Updated: Aug 10
July 20th, 2023
By Dominic Cardy
When Centre Ice polled Canadians about their appetite for a new, evidence-based, political option very few listed defence policies, including Russia’s war against Ukraine, as a priority. Because I believe politicians should embrace difficult positions when evidence and principle demand it, I want to make the case for why defence – and supporting Ukraine in particular - needs to be centre stage in our national conversations. Not just about Canada’s foreign policy, but about our values as a country and the future of democracy.
Canada must support Ukraine. With as much money as we can spend. As much diplomatic leverage as we can muster. As much ammunition and as many weapons as we can prepare. As many military trainers and other experts, military and civilian, that we can provide. Ukraine must win this war.
There are free people in the world. And there are people living on a sliding scale toward slavery. Ukraine is on the Canadian side of that line. We are two out of a few dozen countries where average citizens, people like you and people like me, get to vote on who will govern us. Imperfect, that system remains the best guarantee against the return of humanity’s default system of government: rule by the dictator, whether they call themselves president, king, or emperor.
In 2014, NATO members responded to Putin’s aggression in the Crimea and Donbas regions of Ukraine by resurrecting their 2006 promise to increase defence spending in every country across the alliance to 2% of our GDP, within a decade. We agreed that amount was needed to deter Russia and, let’s be honest, China.
Canada broke its word. Yes, many of our allies broke their promises, too. But does sharing company with oath-breakers make breaking oaths less offensive? The consequence of lazy Western defence is on display in the chaos of today’s global politics. As in the 1930s, when democracies grow lazy, the dictators spread their wings.
For more than 20 years we ignored Putin’s destruction of Russia’s political opposition, independent judiciary, and free press. We ignored his wars on Chechnya, Georgia, and Ukraine in 2014. We ignored him using chemical weapons on Syrian civilians in 2015. His use of nerve agents by Russian spies, on British soil.
China detains our citizens, operates police stations on our territory and steals our intellectual property with impunity. Over one million Uyghur Muslims are enslaved in concentration camps, making the cheap goods we buy by the container load. My house is full of devices, clothes and other objects made in China. So is yours. We are all guilty.
Where do we stand, in the face of these global challenges? Last year General Wayne Eyre, Acting Chief of Canada’s Defence Staff, told our Parliament that we are already at war with Russia and China.
Do you feel you live in a country that’s at war, or even preparing for war?
Canada’s 2023 budget included a five-year plan to replace the ammunition we sent to Ukraine in 2022. Five years, to replace what was already sent. The Prime Minister said he doesn’t think it’s politically realistic to keep our 2% promise.
There is no national conversation about what this war means. That conversation needs to start. Ask yourself: what happens if Ukraine loses?
Even as this war rages Moscow destabilizes other neighbours. If Putin adds even part of Ukraine to his list of bloody trophies, why would he stop? He leads an explicitly imperialist government that talks and acts in an explicitly imperialist way. He depends on victory for his political survival; for him, this is an all-or-nothing game.
A loss by Ukraine would encourage China to seize Taiwan. The United States has pledged to protect Taiwan if invaded. The risk of a confrontation in the Pacific between the world’s two biggest economies is enormous. Ukraine’s victory reduces that risk. Ukraine’s loss increases it.
To help Ukraine and help democracy win, Canada can act.
First, by committing to spend 2% of GDP on defence – and within five years, not ten. Next, a strategic review of Canada’s defence and foreign policy, within six months, to decide how to spend that money. Encourage our equally adrift allies to follow suit. Canada can lead.
I argue we need to expand our armed forces, invest in our defence and research and development sectors, and quickly reorient our trade, defence, and immigration policies towards countries that share our core values: regular competitive elections, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech, and guarantees of individual rights.
For a long time, we acted as though values and principles didn’t matter or were just words to disguise superpower maneuvers. Ukraine has reminded us that values matter and is living Western values and dying for them.
We can help Ukraine win the victory she deserves and improve and harden our own country, in preparation for a world that will be no less turbulent when the last Russian soldier leaves Ukrainian soil. The more we know what we stand for, what we are willing to sacrifice, what work we are willing to do, the more we will honour the sacrifice Ukraine has made, for all of us.
I’d appreciate hearing from those who’ve taken the time to read this note – what do you think Canada should do to help Ukraine and make sure our democracy grows stronger? Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and thank you for being part of the Centre Ice conversation.
Chair, Centre Ice Canadians Advisory Board
Dominic Cardy is the Member of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick for the riding of Fredericton West-Hanwell. He’s co-founder and director of Centre Ice Canadians in addition to serving as the Chair of the Centre Ice Advisory Board.