Face to Face

Face to Face: Should Canada’s military be restructured to increase its response to health crises  and natural disasters?
COVID-19, Face to Face

Face to Face: Should Canada’s military be restructured to increase its response to health crises and natural disasters?

ERNIE REGEHR is senior fellow with The Simons Foundation of Vancouver and co-founder of Project Ploughshares. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Armed Forces declared it was ready to mobilize up to 24,000 troops to “assist with humanitarian support, wellness checks, natural disaster responses and other tasks as required.” By mid-April, Canadian Rangers were assisting pandemic response efforts in Northern Quebec communities and CAF medical teams were deploying to alleviate staffing shortages in long-term care centres. Manitoba floods, Toronto snowstorms, eastern ice storms, western forest fires, Northern Ontario drinking water emergencies—all these have involved military mobilizations in support of civilian authorities. The 1991 renewal of the Canada-U.S. Norad agreement a...
Face to Face: Was home-defence conscription necessary in 1940?
Face to Face

Face to Face: Was home-defence conscription necessary in 1940?

The government of William Lyon Mackenzie King was entirely justified in legislating the National Resources Mobilization Act (NRMA) on June 21, 1940, as a way to enhance Canada’s war readiness and assist Britain in its time of greatest peril. Imposing limited conscription for the purpose of defending the nation was a sensible, measured reaction to the catastrophe unfolding in Europe, and the responsible thing to do. Following Britain and France’s lead, Canada declared war on Germany in September 1939. As the period of the “Phoney War” ensued, there seemed no immediate crisis and recruiting remained voluntary given King’s promise not to enact conscription. On May 10, the Germans invaded the Low Countries and France, quickly routing their armies as well as the British Expeditionary For...
Face to Face
Face to Face

Face to Face

With hindsight, qualified by the modern moral temperament, the deliberate destruction by Canadian troops of much of Friesoythe on April 13-14, 1945, is indefensible. Ostensibly, Major-General Christopher Vokes’ exact orders were: “Burn the fucking town!” The order arose from his understanding that Argyll and Sutherland Highlander commander Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Wigle had been killed by a villager wearing civilian clothing. In fact, Wigle died after being struck in the chest by a burst from a Schmeisser machine gun during a pitched battle with German soldiers attempting to overrun the Argylls’ battle headquarters on Friesoythe’s outskirts. Most Argylls, however, unquestioningly accepted the civilian sniper rumour that immediately swirled through their ranks, then up the command...
Face to Face: Is the North Warning System obsolete?
Face to Face

Face to Face: Is the North Warning System obsolete?

ANDREA CHARRON is associate professor and director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba. The North Warning System (NWS) is a series of ground-based, unmanned (but contractor-maintained), short- and long-range radar stations arrayed from Alaska to Greenland.  The system has always suffered from an identity crisis. Its ability to provide adequate warning—restricted to the air domain only—has long been an issue. And its 1980s-era communications system is modest. It remains, however, Norad’s main early-warning radar system for the air defence of North America. It is now inadequate, given its location, growing geopolitical tensions, new technologies and multi-domain threats, not to mention environmental concerns. The system’s capability must be reima...
Is war inevitable?
Face to Face

Is war inevitable?

The word ‘inevitable’ sets me off. It suggests that wars simply happen. Wars become abstractions, beyond human control, explanation and history. That is nonsense. A century on, the notion that the First World War was inevitable still lingers. Many children (including my own) pass their Grade 10 history classes with lofty ideas about how the war started. My own students remember the acronym they spewed out for the exam. MAIN was the culprit: Militarism; Alliances; Imperialism; Nationalism. Such ‘isms’ suggest no single cause; the responsibility for the war had to be shared. Long-term forces were to blame. These ideas have a history. They emerged in strength after 1919, partly in response to Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles, which legally compelled Germany to pay reparations for ...
Should Canada have gone to war in September 1939?
Face to Face

Should Canada have gone to war in September 1939?

In 1939, Canada was the only independent nation in North America to declare war on Germany. A member of the British Commonwealth, Canada was nonetheless independent in foreign and defence policy and had been so since the Statute of Westminster in 1931. The British colonies in the Caribbean and in South America were not independent, and they went to war automatically as soon as Britain did on Sept. 3. But Canada waited until Sept. 10 to declare war. It should not have done so. Why? Because Canada’s national interests were not directly threatened by Germany. It was protected by the vast distances of the Atlantic Ocean from any attempts at major landings by German forces; no aircraft yet developed could attack Canada from Europe and there were no missiles that could do so. If such attacks ...

Sign up today for a FREE download of Canada’s War Stories

Free e-book

An informative primer on Canada’s crucial role in the Normandy landing, June 6, 1944.