MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – October 2, 2012
- “Canada’s new top soldier could take over as defence chief by the end of October, sources say. Military planners are eyeing October 29 as the date to induct former fighter pilot Thomas Lawson, most recently the deputy commander of NORAD, as the next Chief of the Defence Staff on October 29. The Prime Minister’s Office could still move the date for this change of command ceremony if it chooses. Lieutenant-General Lawson will take over the top post in the Canadian military from General Walt Natynczyk, who has held the job for more than four years. Lt.-Gen. Lawson will also be promoted to a full general on the same day as the change of command ceremony ….”
- “The chief of defence staff – who will soon be air force Lt.-Gen. Tom Lawson – is rightly considered Canada’s top soldier. Lawson, who replaces Gen. Walt Natynczyk this month, will become the senior officer reporting to and advising the Harper government. He will also be the public face of the Canadian Forces. But Lawson will not be Canada’s top warrior. The officer who will carry the biggest stick is army Lt.-Gen. Stu Beare. Since last fall, Beare has been the boss of Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, or CEF-COM. From this Friday he will be the commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command, which replaces CEFCOM, Canada Command – known as CANCOM – and Canadian Operational Support Command, or CANOSCOM. The new command will greatly expand Beare’s duty and clout ….”
- “It’s the duty of Canada’s military to protect the country from dangers, not to protect politicians or the government from embarrassment or scrutiny. A Department of National Defence directive issued last year orders members of the military to withhold information from the public, even if it does not threaten national security. The directive, from Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, the country’s deputy top commander, was written in response to an April 2011 Ottawa Citizen story on lapsed funding – money the department was unable to spend on capital projects. It also came at the height of the federal election. The directive was recently obtained by the Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act. While the newspaper story contained information “that was not meant for wider or public consumption,” it had not been designated protected or secret. Donaldson’s directive tells those handling information to give it a second glance with an eye to keeping it from the public, even if the information is not sensitive to the national interest or does not involve personal privacy …. It’s necessary to keep secret those things that affect national security; it’s proper to withhold from public view information that involves personal privacy. No one is suggesting the armed forces release material that is sensitive in that respect. But if it’s sensitive because it would be awkward for the government or embarrassing for the military, too bad. When it comes to things like capital expenditures, that’s our money they’re playing with; we have every right to know how it’s spent. Canada’s military has served in many places around the world, often at a great loss of lives, to protect the concept of democratic government, which necessarily involves openness. It’s disturbing that those in command seem to be at odds with that transparency.”
- “The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, (yesterday) announced new e-services that will allow Veterans to connect with the Department more easily and securely, as part of the “Cutting Red Tape for Veterans” initiative to improve service to Veterans, men and women in uniform, and their families. This latest round of improvements includes the launch of the new and improved My VAC Account and the brand new My VAC Book …. The new and improved My VAC Account provides one-stop shopping. With one simple and secure sign-in, Veterans have the convenience and flexibility of doing business online with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year ….” More on this from media here, at the VAC web page here, as well as links to set up My VAC Account and My VAC Book.
- Meanwhile, “Compensating disabled veterans for the clawback of their military pensions could cost more than expected because the federal government is now considering retroactive payments going back almost four decades. Internal government estimates have suggested the settlement could run to $600 million, a figure that may turn out to be low. Late last week, lawyers representing ex-soldiers revealed that federal negotiators were still crunching numbers for the total compensation package and it was being “complicated by the fact the proposed amounts may go back to the start of the offset in 1976,” according to a letter obtained by The Canadian Press. One of the veterans affected by the lawsuit said the federal government has only itself to blame. “I can’t see it going to $1 billion, but if it does, the government was really stupid to let this go as long as it did over 40 years,” said Ron Cundell, a former sergeant and disabled veteran living near Barrie, Ont ….”
- “The chairman of an oft-maligned federal veterans appeal agency who took two taxpayer-funded junkets to Britain is insisting to a House of Commons committee that the trips were worthwhile. Still, John Larlee — who heads the Veterans Review and Appeal Board — said he repaid the federal government for two trips to the Cambridge Lecture series. The Canadian Press reported last May that Larlee’s attendance at the lectures in 2009 and 2011, which were listed as professional development, cost $7,285.97. Larlee also attended the lectures in 2007 with his wife, Justice Margaret Larlee of the New Brunswick Court of Appeal, but paid out of his own pocket that time. The series, attended by elite members of the Canadian and British political and legal communities, focuses on high-level international policy, with topics such as Afghanistan and the impact of the market collapse. It was a justifiable expense, an unapologetic Larlee told the Commons veterans affairs committee Monday. “It was of benefit to me and I remain of the (opinion) it was of a benefit to me, and assisted me in leading this tribunal,” Larlee said under questioning by the Liberals. Larlee didn’t explain to the all-party committee precisely what aspects of the series touched on tribunal administration, or veterans care ….”
- Afghanistan A Question Period mention! “Hon. Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives showed their true colours when they eliminated funding for the Afghan Canadian Community Centre in Kandahar, a school for young Afghan women. Last year they were saying wonderful things about the school; now they are abandoning this initiative, which has reduced poverty and offered hope to young Afghan women. The United States government, which is more enlightened than the Conservatives, is keeping its school open. How can the Conservatives abandon young Afghan women after all our soldiers’ work and sacrifices? Hon. Julian Fantino (Minister of International Cooperation, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the reality is that Canadians want to see the Afghan people succeed in their struggle to become a free and democratic society. Canadian taxpayers’ investments through CIDA are achieving results. A couple of examples include the 1,400 health care workers trained and the 7.8 million children vaccinated against polio. We will take the necessary steps to ensure that the sacrifice of our Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan have not been in vain and we remain committed to helping the Afghan people.”
- A reminder: Under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “any person charged with an offence has the right …. to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal” “A Canadian Forces member from western Manitoba has been charged with bestiality and circulating obscene matter, according to RCMP. RCMP in Brandon, Man., received a complaint last month that a 31-year-old man, who is a current member of Canadian Forces Base Shilo, had used a dating website to ask a woman to “participate in acts of bestiality,” police said in a release Monday. Military police searched the man’s home near Brandon and seized a number of computers on Sept. 28, according to RCMP. The man was charged with bestiality and procuring and circulating obscene matter. He has since been released on strict conditions. He will appear in court at a later date. RCMP did not name the man saying they wanted to protect members of his family, as well as the victim ….” – more here.
- Canada, U.S. to share personal information (but not from Canadians or Americans) at some (border) crossing points “The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today that, effective September 30, 2012, both agencies will begin the Phase I pilot of the Entry/Exit initiative as outlined in the Beyond the Border Action Plan. The Phase I pilot project will allow Canada and the U.S. to test the IT capacity to exchange and reconcile biographic information on the entry of travellers that are not Canadian citizens or U.S. citizens, such that a record of entry into one country could be considered as a record of exit from the other. Under the pilot project, the CBSA and DHS will exchange data currently collected on third-country nationals (those who are neither citizens of Canada nor of the United States), permanent residents of Canada and lawful permanent residents of the United States at the following four ports of entry: Pacific Highway, Surrey, British Columbia / Pacific Highway, Blaine, Washington; Douglas (Peace Arch), Surrey, British Columbia / Peace Arch, Blaine, Washington; Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario / Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, Lewiston, New York; and Niagara Falls Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, Ontario / Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, New York ….”