The United States is Canada’s most important ally and defence partner. Defence and security relations between our two countries are longstanding, well-entrenched and highly successful. The closeness of the Canada‑U.S. defence partnership provides both countries with greater security than could be achieved individually.
Given the common defence and security requirements, it is in Canada’s strategic interest to remain a reliable partner in the defence of North America.
As a strong and reliable defence partner, the Canadian Forces (CF) is prepared to conduct continental operations, including through North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD); carry out training exercises and remain interoperable with the U.S. military; and respond to crises. The principal bi-lateral defence arrangements and agreements are:
- Permanent Joint Board on Defence (PJBD) – established in 1940 to discuss and advise the Canadian Prime Minister and the U.S. President on defence policy issues related to continental defence and security.
- Military Cooperation Committee – established in 1946 as the primary strategic link between Canadian and U.S. joint military staffs.
- North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) – established in 1958 to monitor and defend North American airspace. In 2006, a maritime warning function was added.
- The Canada‑U.S. Civil Assistance Plan – signed February 2008, and renewed in January 2012, to facilitate the support of military members from one nation to the armed forces of the other nation during a civil emergency.
- Tri-Command Framework – signed September 2009, outlines how NORAD, United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), and Canada Command operate and cooperate.
The unique Canada-United States military relationship can be defined as a partnership in North American defence and global security. There are currently more than 700 CF members serving in more than 30 U.S. states. Approximately half are committed to the NORAD mission, while the remainder serve as liaison and exchange officers or as students pursuing post-graduate military or civilian academic studies.
At the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., the CF maintain the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff, a field unit of the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff. The senior Canadian Defence Attaché, a Major-General (or Rear Admiral), and Chief of the Canadian Delegation to the Inter-American Defence Board, and the CF defence attachés from the air, sea, and land environments provide military advice and appropriate support and assistance to the Canadian Ambassador. In support of the Canada‑U.S. defence and security partnership, Defence attachés liaise directly with the Pentagon and their various American counterparts, linking Canada’s Department of National Defence with the U.S. Department of Defense.
U.S. Military Partners
North American Aerospace Defense Command
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is the U.S. and Canadian bi-national organization whose missions include aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning. Aerospace warning and aerospace control pertain directly to air sovereignty and air defence for North America; while maritime warning entails the sharing of awareness and understanding of the activities conducted in the U.S. and Canadian maritime approaches, maritime areas, and internal waterways.
In 2006, a revision to the NORAD Agreement created a permanent arrangement and removed the requirement for formal renewal every four years. Traditionally, the Deputy Commander of NORAD has been a senior Canadian Forces Officer.
United States Northern Command
U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is Canada Command’s counterpart for domestic operations in the U.S. The USNORTHCOM area of responsibility includes air, land, and sea approaches to the continental U.S., Alaska, Canada, and Mexico. The Straits of Florida, portions of the Caribbean region, including Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also included.
The Command was established in 2002 to provide command and control of homeland defence, and to coordinate defence support of civil authorities. The USNORTHCOM defends the homeland and its citizens, and contributes to continental defence, just as Canada Command does across Canada.
United States Southern Command
U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) – with headquarters in Miami, Florida – is a joint, interagency command representing the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, and federal agencies that share similar mission objectives, including the Department of State, and the Drug Enforcement Administration and Customs. Neighbouring nations, such as Canada, are key partners in planning and contingency operations. The Command’s area of operations includes Central and South America, the Caribbean and the surrounding waters south of Mexico.
Canada Command and USSOUTHCOM consult regularly on a collective response to regional and trans-national security challenges, such as preventing and reducing illicit cocaine and heroin trafficking through detection, monitoring, and tracking drug traffickers. To interdict the flow of drugs, USSOUTHCOM conducts surveillance of the air and maritime routes to the U.S. and other countries.
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is a maritime, multi-mission service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces with a unique maritime law enforcement mission, with jurisdiction in both domestic and international waters. Its roles include maritime homeland security, maritime law enforcement, and search and rescue.
The CF and USCG operations regularly interface in three prime areas: search and rescue, illicit drug surveillance and interdiction, and illegal migrant interdiction.
In February 2011, a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment conducted operations, for the first time, from a Canadian Navy ship, HMCS Toronto. The vessel and crew, under command of Canada Command, was operating in direct support to the U.S.-led, multi-national effort to interdict drug trafficking in the Caribbean Basin. Similar operations took place along the Pacific coast.
Joint Interagency Task Force South
Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIAFT(S))is a multiservice, multi-agency task force based at the Naval Air Station Key West in Florida and is a subordinate organization to the USSOUTHCOM. Its primary mission within the USSOUTHCOM area of responsibility is to integrate and conduct interagency counter drug and other illicit trafficking operations with the purpose of interrupting and stopping the flow of illicit traffic, in cooperation with partner nations including Canada.
JIATF(S) coordinates the employment of U.S. and allied ships and aircraft, their crews, and law enforcement agencies for the detection and monitoring of suspect air and maritime drug activity in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific. It collects, processes, and disseminates counter-drug information for inter-agency operations dedicated to interdicting the flow of illicit drugs.