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International Cooperation

CF-18 Hornet

NORAD Photo IMG_2396 by Captain Corey Mask

A Canadian Forces CF-18 Hornet escorts a United States Air Force B-52 during a recent Exercise Amalgam Dart.

The Security and Prosperity Partnership:  Will Canada gain security and prosperity at the expense of sovereignty and will it ultimately lead to the militarization of Canada?

by Tracy Thibault

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An article was published recently by a Canadian economics professor, asserting that the real objective underlying the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) is, “…to militarize civilian institutions and repeal democratic government.” The article goes on to state that, “…ultimately what is at stake is that beneath the rhetoric, Canada will cease to function as a nation.”1 Intrigued by these statements, I decided to research these assertions as an extension of my studies in the field of Homeland Security. 

In the course of my research, I have found that several bi-lateral and bi-national security initiatives have surfaced in the past decade, and, with these, there seems to be a deepening fear that these security countermeasures negatively impact Canada’s sovereignty.2

At the core of the relationship between security and sovereignty are questions of fact and legality. Canada, under British rule, gained control over its relations gradually, beginning with Confederation in 1867. The key element of sovereignty in a legal sense is that of exclusivity of jurisdiction, which is applied to the authority of land within its territorial limits. Jurisdiction is the right and power to interpret and to apply the law.3The test, then, to determine whether a state has obtained that authority or sovereignty over its land would be one of effective occupation and control, manifested through continuing acts of authority. The capacity to defend Canada’s sovereignty could then be stated as effective surveillance and protection of the entire country. By this reasoning, sovereignty and the continuous development of a country and security are interconnected.


What is security?  In its simplest form, security is protection. Security needs and measures continuously change with pending threats. Measures we develop today will most likely not be what our children will use in the future. In a world where privacy and security often collide, the aim is to take the convergence of security concerns and carefully balance them, while keeping in mind the protection of the country and the security of the individuals therein.4

Important elements to consider when discussing sovereignty include the fact that man- made disasters (WMD, terrorism), global warming, diseases, and natural disasters all ignore territorial limits. One of the most detrimental impacts upon Canada’s economy came from the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. As such, perhaps the clearest lesson learned regarding national security over the past decade is that transnational security threats can best be met through multinational security cooperation. Regional conflicts, proliferation, environmental disasters, and even organized crime and trafficking can be solved only through the broadest possible cooperation.5 Success in security measures requires close cooperation, communication, and coordination among various national and international agencies.

By virtue of geographic proximity, shared common values and institutions, as well as numerous defence and security arrangements, Canada and the United States have developed a natural alliance. Accordingly, the two countries share more than 252 Nation-to-Nation Agreements, with 67 treaty-level agreements related to defence, such as the North American Aerospace Defence (NORAD) agreement, and 214 Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between the Department of National Defence (DND) and the US Department of Defense (DOD).  Despite their close relationship, both nations have remained sovereign over the years. In the new security environment, where terrorism is ever present and constantly looming, building upon and strengthening the Canada-US defence relationship is crucial to the future stability of the continent.



Since 11 September 2001, much has been done to restructure defence and security departments in Canada and the United States, and to redistribute assets to better align both nations with existing threats. Needed steps have been taken to organize a multinational front against terrorists and the countries that support those terrorists. These actions necessitated international coordination and measures to facilitate cooperative efforts with foreign counterparts on security measures, and counterterrorism activities, such as intelligence gathering and information sharing. Since the two countries share many strategic interests, anything Canada does to protect itself in the area of security measures is likely to complement US national security interests, and vice versa.

The purpose of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) signed by Prime Minister Paul Martin, President Vincente Fox, and President George W. Bush on 23 March 2005 was to:

“Establish a common approach to security to protect North America from external threats, prevent and respond to threats within North American, and to further streamline the secure and efficient movement of legitimate, low risk traffic across our shared border.”6

Over 300 initiatives from the SPP are aimed at harmonizing North American policies dealing with food, drugs, security, immigration, refugees, manufacturing, the environment, and public health – with the following over-arching fundamental goals:

  • Coordinate our security efforts to better protect citizens from terrorist threats and transnational crime and promote the safe and efficient movement of legitimate people and goods;
  • Expand economic opportunity for all our people by making our businesses more competitive in the global marketplace, cutting red tape, and providing consumers with safe, less expensive, and innovative products; and
  • Enhance our common efforts to combat infectious diseases, develop responses to man-made or natural disasters to enhance our citizens’ quality of life, protect our people and our environment, and improve consumer safety.

These goals indicate that the SPP is focused upon interoperability7 that would increase efficiency, minimize information gaps, and enhance the ability of North America to react to security, economic, and global market issues. The SPP emphasizes that US-Canada cooperation with respect to homeland security is absolutely essential for both nations. Canada and the US are faced with many of the same challenges in homeland security, and, very often, they work together, despite different organizational and legal structures. The SPP maintains that security issues have no borders and transcend national and institutional boundaries, and, therefore, successful contingency planning is essential, and must be joint and combined, i.e. bilateral, binational, and multi-agency. The SPP’s Security Agenda is being addressed by 10 working groups with 10 goals:


The SPP Prosperity initiative uses subject-expert work groups focused upon:

The latest in national security initiatives is encompassed in the SPP, which is a transnational partnership between Canada, the US, and Mexico, and it is based upon the principle that prosperity is dependent upon security. So why does an initiative to collaborate and recognize that these great nations share a belief in freedom, economic opportunity, and strong democratic institutions cause controversy?

Dr. Ethel Palacios, William Horne,  and Franciso Averhoff

NORAD/USNORTHCOM photo (1) Tri-National PI Conference

Dr. Ethel Palacios from the Mexican Ministry of Health, William Horne from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), and Francisco Averhoff from the US Center for Disease Control discuss mutual concerns at the Tri-National Pandemic Influenza Conference, 5-6 September 2007.

Dr. Michel Chossudovsky, a professor of economics at the University of Ottawa and editor of GlobalResearch.ca, has challenged the SPP initiative. Dr. Chossudovsky wrote, “…[that] the real objective underlying the SPP is to militarize civilian institutions and repeal democratic government…territorial control over Canada is part of the U.S. geopolitical and military agenda.”8

For Dr  Chossudovsky’s theory on militarization to prove correct, one would think the specific SPP initiatives would have to be led by Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of National Defence (DND). Yet, only 31 initiatives have both DOD and DND in supporting roles, and only in two instances are they lead agencies. They fall under Goal 9 of the SPP, which states:

Goal 9: developing and implementing a common approach to critical infrastructure protection (CIP), and response to cross-border terrorist incidents and, as applicable, natural disasters. Specifically, the SPP CIP efforts focus on protection and response strategies and programs in mutually determined priority areas, including but not limited to, energy, dams, telecommunications, transportation, nuclear, radiological, Defense Infrastructure Protection (DIP) and cyber systems.

This goal focuses upon establishing a common approach, but it does not reflect an initiative for the “militarization” of any nation. If militarization is the process by which a society organizes itself for the production of violence, a military that is requested to support or assist an organization with security initiatives does not equate to militarization, especially when neither military has jurisdiction over the other nation. 

Dr. Chossudovsky further argues that Canada will cease to function as a nation, and will therefore lose its sovereignty. His argument is based upon the following three premises, which will be addressed in subsequent paragraphs:

  • Its borders will be controlled by US officials and confidential information on Canadians will be shared with Homeland Security;
  • US troops and Special Forces will be able to enter Canada as a result of a bi-national arrangement; and
  •  Canadian citizens can be arrested by US officials, acting on behalf of their Canadian counterparts, and vice versa.

Premise 1 ~ Will Canada’s borders be controlled by US officials, and will confidential information about Canadians be shared with Homeland Security?

The Canada-US border is the longest international border in the world. This 5000+ mile stretch between the United States and Canada remains the longest demilitarized border in the world, with billions of dollars a day in trade and thousands of people flowing across it on a daily basis. And Canada and the US have a strong and long history of cooperation relating to the movement of people across their shared border.

In Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) consists of the Customs program, formerly resident with Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the intelligence, interdiction, and enforcement functions, formerly handled by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and the passenger and initial import inspection services at ports of entry, formerly controlled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Along with the CBSA, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP hold responsibilities for customs and border security.

On the American side, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is charged with preventing the entry of terrorists, securing the borders, and carrying out immigration enforcement functions. It does this by employing the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency to protect America’s borders. The Department of Defense role in the execution of this responsibility is to provide support to DHS and other federal, state, local, and, in some cases, foreign law enforcement agencies, when requested. 

When it comes to sharing confidential information, formal agreements such as the Canada/United States General Security of Information Agreement (1962), and the recent Canadian Public Safety Act of 2004, allow Canadian intelligence, immigration, and police authorities to share information with US counterparts through informal methods. This is not part of any SPP initiatives. Rather, this border support and collaboration has been occurring for years between both nations.

Peter MacKay, Robert Gate, and Gen Victor Renuart

DefenseImagery.Mil 080513-D-7203C-005 DOD photo by Cherie Cullen

The Honourable Peter MacKay, Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, and NORAD/USNORTHCOM Commander-in-Chief General Victor E. Renuart ‘cut the ribbon’ at the new command centre, Paterson Air Force Base, Colorado, 13 May 2008.

One of the first examples of bi-lateral border support is the Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET) program. This multi-faceted law enforcement initiative is comprised of both Canadian and American officials, and it has been around since the mid-to-late 1990s. The first IBET developed near Chilliwack in British Columbia between the RCMP, the US Border Patrol, and the US Customs Service. It was in April 2001 that the concept was formalized through public safety and anti-terrorism funding from the Government of Canada, and it was fully sanctioned by the Canadian and American federal governments.  Its expansion was officially mandated in the Smart Border Declaration announced on 12 December 2001. This declaration consisted of a 32-point Action Plan, which is based upon four pillars, namely: the secure flow of people, the secure flow of goods, secure infrastructure, and information sharing and coordination in the enforcement of these objectives.9 Smart Borders encompasses a range of individual and cooperative initiatives that will be shared in compliance with the privacy laws of both countries. Its overall aim is to increase awareness and information sharing between Canada and the United States.

Since IBET’s inception, it has identified a number of national security cases, disrupted organized crime activities, confiscated drugs, weapons, and tobacco, and has intercepted criminal networks attempting to smuggle illegal migrants into both Canada and the United States. Intelligence is developed and shared with all IBET partners in strict accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and agency/departmental policies through appropriate protocols. Today, on the Canadian side, the CBSA and RCMP jointly operate IBETs. The teams are overseen jointly by six national partners: the RCMP, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the US Border Patrol, the US Customs Service, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and the US Coast Guard. On the ground, the operation is run in cooperation with every law enforcement agency within that region’s jurisdiction. There are 15 geographical IBET regions along the Canada/US border, and the RCMP has posted dedicated IBET personnel in 23 strategic locations within those regions.10

It is important to note that no outstanding order, directive, or agreement within any of these organizations allows for the control of the other nation’s borders. Also, there is no SPP initiative that would permit Canadian borders to be controlled by US officials or military personnel. With respect to US armed forces, the Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335), along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), have enforced strict prohibitions concerning military involvement in domestic law enforcement activities.

Long before the events of 11 September 2001, Canada and the United States were sharing information on a wide range of issues and people under a variety of agreements. Confidential information related to persons and organizations that pose a threat to national security or that are engaged in other organized criminal activities has been shared for years between agencies on both sides of the border. What is perhaps often overlooked is that confidential information pertaining to person(s) not posing a threat, or those who are not engaging in illegal activities does not get shared. The safeguarding of this information is to ensure the safety and protection of citizens within the respective borders. According to the SPP’s initiative, its role in border control is to support the establishment of integrated and collaborative approaches that secure North America from external threats, not the border control of another nation.  

Premise 2 ~Will US troops and Special Forces be able to enter Canada as a result of a bi-national arrangement?

In March 1968, Canada and the United States established an agreement for temporary cross-border movement of land forces between the two nations.  This agreement, implemented almost 40 years ago, states that in matters related to mutual defence, land forces should be able to move temporarily into or through a territory of the other country with minimum formality or delay.  This 1968 agreement has established protocol that allows for the movement of land forces, and it has been used over the years for exercises, visits, and military assistance. Also, a Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) is an important international accord that governs the status of armed forces, as well as the civilian component of the armed forces and their dependents, when armed forces or a civilian component are sent, by arrangement, to serve in the territory of another party. The NATO SOFA, signed in London on 19 June 1951, governs the relationship between members of one NATO state, while in the sovereign territory of another member of NATO11. Soldiers from either country are under the command of the host nation once they cross the host nation’s border.

Examples of events that have involved both a Canadian and US emergency response include: the 1998 Red River Flood; the 1998 ice storm; the ‘9/11’ terrorist attacks; the 2003 SARS pandemic; the 2003 electrical blackout; and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. To date, the largest military personnel support operation was from Canada to the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Dr. Chossudovsky discusses border crossings by troops on Canadian soil and states, “…with the creation of the BPG in December 2002, a binational ‘Civil Assistance Plan’ was established.”12 Dr. Chossudovsky is referring to the Bi-national Planning Group’s (BPG) proposal for a Civil Assistance Plan (CAP). The BPG was created by Foreign Affairs Canada and the United States Department of State in December 2002 by an Enhanced Military Cooperation Agreement, and was dissolved in early 2006. The combined Canada-US group was tasked to review all defence plans, as well as bi-national agreements, and explored ways to enhance bi-national military planning, awareness, and support to civil authorities. The resultant group reports discussed information sharing within the perimeters of national laws through interoperability, not through integration.

Exercise Ardent Sentry

DefenseImagery.Mil 07512 –F- 2902B-160 photo USAF Staff Sergeant Ricky A. Bloom

Exercise Ardent Sentry is a joint NORAD/USNORTHCOM exercise which focuses upon defence support to civil authorities. Here, an explosion victim is guided through a simulated decontamination line.

The SPP’s role in this case would be in the support of the establishment of integrated and collaborative approaches that will protect and respond to risks to shared critical infrastructure, and the establishment of protocols for mutual assistance in a public health emergency, such as planning for an influenza pandemic. Although it has not yet been signed, the Civil Assistance Plan provides for a collaborative approach, and provides a comprehensive plan outline on how to deal with emergencies related to national and cross-border economic and security interdependencies, when a request for support is initiated. Both the SPP’s initiatives and the CAP support bi-national mutual assistance efforts. However, the 1968 bi-national agreement on border crossing is the binding document. In contrast, the SPP, which only came into being in 2005, is a tri-national initiative that addresses contingency planning and three-way communication and collaboration. Since the official agreement has been around for approximately 40 years, and the SPP is still in its infancy, one concludes that the SPP certainly did not lead to the degradation of Canada’s sovereignty.

Premise 3 ~ Will Canadian citizens be arrested by US officials, acting on behalf of their Canadian counterparts, and vice versa?

While in a foreign country, a citizen is subject to that nation’s laws and regulations, which may differ significantly from those in the home country, and may not afford the protections available to the individual under his/her own nation’s laws. Persons violating any country’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. 

In 1999, Canada introduced a new Extradition Act, replacing a statute that had been in place since 1877. The new legislation made substantial changes, and Canada can now extradite not only to other countries, but also directly to select international agencies, such as the international war crime tribunals. Canada also now has the ability to extradite on a case-by-case basis, whether or not there is a comprehensive extradition treaty in place. However, in all cases, there must be an agreement between Canada and the receiving country – whether it is a treaty, a multilateral convention, or a person-specific agreement. Extradition law is extremely unique in that it involves criminal law, statute law, and international law.13

The Treaty of Extradition between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States, ratified in 1976, and as amended in 1988 and 2003, provides rules governing seizure and sufficiency of evidence, arrest, and provisional arrest. It encourages mutual cooperation between the executive authorities of the two nations.

The SPP initiative for Law Enforcement Cooperation asks for continued and appropriate US and Mexican cooperation between immigration and fugitive arrest authorities, but it does not pertain to Canada. Also, the IBET team can analyze and respond to information gathered from a collection of border agencies pertaining to illegal cross-border activity. While these teams work collectively to identify, investigate, and interdict persons and organizations that pose a threat to national security, or that are engaged in other organized criminal activity, they do not have legal jurisdiction outside their respective nations.

HMCS Toronto during Canada/US exercise

DND photo IMG_0453

Military personnel on board HMCS Toronto demonstrate an at-sea rescue during a joint Canada/US exercise held off Halifax in 2008.


The SPP involves ongoing communication between subject matter experts to increase security and to enhance the prosperity of each nation involved. The SPP does not change the legislative processes within the nations involved.

This article discussed the three premises against imposing SPP initiatives and goals, and was not able to substantiate Dr. Chossudovsky’s arguments, with the exception that outside the SPP, there is some merit to his claim that Canadian citizens can be arrested by US law enforcement officials, acting in concert with their Canadian counterparts.

Security debates within each nation are inevitable because protection and security are fundamental needs, indeed, rights, for every individual citizen. National security today is multi-dimensional in nature, incorporating a range of traditional and non-traditional perspectives at all levels of society. National security encompasses more than territorial integrity and traditional concepts of national sovereignty; it is much greater than that. It is about finding the best possible solution to our nation’s security problems, while maintaining the unique, individual framework of our nations. Over the years, the distinction between internal and external security has faded. When looking at North America’s role, it would be detrimental to both sovereign nations not to use every capability at their disposal to deal with the ever-evolving security threats that transcend their borders. We need collaboration and capabilities from several sources that play a vital part in the comprehensive international campaign to defeat security threats, and we must constantly redefine what measures and initiatives are needed to meet today’s new challenges effectively.

To maintain and strengthen the sovereignty of our nations, intelligence gathering and information sharing will be crucial, and agreements, mutual and formal, will serve as the backbone for our efforts. Transnational threats require transnational strategies if they are to be successfully countered. Enhanced security initiatives are not a challenge to sovereignty, but a prerequisite, and bi-national agreements, security agreements, and initiatives, such as the SPP, allow nations to participate at the global level, while still being able to exercise their sovereignty. Since March 2005 and the initiation of the SPP initiative, the citizens of Canada, Mexico, and the United States have all elected new national leaders. Within each nation, the transition from old to new prime ministers and presidents has been peaceful, reaffirming the democratic transition of power. And so, the question is not whether Canadian sovereignty is in jeopardy, but how the prime minister will continue working with the presidents of the United States and Mexico to address common threats, and to ensure prosperity for generations to come.

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Tracy Thibault is a Reserve member of the Canadian Forces who was recently on education and training leave in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Her studies are in the field of Homeland Security and Public Safety. Tracy has obtained an Associate degree, a Bachelor of Science degree, and is currently enrolled in Long Island University's Homeland Security Management Masters program.


  1. Michel Chossudovsky, Canada’s Sovereignty in Jeopardy: The militarization of America, published on 17 August 2007, at  www.GlobalResearch.ca.
  2. Definitions used herein: Bi-National Operations – military actions conducted by forces of two nations, operating through an entity composed of the two nations, a coalition, or an alliance.  Bi-Lateral – military, and/or related actions, of two nations operating cooperatively pursuant to mutual agreement between them. Multi-Lateral – military, and/or related actions, of more than two nations operating cooperatively pursuant to mutual agreement among them adopted on 27 November 2007, at http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/doddict/data/m/03594.html.
  3. Paraphrased definition at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/jurisdiction. Accessed 27 November 2007.
  4. The Bi-national Planning Group’s Report defined Homeland Security as a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within Canada or the US, to reduce vulnerability to terrorism, and to minimize the damage and to recover from attacks that do occur.
  5. Secretary General Lord Robertson   NATO speech  9 December 2002 on the Role of the Military in Combating Terrorism, at http://www.nato.int/docu/speech/2002/s021209b.htm .
  6. Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. US Government, The Security and Prosperity Partnership of  North America, Report to Leaders, June 2005, at http://www.spp.gov
  7. .
  8. Interoperability is defined as the ability of systems, units, or forces to provide services to and accept services from other systems, units, or forces, and to use the services so exchanged to enable them to operate effectively together. Obtained from NATO-approved definition of interoperability from the Joint Publication 1-02, DoD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, as amended through 09 June 2004.
  9. Chossudovsky, at www.GlobalResearch.ca .
  10. Smart Border Action Plan, at  www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/le/bs/sbdap-eng.aspx. Accessed 22 November 2007.
  11. RCMP Federal and International Operations, at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca . Accessed 21 November 2007.
  12. Government of Canada Treaty Information, at  http://www.treaty-accord.gc.ca/ViewTreaty.asp?Treaty_ID=101059 . Accessed 20 November 2007.
  13. Chossudovsky, at www.GlobalResearch.ca.
  14. Department of Justice Canada, at www.canada.justice.gc.ca. Accessed 24 November 2007.

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