Canada's Leading Defence Magazine


Our North, Strong and Free: A Renewed Vision for Canada’s Defence

We live in an increasingly complex world, and the security threats faced by Canada are rapidly changing. Growing challenges to the international order that has long protected Canada’s prosperity and security, the rising impact of climate change, and the rapid pace of technological change is all affecting Canada’s national interests. These trends are also having real and tangible impacts on the daily lives of Canadians.

In response to these challenges, the service of our Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is more important than ever – from defending Canada and securing our sovereignty in the Arctic, to protecting our continent alongside the United States, to providing life-saving assistance to Canadians impacted by natural disasters, to strengthening NATO’s collective defence and providing military assistance to help Ukraine defend itself, to increasing our presence in the Indo-Pacific.

We need a robust military that can defend Canada and protect Canadians at home, including in our North, while defending North America and our national interests abroad with Allies and partners. The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and the Minister of National Defence, Bill Blair, released Our North, Strong and Free: A Renewed Vision for Canada’s Defence and announced a new overall investment of $8.1 billion over five years and $73 billion over 20 years in defence spending to be included in the upcoming Budget 2024. Canada’s defence spending to GDP ratio is expected to rise to 1.76 per cent by 2029-30, a major step toward reaching the NATO commitment of 2 per cent.

Since the launch in 2017 of Strong, Secure, EngagedCanada’s comprehensive defence policy, we have already invested to strengthen the CAF, and we are on track to more than double our defence spending from 2016-17 to 2026–27. We are acquiring new fighter jets and maritime patrol aircraft, and new built-in-Canada Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels are being delivered to Canadian sailors. In 2022, we invested around $38 billion to modernize our contribution to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Our North, Strong and Free builds on these previous commitments, providing a renewed vision for defence and investing in Canada’s capacity to respond to the significant global shifts we have witnessed since the release of Strong, Secure, Engaged.

As Arctic waters become increasingly navigable due to the disproportionate impacts of climate change, Canada will be exposed to new vulnerabilities in the North, which is also NATO’s Northern and Western flank. The character of war is changing, while new and disruptive technologies as well as increasingly hostile autocratic states are redefining what it means to be safe and secure. Autocracies are challenging the international order that keeps Canada safe and prosperous. At a time when defence and security needs are changing faster than ever, Canada’s military needs to be equipped to keep us strong at home, secure in North America, and engaged in the world.

The most urgent and important task we face is asserting Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic and Northern regions, where the changing physical and geopolitical landscapes have created new threats. The investments outlined in Our North, Strong and Free will provide the CAF with the tools and capacity they need to defend Canada and protect North America. These include:

  • $1.4 billion over 20 years to acquire specialized maritime sensors to conduct ocean surveillance. They will be used to monitor Canada’s maritime approaches, including in the Arctic and North, and will be a critical component of the CAFs’ ability to defend Canada from a growing range and sophistication of underwater threats, including vessel-launched missiles, underwater systems, ships, and submarines, on all three coasts.
  • $18.4 billion over 20 years to acquire a more modern, mobile, and effective tactical helicopter capability. This will provide the CAF with the speed and airlift capacity to assert Canada’s sovereignty and respond to natural disasters and emergencies throughout the country.
  • $218 million over 20 years for Northern Operational Support Hubs to better ensure Canadian sovereignty by establishing a greater year-round presence across the Arctic and the North, and invest in multi-use infrastructure that also meets the needs of territories, Indigenous Peoples, and Northern communities.
  • $307 million over 20 years for airborne early warning aircraft that will vastly improve Canada’s ability to detect, track, and prioritize airborne threats sooner, ensuring a faster, better coordinated response with the United States when required.

At the same time, the security and prosperity of Canadians is ensured by the international rules and institutions that we helped build. Our investments to help the CAF advance Canada’s global interests and values include:

  • $9.9 billion over 20 years to improve the sustainment of our naval fleets. This will include extending the life of the Halifax-class frigates and preserving the Royal Canadian Navy’s interim at-sea replenishment capability. These investments will help Canada maintain a globally deployable naval fleet capable of supporting NATO and engaging in operations, exercises, training, and defence diplomacy with key Allies and partners, among other activities.
  • $5.5 billion over 20 years to acquire a comprehensive worldwide satellite communication capability. Working with our Allies, we will jointly develop updated access to the satellite constellations that enable the military to operate effectively around the world, including by better defending its communications against jamming or disruptions by adversaries while deployed.
  • $2.8 billion over 20 years to stand up a joint Canadian cyber operations capability with the Communications Security Establishment, integrating the unique strengths of each organization into a unified team that will conduct active cyber operations in support of Canadian interests.
  • $2.7 billion over 20 years to acquire long-range missile capabilities to enable our Armed Forces to deter threats to Canada from an appropriate distance and reach targets at greater ranges than our adversaries in combat.

None of this work is possible without the CAF members who bravely serve our country. Investments to support them include:

  • $295 million over 20 years to establish a CAF Housing Strategy, build new housing, and rehabilitate existing housing so CAF members have safe and affordable places to call home where they and their families are posted.
  • $100 million over five years to improve child care access for CAF personnel on bases across Canada.
  • $497 million over 20 years to accelerate development of an electronic health record platform to improve the continuity of care as CAF members move between provinces and territories.
  • $1.8 billion over 20 years to increase the number of civilian specialists in priority areas to accelerate and improve the purchase of new equipment, our capacity to recruit and train new soldiers, and infrastructure upgrades.

To enable future growth, we must also strengthen the foundations of defence – and invest in building an innovative Canadian Defence Industrial Base that can equip our military and create skilled, middle-class jobs across Canada. Our plan will support these objectives by investing in key areas, including:

  • $10.2 billion over 20 years to maintain and renew National Defence infrastructure to support the required tempo of training, operations, and day-to-day military activities. These investments will range from asset maintenance and repair to other improvements to military facilities, such as piers and runways.
  • $9.5 billion over 20 years to build a strategic reserve of ammunition and scale up the production of made-in-Canada artillery ammunition in partnership with Canada’s defence industry, to equip our Armed Forces and create good jobs.
  • $9 billion over 20 years to sustain military equipment under the National Procurement Program to ensure the CAF can continue to receive the critical updates necessary to preserve their ability to deploy on operations.

This is about preserving our values of democracy, freedom, peace, and fairness for the next generation of Canadians, so they can enjoy the same security and prosperity that was given to us by our parents and grandparents. It is about supporting and honouring members of our Armed Forces and equipping them with the resources they need to keep Canadians safe in an increasingly unpredictable world. In Budget 2024, we are also building more homes faster, getting healthy food on kids’ plates, investing in health care, making life more affordable, and creating good jobs to make sure every generation can get ahead.

“Members of our Armed Forces serve our country with unwavering dedication. With today’s announcement, we’re strengthening the Canadian Armed Forces with transformative investments in equipment, capabilities, and talent. As we tackle the evolving challenges ahead, including protecting and defending the Arctic, these investments will keep Canada safe, secure, and prosperous.”

— The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

“The brave Canadians who serve in our Armed Forces need cutting-edge equipment to protect Canadians and defend democracy. They help uphold the rules-based international order, which has enabled the decades of peace and prosperity that generations of Canadians have enjoyed. Our government is making transformative investments to secure our Arctic and ensure the Canadian Armed Forces can keep up with emerging threats today and in the years ahead.”

— The Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

“In our rapidly changing world, we are committed to fulfilling our essential responsibility of protecting Canada and its people. Our world has evolved significantly in the past few years, and we need to do more to respond to new security threats. Our North, Strong and Free outlines our plan to do more and is a significant step forward in meeting our commitments to our Allies. I thank our personnel for their dedication to protecting Canada – and I am more confident than ever in their future.”

— The Hon. Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence

“As Canada faces increasing and constantly evolving threats, the service of Canada’s military members is more important than ever. These investments will ensure that, from child care to housing, our servicewomen and men will be well equipped and well supported in all they do ‒ at home and on deployments.”

— The Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

  • New defence funding outlined in Budget 2024 builds on historic investments the government has made to date to support members of our Armed Forces, strengthen Canada’s defence capabilities, and respond to global challenges. Together with our ongoing investments, these measures are expected to increase defence spending from 1.33 per cent to 1.76 per cent of GDP. Ongoing investments include:
    • Around $38 billion over 20 years to strengthen the defence of North America, reinforce Canada’s support of our partnership with the United States under NORAD, and protect our sovereignty in the North.
    • $11.5 billion over 20 years for Canada’s contribution to increasing NATO’s common budget and to establish a new regional office in Halifax for NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic.
    • More than $11 billion since 2015 to enhance benefits for veterans, including improvements to education, employment, and caregiver supports as well as the introduction of Pension for Life.
    • $4.4 billion over 20 years to enhance Canada’s cyber security by expanding cyber operations capability and shoring up critical infrastructure to fend off cyber attacks.
    • $3.8 billion over 20 years to acquire new critical weapons systems, replenish stocks of ammunition, and improve the CAF’s digital systems.
    • $3.5 billion to renew and expand Operation REASSURANCE, the CAF’s largest overseas mission, through which it contributes to NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe.
    • $4 billion in military assistance for Ukraine.
    • $910 million to support military operations in Ukraine, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific region.
    • Nearly $1 billion over 20 years to support culture change and wellness in the CAF, and introduce amendments to the National Defence Act to implement key external recommendations to advance culture change.
  • In recent months, the government has also announced significant acquisitions to enhance the defence of Canada and North America. This includes approximately 140 new aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) – including F-35 fighter jets, CC-330 Husky aircraft, and P-8A Poseidon aircraft – and a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System to provide the CAF with the capability to remotely engage targets in complex environments.
  • In June 2022, the government made a landmark commitment of around $38 billion to invest in continental defence and modernize NORAD. We continue to advance several major projects to protect Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic, including:
    • New Arctic and Polar Over the Horizon Radar systems and enhanced space-based surveillance systems to expand situational awareness of Canadian territory and air and maritime approaches.
    • New long-range and additional short- and medium-range air-to-air weapons systems to expand the reach of Canadian fighters in engaging threats and respond to evolving air-based threats.
    • New command and control capabilities, including a modernized aerospace operations centre and enhanced Polar communications satellites.
    • New infrastructure initiatives at three forward operating locations and one deployed operating base across Canada’s North to support a more robust presence in the Arctic and the new capabilities Canada is acquiring, like the F-35.
  • To protect our NATO Allies, Canada is more than doubling its military presence on Operation REASSURANCE – from about 1,000 troops to a sustained deployment of up to 2,200 troops by 2026, as committed in the July 2023 Roadmap on Scaling the eFP Latvia Battle Group to BrigadeCanada is also deploying additional capabilities to the Battle Group, including a Canadian Army Tank Squadron of 15 Leopard 2 Main Battle Tanks to Latvia. And starting this summer, Canada will begin to deploy RCAF helicopters to the Battle Group.
  • The Government of Canada’s Budget 2024 will be tabled in the House of Commons by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
  • In recent days, the Prime Minister announced Budget 2024 would also:
  • Restore generational fairness for renters, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, by taking new action to protect renters’ rights and unlock pathways for them to become homeowners. Learn more.
  • Save more young families money and help more moms return to their careers by building more affordable child care spaces and training more early childhood educators across CanadaLearn more.
  • Create a National School Food Program to provide meals to about 400,000 kids every year and help ensure every child has the best start in life, no matter their circumstances. Learn more.
  • Launch a new $6 billion Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund to accelerate the construction or upgrade of essential infrastructure across the country and get more homes built for Canadians. Learn more.
  • Top-up the Apartment Construction Loan Program with $15 billion, make new reforms so it is easier to access, and launch Canada Builds to call on all provinces and territories to join a Team Canada effort to build more homes, faster. Learn more.
  • Support renters by launching a new $1.5 billion Canada Rental Protection Fund to preserve more rental homes and make sure they stay affordable. Learn more.
  • Change the way we build homes in Canada by announcing over $600 million to make it easier and cheaper to build more homes, faster, including through a new Homebuilding Technology and Innovation Fund and a new Housing Design Catalogue. Learn more.
  • Secure Canada’s AI advantage through a $2.4 billion package of measures that will accelerate job growth in Canada’s AI sector, boost productivity by helping researchers and businesses develop and adopt AI, and ensure this is done responsibly. Learn more.

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