News Highlights – 27 Oct 11

  • Minister of National Defence in the House of Commons on potential base closures:  wha’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?  “Mr. David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence has proven that he is good at misdirection, rhetoric and personal insults. What he is not so good at is giving straight answers. The minister hurls accusations of fearmongering, but the biggest source of fearmongering is the minister’s refusal to clear the air on base closures. The minister is the only who can put military families and their communities at ease. Will he please stand in his place and assure military base communities that they have nothing to fear? Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, me thinks he doth protest too much. When it comes to fearmongering, he is referring to a report that was late. The October 2011 departmental directive, which he is referring to, does not speak of base closures. What does reference in an accompanying news article is a Liberal senator musing about base closures. The only person who is causing alarm in the military community, their families and in the country and misleading Canadians about base closures is the member opposite. Christopherson:  Mr. Speaker, I have a copy of the directive to which the minister refers. It says: We will also reduce portfolio size, footprint and associated overhead costs by consolidating Defence operations and programs to fewer operational sites. Again, does this mean base closures, yes or no?  MacKay: Mr. Speaker, sound and fury signifying nothing. Let me be clear about what the NDP members are up to, and we have seen this before. It is an old opposition tactic. Create a crisis, panic people, put fearmongering out there among military families and then when it does not happen, claim credit. That is what they are up to. The member opposite is simply trying to create a crisis that does not exist. The NDP does not support the military, it does not support the investments and that is unfortunate.”
  • Stuart Landridge, R.I.P.  The family of a soldier who took his own life should receive federal dollars to fund their legal battle, the military police complaints commission says. The family of Cpl. Stuart Langridge has been fighting the military for three years to get details of the days leading up to the death of their son and the ensuing military police investigation. Langridge took his own life at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton in 2008. The Military Police Complaints Commission has launched a public interest hearing into the handling of the investigation. The family asked the commission to help their cause and ask the federal government to give them legal aid. Sheila and Shaun Fynes say they don’t have the financial means to cover all the legal costs that comes with being a party to a commission hearing. Earlier this month, their lawyer, retired colonel Michel Drapeau, argued that without funding, the family wouldn’t receive a fair opportunity to take part in hearings. On Wednesday, the commission agreed ….”  QMI/Sun Media’s version of the story here,’s here.
  • The federal government is planning to spend as much as $477 million to participate in a U.S.-led military satellite program that has been subject to delays and cost overruns over the past decade, Postmedia News has learned. The Wideband Global Satellite system has been advertised by the U.S. Defense Department as a communications system for “U.S. warfighters, allies and coalition partners during all levels of conflict, short of nuclear war.” The idea is to have as many as nine military satellites hovering over different parts of the world, ready to provide high-frequency bandwidth for U.S. and allied forces wherever they may be operating. Daniel Blouin, a spokesman for Canada’s Department of National Defence, said the Canadian Forces has identified improved communication capabilities as a necessity. “After Afghanistan and Libya, our efforts in those two countries have proven that the exchange of information between headquarters and deployed elements is critical to modern military operations and their success,” Blouin said ….”  More on the satellite system in question here (USAF Info-Machine), here (Wikipedia, with usual “garbage in, garbage out” caveats), and here (Facebook).
  • Non-lethal weapons trade show coming to Ottawa.  The 2011 North American Technology Demonstration (NATD) being held at the Ottawa Convention Centre is bringing together a thousand of the world’s leaders in defence and security. NATO’s three-day technology demonstration is hosted jointly by the Department of National Defence (DND) and the United States Department of Defence’s Non-Lethal Weapons Program and is expected to attract military and civilian members from over 30 different countries. The 2011 NATD will showcase non-lethal capabilities that can be acquired and fielded quickly in support of NATO and counter-terrorism operations …. Canada is the chairman of the NATO Defence Against Terrorism (DAT) programme of work’s 11th Initiative on non-lethal capabilities. The programme of work for the DAT’s 11th initiative serves to provide NATO forces with better response capabilities that minimize collateral damage ….”  More on the trade show here and here.
  • One Royal Canadian Navy officer’s experience. “Whether it be navigating a 135-metre long frigate through international waters, taking fire off the coast of Libya or acting as aide de camp for Royal Canadian Navy commander Paul Maddison, not a lot of things make flag lieutenant Nadia Shields nervous. Shields — born and raised in St. Thomas — recently returned to Canada from Libya where she acted as a navigator for the HMCS Charlottetown, a 4,770-tonne frigate. Deployed in March as part of Canada’s involvement in the upturned, African nation, Shields returned in May to begin her new position as Maddison’s aid(e). “We got to go to a lot of different places that I never would have gone to and some places that I don’t want to go back to,” she told the Times-Journal Tuesday morning of her experiences overseas. Her newest naval job involves organizing trips for Maddison, planning his meetings and handling his scheduling. “It’s go, go, go all the time which is nice because I get to go to a bunch of different things and I get to see Ottawa but from a very strategic level at a very junior rank,” she adds ….”
  • Omar Khadr, Canada’s only convicted war criminal – a confessed murderer, spy and terrorist – is headed home soon. But just how soon remains unclear. Even murkier is when he will be freed. Mr. Khadr is eligible for repatriation any time after Monday, to serve the rest of his sentence in a Canadian prison. That could be years or as little as a few months, depending on whether he can successfully challenge the Guantanamo war crimes conviction in Canadian courts …. After spending most of his 25 years abroad, first as a child in Pakistan as the son of a leading al-Qaeda family, followed by a brief summer learning bomb-making with Islamic jihadists in Afghanistan and nine years in Guantanamo, the Toronto-born Mr. Khadr will be eligible on Halloween to seek repatriation to Canada. But it could take months or longer to hammer out his return, especially if Ottawa demands that he drop any further legal action as a condition of repatriation. Until then, Mr. Khadr remains one of only two convicted terrorists in a separate prison block in Guantanamo. This week, huddled with his lawyers, Mr. Khadr may be examining his options ….”
  • Tadeusz Sawicz, a decorated Second World War airman who was believed to be the last surviving Polish pilot to fight in the Battle of Britain, has passed away at the age of 97 in Toronto. Funeral home Turner and Porter confirmed Sawicz died on Oct. 19. Born in Warsaw on Feb. 13, 1914, his military career began in 1934 and ended in 1947 as a wing commander in the Royal Air Force. According to an obituary in London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, Sawicz was serving in Poland with the 114 Fighter Flight of No 1 Air Wing when the Nazis invaded his homeland on Sept. 1, 1939. “Despite flying an antiquated biplane fighter, he damaged a Messerschmitt Bf 109 (on the opening day of the invasion). On Sept. 5, he was appointed a deputy commander of his squadron, and over the next few days was credited with destroying two enemy bombers and damaging two more,” reads the obituary ….” – more here (Telegraph obituary article) and here.

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