News Highlights – 7 Oct 11

  • Defence Minister’s back from NATO meeting on Libya, Afghanistan calls Libya mission a success for NATO, adding Canada’s not leaving until the job’s done.  More here.
  • Afghanistan (1)  Editorial“…. the standard by which success should be measured is not a cessation of terrorist attacks, but an improvement in the Afghan National Army’s ability to deal with these incidents. The army is seen to have handled last month’s Kabul attack on NATO’s diplomatic compound and the U.S. Embassy better than it managed the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel just three months earlier ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  As the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban is marked on Friday, war continues to rage in Afghanistan as Western troops begin to draw down. Building Afghanistan’s national security forces to the point where they can effectively protect the population has become the key measure by which NATO’s victory will be judged. Canadian Major-General Michael Day is leading NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan as Deputy Commander Army, overseeing the recruitment and training of the Afghan National Army. The former commander of Joint Task Force 2, Canada’s elite special operations team, spoke about how the Afghan security forces are shaping up to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s ambitious goal of Afghanistan assuming sole responsibility for its security by 2014, when Western forces are set to leave ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  So, is Khadr boy coming back, or not? “With just weeks until convicted war criminal Omar Khadr is eligible for transfer according to a Pentagon plea deal, Ottawa is sending mixed messages as to whether the Guantanamo detainee will return to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence. A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Thursday the minister’s decision about the 25-year-old Guantanamo prisoner’s transfer to Canada will be made irrespective of the deal Khadr signed. “It would not affect the minister at all,” spokesman Michael Patton told the Toronto Star. “I don’t know what’s in the plea deal but it wouldn’t matter because the minister is not a signatory.” But that position appears to contradict comments inadvertently made by Canada’s minister of state of foreign affairs, Diane Ablonczy, in the House of Commons on Thursday. Ablonczy, who has a hearing impairment, had been asked by Liberal MP Geoff Regan about Philip Halliday, a Canadian who is awaiting trial in a Spanish prison as he suffers from a liver ailment. “Can the minister explain why the government continues to abandon Canadians in dire straits abroad?” Regan demanded. “The member is well aware that the American government has agreed that Omar Khadr will return to Canada,” replied Ablonczy. “We will respect the agreement between Omar Khadr and the U.S.” ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  “It is fitting that Terry Glavin begins his book Come from the Shadows: the Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan with a quote from George Orwell — who once said it is not enough to oppose fascism; one must stand against totalitarianism in all its forms. Orwell, a far-left anti-fascist who took a bullet in the throat while fighting Franco’s brutes during the Spanish Civil War, was angered by the inability of too many of his fellow leftists to counter dictatorial thuggery in those with whom they shared a common enemy. Stalinists got a free pass because, ostensibly, they opposed fascism; they didn’t deserve it. Glavin, also of the left, is frustrated by the limits of his supposed comrades’ solidarity and internationalism. Afghanistan’s democrats — its students, human rights activists, women, socialists and secularists — should, by rights, be championed and supported by the western left. They are, after all, fighting for the same things liberals in Canada struggled for and earned over the last century. What’s more, they’re fighting for these rights against an explicitly fascistic strain of religious and ethnic extremism embodied in the Taliban. Instead, much of the left over the last decade has preferred to rally against make-believe fascism and imperialism in the United States or Britain, rather than recognizing its real mutations in places like Baghdad, Tehran, and Kandahar ….”
  • Afghanistan (5)  Saskatchewan has made an Afghan connection. A small group of Afghan women are in the province to learn more about how Saskatchewan’s health and education systems in hopes of improving things in their own country. Betty-Ann Heggie, president of Canadians in support of Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), is hosting a group of Afghan women for a few weeks including AIL founder Sakena Yacoobi. Heggie first met Yacoobi two years ago while the pair were in Italy speaking at a conference. Both women were on a panel called gender equity for greater world harmony. “She spoke about the importance of education and I spoke about the importance of mentorship,” said Heggie, who founded the Womentorship Program at the University of Saskatchewan. The two began talking and came up with an idea to bring Canadian and Afghan women together in a type of mentorship program ….”
  • The Good News:  The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, and Eve Adams, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, announced today that significant enhancements to the New Veterans Charter take effect this week and will help thousands of seriously ill and injured Veterans who require additional financial support …. The Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act provides additional monthly support for Veterans who are seriously ill and injured, as well as flexible new payment options for recipients of a disability award. It is estimated that a minimum of 4,000 Veterans will qualify for the enhanced financial support over the next five years alone ….”
  • The Bad News:  “New government actions to help veterans who have been hurt or become sick on the job discriminate against thousands of part-time military reservists who face the same risks as their full time comrades, the Veterans Affairs ombudsman says. “Those who sustain similar illnesses or injuries while serving their country should have access to the same benefits, regardless of the nature of their service and where and when they served,” ombudsman Guy Parent said in a blog post. “It’s a matter of fairness.” ….”
  • More Bad News:  “Applicable veterans are now able to access new benefits under enhancements to the Veterans Charter. The $2-billion support package to the charter was passed in Parliament last spring. It offers a number of new benefits geared towards addressing the pressing needs of the most severely ill or injured veterans. The enhancements also allow the controversial lump sum disability payment for injured vets to be paid out in installments. Critics say the enhancements are a good first step towards meeting the most pressing concerns of some soldiers, but argue many gaps still remain in the federal program. “It’s a small door opening into the Veterans Charter,” NDP veterans affairs critic Peter Stoffer said. “We’ve asked that door be kicked wide open and (they) really start addressing the serious problems facing many veterans in this country.” ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Disposing of a lot of (what sounds like) tested chemical warfare protection equipment, a special kind of research mouse and a new nuclear, chemical and biological reconnaissance system  – more details in Statements of Work from bid documents here (via
  • What’s Canada (Not) Buying?  Still no word back from Public Works Canada on why the process to find a new pistol for CF members and a new bolt-action rifle for the Canadian Rangers has been halted.
  • Gee, I can’t see why a Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs wouldn’t want to be open and transparent about a relationship of some kind with a journalist whose agency is not averse to hosting Chinese spies?  Conservative MP Bob Dechert is keen to move on. Literally. The light on the downtown street corner in the nation’s capital has changed. But the news media’s interest in his relationship with a Chinese language reporter hasn’t, largely because Dechert himself is loath to answer questions about it. Dechert, asked by the Star about inconsistencies in the emails and his casual characterization of his relationship with Shi Rong, insisted it was nothing more than a friendship as he said in a brief statement when the news broke last month. Asked whether he had any sense whether the woman, a reporter with the official news service for the People’s Republic of China, was acting in any way for the Chinese government, or on its behalf, Dechert is terse: “No. No. No.” ….”  Here’s his statement on the issue of what sound like love notes by e-mail to said journalist.
  • Note to style guide writer:  they’re not “war resisters” when they volunteer, then run away – they’re deserters. 
  • Column“Some wars are horrible but necessary, such as the Second World War. Others are horrible but stupid, such as the War of 1812. In the annals of war, the 1812-1814 conflict was among the dumbest ever fought. It featured largely bad military leadership, vague objectives, scattered and messy battles and, critically, sizable elements on both sides of the Canadian-U.S. border that wanted the other side to win ….”
  • The House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development were set to discuss this resolution:  “That the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development consider a resolution to recognize the important contributions of Aboriginal men and women whose support was pivotal to the British Crown (and subsequently Canada) in the War of 1812; and that a report on the resolution be presented to the House for concurrence and unanimous consent.”  Then, they decided not to.  More, as (and if) it unfolds.
  • Producer Lawrence Hott admits he was no expert when he began work on the documentary “The War of 1812.” “All I knew about the War of 1812 was that it took place in 1812 and even in that I was wrong,” says Hott of the war, which lasted two-and-a-half years until 1815. Hott ended up spending seven years on the project, about as long as hostilities between the new nation of the United States and Great Britain — backed by native North Americans and citizens of Upper and Lower Canada — took place. About 200 years after the war, Buffalo, N.Y., PBS affiliate WNED has commissioned a comprehensive look at the conflict and its lasting consequences. The two-hour documentary is scheduled to air Oct. 10 at 9 p.m. (check your local PBS affiliate) …. “

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