Military drones won’t be assassins: general

OTTAWA — Public perceptions about armed drones have been clouded by Hollywood, Canada’s top soldier said Thursday as he insisted the Canadian Armed Forces won’t be using its stealthy new technology for so-called black-ops missions like assassinations.

“The fact that they’re armed, I think people have this idea, kind of a Hollywood view of assassination by that,” Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of the defence staff, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“That’s not the business we’re in. Can I underline that? Double bold it, make it big font? This is not the business that we’re talking about. And this policy is not that.”

The Liberal government’s long-awaited new defence policy, released Wednesday, said Canada’s military would be authorized for the first time to purchase and use armed drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

That decision represents one of the most notable shifts in the new policy, in which the Liberals promised to spend an extra $62 billion over the next 20 years to expand and strengthen the military.

Questions have swirled over how the Liberals plan to fund such a massive new investment, given the government’s current fiscal reality, which already includes years of projected multi-billion-dollar deficits.

A Finance Department official said Thursday that the planned increase was accounted for in the government’s long-term planning assumptions and “doesn’t materially change the government’s fiscal outlook.”

Proper funding is required if the government wants to fully realize its new vision for the military, including more troops and fighter jets, Vance said.

But Vance described the policy as “realistic,” in part because of the detailed costing that went into it and expressed confidence that the money would materialize.

“The resources are in the fiscal framework,” he said. “The minister has been very clear that National Defence and Finance Canada and central agencies have worked together.”

The acquisition and use of armed drones has been sharply debated both at home and abroad, with much of that debate centred on the U.S. use of UAVs to assassinate hundreds of people in various parts of the world.

That includes strikes against what the U.S. says were extremist leaders in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and Libya — attacks which non-governmental associations, human rights groups and others say also killed many civilians.

The Canadian military plans to use armed drones in much the same way as other conventional weapons, such as fighter jets and artillery, said Vance.

“There are rules of engagement, there is an approved target, there is the absolute commitment to avoiding any collateral damage, any harm to a civilian population,” he said.

“So to us, it’s just another weapon.”

Canadian soldiers relied heavily on the U.S. to provide drone support in Afghanistan, he added, noting that such weapons are a critical part of a modern military force.

During an event Thursday in La Malbaie, Que., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government considered the drone decision carefully.

“We have talked about remotely piloted vehicles of many different types and we know that’s going to be part of the defence mix moving forward for most countries, if not all countries,” Trudeau said.

But the move has nonetheless prompted questions from some organizations that have been on the frontlines in raising concerns and awareness about the legal grey zone around such weapons.

“The decision to acquire armed drones to ‘provide a targeting and precision capability’ is of considerable concern given the complete lack of an international control regime for such systems and the many, many examples of egregious misuse of armed drones in conflict zones,” Peggy Mason, president of the Rideau Institute, said in an email.

Vance also welcomed the government’s decision to move the military position on cyberwarfare from purely defensive to allowing it to conduct cyberattacks when necessary.

“It is impossible to conceive of a successful military operation or military posture without there being the cyber element to it,” Vance said.

“You can’t play a hockey game with just the goalie. Even active or offensive cyberoperations, strictly for the purposes of defence, requires you to operate in that offensive mode.”

— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Four Red Deer skiers off to Alberta Winter Games

Four young Red Deer skiers are headed to the Alberta Winter Games.… Continue reading

Hurry Hard: Red Deer Oilmen’s Bonspiel starts on Friday

A January tradition in Red Deer, the Oilmen’s Bonspiel takes to the… Continue reading

City Hall briefly evacuated

Carbon monoxide false alarm behind evacuation

Charges laid in home invasion in Maskwacis

Three people injured with stab wounds

Town of Sylvan Lake takes over provincial park

Provincial government announced official transfer of park to town on Thursday

WATCH: Marijuana in the Workplace information luncheon held in Red Deer

Central Alberta businesses need to prepare for the legalization of marijuana. That… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month