In the last number of years, there has been a dramatic shift in Canadian security and foreign policy with regards to continental, hemispheric and global issues. While Canada is working with the U.S. on a North American security perimeter deal, there are also efforts to strengthen defense relations with Britain and other allies. Canada has also elevated its status in NATO and is playing a more prominent role in military operations overseas.
Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay recently met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to discuss bilateral security cooperation issues. In a news release, Minister Mackay praised the Canada-U.S. partnership as unique and explained, “Our binational command in NORAD, as well as the daily operation between our military and defence teams is a tangible demonstration of how we stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the defence of North America and in addressing common global challenges.” He went on to say, “We are proud to work alongside our U.S. friends in the Americas, in Libya, in Afghanistan, and as transatlantic partners of NATO.” At a press conference following their meeting, Secretary Panetta acknowledged that both countries are looking to improve their bilateral engagement in the Western Hemisphere. He stated, “If we can develop better capabilities and partnerships throughout the hemisphere, that's something that I think both of us consider to be a real step forward in our relationship.” Future plans could also include expanding a security perimeter framework beyond North America.
While addressing North American security efforts during a news conference with Secretary Panetta, Minister Mackay brought up the Permanent Joint Board on Defence (PJBD) which was created in 1940. The PJBD, “is the senior advisory body on continental defence. It is composed of military and diplomatic representatives from both nations.” Over the years, it has, “served as a strategic-level military board charged with considering, in a broad sense, land, sea, air and space issues.” This includes areas concerning, “policy, operations, financial, logistics and other aspects of Canada-U.S. defence relations.” Although the PJBD has been used as an alternate channel of communication, it appears to have once again become more relevant as a venue for bilateral security and military dialogue. In a move which represents its growing importance, President Barack Obama recently appointed former Congressman John Spratt, chairman of the U.S. section of the PJBD. In the coming years, the board could play a significant role in plans for a fully integrated North American security perimeter, as well as in other facets of the evolving Canada-U.S. partnership.