News Highlights – 26 Apr 12

  • Afghanistan (1a)  Prime Minister Stephen Harper has opened the door to Canadian special forces staying in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014. There are reports that the Pentagon has asked the Conservative government to consider leaving a contingent behind in the war-ravaged nation to help train Afghan commandos and to keep up the fight against al-Qaida and Taliban militants. Harper said there has been no specific request that Canada stay on past 2014, but suggested he may be willing to consider the idea. “As we approach that date, we will examine all options and we will take the decision that is in the best interest of this country and in the best interest of our security objectives for the globe,” Harper said under questioning in the House of Commons on Wednesday. His refusal to rule out a further extension outraged New Democrats, who described it as a violation of the parliamentary motion that ended the country’s combat mission in Kandahar a year ago ….”  More on this from Postmedia News here, here, the Globe & Mail here, the Toronto Star here (and here) and QMI/Sun Media here.
  • Afghanistan (1b)  The PM’s words, from Hansard:  “Mr. Speaker, I have been told that we have not had that specific request from the United States. Whether it comes or not, I will be very clear, Canada will make its own determination in this regard. We have our forces there now to help train the Afghan security forces because it is in the interests of our country that Afghanistan does not become once again a safe haven for terrorism and also in our interest that, in order to prevent that, the Afghans themselves assume greater responsibility for their own security. Our government will make any decisions it makes with the best interests of our own country and the world community in mind …. it is not a remarkable statement that the NDP will not support the mission. The NDP could not even make up its mind to support the World War II mission. Canada has been involved in Afghanistan with the support of most of the parties in the House for some years. Our plan at the current time is, obviously, for the mission that goes to 2014, but, as we approach that date, we will examine all options and we will take the decision that is in the best interests of this country and in the best interests of our security objectives for the globe, and not an ideological knee-jerk response like the NDP …. all of the military missions committed to under this government have come before the House: the mission in Libya, which the House approved; we did not begin the mission to Afghanistan but the extensions of that mission. Certainly, should there be any other significant military missions, we are committed to getting the consent of Parliament before we act. That has been our action and that is what we will do in the future.”
  • Afghanistan (2)  No sign of the obtained documents, so no word on what else is in them  “Military officials warned Defence Minister Peter MacKay last year that despite Canada’s official withdrawal from Kandahar, Canadian soldiers on exchange with the U.S. and British militaries would continue to operate in the volatile Afghan province for the foreseeable future. The officials did not say whether the Canadians would be engaged in combat operations, but both NATO allies have been actively engaging insurgents in the region and the Defence Department noted a reluctance in the past to put caveats on such exchange programs. The revelation emerged as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, responding to a report in the Ottawa Citizen on Wednesday, refused to rule out the possibility of keeping Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan past 2014. “Our government will make any decisions it makes with those best interests of our own country and the world community in mind,” he told the House of Commons. On Aug. 3, 2011, one month after the 10-year combat mission officially had ended, Defence Department officials provided MacKay with a briefing note, obtained by Postmedia News through access to information, updating the minister on what was happening in southern Afghanistan ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  The newest Government of Canada Info-Machine Fact Sheets on the mission are out!
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  The Parliamentary Budget Office has been asked to update the costs of the F-35 fighter jet. In an April 23 letter, PBO Kevin Page wrote to the deputy minister at the Department of National Defence to say that his office had received “a new request” from a member of Parliament to “undertake an update” of the lifecycle cost estimate of the F-35. To do that, Page and his office will need information from National Defence. “I would like to request that DND provide information and documents that provide a full lifecycle cost of the F-35 aircraft, with lifecycle cost being defined in the DND Costing Handbook (Annex II),” Page wrote. That handbook outlines the department’s definition of a lifecycle cost as being a way to calculate the “total cost of ownership.” According to the guide, lifecycle costing includes the operations and maintenance budget. That O&M budget, it says, should also account for personnel costs, maintenance cost of equipment, and total operating costs for facilities and materials – among others ….”  More from the Globe & Mail and
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  More questions in the House on the F-35 yesterday here, here and here, with a bit of back-and-forth between the NDP and Tories on the nature of reality of the F-35 here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  Rideau Institute (home of organizes news conference starring former CF Colonel bashing the F-35 – more from QMI/Sun Media, National Post/Postmedia News,
  • The skills and determination of more than 50 Junior Canadian Rangers (JCRs) from across the nation will be put to test from April 27-29, 2012, as they compete for glory and gold at the National Marksmanship Championship (NMC) at the Albert Head Training Facility in Colwood (Victoria), British Columbia. The NMC marks the culmination of this year’s marksmanship training program and competition circuit for JCRs across Canada. Participants have already successfully competed in local and regional marksmanship competitions ….”
  • Way Up North (1a)  “Even if sovereignty over the Arctic has been repeatedly cast as a national priority, a top general says military forces have trouble simply communicating in the region sometimes. Brig.-Gen. Rick Pitre, director of space operations at the Department of National Defence, told an international space conference Wednesday about a lack of infrastructure that makes it difficult to operate there. Existing Canadian satellites provide a number of services across the country, like supporting search-and-rescue services, providing medical assistance, and monitoring ice coverage and ships at sea. Up North, that satellite coverage is sparse. While the poles remain the least-covered regions in the world, things are getting better because there are generally more satellites in orbit. “Space-enabled services (satellites) are increasing certainly, over in that area, and they are beginning to connect the Arctic with the South,” Pitre said ….”  Sounds like some work’s going to be done on that at a conference being organized next week in the north.
  • Way Up North (1b)  Meanwhile, the CF’s doing something about the comms problems up north  “The Canadian military’s High Arctic exercise, Operation Nunalivut, is getting more tech-savvy. The forces have been training in the region near Resolute, Nunavut, for two weeks. Lt.-Col. Glen MacNeil said they’ve made great progress in communications. “This is the first time I’ve witnessed the technical commander of the forward element of the rangers group being able to do real-time chat not only to our headquarters here in Resolute Bay, but all the way back to Yellowknife,” he said. Before, the rangers were only able to connect with headquarters via radio and telephone. Now, they can communicate via a chat program. “If the person in a deployed forward headquarter is talking to, let’s say Yellowknife, then we can see what they’re saying in Resolute Bay. So we have an all-informed net. So if anything is going on or we need something to happen, we can immediately communicate over that mechanism. It’s great in terms of situational awareness,” he added ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, today announced a contract award to a joint venture between SNC-Lavalin and AECON Atlantic Group for the design of a new accommodation tower and dining and messing facilities at Canadian Forces Base Halifax. The contract is valued at $2.5 million, and will help sustain the economy in the community and region ….”
  • Big Honkin’ Ship Update  SEASPAN Shipyards’ workforce will almost quadruple over the next four years as the company pours more than $150 million into modernizing its North Vancouver yard. Jonathan Whitworth, CEO of Seaspan, was invited to appear before City of North Vancouver council Monday to discuss the implications of its $8-billion federal shipbuilding contract on local transportation, housing and development. “This is going to be a boom,” he said. “It’s not like building a (liquefied natural gas) plant or a mine, where there are 1,500 jobs for about two years. This is work for decades. It’s like winning the 2010 Olympics every two years.” “On Oct. 19, when we announced that contract, there was an uproar at Seaspan, but there was also an uproar at the Tim Hortons and the hotels,” he said ….”
  • Stuart Landridge, R.I.P. (1)  The mother of a Canadian soldier who killed himself in 2008 is expected to testify today at an inquiry into how the military handled his death. Cpl. Stuart Langridge had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan when he died at a base in Edmonton. The military had initiated several reviews into his death but his parents had raised concerns about those efforts. Canada’s military justice watchdog decided a public hearing was warranted and it began last month. Langridge’s mother Sheila Fynes has said that her son was never properly treated for PTSD and called decisions made by medical staff in the last weeks of his life were humiliating ….”
  • Stuart Landridge, R.I.P. (2)  In the days before Afghan war veteran Stuart Langridge committed suicide at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton, he was seen frequently going through his belongings, his then-boss recalled. Only after Corporal Langridge was found hanging in March, 2008 did the rummaging seem noteworthy, retired master corporal William Fitzpatrick said Wednesday at a hearing into his death ….”
  • Stuart Landridge, R.I.P. (3)  Shortly before he committed suicide, Afghan war veteran Stuart Langridge completed a new will and death benefit form that were eventually found behind an office filing cabinet, a military inquiry was told Wednesday. Langridge, who hanged himself at CFB Edmonton in March 2008, had recently separated from his common-law-wife and was advised by his immediate supervisor to change his documentation to reflect that change. “Somehow these forms were left on top of my filing cabinet,” retired Cpl. William Fitzpatrick told the Military Police Complaints Commission. “While I was doing some housecleaning I found them behind my filing cabinet.” ….”
  • Halifax‘s Chronicle-Herald on how post traumatic stress is being treated in the CF (or, in some cases, not being treated well enough) here, here and here.
  • Canada’s Defence Minister and Veterans Affairs Minister salute Aussie and New Zealand troops on ANZAC Day!
  • Mohamed Harkat has been sleeping poorly of late. The Ottawa man knew the Federal Court of Appeal was about to make a decision that could have life or death consequences for him. Depending on how the court ruled, Harkat — who was arrested in 2002 on a security certificate and has been in prison or under house arrest ever since — was facing deportation to his native Algeria, where he feared he would be tortured or killed. That threat receded Wednesday — perhaps for good — after the appeal court ruled that Harkat, 43, deserves a new hearing to determine if he’s a threat to national security. “It’s not over, but at least one day I’m going to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” smiled a visibly relieved Harkat. “It gives me another day to breathe on this Earth. It’s just a matter of time to clear my name and declare I’m innocent.” The appeal court found Harkat’s right to a fair hearing was compromised by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which destroyed recordings of taped conversations from the mid-1990s. The original recordings were destroyed in keeping with what was then internal policy at the CSIS. Analysts prepared written summaries of the conversations, which became key evidence at Harkat’s hearing ….”

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