News Highlights – 7 Apr 11

  • Libya Ops – Canada has boosted the number of personnel involved in the NATO-led mission in Libya by nearly 200, the military said Wednesday. There are now 570 Canadian army and navy personnel taking part in international efforts to crack down on Libyan despot Moammar Gaddafi. That’s compared to the 380 personnel originally posted when Canada joined the mission in March. Brig.-Gen Richard Blanchette made the comments during a media briefing on the mission. He also said Canadian CF-18 fighter jets had been on 14 flights since last week, targeting a number of ammunitions depots and military bunkers in Libya ….” More in the CF Backgrounder on the operation here.
  • Is Canada’s Navy considering centralizing its HQ in Halifax? Not according to British Columbia’s Premier. More here.
  • Hesco barriers to the rescue against flooding in Manitoba. “A new technology is being used for the first time in Manitoba’s flood fight. Crews put up a Hesco Bastion along River Road in the Rural Municipality of St. Andrews, just north of Winnipeg, on Wednesday. The one-metre-square wire cages can be unfolded and quickly filled with dirt or mud. They can also be linked for a long row that can be set up far quicker than it takes to sling sandbags. The dike along River Road, more than 300 metres long, will provide protection to several homes and can be built in a day ….”
  • Lt. Vanessa Harmon wraps a scarf around her head and atop her tan battle fatigues when attending shura meetings with Afghan elders and government officials, but not because she is required to. “It makes things easier,” is the Canadian officer’s brief explanation. Head scarves have recently become a controversial subject in the U.S. military, after a request last month by Central Command that its female soldiers in Afghanistan wear hijabs, or head coverings, in order to encourage better relations with the local population by demonstrating cultural sensitivity. Many critics in the U.S. have interpreted the CENTCOM request as being tantamount to an order. Such encouragement would appear to contradict the spirit of a law passed by Congress in 2002 banning the wearing of Muslim head garb by U.S. soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia. There is no such expectation in the Canadian military, according to Brig.- Gen. Dean Milner, who commands Task Force Kandahar. “We haven’t changed our standards. Our women are soldiers,” Milner said. The few Canadian female soldiers who wear head coverings in Afghanistan have been allowed to do so, but as a matter of choice, not because of an order or a request ….”
  • Election 2011 – It’s amazing that we’re fighting two wars during an election campaign and nobody is talking about them as issues. People might just be tired of Afghanistan. Our troops have been fighting for nine years. We’re stepping back, sort of, this year. Still, it’s not clear how many Canadians will stay in the conflict, or whether anything lasting has been accomplished. Those should be campaign issues. Libya is brand new. Canada signed on to a military mission there March 19, just before the election campaign started. That should be a big decision. As citizens, we bear responsibility for government actions. And going to war should bring the greatest responsibility ….”
  • Former CF Ombudsman goes political. “The first commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan says the country’s current democratic system is not working and needs an overhaul of the kind now taking place in the Arab world. Retired colonel Pat Stogran is urging young Canadians to get involved in the political process and engineer change from the ground up. “Canadians are sick of our democracy,” said Stogran, who launched a strident campaign protesting government treatment of former soldiers after his contract as veterans ombudsman wasn’t renewed. “Canadians call for change at every one of the elections. Yet Canadians keep doing the same old thing. “They keep voting for one side or the other, knowing full well that after all the promises are made and the votes are cast, whoever gets in there is going to get into crisis management and go from one flavour to the next to stay in power.” Stogran said the country needs parties with long-term vision, “grassroots movements like we saw in Cairo and Tunisia and Libya.” He has signed on with the fledgling Progressive Canadian party as an adviser on veterans affairs ….”

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