Defence in the Seventies
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 7 Oct 1971, p. 11-20
Macdonald, The Honourable Donald S., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
The White Paper "Defence in the Seventies." Reasons for the White Paper. A framework of priorities and roles for the Canadian Forces in the Seventies. International political changes. The Cold War, how it has changed, and what it has produced. Canada's peacekeeping role. New activities and responsibilities for the Canadian forces.
Date of Original
7 Oct 1971
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Full Text
OCTOBER 7, 1971
Defence in the Seventies
AN ADDRESS BY The Honourable Donald S. Macdonald, P.C., M.P., MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE
CHAIRMAN The First Vice-President, Joseph H. Potts, C.D., Q.C.


The following comment appears in Volume two of Wellington's Dispatches.

"An intimate friend having remarked in familiar terms to Sir Arthur Wellesley, when at Hastings (1806), how he, having commanded armies of forty thousand men in the field; having received the thanks of Parliament for his victories; and having been made Knight of the Bath, could submit to be reduced to the command of a brigade of infantry? 'For this plain reason,' was the answer, 'I am nimmukwallah, as we say in the East; that is, I have ate of the King's salt, and, therefore, I conceive it to be my duty to serve with unhesitating zeal and cheerfulness, when and wherever the King or his government may think proper to employ me."'

I have related this anecdote not so as to suggest that our distinguished guest is likely to be asked to accept a reduction in command, as was Sir Arthur Wellesley, but rather to emphasize his approach to public service. He has indeed conceived it to be his duty to serve with unhesitating zeal and cheerfulness, when and whenever the Queen or her government thought proper to employ him. He has not commanded armies of forty thousand men in the field, nor a brigade of infantry. In fact, he has not had any military service other than as a cadet at school.

You will recall that there was considerable comment when our guest was appointed Minister of National Defence, as to whether or not this lack of military service would prove to be a handicap in the discharge of his duties. The late Professor MacGregor Dawson, that eminent political scientist, would have had no such reservations. He advocated the theory of the amateur and the expert in government whereby it was preferable for a cabinet minister to possess qualities of intelligence and common sense rather than any particular expertise. Thus he would approach the decision making process with an open mind and give due consideration to the expert advice available to him. In any event, I can testify that the Minister has had extensive battle experience albeit in political wars--as is the lot of all politicians, successful or otherwise.

If you will pardon a personal note, I feel compelled to inform you Sir, in your capacity as Minister of National Defence, that I occupied a rather unique position during the last war. According to my revered father, I was the only private soldier in the Canadian Army who had a Major General as a batman!

Ten years ago last month, our guest was nominated as a candidate in the Federal Riding of Rosedale when he was still 29 years of age. He was elected to the House of Commons the following June and has been re-elected in three successive general elections. He was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministers of Justice, Finance, External Affairs and Industry. He has served as Acting Minister of Justice, President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Government House Leader, prior to his present appointment.

He attended University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School following which he received his Master of Laws' degree from Harvard Law School and a diploma in International Law from Cambridge University.

Mr. Macdonald, it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to the members of The Empire Club of Canada and to invite you to address us on the subject "Defence in the 1970's".


As many of you know, the Government in August published the White Paper on Defence for which I was primarily responsible. It is entitled "Defence in the Seventies".

Defence has not been a primary political issue in the last several years in Canada, and, indeed, I don't pretend that at the moment it is a question that is commanding your prime concern.

But precisely because many of you may not have had the opportunity to reflect on defence problems as we move further into the decade of the Seventies with its new problems and challenges, it seems to me an appropriate occasion to discuss some of the circumstances regarding this new policy paper.

Some have asked why Canada needed a new White Paper on defence policy at this time.

Primarily, the answer is that it was required to define in greater detail the implications for the Canadian Forces and for the Canadian people of the priorities which were set out by the Government in its policy statement of April, 1969. Also, the last paper was in 1964, and there have been many sweeping changes in situations, strategies and technology since that time.

And here I would like to say that I believe that the Paper has been generally well received in all sectors of the community--ranging from the military to the civilian.

There have been some criticisms that the Paper was not sufficiently detailed in some areas, but this was a conscious decision to avoid having Canada locked into some set positions for many years in an era of fast change.

It was the intention to set out a framework of priorities and roles for the Canadian Forces in the Seventies.

There was praise from some rather unexpected quarters of the media, and there was the expected reaction from some others.

The statement of priorities as outlined in 1969, as any statement of priorities is and as I have already indicated, was designed to provide a guide to those responsible for defence planning.

In particular, it was the key for determining how the available resources for defence purposes should be allocated, and, in the case of conflicting claims on these resources for use either at home or abroad, to provide some kind of guide as to the manner in which they are to be used.

What then are the priorities?

First in order of priority comes the protection of Canada itself, meaning the surveillance of our own territory and coastlines, and the protection of our governmental institutions against internal subversion;

Second is the defence of North America in co-operation with the forces of the United States;

Third is the fulfillment of such NATO commitments as may be agreed upon; and,

Fourth is the performance of such international peacekeeping roles as we may, from time to time, assume.

The Government declared, in effect, what must be declared by the government of any state, indeed by the head of any family, that the first responsibility is for protection close to home. Following that is protection of the more immediate community, and then the protection of a broader community.

In the case of Canadian defence, ours is a recognition that our first priority must be to provide protection to Canada, followed by protection of the North American community, then the broader North Atlantic community, and finally that of the world community through United Nations' peacekeeping.

While it was desirable to give Canadian defence policy such a statement of priorities, and to define the priorities in detail, this was not a particularly easy time to do so.

It was a difficult time to make a policy statement on defence for two basic reasons--firstly, because of the change in the international climate and secondly because of the fast pace of technological change in the defence field.

Let us have a look first at some of the changes which have been occurring in the international climate.

In the period since the emergence of the Cold War with its chilliest blasts in the late Forties and early Fifties, we have been inclined to think in defence terms of a bi-polar world, of the East versus the West, and the Warsaw Pact versus NATO.

But it is now recognized that the period of bi-polarity has ended with the emergence of mainland China as a major military power, a power with increasing capability of challenging the Soviet Union on land, and of challenging the United States in a strategic sense through a developing missile capacity.

The Cold War has produced a stalemate between the two super-powers and their allies, and I think it is a fair claim to make for the defence systems of the 1940s and '50s, that is to say NATO and the North American Air Defence System, that they were effective in producing the stability which grew into the stalemate.

But the stalemate is now being broken by diplomacy. And this is diplomacy in which not only the super powers but many others are taking part.

In the first place, of course, must come the discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union on strategic questions. These are the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks in which the two super powers are negotiating limitations which will be placed on the strategic weapons systems of each.

This involves an overall agreement on the number and quality of intercontinental ballistic missiles and other strategic weapons which will be put in place and on the extension of anti-ballistic missile systems.

In terms of the survival of the human race, this has to be one of the most important of the discussions about the limitations on ultimate weapons of destruction.

But while such discussions have been going on with the super powers, the Federal Republic of Germany, which more than any other state has been feeling the weight of the Cold War confrontation, has been engaged in a diplomatic offensive.

Chancellor Brandt's Ostpolitik is intended to try to replace the military confrontation in Central Europe with a working & living arrangement between the two Germanies and between West Germany and the other states of Eastern Europe.

This policy has most recently resulted in the new working arrangement with respect to access to Berlin.

And while these two major diplomatic initiatives are going on, there are the initiatives being taken by the NATO nations generally through the Alliance leading towards mutual and balanced force reductions in Europe.

These were the initiatives which were started by NATO two or three years ago, and the recent response of the Soviet Union to the initiatives indicates the prospect of working out some kind of agreement.

As a consequence of these diplomatic developments, and I think it is salutary to point out that the negotiations have only started and that new security arrangements have not yet been achieved, it was time for Canada to look at its long-range defence planning.

Defence planning had been directed primarily towards a response in the Cold War context. With a change in the climate, the response had to be reviewed.

At the same time, the participation of Canada in international peacekeeping had also changed.

You will recall that in the last White Paper on Defence Policy in 1964, peacekeeping appeared to be one of the growth areas for Canadian defence activity.

Change in the possibility of peacekeeping has two aspects--political and military.

In the political aspect, it will be recalled that the basic assumption was that peacekeeping could be worked out by the middle powers, such as Canada, moving in where a stand-off between the super-powers made any kind of solution impossible.

The other assumption was that while the original peacekeeping initiatives were on a rather ad hoc basis, general military arrangements might be worked out through the United Nations so that this system of security could become more standardized.

Well, as in the Middle East, the great powers now seem to be able to negotiate their own deals between themselves. This lessening of immobility between the major powers means a reduction of the need for middle powers to move in.

And at the same time we should also acknowledge the inability of the United Nations to achieve any very effective arrangements with regard to military participation in peacekeeping.

If this sounds a little negative, let me assure you that Canada remains ready and retains both its present peacekeeping commitments and its undertaking to provide forces to the United Nations in the future for this purpose.

But if Canada is ready for future peacekeeping involvement, it seems that the United Nations Organization is not.

While these changes were occurring in the international sphere, we were also beginning to recognize renewed demand on our resources at home. One example was the renewed demand for national development, particularly in the regions of the High Arctic.

Regrettably, there were also demands that the Armed Forces be used in support of the regular police authorities in internal security problems.

And, perhaps most significantly, were demands on the Forces resulting from the extension of Canada's maritime frontiers in the area of pollution control, fisheries protection, and the exploitation of the seabed.

In the latter respect, the responsibility for maintaining controls against pollution and Canada's maritime approaches, or for regulating deep-sea fishing, or for exploiting the resources of the continental shelf, are, of course, the responsibility of civil departments.

But the fact remains that in a dozen different ways in the past year, the Canadian Armed Forces, with their special skills, have been called upon to render assistance to the civil authorities.

One instance was the oil spill clean-up in Chedabucto Bay in Nova Scotia following the wreck of the tanker Arrow last year.

As the report of the group which handled this incident states, only the Forces had the necessary equipment and skills at that time to come to the assistance of the civil authorities in eliminating the menace to beaches and shorefront.

And here I should affirm, in case there be any doubt about this point, that the Canadian people have in the Canadian Armed Forces a highly-expert, well-disciplined, professional armed force.

It is a force trained and equipped not only to perform its military tasks, but also to apply that training and that equipment to be of assistance to the civil community.

Therefore, I regard it as one of my responsibilities in defining Canadian defence policy, to define a role for the Forces which the community and the servicemen themselves will find to be a satisfying one.

In producing such a role there is the maintenance of what I regard as an asset to the Canadian people.

The Forces in such circumstances are not only an asset but also an insurance protection against who knows exactly what kind of threat which may occur from time to time. This can be a threat to the sovereignty or the stability of our community in any one of many ways.

I believe that there is one major conclusion which could be drawn today about the defence preparations.

And this conclusion is based not only on the experience of Canada, but of many other states in this fast-changing and complex twentieth century.

The conclusion is that even with the greatest foresight and the best planning, the kind of threats which armed forces will have to meet will probably not be those which are foreseen at the time the planning is done.

By ways of example I can point to the recent experience of the British.

In the past decade under the Labour government, and under an extremely intelligent and hard-working defence minister, elaborate planning was done as to the mid-twentieth century roles for the British forces.

But that elaborate planning was for everything except that for which the British military is at the moment so heavily engaged in Northern Ireland. With the best of efforts in advance, the exact nature of the demand on the armed forces could not be and was not foreseen.

The important lesson to be learned from our defence experience is that while the challenge that may be presented to the country may not appear in the manner in which planning conceives it, a well-trained and well-disciplined force can be adapted to meet new circumstances.

However, such a force cannot be created in time of crisis, particularly in these modern times when the crisis may arise and come to a head with such brutal suddenness.

In conclusion, then, we have set out to plan a Canadian Armed Force which will be in a position to continue to discharge Canadian international commitments so long as they may remain.

In addition, however, we have set out to create an Armed Force as a continuing force of a high professional character for the support and the protection of Canadians against challenges not yet known or foreseen.

Mr. MacDonald was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada by Brigadier General B. J. Legge, C.St.J., E.D., C.D., Q.C.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This address was given two months after the release of the Federal Government's White Paper on Defence which was an attempt to define the role of the Canadian Armed Forces in the 1970's. Many observers felt that the Government was changing emphasis from its traditional role as a member of the NATO and NORAD Defence Alliances, which were designed primarily to deter Russian aggression, and concentrating more on the problems of internal security, pollution control, fishery protection, and guarding our Arctic and Maritime frontiers.

This shift in emphasis resulted in a certain amount of criticism from those who felt that peace with the Communist block could only be maintained by greater military support of NATO. Similarly, separatist and civil liberties groups also questioned the wisdom of using the Army for "internal security" as was done at the time of the F.L.Q. terrorist activities in Montreal during 1970 which saw the kidnapping of a British diplomat and the murder of a Quebec cabinet minister.

Supporters of the Government, on the other hand, felt that the lessening of tensions with Russia justified a review of defence priorities and that the use of our armed forces to achieve purely national goals was more consistent with the increasing awareness on the part of Canadians of a separate Canadian identity.

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Defence in the Seventies

The White Paper "Defence in the Seventies." Reasons for the White Paper. A framework of priorities and roles for the Canadian Forces in the Seventies. International political changes. The Cold War, how it has changed, and what it has produced. Canada's peacekeeping role. New activities and responsibilities for the Canadian forces.