security and defense forum

The Department of National Defence’s Security and Defence Forum (SDF) was established in 1967 to “develop a domestic competence and national interest in defence issues of relevance to Canada’s security” in academia.

SDF includes a Scholarship and Internship program, Special Projects, a Chair of Defence Management Studies and funding for “centres of expertise”. SDF’s scholarship and internship initiative ploughs $300,000 a year into academic awards that “supports graduate and post-graduate studies in Canadian defence and security issues.” SDF also funds a handful of 12-month internships each year “for students with Master’s degrees who are interested in working in security and defence-related organizations.”

SDF channels hundreds of thousands of dollars annually into special projects. These include an International Conference Fund and National Conference Fund as well as other efforts to facilitate collaboration among “security” scholars. It also includes funds to give “members of the SDF community an opportunity to visit Canadian Forces operations or bases” and to “bring students from SDF centres and SDF award recipients to National Defence Headquarters.” Adding to its special projects budget, in 2015 SDF gave the University of New Brunswick Milton F. Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society $488,000 to produce educational material about Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients who demonstrated “conspicuous bravery” fighting on behalf of the British Empire between 1856 and 1945.

The SDF’s major activity is to fund a dozen “centres of expertise”, including Dalhousie’s Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, University of New Brunswick’s Gregg Centre, Queen’s Chair of Defence Management Studies and Centre for International Relations, Carleton’s Centre for Security and Defence Studies, York’s Centre for International and Security Studies, Wilfrid Laurier’s Centre for Military, Strategic & Disarmament Studies, University of Manitoba’s Centre for Defence and Security Studies, University of Calgary’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, University of British-Columbia’s Centre of International Relations, Université de Montréal/McGill’s Groupe d’étude et de recherche sur la sécurité internationale, Université du Québec à Montréal/Concordia’s Centre d’études des politiques étrangères et de sécurité and Université Laval’s Institut québécois des hautes études internationales. To receive SDF funding departments generally commit to offering a minimum number of courses with “significant security and defence content.”

In some instances military money makes up a significant share of a department’s budget. In 2008-09, for instance, Dalhousie’s Centre for Foreign Policy Studies received 56% of its budget from SDF and other DND channels. The centre received a little more than half its $323,636 in military funding from SDF and $153,000 indirectly from the navy, which paid the salary of a Dalhousie Defence Fellow affiliated with the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies.

Alongside its support for “centres of expertise”, SDF funded a Chair of Defence Management Studies. DND gave Queen’s University’s Defence Management Studies more than $200,000 annually. As chair of the Queen’s program through the 2000s Douglas Bland received $825,000 to “conduct outreach activities with the Canadian public … and Parliament about security and defence issues.” Bland called the mid-2000s counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan “the right mission for Canada and the right mission for the Afghan people” and criticized “years of Liberal [party] neglect of ... defence policy and the Canadian Forces.”

Dozens of academics writing on military, security and foreign policy issues received SDF funds. They generally articulated pro-military positions, which caused a minor controversy during the war in Afghanistan. In a 2008 article University of Ottawa professor Amir Attaran wrote, “when DND needs a kind word in Parliament or the media —presto! — an SDF sponsored scholar often appears, without disclosing his or her financial link.” Even SDF proponent and ardent militarist Jack Granatstein admitted in a 2011 op-ed “what the government seems to want from SDF academics is uncritical support for its partisan policies.”

DND identifies what it receives from SDF. Various DND reports breakdown the number of courses, publications, outreach events, media interviews and op-eds SDF funding enables. According to a 2009-10 review, the program sponsored 444 events, reaching more than 18,000 people” and SDF scholars “conducted over 1,550 media interviews and produced nearly 116 op-ed articles on a wide range of topics.” SDF subsidized numerous books and supported 230 courses, which educated 10,000 students. A 2010 DND report evaluating the program concluded: “Without the presence of the SDF, university resources would most likely not be allocated towards hiring security- and defence-minded academics and the Centres indicate they would cease to be replenished when current SDF scholars retire."