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January 8, 2020

Interview on CBC Radio, 8 January 2020.

July 21, 2018

Canada's Department of National Defence has released the results of a public opinion survey conducted by the Earnscliffe Strategy Group between February and April 2018.

Here are six takeaways:

1) The second-biggest security threat to Canada is... the United States?

This is a striking result, especially since Canada is arguably under no greater physical threat now than it was in 2016. But I wouldn't assume that respondents were thinking about security in this way. The poll probably reveals, instead, a more general concern about the impact of the Trump administration on Canadian interests, including our economic interests. (After all, if you look further down the list, Donald Trump is cited as the fourth-biggest threat.) Nervousness about the US administration seems to be acute – and this poll was conducted before Trump imposed steel sanctions on Canada and before the G7 summit, when he attacked Justin Trudeau.

2) Canadians love NATO.

Support for the...

September 24, 2015


Last year I blogged about the decline in Canadian military spending as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The most recent figures at that time were for 2013. I noted that defence spending had fallen to 1.00 percent of GDP—down from 1.13 percent in 2006, when the Harper government entered office.

In 2015, only four of NATO’s 28 members are expected to spend less than Canada on defence as a percent of GDP.

I recently looked up the figures for 2014 and added them to the chart below. Canada’s defence spending is down again—to 0.98 percent of GDP. It’s a small decline from 2013, but significant for two reasons: first, the reduction continues, and second, Canada’s spending has now fallen to less than half of NATO’s 2 percent target.

The chart also highlights a striking longer-term trend. As Robert Greenhill and Meg McQuillan pointed out in their recent report on Canada’s “global engagement gap,” Canadian defence expenditure as a percent of GDP has been falling since the Mu...

January 30, 2015


For Parts 2 and 3 of this CIPS debate, see the posts by Thomas Juneau and Philippe Lagassé.

Published in the Globe and Mail, January 29, 2015

We recently learned that Canadian troops in Iraq are spending about 20 per cent of their effort close to, or right at, the front lines, that they have been calling in air strikes from those front-line positions, and that three firefights have occurred between Canadian forces and Islamic State fighters.

The parliamentary resolution that established the mission last October indicated that Canadian forces would not engage in ground combat operations. Chief of the Defence Staff Tom Lawson and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have acknowledged that there has been a shift in the nature of the Iraq mission, but insist that Canadian forces are still performing only an “advise and assist” function, not a combat role. They also point out, correctly, that Canadian troops have a right to defend themselves if they are fired upon.

A series of incre...

January 26, 2015


In a new CIPS policy brief on Canada’s war in Iraq, Roland Paris addresses the following questions:


  • Is Canada engaged in ground combat?

  • Have we witnessed mission creep?

  • Why should Canada (and other Western countries) limit their participation in ground combat in Iraq?

  • Don’t Canadian trainers need to accompany Iraqi forces to the front lines in order to perform their ‘advise and assist’ role?

  • If there are no front lines in the Iraq war, does it make sense to talk about training Iraqi forces ‘away’ from the front lines?

  • Is Canada doing enough to support the training of Iraqi forces?

  • Should Canada renew its six-month mission in April?

  • Should Canada continue its air combat mission?

  • Beyond deploying combat forces, what else could Canada do to address the problem of violent extremism int he world?

Read the full policy brief

Paris also addressed many of these questions in a debate on TVO’s The Agenda on Friday, January 23.


November 6, 2014


Have you seen the reports that Canada is thinking about purchasing one or both of the Mistral-class warships that France has been building for Russia? They are almost certainly false.

The latest version of this story was published by the National Post in an article titled “Canada emerges as potential buyer of French-built Mistral-class warships.” The article cites the International Business Times, an online news publication, as the source of this information.

Okay, then. Let’s look at the IB Times story, published yesterday. Sure enough, it reports that “Canadian military has emerged as a potential destination for the controversial French-built Mistral helicopter carrier ships.” But the source of this information, we are told, is another news article — in the French daily, Le Monde.

Click, click, click. There it is: an article published by Le Monde on Monday under the headline (in French) “Mistral Might Interest Ottawa.” Unfortunately, only the first two paragraphs are av...

May 4, 2012

How should we define the priorities of the Canadian Forces? Steve Saideman raises this question in his latest post. In my view, the CF should have two overriding missions: first, the protection of Canada’s coastlines and airspace (along with assistance to civil authorities in emergencies); and second, the ability to contribute contingents of highly capable and versatile ground forces to overseas multilateral operations.

Steve believes that Canada faces a threat only in the Arctic, because the rest of our coastline and airspace are “quite safe.” He suggests, therefore, that when I argue that continental security should be the top CF priority, I am actually putting the Arctic first.

In fact, that’s not what I am saying. Although the Arctic will be an area of increasing international competition (given undersea resources and new shipping routes opening up due to melting sea ice), Canada still must be able to identify and intercept potentially dangerous ships, planes, and cargo before th...

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Roland Paris
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

University of Ottawa

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