Canada's Security of Position
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE northern position of Canada on the North American continent is generally associated with the thought of great disadvantages. If, however, there are disadvantages in this position, there are also advantages which are more than a compensation. This is very obvious when we come to consider the matter of national defence. In this respect Canada holds a position altogether unique. A thoroughly insular position of a compact, populous and highly developed and imperial country, such as Great Britain, has, it is true, distinct advantages in the matter of defence, though that defence demands that the nation be mistress of the seas.
With a country of continental position and vast areas, sharing extended boundaries with possibly hostile neighbors, the question of defence is quite another matter. In the present state of the world, with its ever present possibilities of international strife, the matter of defence is one of the first importance.
An ideally located country for matters of defence would be one with the maximum amount of area, with a mimimum amount of exposed frontier and coast-line. We know of no country, apart from Canada, where these conditions are so largely fulfilled. It is true Canada has a frontier of some three thousand miles, but it must be remembered that this is shared by only one country, and that one peopled by the same race, and consequently pre-disposed to friendship. If these three thousand miles of frontier were shared by half a dozen different nationalities more or less hostile, it would increase the liability to invasion by just that much. There are many on both sides of the international boundary who firmly believe that the War of 1812 witnessed the last open hostilities between Canada and the United States, and we would repeat what has been said : " Palsied be the hand that would be raised in favor of precipitating strife between these two kindred peoples." So far, therefore, as our frontier by land is concerned, extensive though it may be, the danger is reduced to a minimum.
It will be interesting to observe that the exposed portion of Canada's coastline is exceedingly limited, both on the Atlantic and Pacific, as compared with the immensity of her area. Without considering the coastal indentations, the extent of Canadian coast exposed to hostile attack on either side, the Atlantic or Pacific, is scarcely more than six hundred miles for each. It must be evident to all that this is very trivial when compared with other countries of similar area.
Russia, for instance, while not having a very extensive, vulnerable coastline (not enough, indeed), has a tremendous frontier to defend against ten different nationalities, several of which are strong and aggressive nations. The cost f adequately defending this frontier across two continents is something enormous, and constitutes a great financial burden which the Russian people are called upon to bear. The United States, as compared with Canada regarding the security of her position from attack, is not nearly so favorably situated. Be-sides her northern frontier she has a second one, scarcely less extensive, separating her from a people of entirely different race, while she has a coast-line on two oceans aggregating some five thousand miles, exclusive of minor indentations.
It will readily be seen from this that to defend the United States with the same efficiency, it would require land and naval forces about four times in excess of our own requirements. This may seem to be an unimportant matter, and yet it is a matter which directly affects both the national treasury and the national security. Jack Frost effectually and gratuitously guards us on three thousand miles of our northern coast, and in this he does us a distinct service, greatly relieving national expenditure and contributing much to our sense of security.