Created on:
June 3, 2024

Reflecting on the Success of the 2024 National Security Conference

Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt
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"Bridging the Gap: Balancing Canadian National Security with Economic Prosperity"

Monday, June 3, 2024

The Rideau Club, Ottawa

Yesterday, the Policy Insights Forum (PIF) hosted a highly successful National Security Conference at the prestigious Rideau Club in Ottawa. The event, titled "Bridging the Gap: Balancing Canadian National Security with Economic Prosperity" brought together over 90 attendees, including national security experts, academics, government officials, and private sector stakeholders. The Conference was a remarkable success, fostering insightful discussions and forging new connections among the participants.

The day's program was meticulously curated to address the most pressing issues at the intersection of national security and economic prosperity. The event began with registration and a light breakfast, setting a welcoming tone for the day ahead. Goran Samuel Pesic, Chairman of the PIF and CEO of the Samuel Group of Companies, delivered the opening remarks, emphasizing the importance of collaborative efforts in addressing national security challenges.

Dr. Nicole Giles, the distinguished Deputy Director and Senior ADM of Policy and Strategic Partnerships at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), delivered an exceptionally compelling keynote address on the modernization of the CSIS Act and the latest update to Canada’s defence policy. Her insightful remarks not only highlighted the critical need for contemporary legislative frameworks in national security but also underscored the dynamic changes in Canada’s defence strategies.

Following her keynote, the event seamlessly transitioned into a lively Q&A session, moderated by Tasha Kheiriddin, a member of the PIF Advisory Board. The interaction was dynamic and thought-provoking, with participants eagerly engaging in discussions that delved deeper into the nuances of Canada’s national security policies and the implications of the new defence policy update.

The morning unfolded with a thought-provoking video address and a pre-recorded interview, featuring respectively The Honourable Blaine Higgs, Premier of New Brunswick and Jeffrey Reynolds, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation POL-MIL Representative to the Pentagon. Their perspectives on the vital role of provincial involvement in national security, coupled with insights into the intricacies of North American energy security, were nothing short of enlightening.

Premier Higgs and Mr. Reynolds shared their expertise and unique viewpoints, which resonated with the audience. Their perspectives expertly linked local and national security considerations, highlighting the interrelation of regional actions and broader stability across the country. This engaging segment seamlessly set the stage for the first-panel discussion, laying a solid groundwork for informed dialogue, and generating keen anticipation for the subsequent conversations.

Moderated by Colonel (Ret'd) Geoffrey St. John, the Panel on "A New Integrated National Security Strategy for Canada" featured esteemed Panelists Richard Fadden, Peter Hall, Shelly Bruce, Professor Wesley Wark, and Trevor Neiman. Their diverse backgrounds and knowledge contributed to a rich dialogue on developing a cohesive national security strategy. Integrating multiple policies to safeguard national security is complex yet essential. Moving forward, national security must be a lens through which all policies are viewed. The Panelists noted that threats are no longer just physical but now include cyber-attacks and disinformation from distant players. These new challenges must be reflected in our foreign and defence policies to ensure comprehensive protection.

Following a networking buffet lunch, the Conference resumed with the second panel discussion on "Securing the Future: Procurement and Innovation Investment in National Security and Defence Capabilities." Professor Philippe Lagassé moderated the session, guiding Panelists Siobhan Harty, David Perry, Dan McKinney, and James Davies through an engaging conversation on the critical role of procurement and innovation. The Panelists focused on the pressing need to enhance Canada’s defence capabilities to meet current security challenges. They discussed the importance of modernizing military equipment and infrastructure to keep pace with technological advancements and emerging threats. Importance was placed on the strategic allocation of resources to ensure readiness and resilience, highlighting the necessity for a clear direction and cohesive framework to guide these efforts. The session highlighted the crucial role of innovation and risk in maintaining a strong and adaptable defence posture, ensuring Canada can effectively safeguard its national security interests now and in the future.

The afternoon coffee break provided attendees with a chance to recharge before the Allied Perspectives Roundtable, moderated by Artur Wilczynski. This roundtable addressed global security challenges and Canada's collaborative response in a potential second Trump administration. The Roundtable Panelists included Ambassador Bruce Heyman, Professor John Blaxland, Brigadier-General (Ret'd) Ben Barry, and Brigadier-General (Ret’d) Roberto Mazzolin.

The discussion was both candid and compelling, as the Panelists reflected on how unprepared Canada was for the realities of the first Trump administration. They emphasized the critical need for proactive measures, warning that the country would face even greater difficulties if it remained complacent in the face of a second term. The dialogue underscored the importance of strategic foresight and international cooperation to navigate the complexities of global security and to ensure that Canada is better positioned to handle future geopolitical shifts.

Vincent Rigby, Former National Security and Intelligence Advisor, delivered the closing keynote on building a more resilient Canada in a complex world. His address encapsulated the day's themes and left attendees with much to ponder.

Aliénor Peyrefitte, President of Transatlantic Emerging Leaders at the PIF, provided the closing remarks, expressing gratitude to all participants and highlighting the Conference's achievements. The event concluded with a social networking reception, offering a relaxed atmosphere for further discussions and networking.

Overall, the 2024 National Security Conference, a resounding success thanks to the dedication, participation, and sponsorship, showcased the crucial conversations needed to move the country forward with focus and direction by balancing security and prosperity in Canada; we look forward to building on this momentum for an impactful Conference in 2025.

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