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Canadian Prime Minister Harper Defies Ballistic Missile Defense Critics

A Canadian combat engineer displays retrieved components similiar to those used to make Improvised Explosive Devices. Canadian opposition parties have condemned Prime Minister Stephen Harper for refusing to allow media to cover the repatriation of dead soldiers killed in Afghanistan. The four Canadian troops killed over the weekend were returning from a patrol in Shah Wali Kot district, in southern Afghanistan, when their vehicle was destroyed by a roadside bomb.The incident took the death toll of Canadian soldiers to 15 since the forces arrived in 2001 to join the hunt for Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.In February, Canada deployed 2,300 troops in Kandahar and took command of the coalition forces in the southern province. Photo courtesy of John D McHugh and AFP.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) May 03, 2006
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to strengthen his country's NORAD defense pact ties with the United States has angered critics who believe it will lead to increased ballistic missile defense cooperation with Washington.

Harper has promised a parliamentary debate on the NORAD agreement but is refusing to allow any changes to the new defense pact that gives the joint Canada-U.S. alliance sweeping new responsibilities to oversee maritime security and get involved in "information operations."

"That kind of arrogant and rigid approach isn't helpful, particularly in a minority parliament," New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton said Monday.

"(Harper) is essentially saying once again, My way or the highway,' and when it comes to Canadian sovereignty, the independence of our decisions around military issues, that is not acceptable," Layton said according to a report Tuesday in the Toronto Star.

New Democrats are raising questions about elements of the new agreement that dramatically expands the mission of the 48-year-old bi-national agency, the Star said.

For New Democrats, that marks a "rather dramatic extension of military integration with the United States," Layton said.

"We have serious concerns about that. We also believe that it could take us further into missile defense one way or the other, something (that) Canadians oppose very strongly," he said.

The new agreement also confirms NORAD's ability to "conduct information operations," a vague reference that wasn't detailed in the document.

The Conservatives found themselves on the defensive Monday in question period in Parliament over revelations, first outlined Saturday in the Star, that Canada and the United States had quietly signed the NORAD renewal in Ottawa on Friday before MPs had a chance to debate it.

"The minister expects us to waste our time debating an issue that he has already decided," NDP MP Dawn Black said Monday. "Without the ability to amend the NORAD motion, the minister will have neutered the House."

Source: United Press International

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