The top Canadian officer at the North American Aerospace Defence Command says the system needs to evolve to meet modern threats.

Speaking at the Banff Global Business Forum on Thursday, Lt.-Gen. Pierre St-Amand said North America is facing more threats as the capabilities of nations and extremists increase.

"In many ways, we feel that because of these new capabilities — long-range cruise missiles, for example, that can be air-launched, and launched from the maritime domain — we feel that North America is a bit less secure than it was a short time ago."

He said the time has come to evolve for the future as NORAD approaches its 60th anniversary.

"We have been able to evolve throughout those 59 years, but we are challenging now to think about a way to evolve once again into the future," said St-Amand. "It is a right time for us to make our home team better... at the end of the day, for the security of the homelands, we are the catcher's mit if something were to go wrong."

St-Amand's comments come a week after he told the House of Commons defence committee looking into North Korean threats that U.S. policy is not to defend Canada with its missile defence system.

He said in Banff, however, that NORAD's initial premise of mutual defence between Canada and the U.S. is still very much valued today.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that the government has not changed its position of not participating in the missile defence system, but will continue to evaluate options.

Former Conservative defence minister Peter MacKay, speaking at the sidelines of the Banff conference, said now is the time for Canada to join the missile defence system.

"I think we should be pursuing it with intelligence and with understanding that the threat assessment has changed," MacKay said. "The dynamic has changed, the threat has changed, the North Korean escalation and provocation towards North America makes this a much more immediate concern."

Keep reading