Canada and Missile Defence: Saying No to Mr. Bush

Don Barry


This essay examines Prime Minister Paul Martin’s decision to reject President George W. Bush’s invitation to participate in his administration’s ballistic missile defence program. Critics claim the decision was a sharp break with the history of close defence collaboration between Ottawa and Washington, that it called into question Canada’s reliability as an ally, put Canadian sovereignty at risk, and weakened the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), the cornerstone of bilateral air defence cooperation since 1957. However, it was not the first time that Ottawa had broken ranks with Washington over missile defence. Nor did the decision damage Canada-US relations. After an initial display of displeasure, the Bush administration welcomed the Martin government’s concurrent commitment to increase funding for defence and border security, a move that also reinforced Canada’s sovereignty. NORAD, which was renewed and expanded in 2006, has not been diminished in the short-term although its long-term prospects are uncertain.

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JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.