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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 16 Nov 11

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  • Afghanistan (1)  Toronto Star columnist becomes legal rep for teenager wanting student visa to attend school in Canada.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Someone (I’m guessing) in Ottawa is pissed at how ‘terps trying to come to Canada are being handled“Frustration is growing in government ranks that Ottawa is falling down on its vow to help Afghan interpreters and their families find a new life in Canada. “I would say longstanding and growing frustration,” a senior official said this week after the Star highlighted the plight. The target of that frustration is the Citizenship and Immigration department, which critics say is dragging its feet on a Conservative vow to help Afghans who helped the Canadian mission in Kandahar resettle in Canada. “There is a moral obligation to do the right thing here and it’s unfortunate that CIC doesn’t feel this way,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous ….”
  • Afghanistan (3a)  Canadian Info-Machine officer Commodore Bill Truelove Taliban losing a grip on its troops“The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has said that “the Taliban leadership has lost control of their organization.” During an operational update by representatives from the ISAF headquarters and NATO on Monday, Canadian Commodore Bill Truelove, Deputy Director of the ISAF Communication Directorate, said the Taliban carried out several attacks recently in spite of the Afghan Eid holiday. “Over the past week, the Taliban showed their blatant disregard for this holy celebration through a series of attacks resulting in the deaths of many innocent civilians,” he told reporters in Kabul. Truelove said the attacks occurred after senior Taliban leaders issued specific orders to their troops, directing them to stop killing innocent Afghan civilians. “Still, enemy forces are realizing they are sacrificing their lives for a cause that is not just and under leaders who have no concern for this country or its people,” he added ….”
  • Afghanistan (3b)  Does one Taliban post including alleged security plans for a major meeting (link to copy of post at non-terrorist site) constitute a “propaganda war”?  “Afghanistan’s propaganda wars are becoming almost as intense as the actual fighting, as all sides jockey for position ahead of an anticipated NATO withdrawal in 2014. On Sunday, the Taliban took their psychological operations to a new level when they attempted to derail a loya jirga, or national council, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, has called for Wednesday. This will discuss future U.S. troop withdrawals and possible peace talks with 2,000 community and tribal leaders. In addition to the usual threats to assassinate anyone who attends the meeting, the Taliban have published what they claim are highly classified documents detailing security arrangements for the council, scheduled to be held at the Polytechnical University in western Kabul ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  Senator Pamela Wallin on the training mission“…. Canada has engaged in what is an incredible act of faith, inspired by the knowledge that if we educate and train the next generation of citizens and soldiers we will truly be giving peace – and Afghanistan – a chance.”
  • Afghanistan (5)  “International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says his office will be releasing a report in the coming weeks that will decide whether to launch a formal investigation into Canada’s treatment of Afghan detainees, among other things. “There are serious allegations of crimes committed by different parties,” he said in an exclusive interview with Postmedia News during a stop at the University of Ottawa on Tuesday. “We are trying to find who is really allegedly responsible for crimes to check if there’s a need for us to investigate or not.” Moreno-Ocampo said his report will not specifically focus on Canada’s treatment of detainees in Afghanistan, but all crimes allegedly committed in that country and seven others. Most allegations, he added, are against the Taliban, but all claims are being looked at ….”
  • Canadian Forces reservists can face extra hardships after returning from deployments, researchers say. Difficulty finding employment and poor post-mission communications between reservists and military units are major barriers to soldiers reintegrating into civilian life. The findings of a study by Defence Research and Development Canada in Toronto were presented at the second annual Canadian Military and Veteran Health Research Forum in Kingston. The study involved 125 Canadian reserve soldiers who returned from an overseas deployment. The troops were contacted six to eight months after returning and about one-quarter of them took part in the 20-minute electronic survey. The results showed many reservists struggle to find work following their deployments. The lack of work added greatly to their struggle to reintegrate themselves into civilian life, said researcher Donna Pickering Tuesday afternoon ….”  A bit more on the Forum here, and the latest, updated (as of yesterday) CF Info-Machine backgrounder on PTSD here.
  • Another research tidbit from the same conference:  Almost one-quarter of a group of frontline soldiers sent to fight in Afghanistan in 2007 have been diagnosed with mental health problems, according to a new study by the Canadian Forces. The figure shines a light on the psychological risks facing Canada’s battle-hardened veterans not only in CFB Gagetown, where the study was conducted, but at CFB Petawawa in Ontario, CFB Edmonton in Alberta, CFB Valcartier in Quebec and at other major military bases where soldiers have deployed in great numbers over the last few years. The study of 792 members of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, found 23.1 per cent of soldiers who served in Kandahar four years ago were now being treated for their mental health problems. One in five of those soldiers have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, one of the chief health risks to Canadian soldiers after a decade of combat in Afghanistan. The study was presented Tuesday at a military health-care conference (in Kingston) that is bringing together some of the country’s best minds to share the latest research on how to help soldiers with broken minds and bodies ….”
  • After almost five years of legal wrangling, Dennis Manuge says he’s relieved that Canada’s disabled veterans are finally getting their day in court. “How I feel about it is a little bit of relief and absolute faith in the justice system that we are going to begin to have our case (heard),” he said Tuesday. Manuge, of Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S., is the representative plaintiff in a lawsuit against the federal government that alleges it is illegally clawing back the long-term disability insurance benefits of injured veterans. The Federal Court in Halifax will begin hearing arguments Wednesday in the class action, which could potentially affect the benefits of as many as 6,000 injured veterans ….”
  • A reminder:  For the sixth year in a row, friends and families of Canadian troops deployed overseas will be able to send their holiday letters and parcels for free via Canada Post. The program, which started in 2006, has delivered close to 90,000 parcels to members of the Canadian Forces serving overseas in war zones. With capacity limitations on military aircraft carrying supplies to deployed forces, this program is restricted to family and friends of the deployed service men and women serving overseas in war zones. Troops serving on any of the deployed Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships are also included in the program. Canada Post will accept regular parcels free of charge to designated Canadian Forces Bases overseas from October 17, 2011 until January 13, 2012. Lettermail weighing up to 500 grams to deployed troops can be sent free of charge until December 31, 2012.”  More from Canada Post here.
  • Canada’s mission to help Jamaica is wrapping up – safe travels home, folks!  More on OP Jaguar here.
  • Haiti’s efforts to restore its disbanded army could deplete resources from more pressing matters in the Caribbean nation, which is still recovering from the massive earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people almost two years ago, a Canadian diplomat said Tuesday. John Babcock, a spokesman for Canadian Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy, said in an email to The Associated Press that Haiti’s decision to create a second security force is a sovereign right but that its formation “seems premature” because of the difficult living conditions that many Haitians still face following the January 2010 earthquake. “Canada fears that creating a second security force will significantly reduce resources available for Haiti’s other important priorities,” one of them being the need to strengthen Haiti’s national police department, Babcock wrote. Haitian President Michel Martelly is moving ahead with a plan to restore the national army that was disbanded in 1995, and recruiting an initial force of 500 troops would cost an estimated $25 million. Babcock said Tuesday Canada wouldn’t help pay for a second security force, echoing sentiments of foreign diplomats who told Martelly in October they wouldn’t fund the force ….”  Here’s a bit of what Canada’s done for Haiti’s police force, as well as the official line on our relations with Haiti.
  • Way Up North  More on how expensive it could be to keep troops in the north (again with no disclosure of “obtained” documents).
  • At least one Canadian Press reporter is not personally averse to the idea of sharing documents obtained through Access to Information Act requests, even if his employer doesn’t seem to be using available technology to make that happen yet – one can hope….
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  “U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned the F-35 project will be scrapped if a congressional “super committee” doesn’t come up with a credible plan to reduce the U.S. federal deficit by next week. Opposition parties in Ottawa jumped on the comments Tuesday, accusing the federal government of continuing to bury its head in the sand as the stealth fighter program suffers ever-increasing amounts of turbulence. But the government again stood firm, saying Panetta’s comments were in response to internal U.S. politics while expressing fresh confidence in the controversial military jet being delivered to Canada on time and on budget ….”  More on Canada continuing to stand behind its decision here, and how it could cost way more if the U.S. cancels here.
  • As the nuclear crisis over Iran heats up, Canada is veering toward a dangerous place. Israel is again contemplating a military attack on Iran to prevent its developing atomic weapons. This time it’s not clear that U.S. President Barack Obama can forestall the Jewish state …. In the past, Canada would have happily stayed on the sidelines …. Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however, Canada has taken a more militant approach to international affairs. His support for Israel has been rock-hard. He has also shown himself willing to deploy Canada’s small but effective military in combat operations the government deems politically useful …. In short, both sides now see the nuclear issue as life or death. The question for nations like Canada is not which country we like more but which alternative is worse. Is it better to let Iran follow in the footsteps of the U.S., France, Britain, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea by acquiring nuclear weapons? Or is better to unleash another Mideast war?”
  • A bit of Canadian aviation history will become a bit of a British monument honouring Bomber Command (PDF).  “A Royal Canadian Air Force C-17 Transport (landed) in Lethbridge, Alberta on Remembrance Day to pick up 800 pounds of aluminum that was once part of a wartime RCAF Halifax Bomber. The metal will become part of a £6,000,000 Bomber Command Memorial currently under construction in Green Park, London. The aluminum is being provided by the Bomber Command Museum of Canada to draw attention to the fact that 10,000 of the over 55,000 airmen lost with Bomber Command during World War II were Canadians. Halifax Bomber LW682 was part of 426 “Thunderbird” Squadron RCAF. It was shot down in 1944 and crashed into a swamp in Belgium. The seven Canadians and one Briton aboard were killed. The bodies of three of the Canadian airmen, missing in action and entombed in the Halifax bomber, were recovered in 1997 and given a full military funeral in Gerarrdsbergen, Belgium. The recovered parts of the Halifax were all saved and brought to Canada. Some of the parts were used in the restoration of the Halifax currently on display at Trenton, Ontario. The unusable aluminum was saved due to the rarity and heritage of this RCAF metal and was then melted down into ingots to be used into the future for Air Force Memorials, plaques, and statues by the Bomber Command Museum of Canada ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 28 Oct 11

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  • Libya Mission (1)  U.N. mandate wrapping up end of Hallowe’en Day – Security Council resolution text here NATO defence ministers meeting today to discuss end of mission.
  • Libya Mission (2)  What’s NOT expected:  guerilla fighting“…. Brig.-Gen. Craig King, military operations chief, told MPs on Thursday he does not expect to see an insurgency grow out of the conflict between Col. Gadhafi’s now-defeated forces and the victorious rebels. “In order for an insurgency to exist, you have to have popular support of some kind and it has to be coalesced around some kind of leadership,” Mr. King told the Commons defence committee. “We’re not anticipating that. And, certainly, the former regime has no legitimacy or credibility that would lend itself to an insurgency to which we would have to apply a counter-insurgency.” ….”
  • Libya Mission (3)  Still stuff left to be done, though“Weapons, untrained militias and enshrining women’s rights are key hurdles Libya faces as it transitions towards democracy, MPs were told Thursday. Foreign Affairs bureaucrats and Canadian Forces staff testified before the national defence committee on the situation unfolding in post-Moammar Gadhafi Libya. “Clearly we’re in a period of transition,” said Brig.-Gen. Craig King, highlighting the need for rebel militias spread out across the country to be organized into a cohesive and professional national military ….”  A bit more along these lines here.
  • Libya Mission (4)  CF Info-Machine on CF-18’s dropping first JDAM bombs 3 weeks ago, one sailor’s first ship boarding mission and HMCS Vancouver wrapping up its first patrol.
  • Afghanistan (1)  More from CF Info-Machine on still packing up in Kandahar – not so much yet on the training mission.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Breaking News:  bad guys attack base where Canadians USED TO be (more here) – Taliban claims responsibility (usual caveats about linking to terrorist web pages).
  • Operation JAGUAR in Jamaica:  CF passes 200 mission mark 15 Oct 11 (CF Info-Machine shares the news 27 Oct 11)
  • Mark Collins on “What States Might the (Royal Canadian Navy) Fight?”
  • DRDC Paper (PDF):  How best to patrol the Gulf of Aden to hunt for pirates – abstract and executive summary downloadable here.
  • CBC:  Canada eyeing nuke subs?  “CBC News has learned the Harper government is considering buying nuclear submarines to replace its problem-plagued fleet of diesel-powered subs, all of which are currently awash in red ink and out of service for major repairs …. High-ranking sources tell CBC News the government is actively considering cutting its losses on the dud subs, and mothballing some if not all of them. Defence Minister Peter MacKay is hinting they might be replaced with nuclear submarines that could patrol under the Arctic ice, something the existing diesel-electric subs cannot do. Outside the Commons this week, MacKay told CBC the government is anxious to have its submarine fleet fully operational as soon as possible, providing a “very important capability for the Canadian Forces.” But asked whether the government might look at other subs, MacKay said: “Well there was a position taken some time ago to go with diesel-electric. “But you know, in an ideal world, I know nuclear subs are what’s needed under deep water, deep ice.” ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  NDP presses government during Question Period on buying into U.S. satellite comms system that may have some problems.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  Unnamed insider says project’s “a mess”.  “The Conservative government’s controversial F-35 jet fighter project, plagued by delays, cost overruns and now economic turmoil in Europe, is at growing risk of being sharply curtailed or shelved — the defence minister’s protestations notwithstanding. “It just seems like it’s slowly unravelling,” said an industry insider who specializes in aircraft procurement. “It’s a mess.” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Underwhelming news from the U.S. on the planes.
  • Whazzup with the meetings of the House of Commons committee on veterans’ affairs?  “Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.):  Mr. Speaker, my question is not to the minister but to the chair of the veterans affairs committee. Public hearings about the cuts at the Veterans Affairs Department were terminated today, cancelled without hearing from one veteran, the ombudsman, and not even the Royal Canadian Legion. Veterans fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice for the right and freedom to be heard, and to be heard in public. Secret meetings to avoid accountability are anti-democratic and a slap in the face to veterans. Why the secrecy?  Mr. Greg Kerr (West Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I know a chair must be fair and neutral, but the bizarre behaviour of this member forces me to answer with what he has been trying to do in the last number of days. Our committee has been looking very carefully at the accusations he made about great cutbacks and loss of opportunity for veterans. That was proven by the witnesses to be absolutely wrong. Our government has made major commitments to veterans and will continue to do so because it is so important. The fact that the member continues to disrupt the committee is something he has to look within himself for. The committee membership—“

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 13 Oct 11

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  • What’s Canada (Not) Buying?  An answer from DND regarding the cancellation of the process to replace the Canadian Ranger Rifle and General Service Pistol:  the process apparently needs more work.  “The DND Small Arms Modernization (SAM) Project Management Office (PMO) requested that Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) cancel both the (General Service Pistol) and the (New Canadian Ranger Rifle) Price and Availability (P&A) requests on MERX as a result of questions, and requests for clarification, from industry. The feedback from industry brought the DND SAM PMO to re-evaluate its procurement strategy. The DND SAM PMO is now focusing efforts on clarifying the procurement strategy for the GSP and NCRR with the intent to facilitate future communication with industry. The comments and observations received from industry in response to the P&A requests will be considered when the final requirements are written. The replacement of the GSP and NCRR remain a priority for DND. The next step of the project will be to obtain Preliminary Project Approval (PPA). No additional solicitations will be posted on MERX until after PPA is obtained and an approved procurement strategy is in place ….”  Full response (2 page PDF) here – you read it here first!
  • Afghanistan  Medical trainers among the training teams.  “Operation ATTENTION began in April 2011 with the arrival in the Kabul area of the first of some 950 Canadian Forces members who will deploy with the Canadian Contingent Training Mission–Afghanistan, Canada’s contribution to the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan. Their mission is to work with the training cadre of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to build a force capable of meeting Afghanistan’s security needs after 2014. In July 2011, a group of Canadian Forces health-care providers deployed on Op ATTENTION with a Training Development Officer to serve as advisor-mentors to their Afghan counterparts at the Armed Forces Academy of Medical Sciences (AFAMS) in Kabul ….”
  • CBC sends reporter to see what’s happening in Jamaica with Operation Jaguar.  “For over four decades, Canada trained the helicopter pilots and mechanics of the Jamaica Defence Force. But last year, Jamaica decided to bring home the training and do all the work itself. However, its mechanics couldn’t keep up with the demand and after a while the Jamaicans found themselves in the very uncomfortable position of not having enough working helicopters, meaning no way to conduct high-stakes rescues and medical evacuations. With a very bad hurricane season predicted, officials there were worried. So they called up Canada and asked if we could send down some of our world-class search and rescue crews. Canada agreed and, in mid-August, sent along three Griffon helicopters and 65 Canadian Forces personnel — only the second time in history that Canada’s search and rescue teams have been deployed in another country ….”  CBC coverage of Canada’s training mission in Afghanistan?  Not so much lately….
  • Just because the combat mission in Afghanistan is over doesn’t mean the training stops for thousands of Canadian soldiers who are involved a record-setting exercise operation in this east-central Alberta military base. Roughly 3,000 troops from the Petawawa-based 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group are involved in a month-long training operation dubbed Exercise Maple Resolve at the base roughly 230 km east of Edmonton. Colonel Lowell Thomas, commander of Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre based in CFB Wainwright, said training is no longer focused on efforts in Afghanistan. “We’ve now moved to train troops for operations anywhere in the world, in any type of operation as well,” said Thomas. The month-long operation is the largest undertaking for the training command centre, which has been based at CFB Wainwright since 2004 ….”
  • The Royal Canadian Legion says veterans’ programs should be protected from proposed government spending cuts. Legion president Pat Varga says the government has a moral debt to veterans and should exempt their benefits from the cuts. The government has asked all departments to offer budget cuts of five per cent and 10 per cent in a major spending review. The proposals are being studied by the cabinet. But Varga says any programs, services or benefits for vets should be exempt both from the review and any eventual spending reductions ….”
  • HMCS Ottawa back home on the west coast after “a four and a half month operational deployment and goodwill tour in the Asia Pacific region” – welcome home!
  • What one columnist says came out of the Toronto Maple Leafs spending three days practicing at the arena at CFB Trenton this week
  • Way Up North  Mark Collins on “One Less Threat to Our “Arctic Sovereignty” “
  • Here’s something to be careful about with the impending “perimeter security” deal between Canada and the U.S.  “…. If the new $1-billion perimeter security deal, dubbed Beyond the Border, is an example of big-picture thinking, then its reception may have got fuzzy for many Canadians. Proponents have praised the deal’s measures to reduce cross-border red tape, expand border infrastructure and generally speed up bilateral trade. However, other U.S. actions, such as musings about possibly levying new tariffs on rail cargo from Canadian ports or passing legislation saddling non-U.S. banks with costs associated with new tax reporting requirements for non-resident U.S. citizens, have raised fears our largest trading partner is increasingly retreating behind protectionist and isolationist walls ….”
  • Amnesty International wants Canada to arrest former U.S. President George W. Bush while he’s here for an economic summit later this month – more here, here and here Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight….
  • A bit of government money ($39,980) for an exhibit about a Canadian General.  “The Museum Strathroy-Caradoc will be able to share the story of General Sir Arthur Currie with Canadians, thanks to an investment from the Government of Canada. This was announced today by Bev Shipley, Member of Parliament (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex), on behalf of the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. The Museum will create, present, and circulate a travelling exhibition about the life and career of Strathroy native General Sir Arthur Currie. This project will trace Currie’s journey to become Canada’s top military leader during World War I and the first Canadian to attain the rank of full general ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 23 Sept 11

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  • Afghanistan (1a)  Why is at least one media outlet surprised that Canadian troops remain in danger even if they’re training Afghan troops?  “Canadian military trainers helped defend a NATO compound in Kabul last week when Taliban insurgents launched a dramatic attack against the U.S. Embassy and surrounding neighbourhood that killed 16 Afghans and wounded dozens more. This revelation, combined with assertions from a senior military official on Thursday that the Canadian Forces considers the Afghan capital an “extremely violent” environment, has raised fresh questions about the risks Canadian soldiers are facing in what was originally billed a low-risk, “behind the wire” training mission. According to a Defence Department spokesman, a small number of Canadian soldiers tasked with training Afghan counterparts were arriving at NATO headquarters in Kabul when the camp was attacked by insurgents. Capt. Mark Peebles said that during the ensuing battle, the Canadians helped Afghan security personnel and other NATO forces beat back the attack, including returning fire against insurgents in a building located nearby …. ”  Re:  the bit in red above, I guess this outlet missed the PM’s warnings from April of this year here, here and here.
  • Afghanistan (1b)  I guess there were no reporters with said Canadian troops fighting in Kabul during the attack in question.  Meanwhile, here’s what the CF InfoMachine is sharing with the public right now.
  • MacKay’s Helicopter Ride (1)  The latest“Defence Minister Peter MacKay used one of only three search-and-rescue helicopters available in Newfoundland to transport him from a vacation spot last year, CTV News has learned. MacKay was picked up at a private salmon fishing lodge along the Gander River last July by a Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopter. Military sources said the order to collect MacKay came from the defence minister’s own office. “This is not a common practice . . . this is the only time a search-and-rescue asset was used as shuttle service,” a source told CTV News. The Department of National Defence has three Cormorant helicopters based out of Gander, N.L., which are expected to cover a massive region of eastern Canada 24 hours a day. According to the National Defence website: “9 Wing Gander is responsible for providing search and rescue services throughout Newfoundland and Labrador as well as northeastern Quebec,” which the military calls “one of the busiest search and rescue regions in Canada.” MacKay’s office defended the move, saying it was an opportunity for the defence minister to see the helicopters’ search-and-rescue abilities up close. “After cancelling previous efforts to demonstrate their search-and-rescue capabilities to Minister MacKay over the course of three years, the opportunity for a simulated search and rescue exercise finally presented itself in July of 2010,” a statement from MacKay’s office said. “As such, Minister MacKay cut his personal trip to the area short to participate in this Cormorant exercise.” However, military sources say no search-and-rescue demonstration was planned until the very day MacKay’s office made the request to pick him up ….”
  • MacKay’s Helicopter Ride (2a)  “Defence Minister Peter MacKay defended his use of a federal military search and rescue helicopter, saying it was for work, rather than for personal use while vacationing in central Newfoundland. Speaking during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday, MacKay said that he was on one of the three military choppers based in Gander, central Newfoundland, during the summer of 2010 but it was for work, not pleasure.. “I was in fact in Gander in July of 2010 on a personal visit with friends that I paid for. Three days into the visit I participated in a search and rescue demonstration with 103 squadron 9 Wing Gander. I shortened my stay by a day to take part in that demonstration,” he said ….”  More on this here and here.
  • MacKay’s Helicopter Ride (2b)  MacKay’s set of answers in Question Period yesterday“Mr. Speaker, with respect to the question from the hon. member, I was in fact in Gander in July of 2010, on a personal visit with friends for which I paid. Three days into the visit I participated in a search and rescue demonstration with 103 Squadron of 9 Wing Gander. I shortened my stay by a day to take part in that demonstration and later flew on to do government business in Ontario …. I think I just explained that I shortened a personal visit to take part in a search and rescue demonstration in Gander.  Had any emergency requirement arisen that would have required search and rescue assets, they would have of course been immediately diverted.  As the member would know, having participated in the parliamentary program with the Canadian Forces, members of Parliament, in fact 20 including himself, took part in search and rescue activities in the past. I am very proud of the work of the Canadian Forces, particularly those who take part in search and rescue.  Canada has a rescue area of responsibility of over 18 million square kilometres of land and sea, the size of continental Europe. Our Canadian Forces and Coast Guard partners respond to more than 8,000 incidents every year, tasking military aircraft for over 1,100 cases, and in fact save on average 1,200 lives each and every year.  I think that as Minister of National Defence I should familiarize myself at every opportunity with the important work of those who perform these daily heroics …. I am very proud of the work of the Canadian Forces. I have observed the work they do in Operation Nanook in the Arctic. I have observed search and rescue activities. I have observed live fire operations, as have members of the opposition who take part in the parliamentary Canadian Forces program.  I can confirm that all government departments are looking at their departments for efficiencies, as Canadians would expect them to do, as Canadians and businesses themselves are doing …. the parliamentary program put on by the Canadian Forces every year has the enthusiastic participation of members of Parliament, including members of the opposition.  I note that the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue took part this year in the program that was put on by the air force. I suspect she may have availed herself of a Canadian Forces asset at that time.  This is a great opportunity for members of Parliament to see first-hand the important, critical, life-saving work that the men and women in uniform perform each and every day on behalf of our country.”
  • MORE on use of Military Planes!  A retired major general and an Ontario Conservative MP successfully lobbied National Defence last year for the use of a C-17 heavy-lift transport plane to move a donated fire truck to the Dominican Republic over the objections of the air force. Both Defence Minister Peter MacKay and the country’s top military commander, Gen. Walt Natynczyk, signed off on the charity request, even though senior staff warned most transport flights were stuffed full with war supplies for Afghanistan and no training flights were slated to go the Caribbean resort island. Critics said Thursday that it adds to the growing list of questions about the use of government aircraft, including revelations that MacKay was picked up by a search and rescue helicopter following a vacation. In objecting to the charity request, air force planners noted there are exceptions that allow for specific aid flights. “The airlift of a fire truck to the Dominican Republic does not fit the definition of a humanitarian effort as there is no immediate life-saving or relief of suffering attributable to its provision,” said a Nov. 19, 2009 briefing note prepared for Natynczyk, obtained by The Canadian Press. The report went on to say that the Defence Department had to be careful not to set a precedent ….”
  • No signs in the window on Parliament Hill for YOU!  “Ottawa-Orleans Conservative MP Royal Galipeau says he was told take down two “Support Our Troops” stickers from the windows of his Parliament Hill office. Galipeau says he removed the large ribbon-shaped decals on instructions from Conservative Whip Gordon O’Connor, the former defence minister who was once a brigadier-general in the Canadian Forces. Galipeau complied with the order and instead hung up a flag with the same Support Our Troops logo, just inside his office but clearly visible through the window. “I’m still making my statement,” Galipeau said on his way into the House of Commons on Wednesday. His riding is known to some as CFB Orleans because of the large number of military personnel living there. But on Thursday, Galipeau wouldn’t comment further and complained that the Ottawa Citizen didn’t run a letter he wrote in response to an earlier story about the stickers. He hung up when asked on the phone for more information. A spokesperson for O’Connor said the message behind the stickers was not the problem. “A memo was sent to all Conservative MPs in August reminding them that no signs, regardless of message, are permitted to be displayed in the windows of their parliamentary office,” Andrea Walasek said in an email ….”
  • Some of what the CDS has to say about Canada’s Reserves (via Milnet.ca):  “…. My vision for the Primary Reserve is a force that consists of predominately part-time professional CF members, located throughout Canada, ready with reasonable notice to conduct or contribute to domestic and international operations to safeguard the defence and security of Canada. This force is fully integrated into the CF chain of command …. To support my vision, I will communicate more specific guidance in the future outlining the strategic environment, policy, management, and employment principles concerning the P RES. We will continue to develop relevant and sustainable missions and tasks which reflect the reserve culture in which the majority of pres members serve part-time as an integral part of the CF. As a priority, I will strive to align programs and benefits so that they effectively support all CF members ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  “Liberal inquiry to DND inadvertently sheds light on F-35 procurement – more here from Mark Collins on (alleged?) transparency in the process.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  What Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino had to say during Question Period yesterday:   “Mr. Frank Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has been caught, yet again, unable to justify sole sourcing its contract for new jet fighters. Despite repeated assertions that Canada needs a fifth generation fighter and that the F-35 is the only jet to meet those specifications, the government did not bother waiting to review complete F-18 Super Hornet specs. Fifth generation is merely a U.S. trademark of Lockheed Martin, not a guarantee of suitability. Why will the Conservative government not serve both our forces and taxpayers by holding an open competition for the best fighter jet?  Hon. Julian Fantino (Associate Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, in 2001 Canada participated in the extensive and rigorous U.S.-led competition process where the two bidders developed and completed prototype aircraft. Partner nations were engaged during the competitive process. This led to the selection of Lockheed Martin as its partner at the joint strike fighter manufacturing of our F-35.  Hon. John McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, for months now the government has been saying that the price per plane for the F-35 is $75 million. In light of statements made yesterday, the cost must have gone up to at least $125 million per plane. This leaves less than $1 billion for engines, spare parts, training, maintenance, initial suite of weapons, and everything else. The numbers just do not add up. In light of these new figures, would the Minister of National Defence now agree that the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Congressional budget officer were right all along?  Hon. Julian Fantino (Associate Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Canada needs military aircraft in order to protect our sovereignty. The current CF-18s must be replaced. We have budgeted $9 billion to purchase F-35s. Let me be clear. In the last election, Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to ensure that the brave men and women of the Canadian armed forces have the tools they need to do their job, and come home safe and sound at the end of their ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  The bidding process for a controversial billion dollar relocation contract for Canada’s military, RCMP and federal employees wasn’t perfect, but it was fair, a lawyer representing the government told an Ottawa judge Thursday. Derek Rasmussen said allegations by Envoy Relocation Services that senior officials in Public Works had a conflict of interest and rigged the competition so Royal LePage Relocation Services would twice be awarded the contract in 2002 and 2004 were not supported by the evidence. There was also a question as to whether Envoy’s bid was adequate to handle the massive contract that involved the coast-to-coast management of relocating Canada’s federal employees, Rasmussen suggested. Envoy’s allegations that senior officials involved in the procurement process accepted gifts and hospitality from Royal LePage and were therefore biased were unsubstantiated, Rasmussen said ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  Wanted:  training ammo to train Jamaican counter-terrorist forces (more details in extract from bid documents here (6 page PDF)) and lots of “leather, cattlehide”.
  • What’s Canada Buying:  Big Honkin’ Ships  “On a billboard one block south of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, amidst a row of trendy bars and coffee shops, a hand holds up a dime with the caption Ships Start Here. But the ad for Halifax’s bid for national shipbuilding contracts, paid for by the Irvings themselves, is an anomaly. The real public relations war is taking place thousands of kilometres away. Many shipbuilding watchers agree the Ships Start Here campaign is not about convincing Ottawa power brokers but leveraging as much political capital as Nova Scotia can muster. On first blush, the lobbying campaign makes little sense. The federal government has promised the $35 billion in contracts will be awarded purely on merit. A committee of top bureaucrats will make the call. Consultants from Knowles Consultancy Services and Hill International have been brought in to ensure there is no political interference. When Premier Darrell Dexter travelled to Ottawa, he couldn’t even speak to the committee without independent watchdogs watching from the corner. But few insiders seem to buy it. Of about a dozen MPs, political staffers and industry watchers contacted by The Chronicle Herald, only the Tories expressed confidence that politics will not be a factor ….”
  • Brazil’s military is hoping to soak up some “how to secure big events” expertise from the Canadian Forces (via the Army News InfoMachine).
  • Canada is among the founding members of a new international organization dedicated to fighting terrorism, announced Thursday. The new group will become “a counterterrorism network that is as nimble and adaptive as our adversaries,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the inaugural meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. “Let us pledge to learn as much as we can from one another.” Canada is a founding member of the group, whose 30 members include Britain, China, the European Union, Japan, Australia, developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as leading Muslim nations including Egypt, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The U.S. and Turkey will co-chair the group. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney welcomed the initiative, noting a good friend in Pakistan was assassinated by extremists. Over the last few years, he’s met twice with Pakistan’s prime minister on the subject and in those conversations, Kenney said he expressed a desire for support from countries like Canada ….”
  • The public face of the Milice patriotique québécoise said Tuesday “everything we do is 100 per cent legal.”  The self-styled militia favours Quebec political independence, provides firearms training at gun clubs and recruits using social media. “If we were doing anything even faintly criminal or wrong, we would have been arrested long ago,” Serge Provost said. “We’re not hiding anything.” Provost said the 10-year-old group has about 800 active members and has been growing. The Sûreté du Québec refused to say whether it is probing the group’s activities. “We can’t confirm whether or not an investigation into this group is under way,” SQ Sgt. Ronald McInnis said. Montreal police referred all queries to the SQ. “I’m sure we are under surveillance pretty well 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” said Provost, a 42-year-old carpenter. “If we do something wrong, we’re dead.” The group has grown by “between 75 and 100″ during the past year, Provost said, and its Facebook site lists 728 friends ….”  Meanwhile, in the opinion pages, “…. It is not surprising that the shop Mr. Provost opened last November in east-end Montreal to sell militia-related gear has been refused a licence to sell firearms. Instead there are boots, balaclavas, radical books and paintball rifles. On an online message board run by the militia, one participant offered a bulletproof vest for sale. When another participant noted that the “problem with the vest is it offers no protection to the neck,” he received the message, “Thank you for your advice, patriot” from a militia member. Mr. Provost told the Journal de Montréal this week that he is “proud not to receive any subsidies,” although it is hard to imagine under what program the militia would qualify for aid. In addition to charging members a $100 membership fee, the militia makes ends meet by running a garbage recycling business, MPQ Recyclage. In June, Mr. Provost issued an appeal on Facebook for the donation of a used pickup truck to collect recyclables. “The vehicle … will serve the national defence as part of our logistics unit when operations require,” he wrote.”
  • What’s Canada’s Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney doing about homeless vets in the streets?  This from Question Period yesterday:  “Mr. Speaker, not only are we working with our partners, but we are taking decisive action to reduce homelessness in our country and among veterans. That is why we have established outreach initiatives in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to provide assistance to homeless veterans, and also in all our district offices. I was in Toronto this summer and I could see the action of the Good Shepherd Ministries on the ground in downtown Toronto, and of our officials working hand in hand in the refuge with those people. We are helping our veterans to transition to civilian life in a seamless manner and we will keep up that work.”
  • Billy Bishop – please, step aside. Canada’s most celebrated fighter pilot is about to share the podium with another, much less heralded First World War hero – Lieutenant-Colonel William G. Barker, VC. According to the wording on a plaque being unveiled Thursday in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery, it is Mr. Barker, not Mr. Bishop, who stands as “most decorated war hero in the history of Canada, the British Empire, and the Commonwealth of Nations.” ….”  More from the CF InfoMachine here.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 30 Aug 11

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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 20 Aug 11

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  • Report leaked to CBC:  CF way too top heavy“A major report from National Defence has identified ways to save the department $1 billion a year and calls for “dramatic changes” so the military can meet its future obligations. Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie led a “transformation team” at the request of Defence Minister Peter MacKay that spent nearly a year studying ways to overhaul the Canadian Forces and Department of National Defence to find efficiencies. The group’s Report on Transformation 2011 was completed in July but not made public. A copy of the report was obtained by CBC News. The report says that for the military to meet the demands upon it, while living within its means and with balanced books, it has to carefully reallocate its resources. Leslie calls for cuts to the bureaucratic side of the military’s operations, including the possible elimination of thousands of jobs so that the people on the front lines have the support and equipment they need ….”
  • Report leaked to Postmedia News:  CF way too top heavy“Bureaucrats tried to stymie a report by Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie that calls for deep cuts to civilian ranks at National Defence Headquarters, interfering in his study months before his still secret transformation document was finished. “The team was directed to stop further work on the civilian structures in late November,” says the report, parts of which were shared with Postmedia News on Friday. Leslie was named Chief of Transformation in June 2010, after finishing his term as chief of land staff. Assisted by a team of military and civilian staff, he spent the last year authoring a report on how to make the Canadian Forces a leaner, meaner and more cost-effective organization. But he began encountering resistance some six months before the tough report was finished. Leslie writes that his team had only examined the top two layers of the civilian bureaucracy — the deputy minister and assistant deputy ministers — before the order to halt was given in November. The report does not specify who gave the order to stop examining the civilian side of the department ….”
  • Way Up North (1)  APTN on Hornets over the North for OP Nanook 2011
  • Way Up North (2)  Good point, Your Worship.  Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern has two Twitter accounts on which she chronicles the ups and downs of the Nunavut capital. On the plus side of her online ledger is the recent catch of a 70-tonne bowhead whale by local hunters and the first visit north by Governor-General David Johnston. On the other side are the territory’s lamentable schooling levels and a stream of suicides, including a young man who took his life just days after his girlfriend killed herself. Arctic sovereignty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s annual summer visit to the north next week falls somewhere in between, with a lot of hope and hype about asserting Canadian control across the tundra. The everyday benefits for northerners are less apparent. “It is important that as Canadians we definitely support the federal government’s positions and initiatives to assert its sovereignty,” Redfern told the Star. “But (we) have some of the world’s highest suicide rates, high levels of teenage pregnancy, low graduation rates.” How, she asks, can Canada claim to be master of this vast land when so many basic services crucial to the well-being of northerners are absent? ….”
  • People living near the Canada-U.S. border worry about crime, smuggling in their back yard.  “Three hours from Parliament Hill via the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve, this pastoral corner of Quebec is descending into a version of northwest Pakistan, with tribal outlaws and mobsters controlling much of this remote borderland in defiance of the central authority. If you think that is melodramatic, consider this: On a recent visit by federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to listen to the fears of property owners about tobacco and drug smugglers hijacking the St. Lawrence River farming and cottage communities of southwest Quebec, the talk turned to shotguns, self-defence and possibly closing the international border crossing upriver at Cornwall altogether. “We’re changing the laws on self-defence and your right to protect your property,” Toews told the gathering. “I’m not advocating that people use (guns) but if there’s a legitimate …” The small group of summer cottagers, farmers and others gathered around him nodded approvingly ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 11 Aug 11

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  • Canadian military helicopters, support staff headed to Jamaica to help out in case of hurricanes.  Dozens of Canadian troops are heading to the Caribbean this week to assist the Jamaican military with medevacs and search and rescue during the region’s annual hurricane season, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced Wednesday in Trenton, Ont. As part of Operation Jaguar, which could last until the end of November, Canada will deploy three CH-146 Griffon helicopters as well as 65 Canadian Forces personnel from Canadian Forces bases in Goose Bay, N.L., Bagotville, Que., and Trenton ….” - more on OP Jaguar here (CF Info-Machine version), here, here, here, here and here.
  • Helping out Colombia.Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced Canadian support for new and ongoing projects that will enhance peace, security and justice in Colombia and the region. Areas of focus include preventing conflict, combating transnational criminal activity, facilitating access to justice, responding to the global threat of terrorism, ensuring security at major events and land restitution. The announcement was made during an official visit with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos ….” – more in backgrounder here.
  • Boss of CFB Trenton on to other tasks“The current commanding officer here has always been proud to call the air base his home.  He helped heal it. He helped put it on the global map.  Taking the lead of the largest and busiest air force base in the country 18 months ago, outgoing commanding officer Col. Dave Cochrane helped launch Canada’s new emergency response mission Op Jaguar along with minister of National Defence Peter MacKay Wednesday morning – a day before relinquishing his command to Col. Sean Friday.  “Since taking command last February we have done continuous operations,” said Cochrane. “It is because of efforts like Op Hestia in Haiti, our support to the Vancouver Olympic Games, the ongoing support to Afghanistan, and most recently our response to the wild fires in Northern Ontario where thousand of residents were evacuated that our emergency response units and personnel here at 8 Wing that I am proud to call this wing home and being its commander.” …. “It’s been truly amazing,” said the commanding officer, who will proceed on the advanced training list to attend the Defence and Strategic Studies Course – a top level curriculum for senior military officers and government officials engaged in national security issues – at the Australian Defence College later this year ….”
  • Letter writer doesn’t seem to get it.  1)  Writer worried about brutality of Canada’s military police after the Provost Marshal’s annual report says there’s been more investigations of sexual assault, assault and death.  2)  CF Provost Marshal writes back saying:  “These are complaints investigated by or reported to Military Police; the way the letter is written would suggest that these complaints were against the Military Police. This is clearly wrong.”  3)  Original letter writer:  “I am still unclear though as to who committed more than 700 alleged crimes, in 2010, that Grubb stated in the press that he himself was concerned about.” >>insert banging head on wall smiley here<<
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Boots, first for “user acceptance trials”, then loads if OK – more here in part of bid document (PDF).
  • Editorial on need for more help for homeless vets“…. as important as it is to find and fund a solution, correctly identifying the problem is just as crucial.  For the most part, we don’t even know who these veterans are and how they ended up on our streets. Scant research has been done in this country. But a recent study by Susan Ray and Cheryl Forchuk, two nursing professors at the University of Western Ontario, challenges the assumption that these veterans are down and out because they suffer from addictions or mental health problems that can be traced back to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Few among the dozens of homeless vets they interviewed had ever been deployed overseas. Their average age was 52 and it often took a decade or more after their release from the Forces before they ended up on the street. Many said they learned to drink while in the military and that alcoholism helped drive them to ruin.  What this points to, according to the Western Ontario researchers, is that Veterans Affairs is having some success in identifying and assisting veterans with PTSD. Primarily, those falling through the cracks in Canada seem to be a different group who have trouble making the transition to civilian life — from a highly structured environment to one with much more freedom to make choices …. the phenomenon might be more complex than we imagine and that we need harder data if we are to respond effectively and proactively over the long term ….”
  • Libya Mission  Some of what HMCS Charlottetown was up to. “…. The ship’s superior combat co-ordination and communications systems led to its periodic assignment as Surface Action Group Commander, in which Charlottetown directed the tactical employment of allied warships and maritime patrol aircraft in the area while co-ordinating patrol areas and alert levels for shipborne helicopters. These same capabilities, summarized under the rubric “C4ISR” — standing for the command, control, communications, computing, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems — allowed the ship’s combat control centre to alert NATO to a major offensive on April 26 against Misrata by Gadhafi forces. Working with NATO air controllers, Charlottetown’s operations staff assisted with the co-ordination of air strikes that blunted the attack and eliminated several dozen assault vehicles, artillery pieces and a main battle tank. The ship had repeat performances on May 8 and 24. This Canadian frigate is responsible for saving Libyan lives and preventing Libyan military offensives against the residents of Misrata — big achievements for one ship of Canada’s navy.”
  • Afghanistan  Macleans before-and-after in Kandahar. “…. In the weeks and months of the transition from Canadian to American control, much has changed in Kandahar. The heavy hand of the American war machine has devastated the lives of many villagers. In the Arghandab valley, one elder tells Maclean’s that before the Americans came, there was peace. “Sure, the Taliban were in control,” says the 80-year-old Haji Abdul Jabar, “but they never bothered us. They treated us with respect. Now the Americans have come and they are destroying our gardens with their tanks. When they patrol the village they trample over our irrigation canals. And now war has come. Wherever the Americans go, war follows them.” ….”
  • PM’s got a new (acting) foreign & security advisor“Prime Minister Stephen Harper has brought in Christine Hogan as his acting foreign and defence policy adviser to replace Claude Carrière, who moved out of the position last month to become associate deputy minister at Agriculture Canada. Ms. Hogan, who is usually the assistant secretary to the Cabinet, foreign and defence policy, stepped into the key role temporarily after the departure of Mr. Carrière on July 11. A permanent replacement has yet to be named and the PCO has been tight-lipped on when that would happen, but former diplomats say that the next person to step into the role must be knowledgeable, well-connected, and experienced ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  The good news:  American F-35’s back at work.  The bad news:  not flying yet, though.
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