Good morning, Mr. Chair. It's very good to see you and the committee.
Thank you again for the opportunity to continue this important discussion and conversation on security and defence in the north.
For the information of committee members, allow me to introduce myself: I am Vice-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie, Commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command. I am responsible for all operations in Canada, including search and rescue and northern operations. I am also responsible for operations in North America, with my NORAD colleagues, and for operations deployed throughout the world.
In that role, I'm supported and enabled by a range of folks and experts, three of whom are with me here this morning.
First, from 1 Canadian Air Division, we have Major-General Iain Huddleston. As the CAF's joint force air component commander, he is responsible for the apportionment and force employment of all Royal Canadian Air Force assets domestically and abroad, including those that are employed in SAR activities in the north. In addition, he is also the SAR commander for central Canada and the north.
From the Department of National Defence policy group, I'm joined again by our frequent flyer, Jonathan Quinn. As director general for continental defence, he has been the organizational leader in advancing NORAD modernization initiatives, many of which are directly linked to CAF's ability to operate in the north.
Finally, I am also joined by the commander of Joint Task Force (North), Brigadier-General Pascal Godbout. In his role as the regional commander, he has responsibilities for search and rescue responses that may be demanded of the armed forces in the north.
Mr. Chair, in order to provide you a detailed understanding of his roles and responsibility, I'm going to give the floor to General Godbout for a few minutes.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of Parliament. Thank you for this opportunity to speak about Arctic security.
I am Brigadier-General Pascal Godbout. I'm the Commander of Joint Task Force (North).
I am speaking to you from Sǫǫ̀mba K’è on Chief Drygeese Territories on Treaty No. 8, the traditional home of the Yellowknives Dene and the North Slave Métis. This place is also known as Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
The role of Joint Task Force (North) is to lead Canadian Armed Forces' northern operations across all three territories. My responsibilities do not include the coordination of NORAD operations or aeronautical search and rescue, which falls under other organizations.
The Canadian north is a truly unique environment. While it represents 40% of our land mass, it is very sparsely populated, with only 0.4% of the Canadian population living here. The northern population is 50% indigenous compared to a national average indigenous population of 5%, and there is very limited infrastructure in terms of transportation, energy and communication.
The Canadian Arctic is also very different from other Arctic regions across the globe. Alaska has a population density 10 times larger than the Territories, with 750,000 people. In western Europe, there are an estimated one million people living north of 60, with a much more extensive infrastructure and economy. Finally, Russia has over two million people living in their Arctic.
The permanent presence of the Canadian Armed Forces in the north is made up of approximately 340 members of the defence team, including the members assigned to Canadian Forces Station Alert, and over 1,700 Canadian Rangers. All in all, that means that approximately 1.5 per cent of the population of the territories is affiliated with the Canadian Armed Forces, as compared to approximately 0.25 per cent in the rest of Canada, excluding personnel affiliated with the cadets program, who cannot be deployed in operations.
The Canadian Armed Forces have personnel and infrastructure in Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Iqaluit, Inuvik, Canadian Armed Forces Alert, Resolute Bay, Fort Eureka and Nanisivik. We have Canadian Rangers in 65 of the 72 communities in the north. In addition, 47 North Warning System sites are located in Canada.
Joint Operations Command activities in the north can be divided into four roles: showing a visible, consistent presence; surveillance and control; support for northern populations and communities; and cooperation with all of government.
Partnerships are critical to our success. As such, we routinely collaborate with other federal departments, territorial and indigenous governments, academia and international allies and partners. We do so through regular forums, such as the Arctic Security Forces Roundtable; the Arctic security working group, which is taking place right now here in Yellowknife; various engagements throughout the year; and of course both deliberate and contingency operations.
We plan and execute operations throughout the year. This includes Operation Nanook, our series of comprehensive activities designed to exercise the defence of Canada and secure our northern regions; Operation Limpid, an operation designed to keep routine watch over Canada's aerospace, maritime and land domains; and Operation Nevus, the annual maintenance of the High Arctic data communications system.
We also execute contingency operations where and when necessary, including Operation Laser, which is the Canadian Armed Forces' response to a global pandemic situation, Operation Lentus, which is the Canadian Armed Forces' response to natural disasters in Canada, and, at the request of the territories, support for ground search and rescue operations, which are coordinated by other organizations.
I'll be happy to answer questions on these roles and activities.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I believe you're referring to what's sometimes referred to as the “green hangar”. I will first give you a response, and then I'll turn it over to General Huddleston, who in fact is our Canadian NORAD commander.
Canada remains committed to supporting security and Arctic sovereignty and ensuring that we have the equipment and infrastructure in place to enable Canadians to maintain sovereignty in the north. In terms of strategic investments, I think you've already heard they include $6.1 billion over five years in this budget, and almost $40 billion for NORAD modernization moving forward. Specifically, we're looking at capabilities and infrastructure in the north.
I'm going to turn to General Huddleston, our Canadian region commander for NORAD, to discuss the specifics.
Thank you, Vice-Admiral, to you and your team, for being here. Please extend our thanks to all those who have appeared.
When you said this was our ninth time, it took me aback. We have been at this for a while. We very much appreciate all of the insight from you and your team.
My question to you, sir, is, what is the current state of Canada's multidomain awareness in the Arctic? What investments are currently planned to improve awareness capabilities, following from the NORAD modernization plan?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Obviously it's a very topical question as we look to the future.
I wanted to finish the last thought. The fact is that as we talked about threats to national security and defence in the Arctic as a whole, I noted that it's not one department, but is a whole-of-government effort across all elements of our national power to get to this.
All-domain awareness is critical. All-domain awareness and intelligence for the military are equally important to the economic factors as we're talking about who owns the infrastructure in the north.
I think you're tracking the recent announcements by government. We're committed to ensuring that NORAD continues to modernize, ensuring safety and contributing to the security of our continent with our allies in the U.S.. That binational command has been around for almost seven decades.
That's why, over the next six years, we're investing $3 billion in NORAD. Over the next 20 years, it's going to be almost $40 billion for NORAD modernization. These include investments across all domains to ensure that we can not only respond to emerging aerospace threats but also ensure that we have that multidomain awareness in the north.
When I talk about multidomain awareness, what I mean is what we are seeing in the air, on the land, in the sea and below the sea, in the information space, in space and in cyber. When I talk about all domains, they are simply all the domains we have. We need to be aware and have that all-domain awareness in all theatres of operation, but specifically in our north, to make sure that we know what's going on.
I will give it to Jonathan Quinn. Our policy advisers were talking about NORAD modernization, which is a significant policy for the Government of Canada.
Thank you very much, sir.
Thanks for the question, Mr. Chair.
I think Admiral Auchterlonie covered it very well.
To remind committee members, the NORAD modernization package that announced in June included a series of investments across five key areas.
On the awareness side, there's significant investment in over-the-horizon radar technology that will dramatically enhance our ability to monitor aerospace threats to the continent.
There are investments in technology-enabled decision-making, and command and control, using artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing. We'll have the ability to ingest and analyze all the information coming in from those sensors much more quickly in order to enable fast decision-making.
New air weapons, including longer-range air-to-air missiles, will enable the current and future fighter fleet to defend against aerospace threats, such as cruise missiles.
There is also support for infrastructure investments, including an additional investment in air-to-air refuelling aircraft and enhancements to fighter aircraft infrastructure across the country at NORAD's forward-operating locations in the north.
Finally, there are research and development investments. As Admiral Auchterlonie said, these research and development funds would be across all domains. These are to make sure that Canada is at the cutting edge of technology in defending against potential threats to the continent in all the domains Admiral Auchterlonie mentioned.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Those are very pertinent questions.
I talked about domain awareness. We want to ensure we know what's going on within our sovereign territory, waters and airspace. Making sure we have domain awareness above the sea, on the sea and below the sea is a key tenet of ensuring that within NORAD modernization, as well.
I believe you heard from the commander of the navy with respect to under-ice capability. I won't repeat that testimony from a few weeks ago.
The fact is that we want to ensure we have domain awareness of our allied submarines, as well as potential adversaries in the region. Just to be clear, we do have that. Given the sensitivities of the submarine waterspace management, I'm probably not going to go into detail. We conduct co-operative waterspace management with our closest ally, the U.S., given the fact that we have submarines on both coasts and they have submarines on both coasts. We conduct this co-operative waterspace management, which allows us to be certain about which boats are in the water in all our territorial seas and adjacent waters.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
That's a very pertinent question. It's very interesting as a time of change right now. I think as we talk about domain awareness, as we talk about the ongoing change to the complexities in the world security situation right now, you're seeing technology advance at a rapid pace. This is part of NORAD modernization in terms of the investments in Canadian defence and research to make sure we're on the cutting edge of this.
You touched on a number of things that are really critical. Potential adversaries and allies are now getting onboard with machine learning, with artificial intelligence. I can move that into quantum, which obviously is another one moving forward, and at the same time synthetic biology, which nobody wants to talk about. There are all these sorts of things that are actually real.
The key word for me before I pass it to Jon is that we talk of things in terms of emerging technologies, but they are no longer emerging technologies; they have emerged. I think it is really key for the committee to understand that these technologies exist today, and they can be used to enhance and amplify operations in the battle space and ensure domain awareness throughout.
I will pass it to Jon in terms of the policy side.
That's a very pertinent question as we talk about search and rescue in a massive country.
As I said earlier, I'm the commander of operations. That also includes search and rescue throughout Canada and in the north. Just to provide some context before I turn it to Iain, who is specifically one of our search and rescue commanders and the commander of our air assets, we provide and coordinate SAR through our joint rescue coordination centres and the various SAR installations throughout the country. We do it in co-operation with partners.
SAR, again, is not a solely military thing. It's not solely the folks in yellow aircraft. It's in conjunction with the Canadian Coast Guard; it's in conjunction with RCMSAR, which is a volunteer organization on the water; it's in conjunction with CASARA, which is a volunteer organization in the air; and with our local ground search and rescue partners throughout the country. We're that coordination function through the JRCCs.
Specifically with respect to CASARA, I will turn it to Iain, as he's our lead in terms of providing the air assets for SAR throughout the country.
It's obviously a very pertinent question, given what's happening currently with our partners in Ukraine.
The reality is that competition and conflict characterize the interaction between ourselves in the west and our Russian—I would say, at this point—adversaries. We are in that competition and that conflict above and below the threshold right now with Russia. That's going to continue as we move forward.
In the Arctic, for example, Russia remains a key competitor. They've declared it to be of significant importance to their security and economic interest. They've also increased their military presence, which I believe the committee is tracking.
They have certainly displayed a willingness to operate outside of internationally accepted norms. This is obviously of concern to us and to our allies. With Russia's blatant disregard for international boundaries in Ukraine, we're obviously concerned that the same thing could happen in the north.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, gentlemen, for being here. It has been said that this has been a long study, and you've been with us several times. Thank you very much, not only for your service to our country but also for your service to this committee.
One of the questions that has been asked a few times is about the growing possibility of increased navigation through the Northwest Passage in the coming years because of climate change and melting ice. We heard the other day that this brings with it a high level of risk, rather than making things easier, which one would maybe assume.
What are the top security concerns associated with an increase in shipping? Maybe you can touch on the future cruise ships wanting to go through the passage as well.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
The good news is that given the colour of uniform I'm wearing and having sailed up there, I'm probably the right person to answer. Thanks very much for the question.
I think perspective, again, is really key. When we talk about the Arctic in terms of the waterways opening up, there is a significant difference between the Russian northern sea route in the Canadian Arctic and what we assume is the Northwest Passage, obviously given the rotation of the earth and how the ice packs in.
You're absolutely right: Navigation in the Arctic is exceptionally dangerous. It is not through the routes you would think it would be, going across 75 north. It's actually going to go down through the islands on the north slope of Canada, so it's shallow waters and rocky and with sandbars. Navigation is constrained.
For the committee to understand, we have good domain awareness in the north. We know all the ships passing through. At this time, in terms of numbers—so folks have an expectation—there are only about 150 transits in the north a year. We are aware of all those vessels going through. A lot of it has to do with internal resupply. Many of our communities are resupplied internally from vessels. In terms of that domain awareness, we're quite comfortable.
With that said, as you articulated, as we are seeing the climate change, it's opening up slightly earlier. Depending upon the ice year, there may be more or fewer vessels going through. This is a challenge not only, I would say, from a search and rescue perspective but also a perspective of enforcement of environmental regulations and fisheries regulations and the things that we hold dear in Canada.
Your question is bang on. There are lots of challenges associated with this, and I'm happy to follow up if you have a further question.
Regarding activities in the north, what is important is synchronizing activities and messages. In the case of NATO exercises, while those activities were going on, a number of operations and exercises took place at the same time. One example was Operation Nanook-Nunalivut, which took place in the Canadian north. That year, we were located in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. There were also Arctic Edge and ICEX, which took place in Alaska. That illustrates the very close cooperation between our allies and ourselves. It also demonstrates our presence in all regions of the Arctic, be it in Alaska, Canada or Europe.
With respect to operations within Canada in the Arctic, we invite our allies to participate in them, including the Americans, the Danish, the British and the French. I am forgetting some, but other Nordic countries have taken part. Observers have also come. That enables us to test our interoperability and new capacities for operating in the north, and to share practices and lessons learned in order to operate more effectively.
We believe that consultation is vital for the success of our operations in the north. We do this in multiple ways. First, each year we send an annual letter of notification to all indigenous governments in the north to advise them of our planed activities across the three territories. This provides an opportunity for the indigenous governments to advise us if there are any concerns with the nature of the activities or the time we're scheduling those activities.
Closer to the specific activities, we'll send additional details. We will send a reconnaissance team that meets with the communities and the local governments to discuss our plans.
We have adjusted our activities in the past, either in the time or the specific location, to ensure that we did not disrupt traditional activities, such as harvesting, hunting, fishing, or other significant economic activity in the region so that we could work in tandem to ensure the safety of all people involved and the effectiveness of our operations.
That first one is hard to answer. When I talk about the future, we don't have a crystal ball here. The fact is that with Joint Task Force North, as General Godbout has noted, we have a significant percentage of folks in the north, actually members of the Canadian Armed Forces, supporting our sovereignty in the north.
It's a tough question to see where we're going. I think you've seen that our adversaries are now operating outside our national norms. You've seen Russia and their blatant disregard for national norms in Ukraine. You've seen China become more aggressive in its pursuit of its national goals. I think that's going to translate into the Arctic as they pursue their aspirations in the north, looking for that northern sea route to get their goods to Europe. You're going to see two adversaries, potentially, that are now looking to exert influence in the north.
I don't want to repeat, but I think this is across government. As I said, the military is but one solution. That military domain is but one. There are the elements of national power, as we've talked about, ensuring economic interests in the north are clarified, but the fact is that it is equally important that we have domain awareness and it's equally important that we know who owns the infrastructure and know who has the rights for resource extraction in the north. At the same time, information and diplomacy are also critical.
Again, given the colour of uniform I wear, I'm happy to take that question myself.
I believe that the commander of the Royal Canadian Navy as well as the assistant deputy minister of materiel have talked about the submarine replacement program. That has now been announced publicly. The fact is that looking to replace the Victoria-class submarines' capability is vital to the sovereignty and security of Canada.
I talked earlier in terms of co-operative waterspace management with the United States. We do that because we have submarines. The fact is, we have submarines and the U.S. has submarines, so we make sure that the waterspace between the two of us in our own waters and adjacent waters is co-operatively maintained in a partnership with the U.S. and NATO to make sure that our boats are deconflicted under the water. You can imagine that we don't want to have things bumping into each other at depth, which would be rather unfortunate.
In terms of sovereignty in the north, I believe that the commander of the navy answered that question. Obviously, in terms of capability, a submarine brings significant capability for deterrence and sovereignty. At the same time, it also potentially has the capability to operate in the north. I'm probably going to get into the commander of the navy's lanes, but he's a good friend of mine, so I'll probably avoid that, given that his testimony was pretty clear on this.
In terms of that capability for me as the operational commander, it's vital to the sovereignty of Canada.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members. Thank you for the invitation and the opportunity I have been given to contribute to your work.
Let us think back to November 24, 1987.
The U.S. and the Soviet Union agreed to scrap short- and medium-range missiles. It was the first superpower treaty to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons.
It is now November 24, 2022, nine months after the aggressive, unjustified and miscalculated Russian invasion of Ukraine.
ICBMs remain to this day and have evolved and mutated into advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles with conventional and/or nuclear warheads.
Threat is a calculus of capabilities and intent. While we spent decades getting away with an economy of effort in defence investments in the north, Russia has increased its capabilities for the Arctic and the intent is now nebulous and subject to miscalculations.
The baseline of just enough deterrence has gone up, and investments are required to close the delta. I think it's time to embrace integrated air and missile defence as a whole, as we should worry about defending against the explosion—the boom—and not about the propulsion system or the domain the missile is travelling through, whether it be through the air or space.
Allow me to establish some of my NORAD credentials ahead of your questions.
My first steps in NORAD were as a missile warning crew commander and as a staff officer for the NORAD agreement. I wrote my master's thesis at the United States Air Force Air War College on the renewal of the NORAD agreement in 2006. I had the honour to command the Canadian NORAD region, and I was a NORAD deputy commander, where I had the watch for three years.
I have been a practitioner in the NORAD enterprise. I can tell you that I have looked at the polar view map of our world intensely, under pressure, with focus, for many years. To me, the Canadian Arctic is an avenue of approach of geostrategic importance.
As a NORAD assessor for deciding if North America was under attack or not, the polar view and all the available information from the warning systems architecture providing inputs were collated and interpreted to determine time and space for response, which is largely provided by the United States.
Canadian geography matters if we have all the main situational awareness over all of it. It is our sovereign responsibility to provide that so that we do not offer Russia an avenue to exploit on its way to an attack on the United States.
As commander of 1 Canadian Air Division, I instituted an Arctic air campaign plan to learn and increase our readiness and resilience to operate in the Arctic effectively on our own terms, and to increase our presence over our true north.
A new utility transport aircraft for the north emerged as a requirement. As commander of CANR, I had to rely on U.S. tankers to send forward our Canadian fighters. I am grateful for the pledge of additional tanker aircraft to enable sovereign fighter operations in the north.
As deputy commander of NORAD, I launched the all-domain situational awareness research and development efforts with the DRDC and initiated the formal extension of the Canadian air defence identification zone to cover the entirety of our country. Nobody got excited when armed Russian bombers were reported as having flown within hundreds of miles of the CADIZ back then, but translated, that meant within close proximity of our coast line. With its extension, we need to sense what is happening, and if something is happening, we need to be able to decide and to act.
I'm grateful for the recent announcements for increasing air domain awareness with the over-the-horizon radars. However, I look forward to more granularity, such as the fate of our present North Warning System and its potential replacement for a layered air defence system.
I'm also grateful for the intentions on persistent surveillance from space and from remotely piloted aircraft systems. There are other gaps in terms of Canadian airborne early warning systems. In a maritime domain, under and above the sea, anti-submarine warfare particularly needs to be addressed to provide the full picture to achieve unambiguous warning and to provide time “left of bang” to the decision-makers.
That is why it is important to implement NORAD modernization and continental defence to enhance our contribution and to be a reliable partner with the U.S. in the defence of North America. I am hopeful we will do more on our own to pull our weight with the U.S. and take more seriously our Arctic NATO flank to ensure that seams and gaps among sectors, areas of responsibility and NORAD's area of operations are not exploitable.
With China and Russia, the bar for effective deterrence has been raised. In the Arctic, we must rebuild a credible deterrence posture against Russia, and we need to be credible with our interoperable military capabilities with the United States in all domains of air, land, sea, space and cyber.
The recent announcement on NORAD modernization, along with the upcoming defence policy update, must prioritize persistent all-domain situational awareness, enhanced command and control, force projection with reach and power, and presence in the Arctic.
I am now prepared to answer your questions.
Mr. Chair, thank you very much for the invitation to address the committee.
As the last commander of Canada Command specifically responsible for Canada's Arctic from a military perspective, I will focus my comments today on what the government could do to practically address threats to Canada's north and the Arctic.
I worked closely with my U.S. counterpart, the commander of USNORTHCOM, who was responsible for the north from a U.S. perspective, and he was also seized by this issue.
I also had the responsibility to work in this area with other militaries from countries that are Arctic nations.
I know that the committee has heard from other witnesses that threat is determined by two factors: capability and intent. Clearly they come together to define whether or not it's a low or a high risk, and, as we've all heard, Russia poses a high threat to the peace and stability of the Arctic and Canada's north today and in the future.
With that said, I'll now focus my comments on what I believe the government could do to improve practically its work in the north.
First, Canada needs to remain part of and join in support any and all bilateral and multilateral organizations and agencies, non-military and military, with like-minded nations that are involved in the Arctic, such as the Arctic Council, which it is part of today, and others that will come together in the future. These alliances will help to maintain peace and stability across the Arctic by providing international forums for dialogue and to resolve disputes. Moreover, if Canada needed to act in the Arctic, then it could do so in a unified manner with greater capability with other like-minded allies.
From a sovereignty perspective, we need to know what's going on in the north, as we've heard a number of times at this committee, and be able to act against that threat, if that's the decision of the government. Canada needs situational awareness in five—and you could call it six—key domain areas: air, space, on the seas, below the seas, on the ground, and number six could be cyber.
Currently the awareness of what is going on below the seas and on the land across Canada's north are the weakest areas in this respect. There are technologies today that could be put into place across our main sea passages to know what's going on beneath our waters.
With respect to improving our awareness of activity on Canadian soil in the north, we could build on two existing military capabilities, the Canadian Rangers, which was discussed, and drones.
We could expand and professionalize the Ranger program in order to fully cover our north with a more robust force. The Canadian Rangers do amazing work and just celebrated their 75th anniversary, but the support they receive, to be fair, in terms of equipment, training and logistics needs to be improved dramatically for the Rangers to be prepared to detect a modern threat and respond to it.
In addition, having unmanned medium and large drones patrolling our Arctic working closely with the Rangers would additionally increase our ability to detect land threats across the 2.6 million square kilometres of Canada's north. Drones of this nature have been used in the north by our military but have yet to become part of the regular inventory of Canada's military.
Once a threat is detected, one hopefully has the capability to respond to the threat. NORAD modernization, as mentioned, to include new radar and combat aircraft will meet the need to effectively respond to threats in our northern air space and in our northern waters to a degree.
Responding to a maritime threat can take many forms, including aircraft and armed medium and large drones, but being able to effectively respond to a maritime incursion requires the presence of an armed ship. Given the need in the north for icebreaking capability, that is a part of the Coast Guard's responsibility.
Second, the need for ship-borne weapons systems rests with the Royal Canadian Navy. How could we have an armed naval presence in our north across the entire year? Do we arm the Coast Guard? Do we build icebreaking capability with the Royal Canadian Navy, or do we purchase submarines that can go under the ice? I leave that for this committee to ponder.
Last, to respond to a land threat, our military would initially have the Canadian Rangers in place providing surveillance and being supported by drones. They could be augmented by the Canadian Army, if what we could do would provide a longer-term presence and fighting force, as we will need. The Canadian Army can effectively fight in the north. That's not in question; however, we need to get land forces on the ground quickly into the north where needed to contain an incursion to our sovereignty and support our allies, if needed.
To get land forces on the ground quickly in the north, one could simply expand the Canadian military's armed forces reserve program, which is already in the north. Expanding the reserve forces in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit with some new forces in Resolute Bay would be the most economical and efficient way to have land forces on the ground in the north where needed quickly.
One could even stand up a new unit as part of the Canadian Army, with a new, full northern indigenous identity.
In short, much needs to be done. We need to be prepared to address that threat. At the end of the day, what we do need is a northern security strategy.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thanks for the question, Mr. Chair.
It comes back to what the need is. What would we want them to do, from a surveillance perspective?
If you just look at it from a logistics perspective and as one small part of what's provided, that would be one area. I think if you go into the details, if you've had witnesses here to say what Rangers are provided with, you'll find that they're provided with very limited support. They provide their own ski-doos and the like. They are reimbursed in part. It's not ideal. From a logistics perspective, if they could improve that in itself, it would improve the capability of what the Rangers could do in the north.
I'm just looking at the Government of Canada, if I may here. This is from the Government of Canada on the 1st Canadian Rangers. The 1st Canadian Ranger patrol group—that's 2,000 Rangers—are “responsible for Nunavut Territory, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, and...British Columbia” in the north.
When you look at it from the perspective of pure numbers, clearly it needs to be expanded, because they only have about 60 patrols on the ground right now. Again, what you want them to do is based on the threat.
Aside from that, you're right that they probably need to do other types of military training to improve their capability.
It's a great question. At the end of the day, is surveillance about sovereignty? I would pose the question to this committee. It would have been a great question to ask the last group. I know the answer for when I was there.
Does the United States of America advise the Government of Canada whenever its nuclear submarines pass through our Arctic? The short answer is no. Would it be great to know that they're there? They usually provide us with a block of 100 square kilometres. It could be found somewhere in there. My colleague might know. He was south of the border at the time. Beyond that, there's not a lot of detail.
Is that about sovereignty? Is it about surveillance? Yes, they tell you that they're up there in this area, but I think we need more. In 2010, we did a pilot. We put some underwater cables through a very small part of the Northwest Passage, from a surveillance perspective, and it worked.
Part of the challenge in the north is that a whale gives off almost the same echo that a submarine does. I've been there. I got a call in the middle of the night once, saying they'd found a submarine. I think it turned out to be a whale at the end of the day.
All that is to say that it comes back, seriously, to the question of whether it is just about surveillance, or is it also about sovereignty? It's not about just knowing; it's about how this is Canada. This is ours.
Internationally, the United States of America still argues that from an international point of view.
It's interesting that you talked about that in terms of the difference between surveillance and sovereignty.
In terms of our relationship with the United States, in that partnership, there's been a lot of discussion, especially about the Northwest Passage. Who owns it? How do we defend...?
With Russia, their identity is being formed by the Arctic. How are they defending, as opposed to being seen as the aggressor?
In that relationship with the United States, are we, in fact, as we are being pushed more and more—and it was said today—in that partnership to sign on board with the anti-ballistic missile defence system, or treaty or defence system...? I'm sorry.
Is it truly about our sovereignty, if it's in that partnership?
“Absolute” is a big word. Do we have absolute certainty we see everything that sails?
First of all, we know there won't be ships where the ice is, so that limits the area. Most of the detection is through AIS, the identification system for ships, which commercial ships need to have.
I don't think we have 100% awareness of everything that sails in the Arctic during the time when they can sail. There's a period of time when they can't sail at all, so that's easy. It's time-dependent.
I think the biggest problem is probably under the surface. You know what you know, and to know it, you need to have persistent surveillance. If you have a physical presence to observe it once a month, there are 28 days between the passes you do.
As far as the space systems are concerned, at the pole, it's still limited. It's not like a geosynchronous satellite that can look at an area all the time. They're passes that go up, and it depends on the rate of passage, so I don't think we have absolute awareness.
At the moment, the north is very inhospitable. If we want to have a real impact in the north, we have to conduct enough exercises and collaborate enough with the other forces that train there and conduct operations there.
During the survey campaign in the Arctic that I did, the aim was, for example, to discover where gasoline caches were located, or to determine what runways could take which types of planes. All that data was foreign to us. The pilots in some aviation communities also needed to learn to fly with night vision glasses, since it is dark a lot of the time in the north. Those are the kinds of discoveries we need to make. The ground troops also have to relearn how to operate in the north.
Regarding operations with the allies, I recall that my first exercise as a helicopter pilot took place in NATO's northern flank, in Norway. We had been assigned there because at the time we were experts in operations in similar conditions. However, those competences have been lost over the years, because of the geopolitical situation and years spent in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Those are competences that must be reacquired.
I think that's a great question.
To begin with, as I mentioned, perhaps some of the pieces of the answer could be to stand up indigenous units in the north that are commanded and controlled by indigenous folks and not by people from the south. We do this right now. That's the way the Ranger program is organized.
Yes, you could stand up indigenous organizations across the north, which would help to empower what happens across the north. However, if you take a look at the news right now, I think you'll see that Tuktoyaktuk is starting to fall into the ocean. I don't know if you've seen that.
There's a lot going on across the north that I think the government can look into and invest in aside from the military. It already has pieces of the military, but it could do more in the north to support Canadians in the north.
Canadians also live in the north. Most Canadians who live in the south don't seem to remember that or think about that much. They are Canadians and they need our support more than people do in the south. How do you do that economically, building infrastructure, supporting socially what's going on in the north, promoting it and ensuring that it does remain unique in the many ways that it is?
Colleagues, that brings our time to an end.
On behalf of the committee, I want to thank both of you for your contribution, your past contribution and, I dare say, your ongoing contribution. The experience that both of you bring to the table is quite remarkable, so thank you.
Colleagues, next Tuesday we will have a panel of Rangers. They have been a subject matter. I will set aside some time to scale out what we are doing for the rest of the year.
I want to thank the replacement clerk.
Do I have to pass the budget now?