an incoming ballistic missile before it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

Why is the committee studying BMD?

In 2005, Canada announced it would not participate in the U.S. BMD program. To better assess the impact of this policy decision and whether maintaining this position today serves Canada’s security and foreign policy interests, the committee sought out expert advice on how the threat environment has evolved since 2005: the current state of the U.S. BMD effort today; how Canada’s BMD policy aligns with its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) commitments and its broader defence and security partnership with the United States; and potential opportunities for Canada should it decide to participate more fully in BMD.

The committee heard testimony about the ongoing efforts of North Korea and Iran to acquire capabilities to deliver long-range, nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.   These efforts -carried out in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions - have brought us to the point where the theoretical threat has become a practical reality.

Is there a threat to Canada’s national security?

“The threat is real”, said the Deputy Commander of NORAD, Lt. General Parent.  Canada cannot simply assume that all of its territory will be protected by default under the existing U.S. BMD system.  Because Canada is not a BMD program participant, decisions on when, where and whether to intercept an incoming ballistic missile are made not under the auspices of the binational NORAD structure but, rather, by the U.S. alone under its domestic defence command, United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM).

What would participating in BMD mean?

Canada will be joining 27 other members of NATO, Australia, Japan and South Korea in the BMD program.  Full participation would align Canada’s current policy and its commitments to NATO and NORAD. It will allow Canadian officials, including our military generals, to be at the table to discuss ballistic missile defence, how Canada can be protected and when, where or whether we should intercept a missile heading in our direction.

How could Canada contribute to BMD?

Canada’s contribution could take on many different forms, including research and development directed towards enhancing the system, supply of additional radar tracking sites as well as becoming part of the integrated command structure in the protection of Canada and North America.

Senators who participated in this study

Daniel Lang
C - (Yukon)

Deputy Chair
Roméo A. Dallaire
Lib. - (Gulf - Quebec)

Lynn Beyak
C — Ontario

Jean-Guy Dagenais
C — Victoria, Quebec

Joseph A. Day
Lib. - (Saint John-Kennebecasis - New Brunswick)

Grant Mitchell
Lib — Alberta

David M. Wells
C - (Newfoundland and Labrador)

Vernon White
C - (Ontario)

Ex-officio members of the committee:
The Honourable Senators Claude Carignan, P.C. (or Yonah Martin) and James S. Cowan (or Joan Fraser).

Other Senators who have participated from time to time in the study:
The Honourable Senators Campbell, McIntyre, Ngo, Nolin, Oh, Ringuette, Segal, and Tkachuk.

Contact information

General Information:
613-990-0088 or 1-800-267-7362


Mailing Address:
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence
The Senate of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1A 0A4

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