The new Canadian defence minister, Gordon O’Connor, discussed the Harper government’s intention to renew the NORAD treaty with the United States before it expires in May, and expand NORAD’s role in the area of maritime surveillance:
Oâ€™Connor, in his first public statement since Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power last month, downplayed the significance of the updated treaty, dismissing the suggestion it could lead to U.S. warships patrolling Canadian waters.
The agreement will mean â€œmerely a transfer of information,â€ he told reporters in the hangar deck of the Canadian frigate HMCS Halifax, after touring the navy dockyard.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t change our responsibility as a country,â€ he said. â€œWe have to look after our own sovereignty. We have to deal with any threats coming from the sea.â€
Once ratified, the new treaty would allow intelligence on shipping data and threats to the sea lanes to be sent directly into NORAD headquarters, which is staffed by Canadian and U.S. military at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.
This is a sensible change for NORAD and the US-Canada security relationship, given the closely linked maritime domains of the two countries and the increased prominence of maritime security in the broader counterterrorism and homeland defense context. For more on what NORAD and NORTHCOM are doing on maritime security, see this recent Denver Post story.