VIDEO: Reimagining a Canadian National Security Strategy

Speakers: Aaron Shull Wesley Wark

December 6, 2021

VIDEO: Reimagining a Canadian National Security Strategy

The CIGI special report Reimagining a Canadian National Security Strategy is a cri de coeur arguing for a new approach to national security strategy and honest, transparent engagement with the reality of the threats we face as a country. It outlines the key threats that we now confront: a vastly altered geopolitical environment with the rising power of China at its core, ongoing and future pandemic threats, climate change security impacts, uncontrolled technological change and the undermining of economic security.

Meeting these threats requires a sovereign, made-in-Canada response that protects Canada’s democracy and national interest and that operates within an environment of informed public understanding.

To call attention to rising national security threats and the current deficiencies of the Canadian strategic outlook is not a counsel of despair or based in fearmongering. But it is a call for action — action to change thinking, to engage with Canadians, to improve the nature of policy making and to better understand not only the threats that might be generated within our borders, but also the larger dangers that confront us. Canada must pivot to face looming global threats and can and must do so from a position of knowledge and strength.

The special report makes a series of key policy recommendations to assist the Government of Canada in addressing the challenges of a new security environment.

In addition to the special report, CIGI gathered more than 250 experts in interdisciplinary working groups to address 10 key areas of emerging national security threats and produce a series of reports. Learn more about the Reimagining a Canadian National Security Strategy project.

Wesley Wark: Canada is entering a new era of geopolitical threats and facing dangers emerging from our natural world. We must think of a new world order in which China is now a superpower and global security is menaced by things like climate change and future pandemics. To meet the security challenges ahead, we need to review and reorganize our intelligence capabilities to ensure a strong system. This includes building up our Canadian intelligence collection abilities, improving our early warning capability — which was shown to be disastrously weak at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak — and expanding our analysis and reporting system.

Aaron Shull: Geography will not shield us; the rules-based international order is fraying. Canada benefits from multilateral cooperation and security partnerships such as the Five Eyes, but it cannot be dependent on its allies for its own security.

Wesley Wark: The Canadian government and Canadians need to take national security more seriously. We have to pivot away from a purely internal security concern to understanding and responding to global threats.

Aaron Shull: To enhance the ability of our national security system to identify new and pre-eminent threats, we need to reimagine our approach to national security. The government needs to reorganize and reconceptualize its efforts to speak directly to Canadians about the national security threats we face.

To accomplish this requires three key steps: first, the government needs to publish an up-to-date national security strategy to replace the previous effort, which is now 17 years old; second, the prime minister needs to provide Parliament and Canadians with an annual worldwide threat assessment; and third, a comprehensive review of our security and intelligence capabilities needs to be undertaken — this would be the first time such an effort has taken place since the Cold War.

Wesley Wark: In order to address the many complex challenges the country now faces and will face in the future, it is important for the prime minister and Cabinet to demonstrate their direct engagement. To that end, it is time that we reconstitute a dedicated cabinet committee, chaired by the prime minister, on intelligence and security. Other cascading efforts to reorganize how Ottawa handles national security decision making should follow from the comprehensive internal review, which we call for.

Aaron Shull: To break the old model of purely internal decision making, the government should convene a series of expert advisory councils on the following key issues: Canada-China relations and challenges to Canadian national security; climate change and security; pandemic and biosecurity threats; cybersecurity and technological advances; economic security; and border security.

Expert advisory councils, reporting directly to the prime minister through the national security and intelligence advisor, will mark a significant enhancement in our ability to understand the threats to our national security. They will bring a global perspective to bear on these issues.

Wesley Wark: A window of opportunity is at hand. The CIGI special report aims to encourage the government of Canada to pivot to a new national security strategy that recognizes new threats and aims to capitalize on Canadian response capabilities.

Aaron Shull: A new, made-in-Canada approach to national security must be found to protect Canada’s democracy and national interest.

Wesley Wark: Please read the full report to learn about how we must reimagine Canada’s national security strategy. We believe this matters to all Canadians.

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The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.