Biden, Trudeau promise upgrades to Arctic defence
March 28, 2023 By Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News
U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have committed billions of dollars in spending to bolster defence in the Arctic.
The announcement came in a joint statement Friday following Biden’s address to Parliament, the first president to speak before Parliament since Barack Obama in 2016.
The spending includes $7 billion for surveillance-system modernization and acquiring new over-the-horizon radar systems.
Biden and Trudeau also announced $7.3 billion to go toward aircraft modernization, including preparation for Canada’s purchase of F-35 fighter jets.
In his wide-ranging speech to Parliament, Biden touted the importance of defending the Arctic through improvement and modernization of the North American Aerospace Defence Command, or Norad.
“We’re working in close co-ordination to steward and protect the northernmost regions of our world,” Biden said.
“Soon, Norad will have a new next-generation over-the-horizon radar to enhance our early warning capacity, upgraded undersea surveillance systems, modernized infrastructure necessary to host the most advanced aircraft.”
Over-the-horizon radar has the capability to detect targets hundreds of kilometres beyond the scope of ordinary radar.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to work in close partnership with Canada as we deliver on these needs so that our people can continue to rest soundly knowing Norad is on the watch,” Biden continued.
His speech received a standing ovation from the audience of MPs and invited dignitaries.
Trudeau echoed Biden’s comments on Arctic security.
“We’re continuing our work to meet the evolving security challenges we face today,” Trudeau said in a press conference after the speech.
Strengthened northern security was a concern for the MPs from Nunavut and Nunavik ahead of the presidential address. Nunavut Sen. Dennis Patterson said so directly to Biden, in a greeting line on Parliament Hill Friday morning.
“We’re going to modernize Norad and guard North America for you,” Patterson said while shaking Biden’s hand.
Biden covered several topics in his speech.
The war in Ukraine was top of mind. The president reaffirmed the U.S. and Canada’s support for the country in its fight against the Russian invasion.
Biden also used his speech to touch on trade, resource extraction, job growth, and Canada and U.S. involvement in the ongoing conflict in Haiti.
The speech held an overall optimistic tone for the future of the Canada and U.S. relationship.
“The world needs Canada and the United States working together with our partners around the world to rally strong and effective global action,” Biden said.
He also threw a humorous jab at the Toronto Maple Leafs, saying that as a Philadelphia Flyers fan the Leafs are the only Canadian NHL team he doesn’t like.
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