Canada Draws Line on Missile Defense

Wade Boese

During a recent visit to Canada, President George W. Bush lobbied the U.S. neighbor to collaborate in building missile defenses. Bush’s host, Prime Minister Paul Martin, left the door open to some possible cooperation but ruled out any prospect of Canada helping put missile interceptors into space.

Speaking Dec. 1 to an audience in Nova Scotia, Bush declared, “I hope we’ll also move forward on ballistic missile defense cooperation to protect the next generation of Canadians and Americans from the threats we know will arise.” The United States has already deployed six long-range missile interceptors in Alaska and is working to make them operational, although a December test of an interceptor failed.

During Bush’s visit, Martin said little publicly about missile defense. But he was more vocal after the president’s departure. In a Dec. 27 interview with CTV Television, the prime minister spoke out strongly when asked if Canada would participate in “Star Wars”—a popular term referring to President Ronald Reagan’s earlier plans to station lasers in space to shoot down ballistic missiles. “The answer is unequivocally no. We are against the militarization of space. We’re against the weaponization of space, and we will not participate in it today nor will we tomorrow,” Martin responded.

Pentagon plans envision putting three to five space-based interceptors into space for testing purposes beginning in 2012, although the concept is considered “speculative.”

Martin was more receptive to working with the United States on sea- and land-based anti-missile systems, but said Washington would first need to answer questions Ottawa has posed and give Canada an appropriate role. “We’ll commit when it’s in our interest to do so and when I have the answers to those questions,” he stated.

Canada signed an agreement in August 2004 to permit information gathered by assets of the joint U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to be used in support of U.S. missile defense operations. (See ACT, September 2004.)