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Watching the market give up some of its gains is always painful, but recent pullbacks have had a minimal impact on longer-term results.

BRENDAN McDERMID/Reuters

When the next stock market correction comes, the refuge of choice for investors will be government bonds. Bummer, right? Government bonds offer sadly thin yields and have the potential to fall in price when interest rates move higher.

And yet, they're the go-to solution when investors are yanking money out of stocks. You certainly don't want government bonds to be the only type of fixed income in your portfolio, and you probably don't want them to even account for most of it. But you do need at least some government bonds to play defence in a stock market correction. Here are three ETFs to put on your list of candidates for this kind of exposure:

iShares 1-5 Year Laddered Government Bond Index ETF (CLF)
A conservative ETF in two ways, the first being its two-thirds weighting in federal government bonds and one-third share in provincials. The second is the short duration, which means losses will be minimized in a rising rate environment. With a weighted average duration of 2.4 per years, this ETF would drop 2.4 per cent in price if interest rates rose 1 percentage point. The management expense ratio is 0.17 per cent and the after-fee weighted average yield to maturity is 1.2 per cent.

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BMO Long Federal Bond Index ETF (ZFL)
Call this one an aggressive hedge against a double-trouble scenario of falling stocks and a slowing economy. In holding long-term Government of Canada bonds with weighted average duration of 14.8 years, this ETF will get hammered in a rising rate world. But if stocks were to correct on worries about global growth, you'll get a bigger pop than with a short-term government bond ETF. Suitable only for a sliver of your bond holdings. The MER is 0.23 per cent and the after-fee weighted average yield to maturity is 2.6 per cent.

iShares High Quality Canadian Bond Index ETF (CAB)
Roughly 60 per cent of this fund is invested in government bonds, with the rest in corporates. Offsetting the mildly higher risk level associated with the corporate bonds is the fact that all bonds in the portfolio are rated A, AA or AAA, which is to say blue chip. The duration on this ETF comes in between CLF and ZFL at 6.2 years. The MER is a bargain at 0.14 per cent and the net yield to maturity is 2.1 per cent.

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