Canada’s Department of National Defence has completed “public consultations” that will guide its ongoing defense policy review, and it plans to launch the new policy in early 2017, according to a government website.

The department said it received tens of thousands of online comments and held roundtable discussions across the country. The department also received input from members of Parliament, outside experts and representatives of key allies, including Australia, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. In addition, discussions were held at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the 2016 Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore.

CH-47F. Photo: Government of Canada.
CH-47F. Photo: Government of Canada.

The government said the review is needed because “Canada is facing a range of new challenges, from the rise of terrorism in ungoverned spaces, to the expanded use of hybrid tactics in conflict, to new opportunities and vulnerabilities associated with the space and cyber domains.” Canada will have to make “important choices” to ensure its forces “have what they need to confront new threats and challenges in the years ahead,” the government added.

For cyberspace, Canada is considering “how to best position the Canadian military to operate effectively in this domain,” according to a 38-page overview of the review. Cyber capabilities “offer alternative options that can be utilized with less risk to personnel and that are potentially reversible and less destructive than traditional uses of force,” the document says. For space, Canada is contemplating whether it should better protect its satellites, which face growing threats from counter-space weapons and from space debris.

Canada is also scrutinizing the role of unmanned aircraft, which “offer several advantages” over manned aircraft but raise “complex legal, strategic and moral questions,” the overview says. “Canada must consider the appropriate use of unmanned systems and, over the longer term, determine the appropriate relationship between humans and machines.”

Citing the proliferation of ballistic missiles, the document suggests that Canada consider revisiting its decade-old decision not to participate in U.S. missile defense. “Would a shift in policy in this area enhance Canadian national security and offer an avenue for greater continental cooperation?” the document asks. “Or are there more effective areas in which to invest to better protect the North American continent?”