By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, OTTAWA
Britain’s high commissioner to Canada has chided his host country for falling behind its allies in per capita military spending, adding to a chorus of criticisms from the United States.
“It must have been uncomfortable to be saved from last place in defense spending by Luxembourg,” David Reddaway told a luncheon meeting of the Royal Commonwealth Society in Winnipeg on May 18.
This follows a series of pleas by the United States, worried that terrorists might launch attacks on its soil from Canada, for Ottawa to improve its border security and military capabilities.
Such criticisms are not well-received by the majority of Canadians, who do not see themselves as terrorist targets, despite their close ties to the United States.
The Canadian government is seeking to boost its military spending by 13 billion Canadian dollars ($10.3 billion U.S.) in a budget to be voted on the night of May 19, Reddaway acknowledged, but fears persist in the United States.
Britain’s high commissioner also distanced his government from the Chicoutimi submarine tragedy that killed one submariner and injured eight others on its maiden voyage under Canadian stewardship off the coast of Ireland last October.
“If you leave the door open in rough seas, you get some consequences,” Reddaway said in response to audience questions the same day its sister sub set sail off Canada’s west coast for the first time since the tragedy.
The Chicoutimi was one of four British diesel-powered submarines purchased by the Canadian Navy in 2000. It was crippled in open seas by a fire after water rushed in through two hatches that were left open to allow crew to fix an air vent in the vessel’s tower before diving.
All four subs remained docked until this month when a Canadian naval board of inquiry concluded the blaze was an unfortunate accident, dismissing suggestions the British had sold Canada faulty subs.
“All I can say as a non-submariner is, ‘Shut the door,’ ” Reddaway said.
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