Are Canada’s Armed Forces too small?

Submitted to Military spending

In this debate published in the Toronto Star in January 2022, Hugh Segal, former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee and Bianca Mugyenyi, Director of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, present differing views on this issue.

Hugh Segal supports a stronger military presence:

“Our total Armed Forces complement of 67,000 personnel with only a small fraction being combat ready, is deeply insufficient compared to other countries’ ratio of military-to-general population. We are well beneath most of our NATO partners and many other non-NATO countries.

No country in the G7 has an Armed Forces as small as ours. When our relative firepower is compared to other countries, we rank 21st from the top. Many smaller countries rank much higher.

We need a Canadian armed forces of at least 100,000 regular personnel, and a reserve of no less than 60,000. Only two Canadian prime ministers, Louis St Laurent and Brian Mulroney spent at the 2% GDP level on the military.

A country of 36 million people, across the second largest landmass in the world, with alliance obligations, 3 oceans to patrol, and a tradition of humanitarian peacekeeping and defence combat engagement, needs an Armed Forces large enough to do two or three things at once in more than one part of the world.”

Hugh Segal is the former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a Mathews Fellow in Global Public Policy at Queens University, and a Fellow at the Munk school of Global Affairs in Public Policy.

Bianca Mugyenyi opposes military increases:

“Those who profit from war and weapons sales want us to believe our security is dependent on increased military spending. But for most Canadians the opposite is true. In addition to a pandemic, our security threats are ecological, social, and economic. Expanding the largest federal government ministry cannot protect us from these crises.

On the world stage, Canada accounts for one point 1.1 per cent of international military spending despite having less than 0.5% of the global population there are only 12 countries that spend more on their militaries than Canada.

Let's not forget that over the past three decades, tens of thousands of Canadians were deployed to fight in Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, and Libya. What good came of those wars? Thirty years later fighting continues in Iraq while ethnic tensions simmer in Kosovo. The 2011 NATO bombing of Libya led to slave markets and as ongoing civil war. In Afghanistan, the Taliban appears moderate compared to ISIS-K.

Canada's military isn't designed to defend against a foreign aggressor, let alone protect citizens from pressing security concerns like a life-altering pandemic or ever- worsening climate breakdown. It's structured to aid US military aims.

Let's get our priorities straight. We need less not more spending on Canada's military.”

Bianca Mugyenyi is director of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute

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