Regehr: Military Footprints in the Arctic

The report, Military Footprints in the Arctic, identifies 69 continuously staffed Arctic military sites in the five states with Arctic Ocean coastlines and discusses the challenges of reducing strategic tensions and recovering diplomacy.

As Canada’s first northern indigenous Governor General, Mary Simon has reminded all Arctic states there is a need “to figure out how [they] can continue working together when a terrible war is going on [which is] contradictory to the rules-based international order.”   

 By Ernie Regehr, O.C.
Senior Fellow in Arctic Security and Defence,
The Simons Foundation Canada
with Kelsey Gallagher
Project Ploughshares
March 2024

Why Two Percent?

March 25, 2024
by Robin Collins and Sylvie Lemieux

Canada can engage in diplomatic efforts to end our reliance on nuclear deterrence. This means signaling to all NATO’s members to slow and reverse momentum in supporting a global arms race. Instead, let’s increase overseas development and peacekeeping contributions.

Lester B. Pearson, pictured on May 9, 1962 in Toronto. The rarely-mentioned competing alternative is Pearson’s proposal that States pay 0.7 per cent of their gross national income for overseas development. Photograph Ashley and Crippen/City of Toronto Archives

As global spending on weapons and war reaches its highest level ever—more than US$2.2-trillion, about twice what it was in 2001—NATO allies such as Canada have been called upon to pay up, including reaching the arbitrary two per cent of GDP that the alliance collectively “agreed” to. The clamour among columnists for Canada to step up is deafening, and we think this noise is misleading.

In 2006, NATO’s then-26 members committed themselves to the two per cent to ensure “military readiness,” and to enhance the “perception of the Alliance’s credibility.” This would entail a significant increase for Canada—now at ~1.4 per cent—even while this country is already NATO’s seventh largest provider—out of 31 members—in dollar figures, and 14th in a world of 193 states. Some freeloader!

The United States share (39 per cent) and Chinese share (13 per cent) combined are over half of all the world’s military spending. Russia (at 3.9 per cent) is far behind. This raises many questions. What is the money being spent on? Is increased military spending in perpetuity the best way to commit to global security, or is it intended to maintain a particular power dynamic?

We face a multitude of global crises that require global cooperation. Every dollar spent on weapons escalation will inevitably deprive funding of other important services. Addressing the climate crisis is urgent, and requires immediate attention and huge expenditures. The same goes for pandemic preparedness, international attention to artificial intelligence threats, and increased spending on conflict resolution mechanisms.

But the goal of an arms race is to achieve power superiority over a rival. We need to outspend them and—therefore, logically—they us. Particularly in a multi-polar world, this is a pointless, endless, and dangerous endeavor.

Two per cent for NATO also means cutting back on foreign aid. The rarely-mentioned competing alternative is former Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson’s proposal—which made it into a UN resolution in 1970—that States pay 0.7 per cent of their gross national income for overseas development. That would have the advantage of raising the material wealth of the world’s poorest countries, and simultaneously reducing the weaponizing mechanisms that lead to violent conflict.

We all have seen how nuclear deterrence both failed to impede Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and raised the risk of nuclear war, while conventional weapon inventory is quickly depleted in the bloodbath that is still in progress. NATO’s strategy, however, is substantially based on costing a reliance on “essential” nuclear deterrence for alliance security. This includes new spending earmarked for modernization of nuclear missile inventories held by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. The U.S. Congressional Budget Office, for example, predicts modernization of U.S. nuclear arsenals alone will reach US$60-billion per year through 2030. While polls show NATO remains popular among many of their citizens, nuclear weapons certainly are not. A strong majority of Canadians—80 per cent—think the world should work to eliminate nuclear weapons, not modernize them.

There is a financial and security relationship between steering away from a global warring framework based on nuclear threats and military superiority, and shifting spending towards cooperative alternatives that help solve our common problems. While conflicts will continue for the foreseeable future, there are better options available to reduce them than the ones we are being badgered to fulfil.

Canada can engage in diplomatic efforts to stifle and end our reliance on nuclear deterrence. This means also signaling to all NATO’s members to slow and reverse momentum in support of a global arms race. Instead, let’s increase overseas development and peacekeeping contributions. NATO members could start by agreeing to cut their military spending to 0.7 per cent and increase foreign aid to two per cent. This is a viable trend all nations and the planet will benefit from.

Robin Collins and Sylvie Lemieux are co-chairpersons of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
They are members of Canadian Pugwash Group.

The Hill Times

Roche: Heather McPherson has suddenly become one of the most important MPs in Ottawa

EDMONTON—Heather McPherson, the NDP’s foreign affairs critic who, on March 18, steered through the House a groundbreaking motion banning arms sales to Israel, has suddenly become one of the most important parliamentarians in Ottawa. She got the government to bend to her humanitarian-centred motion to stop these sales and help end the violence in Gaza and, in so doing, took Canada into a G7 leadership position.

In the past decade, Canada has authorized $170-million in arms exports to Israel, and continued to allow arms sales there during the present Israel-Gaza war. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly confirmed these sales will now stop, but Global Affairs Canada is trying to wiggle out of the vote on the grounds that contracts are involved.

The language that Joly and the government voted for is clear: “cease the further authorization and transfer of arms exports to Israel to ensure compliance with Canada’s arms export regime and increase efforts to stop the illegal trade of arms, including to Hamas.” McPherson and her caucus are standing firm that what was voted on—after tough negotiations—must be implemented.

“Thanks to our motion,” McPherson said, “Canada is the first G7 country to stop sending weapons to Netanyahu’s extremist government.”

In January, McPherson and a small group of MPs travelled to Jordan and Palestine to meet with Palestinian refugees, aid workers, Canadian consular officials, and progressive Israeli activists. She saw first-hand evidence of “the complete failure of the international community to stop the unfolding carnage in Gaza,” as she described it to the House.

Backed by NDP Leader Jasmeet Singh, who has expressed alarm at “the rise of antisemitism, anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia” since the start of the war on Oct. 7, 2023, McPherson introduced a wide-ranging motion calling for an immediate ceasefire and the release of all hostages. The motion also called on the government to “officially recognize the State of Palestine and maintain Canada’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist and to live in peace with its neighbours.”

Although the opposition day motion was non-binding, the government feared a deep rupture in the Liberal caucus between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine factions. When the Bloc Québécois said it would vote for the motion, the government anticipated that it might pass. Negotiations started for amendments.

To save the heart of the motion—ceasefire, more help for Gaza, no arms sales to Israel, support for the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, continued funding for UNRWA—McPherson gave up the call for Canada to officially recognize Palestine. Canada is not ready to break with its Western allies in the long-held position that the elusive two-state solution must precede the recognition. So she agreed to “water-down” the motion to say that Canada would “work with international partners to actively pursue the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including towards the establishment of the State of Palestine as part of the two-state solution, and maintain Canada’s position that Israel has a right to exist in peace and security with its neighbours.”

The amended motion, supported by the Liberals, passed 204-117. Only three Liberal MPs voted no. Several Liberal MPs openly cheered McPherson.

Once again, McPherson showed that co-operation with her political opponents, and a willingness to move away from dogmatic positions can get results. After travelling to Ukraine, she obtained unanimous consent of the House in February to pass a motion calling on Canada to continue to provide military and financial assistance to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia, and also “support Ukraine’s future membership in NATO.” That motion doesn’t sound like the old anti-NATO NDP.  But McPherson, an undoubted devotee of the United Nations—not NATO—as the ultimate guarantor of peace, is a pragmatic politician.

McPherson is building a reputation as an effective parliamentarian. During the COVID period in 2020, she obtained unanimous consent of the House for a motion calling on the federal government to provide an additional $2-billion in funding for affordable childcare programs and back-to-school safety measures. I have never heard of a private parliamentarian, and an opposition one at that, obtaining so much money from the government for a project.

McPherson has multiple interests. She led the fight against coal mining in the Eastern slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. And she journeyed to Hiroshima to see for herself the effects of the atomic bomb. She returned as a strong advocate for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

McPherson, who is 51 years old and married with two teenaged children, stands out in a sea of blue in Conservative Alberta. First elected in 2019, she ran up her margin in the 2021 election to 60.7 percent of the vote. She brought to Parliament her experience as executive director of the Alberta Council on Global Co-operation. She has a master of education from the University of Alberta, and has taught around the world.

In her valiant work, McPherson is not just standing up for Palestinians, but for a rules-based order that the world needs reaffirmed at this fraught moment in history, and which too many Canadian politicians are ignoring. I asked her why she worked so hard to get her Israel-Gaza motion passed. “Because 13,000 children have died in this war,” she said. The world needs to pay attention. “There are children with gunshot wounds to the head and neck, and children so severely malnourished that they are skin and bones. Babies are unable to survive, dying before they even have a chance of life. We have seen two peoples utterly traumatized by violence, death, and terror.”

Heather McPherson is a human rights politician. She has earned the respect she receives from all corners of the House. But, she told me, “it’s emotionally draining.”

Former Senator Douglas Roche’s latest book is Keep Hope Alive: Essays for a War-free World (Amazon).

The Hill Times  

Article in pdf here: Roche_032524

Roche: Trudeau may not be able to fend off NATO’s ceaseless demands for more money

The booming voices of the militarists claiming peace can only be won through more arms carry a lot of weight.


EDMONTON—You don’t need a crystal ball to predict that the Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence, to be held March 7-8 at the Chateau Laurier, will launch a massive campaign to get the Trudeau government to commit to a date by which it will devote two per cent of GDP to NATO. The Conference on Defence Associations, the conference’s sponsor—heavily financed by the defence industry—is rolling out one high-level speaker after another to demand that Ottawa get in line with the new mantra that Canada is headed for the scrapyards unless we dramatically boost military spending.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should hold to his stand of fending off NATO’s ceaseless demands for more money, but he may not be able to. The booming voices of the militarists, both inside and outside government, claiming peace can only be won through more arms, carry a lot of weight. Those who argue—as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres does—that the world desperately needs a return to the peace-building principles of the UN Charter rather than more military spending, cannot be heard in today’s clamour.

“NATO and the world is watching what Canada is doing,” U.S. ambassador to Canada David Cohen proclaimed on the CBC. The U.S. intimidation tactics are in overdrive. This from the country whose $886-billion annual defence budget is larger than that of the next 10 countries combined.

While castigating Canada for staying at 1.38 per cent of GDP, the ambassador conveniently forgot to mention that, in volume terms, Canada is already the 13th-largest military spender in the world, and the sixth largest in NATO. The government plans to spend $553-billion over the next 20 years to buy new weapons systems like fighter jets, armed drones, and warships. But the militarists say this is not enough. NATO cares not about the chronic underfunding of domestic health and housing programs, strained beyond capacity by the annual intake of half a million immigrants a year.

The two per cent target is a great fraud perpetrated on the public by the military-industrial complex, which drives American policy, which, in turn, drives NATO. Peggy Mason, policy adviser to then-prime minister Joe Clark and now the head of the Rideau Institute, says, “It is absurd to peg military spending to a percentage of economic activity, extrapolated into the future. We need to base our funding on our assessment of the threats to security that Canada faces and our determination of the best means, including non-military means, to address them.”

Trudeau deserves credit for at least questioning NATO’s militaristic thinking that puts the welfare of defence contractors ahead of the financial needs of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, a 15-year multi-billion-dollar program to ensure the well-being of the most vulnerable people, and which is itself a prime contribution to global security. So far, Canada has contributed $35.5-billion to the SDGs. I have not observed NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg—or the U.S. ambassador—thanking Canada for that.

NATO’s two per cent intonation is taking over political thought because the world—which, after the end of the Cold War, started moving from the old culture of war to a new culture of peace—is in a state of severe disruption. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas wars have so far produced a state of paralysis in international diplomacy. Those who argue for negotiations to bring about a just peace are shouted down, and aspirations for global cooperation in the name of common security are brushed aside.

The tribal instincts of warfare have been resurrected, in which military might is glorified as the only solution to dictators and autocrats who are springing up on a wave of right-wing populism, which is itself a reaction to the failure of the international system created after the Second World War to build enduring and productive centres of peace. In other words, Western nations have put their faith in NATO’s arms stretch instead of the UN’s diplomatic outreach.

Of course, oppression must be stopped, but feeding the arms merchants is not the way. This has only led to global deadlock. In this new time of world upheaval, NATO should be working with the UN peacebuilding systems, which attempt to implement integrated strategies to end conflict and build conditions for peace.

To look for a larger way out of war is not to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin, who must be condemned for his invasion, or to close our eyes to the killing tactics employed by both the Hamas and Israel, but to recognize that humanity is calling out for survival.

At the core of the two-per-cent argument is the plain truth: NATO’s constant aggrandizement, burgeoning from the original 12 members to 32—which now virtually surround Russia—is a violation of the promises made after the end of the Cold War that NATO would expand “not one inch.” A bigger NATO has undermined the UN’s political and legal authority.

Then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, told me personally that NATO’s obsolete policies were one of the biggest thorns he’d had to endure. He at least pushed back. But NATO bullying never stops.

The present Prime Minister Trudeau faces the same system of outmoded thought. There are millions of Canadians who want him to stand up against it.

Former Senator Douglas Roche’s latest book is Keep Hope Alive: Essays for a War-free World.
The Hill Times

Meyer: The Russians are Coming! The threat of space based weapons is no longer a dark fantasy

“Any nuclear detonation in space would also violate the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty which confined nuclear weapon testing to underground locations only. These prohibitions reflected the realization by the Soviet Union and the United States, at that point the leading space powers, that any nuclear detonation in outer space would have devastating effects on everyone’s spacecraft.

“While positioning a nuclear weapon in orbit is unlikely, a troubling development that has been occurring over the past few years has been a resumption of testing destructive anti-satellite weapons (ASATs). These so-called kinetic weapons are launched by missiles with guidance systems able to direct them on a collision course with the target satellite. China was the first to employ such a direct-ascent ASAT in 2007, followed by the US in 2008, India in 2019 and most recently Russia in November 2021.”

Read the full essay in Open Canada:


Jaramillo: After supporting UN calls for Gaza ceasefire, Canada must now stop military exports to Israel

By Cesar Jaramillo
December 19, 2023, Published in The Hill Times

A recent Project Ploughshares report raises questions about the risks posed by Canada’s major military exports to Israel, and underscores the need for Canada to comply fully with domestic and international arms control obligations.

Operation Iron Swords—Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack—is causing unprecedented harm to Gazan civilians, violating human rights, and flouting international humanitarian law. So horrific is the devastation that Canada has deviated from its staunchly pro-Israel stance, and supported a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a ceasefire, despite Israel’s opposition.With this politically significant vote, Canada joins almost the entire international community in urging the immediate end to the carnage in Gaza. Now Canada needs to act in the spirit of that non-binding resolution by scrutinizing its role in supplying military goods to Israel.

Project Ploughshares has just released a report by researcher Kelsey Gallagher, entitled Fanning the Flames: The grave risk of Canada’s arms exports to Israel. It raises critical questions about the risks posed by our substantial military exports to Israel, and underscores the need for Canada to comply fully with domestic and international arms control obligations.

The international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), to which Canada is a party, imposes clear obligations on member states to prevent arms transfers if there is a substantial risk that they would be used in violations of international humanitarian or human rights law. In taking a stand for a ceasefire, Canada has acknowledged the devastating impact on Gazan civilians under the Israeli offensive, which has been widely denounced for disregarding the most basic humanitarian principles. The logical next step is to reassess the role of Canadian military goods in perpetuating this crisis.

The ATT offers a clear framework for responsible arms transfers, emphasizing the prevention of their misuse, including in breaches of international humanitarian law. Canada, having ratified this treaty, must demonstrate unwavering commitment to its principles. Our nation is duty-bound under the ATT to halt these transfers of military goods to Israel given the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza.

As Fanning the Flames highlights, Canadian military exports to Israel—valued at $27,861,256 in 2021 and $21,329,783 in 2022—include electronic equipment, aircraft, and bomb components. Particularly notable are parts critical to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A variant, the F35I, is being used by the IDF in its bombing campaign in Gaza, and Canadian-made components—including parts of the landing gear, pieces of the engine, and segments of the wings—are found in these Israeli planes.

Israel’s right of self-defence cannot extend to wanton aggression and the flouting of international norms. The global community cannot afford to endorse a narrative in which humanitarian violations are thus excused. And Canada must recognize and rectify its own role in perpetuating the cycle of violence in Gaza through the exporting of its military goods.

For Canada, ceasing all military exports to Israel—given the substantial risk that they may be implicated in human rights violations—is a necessary step and a legal obligation. But we should go further by adopting a presumption-of-denial policy for new export permits related to military goods destined for Israel. Such a policy, when aligned with ATT obligations and humanitarian imperatives, would acknowledge the heightened risks associated with such transfers and aim to prevent our country’s complicity in potential human rights abuses.

The Canadian government must also close loopholes that enable unregulated military transfers to Israel via United States procurement channels, through which Israel receives components for its F-35I fighter jets. This proactive measure would align our domestic control regime with what is required under the Arms Trade Treaty.

Without swift action, Canadian military goods will continue to pose the risk of contributing to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and could even affect the trajectory of future conflicts. What is unfolding in Gaza is a stain on our collective humanity. And if Israel’s behaviour stands as an example of what the West considers acceptable in armed conflict, the whole international community—including the West itself—will surely suffer.

Any such endorsement not only jeopardizes the well-being of those directly affected, but also exposes the vulnerability of international norms to the whims of powerful actors.

Evidence of violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza is indisputable. And history will judge Canada’s response to this critical moment. Support for a long-overdue ceasefire is a good start. Now it is time for Canada to stop arming Israel.

Cesar Jaramillo is executive director of Project Ploughshares,
and chair of the Canadian Pugwash Group.