Some politicians and researchers argue that the recent discovery, tracking, and shooting down of four flying objects over U.S. and Canadian airspace is a wake-up call for Canadians to improve security in the Arctic. Opposition Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon stated that the reliance on the American military in the North is unacceptable. The objects, which were of Chinese origin, were taken down by an American fighter jet off the South Carolina coast; however, little is known about the capabilities, purpose, or origins of the three other airborne objects that were shot down over Alaska, Yukon, and Lake Huron in Michigan. U.S. and Canadian officials have said that the objects did not pose a direct threat to people on the ground, but could have interfered with commercial air traffic.
Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai discussed Arctic security issues, such as modernizing early warning detection, with other premiers, Defense Department officials, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week. Pierre Leblanc, a retired colonel and former commander of Canadian Forces Northern Area, believes that Canada has not met NATO’s defense spending target of at least two percent of its gross domestic product and is considered a “freeloader” on the defense side.
Andrea Charron, director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies and associate professor in political studies at the University of Manitoba, believes that response to the flying objects shows that Norad is working, but North America is still vulnerable. Adam Lajeunesse, Irving Shipbuilding Chair in Canadian Arctic Marine Security Policy and assistant professor at St. Francis Xavier University, believes that greater safety and security concerns in the region include illegal fishing, trespassing, and environmental damage, and that these should be the focus of the Canadian Armed Forces, rather than defense spending. The Canadian government has committed $4.9 billion over six years to modernize Norad and $38.6 billion over 20 years for long-term plans.
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