6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

Canada's Defense Policy Review | Implications for NATO and NORAD

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Featured SpeakerThe Honourable Harjit Singh Sajjan, Minister of National Defence of Canada


North America Strong: The Canada-U.S. Defense Partnership

A Conversation with Canada’s Minster of National Defence Harjit Sajjan

Coverage by John Milewski with Photos from Chris Cruz

The Canada-U.S. defense partnership is unique in all the world due to the “bi-national command” elements of NORAD. And the importance of NORAD goes well beyond its annual Santa Tracker to include cooperation at all levels of national and international security operations. 

During an event at the Wilson Center, Canada’s Minister of Defence, Harjit Sajjan, spoke about the close coordination between the continental neighbors and also provided a preview of the upcoming Canadian Defense Policy Review mandated by Prime Minister Trudeau. The review was conducted by Minister Sajjan during the past year, the first of its kind in a decade, and will be unveiled June 7th

Wilson Center President and Director, Jane Harman introduced Minister Sajjan saying that, “His police and his military background make him well equipped to understand threats across the world and those threatening his homeland.”

Following prepared remarks, Minster Sajjan spoke with Laura Dawson, Director of the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute and later took questions from the audience.

Dawson welcomed Sajjan to the Wilson Center, describing it as, “the nerve center for United States relationships with its allies, where ideas and speakers come together in a staunchly nonpartisan environment and where folks like you [Minster Singh] can come to speak to a broader audience.”

During one light-hearted exchange, Dawson asked Minister Sajjan if it was more challenging facing live fire in combat or facing questions from parliament. He responded by saying, “you know where the enemy is when you’re in a fire fight. I’ll leave it at that.”

On a more serious note later in the session, Sajjan said that “There is no greater relationship to us [Canada] than the U.S.”

Highlights from the session follow. 


“NORAD is the cornerstone of our bilateral partnership, so you can understand why we are exploring options in partnership with the US to insure that we modernize NORAD and enable it to continue meeting the challenges arising from today’s global security environment.”

“NATO matters to Canada and Canada brings value to NATO.”

Prime Minister Trudeau has recommitted Canada to multilateralism to deal with the most significant defense and security issues confronting the global community today.”

“Canada believes, that when mandated and resourced properly, the UN peace keeping mission is an essential way to the global community can deal with international security challenges.”


Dawson: You’ve been in town meeting with North American defense chiefs. You guys love your nicknames. So we’ve got “Bad Ass” Sajjan meeting with “Mad Dog” Mattis… it sounds like WrestleMania…  how have your meetings been going? Have they been pugilistic or are you folks getting along?

Sajjan: You know, Secretary Mattis, even when I was a young officer… his reputation is legendary… the way he looked after his troops, the professional development that he brought… it’s a real privilege to be able to work with him as a colleague now.”


“For us to be strong in Canada, we have to be secure in North America.”

“Defense alone can’t be the solution. The military buys you time. You need a whole of government approach, a comprehensive approach to have an impact when it comes to security matters. So diplomacy is very important, capacity building is equally important, and development as well.”

“One thing I can assure you, our defense policy will focus on its people. We talk about our capabilities… how may ships you’re going to buy, how many planes you’re going to buy, where do you need to invest in innovation… but our number one capability is our people.”


Welcoming Remarks: Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO of the Wilson Center.
Discussion Moderator: Laura Dawson, Director, Canada Institute.

05-22-2017 Canada's Defense Policy Review