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Minister's Defence Review Consultations: a debriefing after the latest sortie

SfP members will recall that, in preparation for last summer’s Defence Policy Review hearings, our Defence Policy Advisory Group prepared a brief, “Canada’s Security: Threats and Responses”. Its recommendations were ably presented to the Toronto hearings by Terry Gardner and Jim Prentice. It was obvious however that the members of the Review panel regarded those recommendations as outside their scope. Our brief addressed a basic reassessment of actual security threats; they were looking at minimal adjustments to the status quo.

We were therefore happy to be invited to send a delegate to meet personally with the Minister of Defence, David Collenette, in his series of follow-up Minister’s Defence Review Consultations. Such a consultation took place on October 13, and consisted of the Minister and five invitees. John Valleau represented SfP; the text of his opening statement is printed below.

You will see that the tack was not, this time, to stress our conclusions (which, being non-traditional, do after all require, if they are to be entertained seriously, a genuine re-examination of the situation we face).

Instead the idea was to define and seek agreement on the kind of question that needs to be addressed. The question we did propose seems quite unlike those to which the Defence Review seems to have limited itself; we believe that if accepted it would surely lead to answers not very unlike those of our brief. Of course only limited success was to be hoped for. The Minister did at least feel constrained to address the thrust of our presentation for some while. (Metta Spencer, an invitee for Peace Magazine but also a member of the SfP Board, played a helpful part in this discussion.) He even paid lip service to the aptness of our question. But old habits die hard: our question disappeared from sight when the Minister was able to turn, with relief, to discussing with his three conventionally military guests such vital questions as how many of the new frigates should be kept at sea at any moment (in view, as he admitted, of their having no obvious utility).

The Minister’s White Paper has just been presented to the House, and we can see that there is indeed still much to be done. We have to point out that what are the real and terrible threats to our security, and establish that for these threats there is no useful military remedy —- in fact we have to seize back from the military the word “security”.

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