Canada First Defence Strategy – Government/DND Document – 18 June 2008
Government of Canada / Department of National Defence
Release – CANADA FIRST DEFENCE STRATEGY
Defending Canadians from threats to their safety and well-being is a critical role for government. To deliver
on this core responsibility, the Government is committed to rebuilding the Canadian Forces into a first-class,
modern military. Starting in 2006, the Government began laying the foundation for a more integrated, adaptive, and
capable force by recognizing that the military is a vital national institution essential to the security and
prosperity of Canada and by making initial but significant investments to address critical gaps in personnel
and equipment. The Canada First Defence Strategy translates this vision of a first-class, modern military into
a comprehensive 20-year investment plan.
Building an effective military is an ongoing process and requires clear strategic goals. As part of the
Canada First Defence Strategy, the Government established explicit objectives for the Canadian Forces.
These objectives were derived from a thorough assessment of the Government’s expectations for the Forces at home
and abroad, the capabilities needed to achieve the desired operational outcomes, and the resources required to
generate the required capabilities over a 20-year planning period.
Over the last two years, the Government has been engaged in a rigorous planning exercise that has taken into
account Canada’s defence and security challenges, recent operational experience and current and future demands
on the military, including scenarios of possible missions that the Canadian Forces might be asked to undertake.
This allowed the Government to generate a detailed level of ambition for the Forces and determine the military
capabilities needed to carry out essential missions. This exercise, in turn, helped identify where investments
were most needed in order to fill gaps across the four pillars upon which military capabilities are built –
personnel, equipment, readiness and infrastructure.
This analysis informed the development of the Government’s 20-year plan aimed at strengthening key military
capabilities through focused investments in each of the pillars. Supported by increased, predictable long-term
funding, the Strategy will deliver a balanced, multi-role, combat-capable force that will give the Government
the necessary flexibility to respond to a full range of challenges in the years ahead.
Developing the Strategy
II. STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENT
Canadians live in a world characterized by volatility and unpredictability. Looking back, it is clear that the peace
dividend that resulted from the end of the Cold War was relatively short-lived. The 1990s saw the emergence of
difficult security challenges, including failed and failing states, civil wars and global terrorism. Many countries,
including Canada, were slow to fully appreciate and adjust to these new realities. During this period, governments
dramatically under-invested in the Canadian Forces, leaving them seriously unprepared to deal effectively with this
increasingly complex global environment.
Today we live in an uncertain world, and the security challenges facing Canada are real. Globalization means that
developments abroad can have a profound impact on the safety and interests of Canadians at home. Indeed, the
terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 and those carried out since, demonstrate how instability and state
failure in distant lands can directly affect our own security and that of our allies.
Ethnic and border conflicts, fragile states, resurgent nationalism and global criminal networks continue to
threaten international stability. In addition, unequal access to resources and uneven economic distribution are
proving to be increasing sources of regional tension even as existing low-intensity or frozen conflicts in
Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and the Balkans remain largely unresolved.
The proliferation of advanced weapons and the potential emergence of new, nuclear- capable adversarial states
headed by unpredictable regimes are particularly worrisome, as is the pernicious influence of Islamist militants
in key regions. The ongoing buildup of conventional forces in Asia Pacific countries is another trend that may
have a significant impact on international stability in coming years.
Canada also faces challenges on the home front. Catastrophic events such as floods, forest fires, hurricanes and
earthquakes can overwhelm local capabilities. Over the last decade, our military has been called upon to assist
civil authorities in dealing with a number of natural disasters, including floods in Manitoba and Quebec, the
ice storm in Eastern Canada, and forest fires in British Columbia. As Hurricane Katrina has shown in the
United States, such disasters will continue to occur, often with devastating consequences, and the citizens
affected will expect immediate responses.
Other challenges to domestic security include possible terrorist attacks, human and drug trafficking, foreign
encroachments on Canada’s natural resources, and potential outbreaks of infectious disease. Should the need arise,
the Canadian Forces are ready to play an important role in supporting their emergency management partners across
In Canada’s Arctic region, changing weather patterns are altering the environment, making it more accessible to
sea traffic and economic activity. Retreating ice cover has opened the way for increased shipping, tourism, and
resource exploration, and new transportation routes are being considered, including through the Northwest
Passage. While this promises substantial economic benefits for Canada, it has also brought new challenges from
other shores. These changes in the Arctic could also spark an increase in illegal activity, with important
implications for Canadian sovereignty and security and a potential requirement for additional military
The Government has committed to making sure that Canada has the tools it needs to deal with the full range of
threats and challenges to Canada and Canadians. The Canada First Defence Strategy represents a major step in
this direction by giving the Canadian Forces the capabilities they need to operate effectively in today’s
– and tomorrow’s – uncertain environment.
< Part 1 —
Canada First Defence Strategy – Executive Summary
> Part 3 —
Canada First Defence Strategy – Roles for the Canadian Forces