News Highlights – 31 May 11

  • Karl Manning, 5 RALC, R.I.P.:  Arriving at CFB Trenton this afternoon – more here and here.
  • Meanwhile, Manning’s parents are having a hard time believing what happened French version, Google English translation.
  • Remembering the fallen through art. “For one parent it meant staring into the eyes of a son lost too soon. For another, it was a chance to honour the daughter who was taken too early. Canadians across the country will get a chance to see for themselves a hand-painted mural of the 156 members of the Canadian Forces who lost their lives as part of the mission to Afghanistan. The Portraits of Honour, created by artist Dave Sopha, is to be unveiled in Trenton, Ont., on Tuesday and will travel from coast to coast to give Canadians a chance to honour those who gave their lives to better those of others. The oil-painted mural stretches three metres by 10 metres and features the faces of every Forces member who has died as part of the Afghan mission. Sopha used photographs and advice from family members to make each face an honest depiction of the person. “Each one takes me about 80 hours and I become almost like their best friend,” Sopha said in an interview. “I sit there and talk to them and work on them all day and all night.” He has spent more than 6,500 hours on the mural but says his work won’t be complete until Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan comes to a close in July ….”
  • Kevin Megeney, 1982-2007, R.I.P.:  Latest Court Martial of man accused of shooting delayed until August. – more here.
  • Afghanistan (1):  The PM drops by as the combat mission wraps up.
  • Afghanistan (2):  The PM reminds us it’s still dangerous…. “The first significant wave of Canadian troops destined to train Afghan security forces arrived on the ground Monday, marking the beginning of a major shift in Ottawa’s contribution to the war-ravaged nation. The announcement was tucked into Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s farewell tour of Kandahar. Instability reigns in many parts of Afghanistan and it was brutally driven home over the weekend in a deadly Taliban attack in the northern part of the country. “Obviously in every part of Afghanistan, dangers exist. We’re about this,” said Harper, who emphasized Canadian advisers and trainers will work in classrooms behind the wire, not on the front lines ….”
  • Afghanistan (3):  …. while mentioning the BIG danger seems to be gone.  “…. As Canadian troops prepare to pivot, moving from a combat role to a training role in two months, the Prime Minister all but declared victory for this mission, both in front of some 500 soldiers at New Canada House, but more passionately to reporters afterward. “We have to look at this mission as a great success,’’ Harper said. Canadians took on the toughest province in Afghanistan, he said. But the success was much greater than that, he added. “The world came to Afghanistan because Afghanistan had become such a terrible and brutal place — it had become a threat to the entire world. “Whatever the challenges and troubles that remain, Afghanistan is no longer a threat to the world. “This country does not represent a geostrategic to the world. It is no longer a source of global terrorism.’’ ….”  More of that messaging here, here and here.
  • Afghanistan (4):  “After four volunteers were murdered by the Taliban for participating in a $60-million Canadian-funded project to eradicate polio in Afghanistan, Rahmattulah Bashardost continued to help distribute vaccine to more than 350,000 Kandahari children because, he said, it was the right thing to do. “The Taliban threatened to kill me if I did not quit this job, but what else can we do?” Bashardost asked. “We must support our people and our country. “Doing this in Kandahar is a hard thing because the roads are so often blocked by the Taliban, by Afghan security forces or by (NATO’s) International Security Assistance Force. To stop polio you have to pay attention, road by road, street by street even if in some villages the elders do not cooperate.” Bashardost and several dozen of the 8,000 anti-polio campaign volunteers in Kandahar were honoured Thursday with commemorative plaques by Canada and the provincial government in a ceremony at the governor’s palace ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  Not one, but two choppers allegedly shot down in Zabul.
  • One in four Canadian soldiers returning from Afghanistan is suffering from mental problems or “high-risk drinking,” according to post-deployment screening reports obtained by The Globe and Mail under access to information. In the past decade, as Canadian Forces were called on to undertake perilous new missions, the military has struggled to understand the scope of mental-health problems among troops. The first comprehensive study of front-line soldiers based on their actual medical history is still under way, leaving questions about stress disorders to self-reporting surveys. The latest survey, completed last June, covered more than 17,000 soldiers returning from all regions of Afghanistan since 2005. It found that while most “report good mental health,” there was “an important minority” of 12 per cent who had one or more mental-health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. In addition, “harmful” or “hazardous” drinking was reported by a further 13 per cent of the troops. Canadian Forces Ombudsman Pierre Daigle has called PTSD and related stress illnesses “a real hardship for Canada’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen for many years to come.” The Ombudsman is set to publish a major investigation of mental health among troops in coming months ….”  Meanwhile, the Globe has chosen to NOT share the report obtained via ATIP – interesting, considering the piece is written by a journalist who’s helped campaign for more freedom of information from government.
  • Meanwhile, “…. The CF continues to over-extend its mandate in filling the many gaps in (Veterans Affairs Canada’s) patchwork of often inadequate programs. A new universal approach which has veterans, the CF, their families, medical, and business experts needs to be driving veterans’ policy. Canada does not have to reinvent the wheel. We did it right after World War II. The ingredients are the same: income bridging, comprehensive post-secondary education, business start-up assistance, housing assistance and extended medical care all working towards a program of complete and universal financial, professional and psychological transition. Either Canada relearns a universal and comprehensive approach to caring for its releasing and injured military or one day the eager recruits may dry up. Otherwise, a military collective bargaining unit may be the only way to force government to act where once Canada was only too eager to care.”
  • There will be 2,100 jobs lost over the next three years at the Department of National Defence, but it doesn’t change the department’s recruitment goals for Canada’s armed forces, says a DND official. “The recruiting goals are set out in the Canada First Defence Strategy and that doesn’t change, so what was announced earlier has no effect on recruitment,” said Andrea Cameron, a communications adviser with DND ….”
  • Congrats, and here’s hoping one day, the fact that the new person’s a woman won’t make any difference in the announcements.  Rear-Admiral Jennifer Bennett (links to bio) was appointed as the first female Chief, Reserves and Cadets today, replacing Major-General Dennis Tabbernor upon his retirement from the Canadian Forces. Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, presided over the ceremony at National Defence Headquarters. The Chief Reserves and Cadets advises the Chief of the Defence Staff and other senior DND/CF officials about matters concerning the 35,000 member strong Reserve Force to help ensure their unique requirements are integrated with Canadian Forces policies and programs. The Reserve Force includes the Primary Reserve, the Cadet Organization Administration and Training Service, and the Supplementary Reserve ….”
  • Time for an apology to the Canadian Airborne Regiment? “…. 16 years after the Somalia inquiry which resulted in its “disbandment in disgrace,” the final commanding officer of the regiment is demanding an apology from the federal government. “When they disbanded the regiment, they tore the heart out of me, and of every other man that was serving that day and serving in that regiment before,” said retired colonel Peter G. Kenward. “It was a miscarriage of justice, it was grossly unfair and it was a politically expedient move by the Liberal government of the day.” …. “The soldiers, the people who built that regiment, 99.9% were so harshly punished for the misdeeds and the wrongs of a few,” said Kenward. “Under any justice system, that is totally unacceptable.” Groups dedicated to the “Airborne Brotherhood” are filled with calls that the regiment be reinstated and the term “disgrace” removed from the official record. Many young soldiers still wear the disbanded colours. The Conservative MP representing CFB Petawawa, the final home of the Airborne, supports the call ….”  Follow the wide-ranging discussion on this at
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Ottawa is no longer imposing penalties on Sikorsky for delays in the production of its fleet of maritime helicopters, which have missed their latest deadline. The federal government vowed in 2004 to slap penalties of $3-million a month – up to a total of $36-million – for delays in the delivery of the aircraft that will replace the aging Sea Kings. At the time, the goal was to get the first Cyclone CH-148 in 2008. However, the contract was later amended to allow for the delivery of an interim, or incomplete, helicopter in late 2010, with fully equipped choppers arriving in 2012. Last year, the government announced more delays, saying the first interim helicopters would arrive this spring. Now the prognosis is for formal delivery later this summer. However, Sikorsky is not paying any penalties these days, as the amended contract imposed a cap on penalties for the “interim” helicopters, which will not meet all of the contractual requirements that were imposed upon Sikorsky seven years ago. “The maximum amount for liquidated damaged for the late delivery of the interim helicopters is $8-million. That maximum amount has now been attained by Sikorsky,” the Department of Public Works said on Friday in answer to a question from The Globe and Mail ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  With 70 per cent of its defence revenues coming from within the country, Thales Canada is keeping a close eye on procurement activity in Ottawa. Rumblings of trouble are already starting as the federal government aims to shave $4 billion in annual savings by 2014 from a program spending budget that currently tops $80 billion. Further, in 2010 the Department of National Defence began a strategic review as part of an ongoing process by which the government examines how each of its departments and agencies spends their money ,and how funds can be saved. Given a contract Thales Canada recently received, the firm has an interest in the results of the DND review, said Dave Spagnalo, the company’s vice-president of defence and security. Thales has 140 employees in Ottawa. Thales was awarded a nearly $11-million contract in March to create a new command, control and communications system for defence applications …. “
  • G8/G20 Money Pits Watch:  The bill for security at last summer’s G8 and G20 summits could have been much lower if the government had used more military personnel instead of police officers, Canada’s parliamentary budget officer says. Kevin Page’s comments on Monday came in response to a CBC/Radio-Canada report that revealed the RCMP contracted hundreds of police officers from across the country to travel to Ontario for the two summits, and paid millions in premiums to them for working on days off or during vacations. Page also cited the decision to host the dual summits at separate venues in Toronto and the Muskoka region as the main reason why the final price tag is expected to exceed more than $1 billion. “Could we have saved money? Yes. If the decision was made that we could have had one venue as opposed to two, we could have reduced those costs quite significantly,” Page said Monday. “If we were comfortable having more of a military presence, as opposed to an RCMP presence, we might have been able to save costs further.” ….”
  • Coming up at next month’s Conservative Party convention“The Conservatives are to consider whether to declare that any Canadian who takes up arms against the military of this country or one of its allies should be automatically stripped of citizenship and be tried for “high treason.” The resolution is just one of dozens -on issues ranging from tax policy, to euthanasia, to prostitution to samesex marriage-that Tory delegates will discuss at a party convention in June. Currently, the Criminal Code allows for someone to be charged if they assist “an enemy at war with Canada, or any armed forces against whom Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between Canada and the country whose forces they are.” Anyone convicted is automatically sentenced to life in prison. In recent years, as the war on terror has spread throughout the globe, some have debated whether Canada has enough legal clout to punish people who do battle not only with Canadian troops, but also with allied forces ….”  More here.
  • “…. Newlyweds William and Kate will spend Canada Day in Ottawa as part of their whirlwind, nine-day royal tour from June 30 to July 8 to seven cities – Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Summerside, Charlottetown, Yellowknife and Calgary. Heritage Minister James Moore said Monday the royal presence will make it the biggest bash ever in the nation’s capital …. The itinerary will place a special focus on, among others, Canada’s military and war veterans. Both Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry, are members of the British Forces and Harry served a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2007-08 ….” More on the itinerary and theme details here and here.

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