When a threat is immediate and categorical, we have the intuitive ability to put things into perspective. A person is in front of you, pointing a gun: “Hands up!” In the moment, adrenaline, sweats, staring eyes: there is no blur. We separate the absolute from the relative: life, security, is the absolute. The wallet, the watch, the cell phone, it’s nothing.

It is much more difficult to perceive and conceive the sinuous, slow or indirect threats, even if these have the same coercive purpose as the gun, that of limiting our freedom and dictating our actions. The threats facing Canada do not necessarily resemble those of Ukraine, but they are closely related. Our institutions, our economy and our influence in the world are attacked daily with a thousand small cuts: interference in our democratic systems, trade wars, manipulation of public opinion by disinformation disseminated in social networks by foreign governments which mean us harm, the UN, which finds itself at an impasse in the face of multiple carnage, migratory crises caused by the climate and economic injustice, nuclear proliferation, coups d’etat whose objective is to tip the scales in the sense of a community of revisionist nations, and again…

The game of dominoes is complex and Canada is indeed one of the tokens on the wave that is coming. It does not seem to affect our daily life, because it acts further from our senses and our intuition. Like a frog that bathes in lukewarm water and does not come out as the water begins to boil, can we feel the gradual change in temperature? However, things are already boiling everywhere, a little domino here, a little domino there, in Ukraine, in the Sahel, in Taiwan, and even in Washington, a certain January 6 still fresh in our memories.

That is why we have surrounded ourselves with allies and multilateral institutions to support a system of international laws that allow nations to operate on a basis of equality and mutual recognition. This is why our commitments to collective security cannot be mere games of rhetoric and vague promises to act or invest in our alliances. If we want to be at the table, consulted and involved, it takes more than words: a seat on the Security Council? Sorry. AUKUS (the military cooperation agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States)? Complete. What will be the next rejection?

Our politicians struggle to convince us of its importance or to “sell” the idea to Canadians. Some prefer not to do it at all, for fear that this famous 2% of GDP in military spending will make people shiver. In reality, although it seems huge in absolute terms, this number is nothing in relative terms. First, because safety is priceless. But for those who insist on giving it one, this is not a zero-sum game. It is wrong to believe that to buy fighter planes or ships, you have to raise taxes or make health cuts or stop paving the roads. Those who calculate in this way forget to consider the reverse: the cost of doing nothing, the risk of a world economy being destroyed by a wave of armed or commercial conflict. How much GDP would that represent for Canada, a country that exports so much?

On the economic side, it generates cutting-edge technical and scientific innovation that generates added value not only for military purposes, but also for commercial use, think of the technologies that have changed the world: radio, aviation, microwaves , the internet, GPS, all developed and perfected by defense investment.

Beyond its primary objective, the principle that Canada has an important role to play in shaping a world that protects human rights against revisionist and revengeful countries that do not care. These investments also represent leverage for a partial command economy that drives some key innovations that could eventually build the economy of tomorrow: clean, renewable energy aviation and fleet, building zero-emissions infrastructure on military bases to to create a model for the cities of tomorrow, not to mention the technologies that we have not yet begun to imagine.

The quality of life we ​​have in Canada is not a fait accompli, but rather a fact that we accomplish. The rule of law is just an idea. Its existence is entirely linked to what we embody in practice, in our institutions and in their freedom to act in the name of human values ​​and principles of good governance enshrined in our Constitution. There are a thousand ways to lose this freedom, but there is only one way to keep it: protect it.

Fortunately, this hypothetical gun at the starting point, I never experienced it. But it is the force of laws and institutions that have made it so.