Title: White Paper on Defence of Canada - Introduction
The past year has marked a significant turning point in the history of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces. Responding to a fundamental reordering of international affairs and the need to confront important economic realities at home, the Prime Minister announced in November 1993 a comprehensive review of Canadian defence policy. In February 1994, a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons was established to consult Canadians on all aspects of this issue. With the new defence policy outlined in this White Paper, the Government has fulfilled its commitment.
The Special Joint Committee on Canada's Defence Policy travelled across the country listening to the views of ordinary citizens, defence experts, disarmament advocates and non-governmental organizations. It sought the advice of our allies and saw at first hand the tasks performed by our forces in Canada, in support of NORAD and NATO, and on peacekeeping and humanitarian operations abroad.
Beyond the work of the Committee, the Government made a concerted effort to involve Parliament in the formulation of defence policy. During the past year, Parliament held special debates on issues such as peacekeeping and cruise missile testing, ensuring that our decisions took full account of the concerns of Canadians from across the political spectrum.
As Minister of National Defence, I conducted a personal policy review by meeting with interested groups, giving a number of speeches and interviews, and responding to many enquiries from citizens who expressed their opinions on defence issues.
I co-chaired, with my colleagues the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of International Trade, a National Forum on Canada's International Relations. Together, we established a process that allowed the Foreign Policy Review and Defence Policy Review to proceed in harmony. I followed closely the work of the Special Joint Committee Reviewing Canada's Foreign Policy, whose recommendations have been carefully assessed in preparing this White Paper. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and I also exchanged views with our Alliance partners, both on a bilateral basis and at NATO meetings.
Within the Department of National Defence, I sought the advice of civilian officials and military commanders. Senior members of the Department and the armed forces appeared before the Special Joint Committee. In addition, Canadian Forces bases and stations across the country held open houses, informing local communities about the review of defence policy and encouraging their participation.
The Report of the Special Joint Committee played an integral role in shaping Canada's new defence policy. Virtually all its recommendations are reflected in this White Paper. In a few cases, after further examination, the Government has preferred to adopt an alternate approach, but the intent of the Committee is met. The Committee's recommendation concerning the size of the Regular Forces was judged to be inconsistent with the financial parameters within which the Department of National Defence must operate. Cuts to the defence budget deeper than those envisioned by the Committee will be required to meet the Government's deficit reduction targets.
The defence of Canada and Canadian interests and values is first and foremost a domestic concern. The primary obligation of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces is to protect the country and its citizens from challenges to their security. For the men and women who defend Canada, ultimately with their lives, this entails a level of responsibility and sacrifice that far surpasses that of most other professions. In putting service before self, the Canadian Forces, drawn from all walks of life and every region of the country, exemplify the high ideals of our society and demonstrate how we can come together to solve common problems. At a time when the continued existence of the nation is being debated and national symbols take on more importance than ever, the unifying role of the Department and the Forces can only help to build a stronger, more dynamic and prosperous country.
In the final analysis, it may be said that a nation not worth defending is a nation not worth preserving.
The consensus achieved on the way ahead -- an effective, realistic and affordable policy, one that calls for multi-purpose, combat-capable armed forces able to meet the challenges to Canada's security both at home and abroad -- will serve to guide the work of the Department and the Forces into the next century. Together, we can take pride in a new defence policy that meets Canada's needs and fulfils our obligations, both to the nation and to our men and women in uniform.
The Honourable David Collenette, P.C., M.P.
Minister of National Defence