Foreign policy rarely becomes a matter of electoral debate in Canada. But this time was different. The refugee crisis in Europe, trade negotiation deadlines, and Canada’s involvement in the Syria conflict — all pushed foreign policy under the electoral microscope for significant parts of the campaign. The decision of the three main party leaders to participate in a two-hour debate dedicated to foreign policy brought added attention.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has long been a function of the North American security environment. Initially established during the Cold War, NORAD was intended to fulfill a homeland defense role by looking outwardly to identify and interdict threats approaching Canada and the United States. In the post-9/11 period, NORAD’s focus has evolved and the institution has shifted from looking outwardly to include participation in homeland security operations taking place within the United States and Canada. NORAD’s participation in North American homeland security operations has resulted in the redefinition of the institution’s role in defense and security operations. In recent years, NORAD has provided airborne security at major sporting events, government conventions, and other large public gatherings. This homeland security support role has been buttressed by the institution’s appropriation of popular cultural icons, such as Santa Claus and Superman. These examples are symbolic of a broader shift away from strategic defense, towards a public relations’ role. In the post-9/11 period, NORAD’s primary function has been to affirm U.S. dominance over North American skies, and to convey to the public audience that the potential for future terrorist attacks remains a threat to domestic security.
In 2013 the Canadian government will hold the chairmanship of the Arctic Council. In preparation for this the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program last week released a set of recommendations of what should guide the Canadians’ two year tenure. Expectations are that the chairmanship will prove an assertive Canada acting on their belief that they promote the interests of the Arctic by advancing Canadian leadership.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was on her way to Tromsø (Norway) and Stockholm (Sweden) to reaffirm that the US has an interest in the Arctic, rebuffing criticisms that this rarely shows. With her trip to Scandinavia some experts conjured that this was the first baby-step to finally signing the UNCLOS. This would be a landmark as it (at least officially) enables the country to press its claims on the Arctic. Even if this was the case, the US will still need to work hard to keep up with their Arctic partners.