ABSTRACT. As the United States northern neighbor, Canada serves as a NATO ally and a strategic partner with Washington through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Canadian forces have fought honorably and bravely in concert with American forces in many wars. Canada’s Government, however, has been less consistent in promoting a credible vision of Canadian national security policy and geopolitical interests in its defense white papers. These documents have often contained idealistic rhetoric about adhering to a rules-based international order and defending freedom. In reality, Canadian governments of varying political parties have consistently failed to provide the sustained funding and coherent national security strategy to make Ottawa an effective partner with the U.S. and the NATO alliance in addressing historical and emerging national security threats. This article examines Canadian defense white papers for several decades and recommends ways Canada can ensure its defense policy planning can have greater credibility in the national security policymaking corridors of its allies and with potential adversaries.

Keywords: Canada; defense white papers; geopolitics; national security policymaking; defense spending; Canadian military policy; Canadian military strategy

How to cite: Chapman, Bert (2019). “The Geopolitics of Canadian Defense White Papers: Lofty Rhetoric and Limited Results,” Geopolitics, History, and International Relations 11(1): 7–40.

Received 15 December 2017 • Received in revised form 9 March 2018
Accepted 10 March 2018 • Available online 28 March 2018


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