Canada-Australia Defence Relations — Backgrounder

Cana­da-Aus­tralia rela­tions are excep­tion­al­ly close and high­ly pro­duc­tive. The rela­tion­ship has devel­oped over a long his­to­ry and is based on both a shared past and a com­mon set of val­ues. It has been built across a wide spec­trum of fields, rang­ing from trade, defence rela­tions, aca­d­e­m­ic and stu­dent exchanges, cul­ture, con­sular arrange­ments, par­lia­men­tary rela­tions, mul­ti­lat­er­al coop­er­a­tion and polit­i­cal and gov­ern­men­tal affairs.

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Aus­tralia is a like-mind­ed nation and a key part­ner with Cana­da. As coun­tries pos­sess­ing mil­i­taries of com­pa­ra­ble size and shar­ing many of the same allies, Cana­da and Aus­tralia have a long tra­di­tion of defence coop­er­a­tion, and main­tain a foun­da­tion of defence rela­tions through exer­cis­es, train­ing, aca­d­e­m­ic exchanges, pol­i­cy talks, high-lev­el vis­its, and oper­a­tions such as the NATO-led Afghanistan mis­sion. While Aus­tralia is not a mem­ber of NATO, it has made—and con­tin­ues to do so—significant con­tri­bu­tions to the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force and oper­a­tions in Afghanistan dur­ing the last decade. 

The dynam­ic and grow­ing bilat­er­al defence rela­tion­ship between Cana­da and Aus­tralia reflects the shared glob­al chal­lenges we face, whether it be in counter-ter­ror­ism, or in new domains, such as cyber and space security. 

The Depart­ment of Nation­al Defence con­tin­ues to explore oppor­tu­ni­ties for clos­er col­lab­o­ra­tion through bilat­er­al discussions. 

Exam­ples of defence coop­er­a­tion between Cana­da and Aus­tralia include: 

  • Offi­cial Visits—up to 500 high-lev­el and work­ing-lev­el vis­its take place each year, both in Cana­da and Aus­tralia, between the two coun­tries, includ­ing a Min­is­te­r­i­al-lev­el vis­it in 2011.
  • Sup­port to the Aus­tralian Defence Force (ADF) ini­tia­tive to lift com­bat occu­pa­tion restric­tions by Cana­di­an female com­bat soldiers—at the invi­ta­tion of Gen­er­al David Hur­ley, Chief of the ADF, the Cana­di­an del­e­ga­tion shared their experiences.
  • Bilat­er­al Coop­er­a­tion in Afghanistan—Canada and Aus­tralia con­tin­ue to work togeth­er as part of the NATO-led Afghanistan mission.
  • Naval Coop­er­a­tion and Exchanges—the Roy­al Cana­di­an and Roy­al Aus­tralian Navies have and con­tin­ue to work togeth­er through sev­er­al train­ing exer­cis­es, oper­a­tions, and exchanges. The two Navies also work togeth­er to share best prac­tices around materiel man­age­ment and ship­build­ing best practices.
  • Army Coop­er­a­tion and Exchanges—the Cana­di­an and Aus­tralian Armies work togeth­er on a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ini­tia­tives, includ­ing the Amer­i­can, British, Cana­di­an, Aus­tralian, and New Zealand Armies’ Pro­gram, as well as through a num­ber of exchanges.
  • Air Force Coop­er­a­tion and Exchanges—the Roy­al Cana­di­an and Roy­al Aus­tralian Air Forces have sev­er­al exam­ples of areas for defence coop­er­a­tion, includ­ing train­ing, oper­a­tions, and exchanges.

In addi­tion to these ini­tia­tives, the Cana­di­an Depart­ment of Defence (DND) and Aus­tralian Min­istry of Defence (MoD) have com­mit­ted to hold­ing annu­al min­is­te­r­i­al meet­ings, strate­gic pol­i­cy talks, and meet­ings between the Cana­di­an Chief of the Defence Staff and Aus­tralian Chief of the ADF. Cana­da also has a Cana­di­an Defence Attaché post­ed to Australia. 

Sup­port to ADF ini­tia­tive to lift com­bat occu­pa­tion restric­tions by Cana­di­an female com­bat sol­diers

The Chief of Aus­tralia Defence Force, Gen­er­al David Hur­ley, invit­ed a del­e­ga­tion of Cana­di­an Forces mem­bers serv­ing in com­bat occu­pa­tions to vis­it Aus­tralia to share their com­bat expe­ri­ences with the ADF. This invi­ta­tion was issued to assist with the imple­men­ta­tion phase of mak­ing all com­bat posi­tions in the ADF open to women. 

Two female Cana­di­an Forces mem­bers, as well as a male mem­ber, and a civil­ian gen­der inte­gra­tion sub­ject mat­ter expert rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Cana­di­an Defence Acad­e­my trav­elled to Aus­tralia from May 7 to 18, 2012 in sup­port of the invi­ta­tion from Gen­er­al Hur­ley. This vis­it was an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the Cana­di­an del­e­ga­tion to dis­cuss with the ADF their shared com­mit­ment to gen­der equal­i­ty in the mil­i­tary, and to share the mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence of Colonel Jen­nie Carig­nan, Chief of Staff, Land Forces Cen­tral Area, Chief War­rant Offi­cer Stan Sta­ple­ford, Land Forces Cen­tral Area Chief War­rant Offi­cer, and Cap­tain Genevieve Bertrand, Adju­dant, 3rd Bat­tal­ion, Roy­al 22nd Regiment. 

The Cana­di­an Forces (CF) allows women to serve in all occu­pa­tions, includ­ing those in the com­bat arms and in the sub­ma­rine ser­vice. The CF is a world leader in terms of the areas in which women can serve. Women can enrol in all occu­pa­tions of the CF, includ­ing com­bat arms, and serve in any envi­ron­ment. The CF takes pride in being a leader in the field of equal­i­ty and women’s rights and is active­ly recruit­ing women for dynam­ic, reward­ing positions. 

Bilat­er­al Coop­er­a­tion in Afghanistan

Australia’s sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to ISAF and oper­a­tions in Afghanistan dur­ing the last decade make it a key part­ner for Cana­da and NATO. Aus­tralia and Cana­da served togeth­er in the most dif­fi­cult the­atre of oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, Region­al Com­mand (South-West). Even with the evo­lu­tion of the mis­sion and Canada’s pres­ence, Cana­da and Aus­tralia con­tin­ue to work togeth­er to share infor­ma­tion and best prac­tices in our respec­tive whole-of- gov­ern­ment efforts in Afghanistan. Cana­da loaned equip­ment to Aus­tralia which enhances their force pro­tec­tion capa­bil­i­ty, in addi­tion to shar­ing infor­ma­tion at the oper­a­tional lev­el that assists Aus­tralia as they con­tin­ue to con­duct oper­a­tions in Afghanistan. 

Cana­da and Aus­tralia are in Afghanistan with over 50 oth­er nations and inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions, at the request of the demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-elect­ed Afghan gov­ern­ment and as part of the UN-man­dat­ed, NATO-led mission. 

Naval Coop­er­a­tion and Exchanges

The Roy­al Cana­di­an and Aus­tralian Navies have a long and estab­lished his­to­ry of coop­er­a­tion which stems from our mutu­al com­mon­wealth roots and pro­vides a deep foun­da­tion in terms of com­mon mil­i­tary cul­ture and prac­tice, and in meet­ing cur­rent and future secu­ri­ty chal­lenges. Cana­da and Aus­tralia par­tic­i­pate in a num­ber of inter­na­tion­al naval exer­cis­es togeth­er, such as RIMPAC, a U.S.-led Pacif­ic based multi­na­tion­al mar­itime exer­cise. Her Majesty’s Cana­di­an Ship OTTAWA also par­tic­i­pat­ed in the major Aus­tralia-US exer­cise TALISMAN SABRE 2011. Exer­cis­es such as this serve to improve inter­op­er­abil­i­ty, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and tac­ti­cal coor­di­na­tion at sea. These types of capa­bil­i­ties are the sharp end of our excel­lent defence relations. 

Since 2009, sev­er­al ship’s vis­its have occurred includ­ing the HMCS WINNIPEG’s vis­it to Perth, Mel­bourne, and Bris­bane in 2009 dur­ing its return from the Gulf of Aden, Her Majesty’s Aus­tralian Ship SYDNEY and HMAS BALLARAT’s vis­it to Hal­i­fax and St. John’s in July 2009, HMAS NEWCASTLE ‘s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Roy­al Cana­di­an Navy’s Cen­ten­ni­al cel­e­bra­tions in Esquimalt in June 2010 and HMCS OTTAWA’s port vis­it to Syd­ney from July 6–10, 2011. 

Four Cana­di­an sailors were attached to the Roy­al Aus­tralian Navy (RAN) from Sep­tem­ber to Decem­ber 2011 and six are cur­rent­ly employed with the RAN from Jan­u­ary to June 2012 as part of our pro­gram (REGULUS), which sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly rotates per­son­nel with allied Navies while Cana­di­an frigates are under­go­ing upgrades. Pro­grams like this are also rec­i­p­ro­cal, allow­ing per­son­nel from the RAN (and oth­er allies) to train and work aboard ships of the Roy­al Cana­di­an Navy. 

Addi­tion­al­ly, Roy­al Cana­di­an Navy sailors par­tic­i­pate reg­u­lar­ly in exchanges with RAN sailors in areas of naval oper­a­tions, train­ing, and at the Aus­tralian Defence College. 

Army Coop­er­a­tion and Exchanges

Oper­at­ing for over 60 years, the Amer­i­can, British, Cana­di­an, Aus­tralian and New Zealand Armies’ Pro­gram (ABCA) is a key orga­ni­za­tion through which the inter­op­er­abil­i­ty of Land Forces is achieved. Cana­da host­ed a major ABCA train­ing activ­i­ty in July 2011—ALLIED AURORAS. The exer­cise involved the devel­op­ment of a Dis­trib­uted Syn­thet­ic Envi­ron­ment that will assist with inter­op­er­a­ble train­ing activ­i­ties amongst ABCA nations. Aus­tralia par­tic­i­pat­ed in ALLIED AURORAS and will build upon it dur­ing AQUA TERRA, which they will host in 2014. Addi­tion­al­ly, Aus­tralia sent a 20-per­son team to the ABCA Annu­al Meet­ing held in Ottawa in March 2012. At this meet­ing ABCA Nations agreed on inter­op­er­abil­i­ty chal­lenges that would be resolved dur­ing the com­ing year. 

Cana­da and Aus­tralia also have an active pro­gram of small unit exchanges. In August 2011, 24 Cana­di­an Rangers from the 4th Cana­di­an Ranger Patrol Group par­tic­i­pat­ed in exer­cise SOUTHERN CROSS. This exchange is par­tic­u­lar­ly notable since it brings togeth­er Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties from both Cana­da and Aus­tralia, to explore com­mon ties and share learn­ing on their par­tic­u­lar environments. 

The Cana­di­an Army recent­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in Exer­cise SEA LION 12, an Aus­tralian Amphibi­ous exer­cise held dur­ing the month of March 2012. A Cana­di­an Army Infantry pla­toon was embed­ded with­in a New Zealand Infantry Coy, exer­cis­ing with Aus­tralian troops, to devel­op expe­ri­ence in multi­na­tion­al oper­a­tional envi­ron­ments and learn from their exper­tise in this par­tic­u­lar area of operations. 

The Cana­di­an Army spon­sors one Liai­son Offi­cer at the Aus­tralian Army HQ in Dun­troon, one offi­cer exchange between the Aus­tralian Land War­fare Cen­ter and Cana­di­an Com­bat Train­ing Cen­ter, and a Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Research exchange between the bilat­er­al Elec­tron­ic War­fare Reg­i­ments. Again, this proves our defence rela­tions are at a real oper­a­tional lev­el and those per­son­nel on exchange bring back valu­able exper­tise to their CF col­leagues, as well as pro­vid­ing the host­ing coun­try with our per­spec­tives and experience. 

Air Force Coop­er­a­tion and Exchanges

Build­ing on a foun­da­tion estab­lished through the British Com­mon­wealth Air Train­ing Plan in Decem­ber 1939, Cana­da and Aus­tralia have coop­er­at­ed through the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Aus­tralian avi­a­tors in the Roy­al Cana­di­an Air Force train­ing pro­grams, includ­ing the Basic Air Nav­i­ga­tor Course in Win­nipeg and Canada’s NATO Fly­ing Train­ing in Cana­da pro­gram. Sev­er­al Roy­al Aus­tralian Air Force mem­bers are cur­rent­ly employed through exchanges with oper­a­tional squadrons through­out Canada. 

Addi­tion­al­ly, Cana­da also par­tic­i­pates in the inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tion FINCASTLE for mar­itime patrol air­craft, which was host­ed in Comox, B.C. in 2008. The inter­na­tion­al FINCASTLE com­pe­ti­tion is a con­test of skills between the air forces of Aus­tralia, Cana­da, and New Zealand. Dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, crews com­pete in anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare, anti-sur­face war­fare, and intel­li­gence and sur­veil­lance gath­er­ing. This keen­ly con­test­ed com­pe­ti­tion involves par­tic­i­pants’ abil­i­ty to detect, clas­si­fy, track and engage a sub­ma­rine by day or night. In addi­tion, the exer­cise involves a forum for the devel­op­ment of pro­ce­dures and tac­tics, and wider mar­itime sur­veil­lance and patrol train­ing. Most recent­ly, over­land sur­veil­lance is a new ele­ment to be added to the competition. 

Depart­ment of Nation­al Defence, Canada 

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