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Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – January 10, 2013

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  • Veterans who battled the decades-long practice of clawing back military pensions have been offered up to $887.8 million by the federal government in a tentative settlement hailed by the lead plaintiff in the case.  “It’s just a phenomenal day,” Dennis Manuge said Wednesday. “I’m very relieved.”  The law firm that represents Manuge, who led a class-action lawsuit against Ottawa over the clawbacks, said the proposed deal includes $424.3 million in retroactive payments to veterans that dates back to 1976. That includes $82.6 million in interest.  The rest of the compensation is an estimate of the amount the veterans will be owed in the future and a $10-million scholarship fund for veterans and their families.  Manuge said he expects disabled veterans in the class-action lawsuit will strongly support the proposal, which goes back to the Federal Court in Halifax on Feb. 14 for final approval ….” – more from the DND/CF Info-machine here, from the Liberals (who, as I recall, didn’t do much to help vets when they were in power) here and details of the deal here.
  • More Mali (1)  One day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper ruled out a “direct” military mission in Mali, experts said Wednesday Canada might still play an indirect role in the strife-torn West African nation …. Walter Dorn, professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College, said (Defence Minister Peter) MacKay’s comments probably don’t represent a disconnect in the government’s position on Mali, as a training mission would be an indirect form of involvement.  “I don’t want to draw that there’s a discrepancy at this point because obivously DND was thinking about it (a training mission),” Dorn told iPolitics Wednesday.  Dorn said the prime minister’s use of the phrase “direct Canadian military mission” does not rule out indirect involvement.  “I think there’s a possibility of contributions both to the African-led mission and to the UN presence, because the resolution also calls for the UN-led presence. I would hope that we would contribute some military personnel to the UN presence, if not to the African-led mission,” said Dorn.  Although Dorn said he hopes Canada will “help the Africans help themselves,” he said a direct military mission does not fit into the Harper government’s budget or foreign policy strategy ….”
  • More Mali (2a)  Columnist:  good call, PM  “…. Mali’s need is very real, and the situation across northern Africa is a vital concern to the international community. But Mr. Harper’s decision was the only sensible one he could make. If we have learned anything from Canada’s decade in Afghanistan, it must be that western nations, no matter how sympathetic or well-meaning, are limited in what they can accomplish when they get involved in armed disputes in remote countries with strong cultures that are sharply different from our own ….”
  • More Mali (2b)  Columnist:  PM gun shy?  “Stephen Harper is gun-shy. After Afghanistan, and now in the midst of defence budget cuts, he might never approve a foreign military mission again, let alone send Canadian troops to fight al-Qaeda in the vast desert expanse of northern Mali.  He sent fighter jets to Libya, but that mission was a distant air war, and since, defence budget cuts are making Mr. Harper and other Western leaders cool to committing to overseas operations. And the hard knocks of the military mission in Afghanistan made Mr. Harper think of dusty ground fights like Mali as politically unprofitable and possibly unwinnable ….”
  • More Mali (2c)  Historian:  “Another mission? First, apply lessons from Afghanistan”
  • Afghanistan  Speaking of lessons from Afghanistan, one think tank analyst‘s take on how Canada ended in in Kandahar Province  “…. In this article I first argue that Kandahar was in large measure the product of powerful forces brought into being by political decisions in NATO. Those decisions, such as that leading NATO to assume leadership of the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) in mid-2003, entailed binding commitments on national governments, whose maturation, though it could take years, was almost inescapable. Second, I demonstrate that Canadian mission preferences had less to do with Kandahar or any other Afghan province per se, and more to do with experience gained from past deployments, notably in the Balkans. These preferences coalesced into a virtual policy that required any Canadian contribution to meet a number of precise conditions, and Kandahar was one of few provinces that allowed for doing so. Third, I show that Kandahar was also the result of long and extensive talks between Canadian officials and their NATO allies – the Dutch and especially the British. The talks, for the most part informal andexploratory (in the sense that no side had a set agenda), were integral to the gradual development of a plan aligned with Canadian priorities. Without partnership with Great Britain, Canada’s deployment might never have happened ….”
  • Stuart Langridge, R.I.P. The marathon federal inquiry into the suicide of 28-year-old Afghanistan War veteran Cpl. Stuart Langridge came to an emotional end Wednesday with the late soldier’s tearful mother vowing to continue her fight for mentally injured veterans“It’s been a long road,” said Langridge’s mother, Sheila Fynes, after the 63-day hearing ended with final submissions from government and family lawyers. “We’re glad this part’s over.”  Fynes and her husband, Shaun, brought 32 allegations to the Military Police Complaints Commission against 13 members of the military’s detective agency, the National Investigation Service (NIS).  They claim that three separate investigations into Stuart’s death were botched and were more concerned with protecting the military than with seeking the truth behind his death …. (Commission chair Glenn) Stannard, a former Windsor, Ont., police chief, will produce a draft report that will be examined by military and Justice Department lawyers before the final version is released.  An attempt by (counsel for the family Michel) Drapeau to be involved in the drafting process was rejected by MacKay, who said he had no power to change the complaints commission process — which is expected to take more than a year to complete ….” – more on the hearing here.
  • Confusion and concern have greeted news the Department of National Defence will be billing provinces and municipalities whenever the military is called upon to help in disasters and humanitarian emergencies such as floods and wildfires.  National Defence says it has always had the authority to recoup costs incurred by the military when it provides such assistance, but for the past 15 years it has waived that authority as a matter of course.  That changed in July when, because of federal budget cuts, the Defence Department quietly decided to begin invoicing provinces, municipalities and other government departments in most cases where the military’s assistance is required.  Federation of Canadian Municipalities president Karen Leibovici said she was surprised and concerned with the change, which was never broadcast to municipal governments throughout the country.  “The reality is that to put that kind of burden on municipalities is quite surprising,” Leibovici said. “To have a line drawn because there’s a billing issue is not good for municipalities, and it’s not good for Canadians as a whole.”  Leibovici said she was hoping the decision could be reversed because the impact would be significant.  “It needs to be looked at from the perspective of what is needed from Canadians to meet their needs during an emergency,” she said. “Recognizing that we’re all in this together.” ….”
  • Way Up North  Just imagine.  A cruise ship is passing through Canada’s Northwest Passage on a cold, dark November night when it collides with a growler — a small underwater iceberg that has broken off a larger iceberg and is nearly impossible for the captain to detect.  A gash in the hull causes water to flow in, leaving the captain with no choice but to give the dreaded order — abandon ship. These simple words force all 300 passengers and 250 crew members to evacuate into lifeboats as they watch the cruise ship capsize into the depths of the black Arctic waters.  The captain triggers an emergency position-indicating radio beacon and the signal is picked up by search and rescue (SAR) authorities in Trenton, Ont. With no land in sight, the survivors must wait for a SAR helicopter or marine vessel to find them.  The only problem is that it will take more than ten hours for the closest helicopter to reach the lifeboats and the chances of a SAR marine vessel being nearby are slim to none in the High Arctic. All the while, the survivors are dealing with some of the most unpredictable boating conditions in the world — high waves, cold water, strong winds and darkness ….”
  • Two stranded seal hunters ended up becoming rescuers when a chartered helicopter coming to their aid ended up partially submerged as it was landing Wednesday.  Capt. Jill Strelieff with 1 Canadian Air Division said the rescue helicopter landed on the sea ice near Hudson Bay but its weight broke through the ice.  The two hunters, a father and son who had become stranded on the sea ice during a hunting trip on the west shore of Hudson Bay, pulled the pilot from the aircraft.  Search-and-rescue personnel already on the scene during the rescue operation to save the hunters were able to then help all three.  The hunters and pilot were transported to Arviat, Nunavut, where they were being treated for hypothermia, the RCMP confirmed. There were no severe injuries ….”
  • Speaking of search and rescue, this from the RCAF Info-machine:  “It’s been a busy year for Royal Canadian Air Force search and rescue (SAR) personnel across Canada.  Between January and November 2012, crews conducted 953 SAR missions; in November alone, they were tasked 61 times: 22 in the Victoria, B.C., SAR region, 17 in the Trenton, Ont., region and 22 in Halifax, N.S ….”
    The sabotage of a CN Rail crossing signal during an aboriginal protest and rail line blockade near Belleville, Ont. over the weekend should be seen as an act of terror, says one security expert.  “This is a low-level, low-grade form of terrorism,” said John Thompson, with the Mackenzie Institute think-tank. “It’s not as dramatic as car bombings and so on and so forth, but … the use of vandalism is a form of violence.”  CN Police says it’s investigating after a group of Idle No More protesters allegedly activated a crossing signal Saturday afternoon, and lit a fire on the tracks …. Thompson says infrastructure such as railways and pipelines remain vulnerable to a “tiny militant minority” of aboriginal protesters because of their rural location ….”
  • “A local effort to restore the cenotaph at Mariposa Hall has received funding support from the federal government.  Local MP Barry Devolin, on behalf of the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, announced this week the project will receive $10,105 to help restore the Oakwood Cenotaph. The funds are provided through Canada’s Cenotaph/Monument Restoration Program. Applications to this program can be submitted throughout the year (www.veterans.gc.ca) and are reviewed on a quarterly basis.  The Oakwood Cenotaph was erected on Dec. 1, 1920 in memory of those who served, and those who lost their lives in the First World War. It was later expanded to include the brave soldiers in the Second World War and the Korean War ….”
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