U.S.-Canada Military Plan Could Place Troops in Each Other’s Country

By Matthew Rothschild, November 17, 2008

The militaries of the United States and Canada are wrapping up a seven-day exercise called “Vigilant Shield” on Tuesday. This marks the continuation of an ever-closer relationship between the two.

For instance, did you know that the United States military could go into Canada in times of emergency? And the Canadian military could go into the United States?

This extraordinary fact appears in a joint document of the U.S. Northern Command and the Canada Command. (The Pentagon established NorthCom in October 2002, and the Canadian military established the Canada Command in June 2005.)

The document is entitled “Canada-US Civil Assistance Plan,” and it is dated February 14, 2008.

David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen broke the story about this plan at the time, but it received little attention in the United States.

“The purpose of the Canada-United States Civil Assistance Plan (CAP) is to provide a framework for the military of one nation to provide support to the military of the other nation in the performance of civil support operations (e.g., floods, forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and effects of a terrorist attack).” This framework is designed “to save lives, prevent human suffering, and mitigate damage to property,” the plan says.

The plan anticipates scenarios for using for using violence. “Opposing forces are not expected during the conduct of operations described in this plan,” it says. “However . . . commanders should consider the following Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection issues: (1) Terrorists organizations could conduct operations against the Canadian or US force, or in the civil support operations area; (2) State/provincial and local police capabilities could be severely degraded in the area of operations, allowing a corresponding rise in criminal activity that could affect the Canadian or US force; and (3) Environmental factors ranging from weather to contamination and disease could significantly affect the Canadian or US forces.”

Both the Canadian and U.S. forces have the right to use deadly force in self-defense, the plan says, though “there are no standing . . . rules of engagement or rules for the use of force,” the plan says. “Consequently, every mission will require unique guidance to deployed forces.”

“Support for law enforcement operations is not covered in this plan,” the document says. But it “will be included in the Canada-United States Combined Defense Plan.” That plan remains classified, a NorthCom spokesman says.

Cross-border support “will only be provided when agreed to by appropriate authorities in both the Government of Canada and the U.S. Government,” the document says. Canada Command and NorthCom “will develop potential options of the military forces of one nation to support the military forces of the other.” These options will then go to Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff, which will seek the approval of the Canadian government. On the U.S. side, NorthCom “will present military options to the SecDef, who will subsequently seek the approval of the President to deploy military forces to Canada.”

“Execution authority,” the document says, rests with the Canada Command and with NorthCom.

Training for such eventualities has already been approved. “Cross-border movement of military resources is authorized for training and exercises in preparation for bilateral military-to-military civil support,” the document says.

The document was signed by Lieutenant-General M. J. Dumais, commander, Canada Command, and General Victor E. Renuart, commander, US Northern Command.

“It’s completely bizarre and it’s frightening,” says Kevin Best, a social justice activist in Canada who has long worried about the increasing U.S. military presence in Canada.

As far as Canada’s military presence in the U.S., Best said, jokingly, “That’s really scary for you guys, isn’t it?”

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