Peter MacKay: Defending Canadian sovereignty on the international stage | #espionage | #surveillance | #ceo

Global affairs are in a precarious state, with the United States and China both jockeying for dominance. The international institutions that support our prosperity and security are — as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated — under severe stress. Canada’s relevance and respect on the world stage has diminished. We need a wake-up call and a change in direction, in order to secure our country in this volatile world.

The Government of Canada has three principal responsibilities — prosperity, security and national unity. They all depend on the government’s willingness to stand up for our national sovereignty.

Canada’s Liberal government believes that seeking a seat on the United Nations Security Council and being passive with countries like China is how foreign policy is conducted. This thinking isn’t just naive, it has actively harmed Canada during the COVID-19 crisis.

A man reads a book in front of a board with an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a book store in Shenyang, China, on April 23.


The Trudeau government has accepted the Chinese government’s official story on COVID-19. It sent that country 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment in February, while making no serious effort to press for the return of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have languished in Chinese prison cells for 500 days. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is now relying on new supply chains in China for the same personal protective equipment that he gave away a couple months ago.

My plan for safeguarding our sovereignty involves securing our borders, defending our national institutions, accelerating economic growth and staying true to our values. I also believe we can bolster our sovereignty by aligning our actions with like-minded, democratic countries that are committed to individual liberties, the rule of law and the security of their citizens.

There are five areas of sovereignty where I believe Canada must change course.

A view of the U.S.-Canada border crossing in Detroit on April 8.

Elaine Cromie/Getty Images

First, we must do more to secure our borders. Illegal border crossings, smuggled contraband, counterfeit goods and ongoing health concerns demand increased vigilance. We must tighten border surveillance and renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States. And we need to ramp up our health screening capacity at airports and border crossings — not just now, but to help prevent future outbreaks, as well.

Second, we need to take cybersecurity and the protection of our democratic institutions more seriously. Canada faces daily data breaches, intellectual property theft and cyberattacks that undermine our economy and our democracy. We must block companies like Huawei from our 5G network and ban foreign state-owned enterprises from being involved in our critical infrastructure more generally. We need to invest in tools to identify and prevent cybersecurity threats and industrial espionage. Foreign-funded influence on Canadian public policy — including energy security — must be exposed and eradicated. The same is true with foreign interference in Canadian elections. A review of the mandates of CSIS and CSEC are overdue. At the core, we need to make decisions that strengthen Canada’s alignment with our trusted Five Eyes partners (the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand).

Third, we must assert our sovereignty over our Arctic territory. Its promise of economic opportunity and a higher quality of life for Canada’s Northerners must be realized. Canada’s presence and surveillance capacity in the Arctic must increase, especially over and under the Northwest Passage. This should include a new high-tech early warning system. We also need a long-term plan to develop a port community and military base in Churchill, Man. The 5,000-plus Canadian Rangers and Junior Rangers who reinforce our core military presence in Northern communities must be supported and expanded. We need more research on Arctic life and the environment, to ensure we are making the best long-term decisions. And we also must become more assertive at the Arctic Council, the UN, NATO and NORAD over our Arctic sovereignty.

Canadian Rangers conduct search and rescue training near Moose Factory, Ont., in 2017.

Sgt. Peter Moon for The Daily Press

Fourth, we need a new approach to international development. A foreign policy that assumes the best intentions of other countries — including those with authoritarian governments and massive state controls — is shortsighted and dangerous. We must review and reconsider our contributions to multilateral forums and reorient funding to capable and accountable Canadian NGOs. Likewise, we can avoid and withdraw from international conventions that conflict with Canadian law, basic human rights or Canada’s national interest.

Finally, our economic sovereignty must not be compromised. We cannot assume fair play from other countries on trade or foreign direct investment, especially when state actors are involved. We are free traders, but we can’t allow ourselves to be taken advantage of or left vulnerable. We cannot continue to outsource the manufacturing of critical supplies to places like China. What we need in a crisis should be made here in Canada. We must prevent the transfer of key technologies to foreign entities that undermine our economic and security interests. And Canada’s temporary foreign worker program needs to be reviewed, to ensure Canadians have priority access to jobs.

Canada’s prosperity, security and national unity go hand-in-hand. What’s clear to me today is that we need to build a more resilient Canada, a more self-reliant Canada and a more independent Canada that is strong and free.

National Post

Peter MacKay is a former minister of justice, defence and foreign affairs who is vying to lead the Conservative Party of Canada.

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