In 2007, the Government of Canada developed an Americas Strategy. This strategy, which was reviewed in 2012, is based on three interconnected goals:
In support of this government-wide Americas Strategy, and in collaboration with Canadian security partners such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), the Department of Public Safety (PS), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces(DND/CF) is increasing its engagement in the hemisphere.
Canada currently has five Canadian Defence Attachés (CDA) in the Americas. These Attachés are accredited to Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Brazil, but have responsibilities for more than their host country. The CDA in Cuba is cross-accredited to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic; the CDA in Mexico is cross-accredited to Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama; the CDA in Colombia is cross-accredited to Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela; the CDA in Chile is cross-accredited to Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay; and the CDA in Brazil is cross-accredited to Guyana and Suriname.
Canada's defence relationship with Mexico has grown substantially in recent years. Through Canada-Mexico Political-Military Talks - initiated in 2006 - and other meetings, DND/CF has identified a number of areas for increased cooperation, including military justice, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance and disaster response. In March, 2012, Ottawa hosted the first trilateral ministerial meeting of North American Defence Ministers. This historic event resulted in a commitment between Canada, Mexico and the US to meet regularly to strengthen defence cooperation. In March, 2011, Canada became an official member of the North American Maritime Security Initiative (NAMSI), a trilateral mechanism for the US, Canada and Mexico to share information and improve maritime interoperability, domain awareness and joint responses to trans-national maritime threats.
DND/CF has also increased its engagement in Central America, exploring ways to support Central American nations lying along major drug trafficking routes. For instance, DND/CF is seeking ways to provide capacity-building in the areas of civil-military relations and peace support, in order to strengthen the ability of armed forces to support civilian authorities in addressing security challenges (e.g. transnational organized crime and natural disasters). DND/CF is also assisting Belize with its strategic defence review and has provided basic equipment to the Belizean Defence Force, including 2,000 load carrying vests.
In the Caribbean, DND/CF activities are focused on training and capacity-building in the areas of counter-trafficking, counter-terrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Current initiatives include support to the Caribbean Military Aviation School, the Caribbean Junior Command and Staff College and the newly-created Caribbean Maritime Military Training Centre. These facilities offer training to armed forces throughout the Caribbean and Central American region. In addition to capacity-building, DND/CF is also looking to support regional cooperation on matters of defence and security, through organizations like the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Regional Security System (RSS).
In June 2012, Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Jamaica that establishes a Canadian Forces Operational Support Hub in that country. This represents a key milestone in expanding DND/CF's footprint in the Americas by enhancing the CF's capacity to rapidly deploy and support expeditionary forces in the event of an incident in the region, such as a natural disaster.
In South America, DND/CF seeks to establish partnerships with strong, democratic states whose militaries face many of the same challenges as the Canadian Forces, such as operating in extreme environments or defending lengthy borders. In this regard, DND/CF have participated in Political-Military Talks with Brazil since 2010 and Defence Policy Talks with Chile and Colombia since 2012, in order to guide strategic bilateral defence cooperation with these countries. The Royal Canadian Navy has particularly well-developed relations with Chile, which routinely sends personnel to Canada for a naval boarding party training course. Chile is also one of the countries where, since June 2012, Canadian naval personnel have been attached to Chilean ships to maintain their skills during the Halifax-Class frigate modernization.
In addition to fostering defence relations with specific countries, Canada also promotes and participates in a number of multilateral hemispheric defence fora, where we interact with many Latin American and Caribbean countries. These include the Conference of Defence Ministers of the Americas (CDMA), the Inter-American Naval Conference (IANC), the Conference of the Armies of the Americas (CAA), the System for Co-operation among the Air Forces of the Americas (SICOFAA) and the Inter-American Defence Board (IADB). Our involvement with these fora has increased in recent years. In 2008, Canada hosted the CDMA and from 2011-2013 Canadian Lieutenant-General Thibault is the Chair of the IADB. Canada is seeking to strengthen and align hemispheric defence institutions, in order to make them more relevant and tangible contributors to defence cooperation in the Americas.
DND/CF's Military Training and Cooperation Program (MTCP) provides a key means through which Canada fosters defence relations with Latin American and Caribbean nations. The Americas currently receive 30% of the MTCP's training budget and since the program's inception in the 1960s, more than 4,000 candidates from the region have received training in language proficiency, staff duties, professional development and peace support. Every year, the Directorate of Military Training and Cooperation sponsors three Peace Support Operations seminars in Brazil, Uruguay/Guatemala and the USA, as well as a Civil-Military Cooperation/Relations seminar in Chile.
The Canadian Forces actively participate in exercises to develop inter-operability with other nations in areas like counter-trafficking, counter-terrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster response. These include PANAMAX, CONTINUING PROMISE, UNITAS, PKO-Americas, FA HUMANITARIAS and RIMPAC. Canada also takes part in the North American Maritime Security Initiative, as well as in the Multilateral Naval War Games with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and the US.
DND/CF has enhanced its participation in US Southern Command-led Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-South) counter-drug detection and monitoring programs in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Central Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Central Western Atlantic Ocean, through regular deployment of air and maritime assets under Operation CARIBBE. Between March and April 2012, HMCS Kingston, HMCS Goose Bay and HMCS St John's were deployed to the Caribbean under JIATF-South's Operation MARTILLO. This operation was launched in January 2012, and is focused on detection and monitoring along the coastlines of Central America.
Canadian involvement in peacekeeping activities in the Americas is ongoing and reaches back to the 1980s, when the Contadora Group sought help from Canada in developing a regional peacekeeping framework. Since then, the Canadian Forces have been involved in several peacekeeping activities throughout the Americas. Today, five CF members serve as part of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), helping to build the capacity of the Haitian National Police and maintain rule of law and public safety.
Canada is quick to come to the aid of other countries in the Americas when natural disasters occur or when extra support is needed. DND/CF's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) is equipped and trained to rapidly provide primary medical care and safe drinking water during the time it takes civilian aid organizations to deploy. In 2010, Canada was one of the first nations on the ground following the Haitian earthquake. Two thousand CF members were deployed through Operation HESTIA in support of government-wide humanitarian efforts. The CF contribution included the DART, a Task Force, two ships, strategic and tactical airlift, a field hospital and engineering assets. In 2007, the first operational flight of Canada's new CC-177 Globemaster aircraft was used to transport humanitarian supplies to Jamaica after Hurricane Dean. In 2011, at the request of the Jamaican Government, the CF stationed three CH-146 Griffon helicopters and 65 CF members in Kingston for Operation JAGUAR. OP JAGUAR provided military aviation and search and rescue support to the Government of Jamaica and the Jamaica Defence Force and conducted essential training for Canadian Forces search and rescue teams.