Canada to increase maritime surveillance


Canada plans to sign a new defence treaty with the United States that will see more surveillance over sea lane approaches to North America — including those in Arctic waters.

The existing bi-national agreement on continental air defense, the North American Aerospace Defence Command or NORAD, will be expanded to include maritime surveillance, Gordon O’Connor, the new federal minister of defence, said last week.

The deal is to be signed in May.

O’Connor dismissed the suggestion that the new terms could lead to U.S. warships patrolling Canadian waters. The agreement will mean “merely a transfer of information,” he told reporters.

“It doesn’t change our responsibility as a country. We have to look after our own sovereignty. We have to deal with any threats coming from the sea.”

Once ratified, the new treaty would allow for intelligence on shipping data and threats to the sea lanes to be sent directly to NORAD headquarters, which is jointly staffed by the Canadian and U.S. military in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

O’Connor said this addition to the NORAD agreement doesn’t mean Canada supports the U.S. proposal to create a shield of radar and anti-ballistic missiles to protect North America.

“If the Americans approach us to negotiate ballistic missile defence, we would enter into negotiations,” he said. “If we perceive this to be in our national interest, we would bring this to Parliament and Parliament must approve our participation.”

A year ago, the former Liberal government turned down a formal request from the U.S. to be part of the program, but changes made to the NORAD agreement last summer now allow its radar to track any incoming missiles.

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