ARCHIVED - Speaking Notes for the Honourable John McCallum Minister of National Defence At a Joint Press Conference To Announce the Canada-US Joint Planning Group

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Minister's Speeches Archive / December 9, 2002

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NOTE: The following transcript is presented in the language(s) in which it occurred. There is no translation available. We are providing the transcript for your information.
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[ Please Check Against Delivery ]

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning. Thank you all for coming. I'm very pleased to join my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in making this announcement.

More than sixty years ago, Canada and the United States, facing a common external threat in the form of Nazi Germany joined a partnership for the defence of North America. The result was the Ogdensburg Agreement signed in 1940 by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister King.

Over forty years ago, faced with a second common external threat, this time the Soviet Union, Canada and the United States again formed a joint partnership - this time NORAD.

And today, faced as we are with a new external threat - terrorism -- I'm proud to announce that our two countries are once again joining in a military partnership, this time the Canada/U.S. Planning Group.

Il y a un double élément de continuité dans l'annonce que nous faisons aujourd'hui. Premièrement, une continuité à travers l'histoire en termes d'un partenariat avec les États-Unis pour défendre l'Amérique du Nord.

Et deuxièmement, une continuité dans l'action du gouvernement fédéral en termes des améliorations de la sécurité depuis le 11 septembre 2001, notamment les plus que sept milliards de dollars sur cinq ans dans le dernier budget.

The aim of the Planning Group is very simple: to save lives.

And I can't think of a responsibility of government that is more fundamental than that of protecting and saving the lives of our citizens. The Planning Group will save lives in two ways.

First, by better coordinating Canada-U.S. maritime surveillance, intelligence sharing and threat assessment, we will reduce the probability of a terrorist attack. And second, by preparing contingency plans and improving the coordination of military support to civilian authorities, we will save lives should a crisis occur.

We must have plans and protocols in place in advance of a crisis, because once it happens, it's too late to start the planning.

For example, in the event of a biological attack on Vancouver, U.S. response teams might be in nearby Seattle while Canadian response teams could be as far away as Ontario. Obviously in this example we would want to call on the Seattle team but in the absence of planning we might not even know their telephone number. So lives would be lost unnecessarily.

The reality is that many of today's threats go across national borders. Neither terrorists nor biological agents have any respect for the 49th parallel. So it is only prudent, only common sense for Canadians and Americans to plan together to protect the lives of our citizens.

In fact, a recent Decima poll indicates that nearly three-quarters of Canadians are somewhat or very concerned about terrorist attacks in the near future. While just about all of us will hope for the best, it is the job of the government and especially the military to plan for the worst.

Permettez-moi maintenant de vous exposer brièvement comment le groupe de planification sera organisé. Le groupe sera centralisé au quartier général du NORAD à Colorado Springs tout en étant cependant indépendant du NORAD.

It will be headed up by a Canadian, Lieutenant-General Ken Pennie, who is also serving as the deputy commander of NORAD. General Pennie will be responsible to both the Canadian Government and the American Government.

Initially the Planning Group will consist of between 15 and 20 Canadian Forces officers with a similar number of U.S. officers. Also, to build linkages with civilian agencies and other levels of government, a number of civilian officials will work alongside military personnel.

Now in the event of crisis, civilian first responders such as police and firefighters would obviously be in charge. So in order to build linkages with civilian agencies and other levels of government, officials from the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness, OCIPEP that is, and Foreign Affairs will be working alongside military personnel.

De cette façon nous pourrons nous assurer que les plans qui seront mis sur pied offriront dans l'éventualité d'une demande de soutien militaire le type d'aide approprié.

The Planning Group involves no integration of our militaries, as it has no standing forces assigned to it. Neither does the Planning Group, a bi-national group, fall under the authority of U.S. Northern Command. Far from relinquishing sovereignty, we are in fact preserving and promoting Canadian sovereignty in two important ways.

First, the Planning Group protects our sovereignty by putting Canada in a position to work with the United States on plans to defend North America -- plans the United States would otherwise be developing without us.

Second, I cannot imagine a more frontal attack on the sovereignty of a nation than a group of terrorists intent on killing our citizens and destroying our property.

By improving our defences against terrorism, the Planning Group enhances Canada's sovereignty in this respect as well.

In short, this is an initiative to save lives -- Canadian lives and American lives -- while at the same time preserving and promoting Canadian sovereignty.

Thank you very much and I turn over now to my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

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