The Canadian military has deep ties to their US counterparts. From naval patrols to special forces deployments, research initiatives to wars, the Canadian Forces (CF) function largely as an appendage of their southern neighbour’s enormous killing machine.
Recently HMCS Winnipeg joined with a US destroyer to pass through the Taiwan Strait. The provocative move was part of the Canadian Navy’s many international operations alongside the US Navy.
Since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq a small ‘detachment’ of Canadian soldiers have been serving under US auspices out of the Prince Sultan Air base near Riyadh Saudi Arabia. They operate AWACS spy planes in one of many little discussed CF deployments that assist US forces.
Over the past decade the Canadian military has been setting up a network of international bases under the Pentagon’s direction. As part of the initiative to “project combat power”, Canadian “lily pads” have been established in Kuwait, Senegal and Jamaica while negotiations have been launched for small bases in Singapore, Germany, Tanzania and South Korea.
Canadian special forces have deployed with their US peers across the globe. As part of a late 1990s US initiative, a handful of elite JTF2 soldiers rescued NGO and church workers “threatened” by FARC guerrillas in Colombia. Alongside their US and British counterparts, 40 JTF2 members invaded Afghanistan in late 2001. On February 29, 2004, 30 JTF2 commandos took control of the airport from which elected social democratic Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was bundled (“kidnapped” in his words) onto a plane by US Marines and deposited in the Central African Republic.
This country’s first special forces unit consisted of 900 Canadians and 900 Americans under joint US–Canada command during World War II. Officially known as the Canadian/American First Special Service Force, the Devils Brigade carried out sabotage missions and organized resistance in North Africa, Italy and Southern France.
At Washington’s urging tens of thousands of Canadians fought in Korea, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya. Between 2014 and 2016 Canadian fighter jets joined the US bombing campaign over Iraq and Syria.
Even Canada’s most well-known peacekeeping mission was instigated at the behest of Washington. The US opposed the British, French and Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956 with Canada leading a UN force designed to extricate London from a war that sparked tension within NATO between the former colonial powers and new hegemon. In the early 1960s Canadian peacekeepers played an important role in the US–Belgian assassination of Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba. In 2004 500 Canadian troops occupied Haiti as part of a US-instigated UN mission that installed a violent coup government.
Canada has hundreds of military accords with the US. According to DND, there are “80 treaty-level agreements, more than 250 memoranda of understanding, and 145 bilateral forums on defence” between the two countries’ militaries. The most important bi-national military accord is the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), which grants the US commander at the Colorado headquarters “operational control of an element of Canadian Forces in Canada.” Supposed to defend the two countries from an invasion by Soviet bombers coming from the north, NORAD ties the Canadian military to US belligerence. NORAD systems supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq and US bombing in Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, etc.
The CF purchases weapons to fight with their US counterparts. “Maintaining interoperability [with the US] is the key to the future relevance of the CF,” noted the Chief of Defence Staff in his 2002 annual report. The government’s 2017 Defence Policy statement cited the importance of being “interoperable”/“interoperability” with US and NATO forces at least 19 times. At its most basic “interoperability” means the ability for military forces to act together seamlessly because their doctrines, processes and equipment are compatible.
Canada’s large landmass and research capacities have enabled the US war machine. In the 1950s and 60s the Department of National Defence (DND) funded and supported psychiatric research the CIA used to refine torture techniques employed on many unfortunate individuals across the globe. The Defence Research Laboratory at Queen’s University in Kingston helped turn the naturally occurring toxins in shellfish into a weapon and supplied it to the US military’s biological weapons centre at Fort Detrick in Maryland. In the 1970s the CIA attempted to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro with a nearly untraceable pill consisting of shellfish toxin.
In the mid-1960s US Air Force jets sprayed biological weapons simulants over Defence Research Establishment Suffield (DRES) to test spraying fatal diseases on a population. DRES was important to US researchers during the war in Vietnam. Famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh explained, “Suffield has become colossally important to the CBW [Chemical Biological Weapons] people here in the last year. Ever since the uproar came out over tests within the United States (the summer of 69) it’s a known thing in Washington that Suffield has become the US prime testing area now.” In the 1980s DRES received a boost from the Reagan administration’s renewed interest in CBW.
On the other side of the country, the US tested Agent Orange and other defoliants used to deny food to areas supporting the anti-colonial insurgency in Vietnam. A 1968 US Army memorandum titled “defoliation tests in 1966 at base Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada” explained: “The department of the army, Fort Detrick, Maryland, has been charged with finding effective chemical agents that will cause rapid defoliation of woody and Herbaceous vegetation. To further develop these objectives, large areas similar in density to those of interest in South East Asia were needed. In March 1965, the Canadian ministry of defense offered Crops Division large areas of densely forested land for experimental tests of defoliant chemicals. This land, located at Canadian forces base Gagetown, Oromocto, New Brunswick, was suitable in size and density and was free from hazards and adjacent cropland. The test site selected contained a mixture of conifers and deciduous broad leaf species in a dense undisturbed forest cover that would provide similar vegetation densities to those of temperate and tropical areas such as South East Asia.”
The US Navy staffs and funds a testing facility on the east side of Vancouver Island. CF Maritime and Experimental Test Ranges (CFMETR) is largely used by US nuclear-powered and nuclear weapons-capable submarines. In the 1990s US submarines fired thousands of torpedoes at the Nanoose Bay facility. (The soft seabed allows them to retrieve expensive torpedoes.)
Having endorsed Nuclear Weapons Free legislation, BC’s NDP government sought a review of Nanoose Bay’s environmental impacts in the late 1990s. In response Ottawa expropriated CFMETR’s land in the first hostile expropriation of provincial property since the early 20th century (the Federal Court of Canada ultimately ruled against the federal government).
In a sign of the Pentagon’s view of the Canadian military, Washington regularly pushes Ottawa to increase military spending. Paul Cellucci revealed that when he was appointed US ambassador to Canada in 2002 his only instruction was to press for increased Canadian military spending. During a 2016 speech to Parliament President Barack Obama called on the federal government to increase its military spending while in 2018 President Donald Trump sent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a letter calling on Canada to improve its military preparedness.
The depth of the Canada-US military alliance is such that if US forces attacked this country it would be extremely difficult for the CF to defend our soil. In fact, given its entanglements with their southern counterparts the CF would likely enable a US invasion. As with the 2003 invasion of Iraq — which Ottawa officially opposed — some Canadiantroops on exchange in the US might march north and, as is the norm when the US invades another country, Canadian officers would likely operate NORAD systems aiding the aggression.
Unpalatable as it may be to some, the USA is the only nation that could realistically invade Canada. But, notes military historian Marc Milner, Canada is largely “indefensible from the only country in a position to attack her.”
The “defence” sector ignores US threats because it is not oriented towards protecting Canada from aggression. Rather, Canada’s “defence” community is aligned with the US Empire’s quest for global domination.
Yves Engler’s latest book is Stand on Guard for Whom?: A People’s History of the Canadian Military
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