According to media reports, the perimeter security talks begun by Prime Minister Harper and President Obama last week could include discussion of expanding NORAD to cover land and sea operations in Canada and the United States. Such an expansion could even go as far as integrating Canadian and U.S. command structures, headquarters, and operations with regard to continental security (John Ivison, “NORAD could be expanded to land and sea,” National Post, 11 February 2011).
A more comprehensive security arrangement that increased cooperation between the two armed forces was one of the key recommendations of a Canada-U.S. Bi-National Planning Group in 2002. The two governments did extend the aerospace warning regime to include a maritime traffic warning in 2006 but backed away from the more ambitious deal proposed by the planning group. However, since then melting sea ice at the top of the world has changed perceptions and shifted priorities – not least for the Canadian government, which has made Arctic sovereignty one of its key policy planks.
In 2006, the Bi-National Planning Group produced a report proposing a number of alternatives for this kind of “enhanced” Canada-US military cooperation.
Five years later, Michael Byers’ assessment of the 2006 report still offers a useful guide to the thinking underlying such proposals (Michael Byers, “Continental Integration by Stealth,” Toronto Star, 27 April 2006).
The BPG report… reveals that expanding NORAD to include maritime surveillance sharing is intended to create momentum toward complete military, security and foreign policy integration. We [Canadians] are being subjected to continental integration by stealth. Indeed, the BPG report warns of a ‘small but vocal minority’ concerned about Canadian sovereignty and recommends the use of an ‘incremental’ approach. Beware the gentle proponents of closer military co-operation. Canada, once proudly independent, is in danger of allowing itself to be suffocated in America’s embrace.