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Senate panel urges Ottawa to join U.S. missile shield

A Standard Missile - 3 (SM-3) is launched from the Aegis cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67), during a joint Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Navy ballistic missile flight test on June 22, 2006.

HO/REUTERS

A high-profile Parliamentary committee is urging the Canadian government to join the U.S. ballistic missile defence system.

The unanimous recommendation by both Conservative and Liberal senators comes as the Harper government tries to gauge the public's appetite for signing on to the U.S. missile shield.

In 2005, Liberal prime minister Paul Martin opted against bringing Canada into the program, which is designed to intercept enemy missiles heading for North America. Critics say the technology still is ineffective.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently declined to rule out joining in light of shifting global events.

In the report released on Monday evening, Daniel Lang, the Conservative chair of the committee, and Roméo Dallaire, the Liberal deputy chair, cite the threat posed by rogue states and the need for Canada to be explicitly protected in the event of a ballistic missile attack.

"The committee heard worrying testimony about the ongoing efforts of North Korea and Iran to acquire capabilities to deliver long-range, nuclear-armed ballistic missiles so as to threaten neighbouring countries, NATO allies and North America," the report says.

It notes Canada already participates in a joint defence of North America against planes, fighter jets or cruise missiles through North American Aerospace Defence Command.

Senators said they believe Canada should have a voice in decisions regarding the defence of the continent against ballistic missiles as well. They note Canada already shares early warning information necessary for ballistic missile defence with the United States and that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has embraced this program.

"Allies such as Australia, South Korea, and Japan are also participating in what will become a global network of regional ballistic missile defence systems. In rejecting full participation in U.S. [missile defence], Canada has excluded itself from this large collection of nations," the committee said.

"Indeed, more than one policy expert highlighted the contradictory nature of Canada's explicit support for NATO allies to be protected by BMD, but not Canada itself," the committee said.

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Last month, two former Liberal defence ministers, Bill Graham and David Pratt, appeared before the Senate committee to say they feel the time is right for Canada to join the U.S. missile shield program.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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