Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – 7 June 12

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  • Syria  House of Commons Motion:  BAAAAAAD Syria“…. the House continue to support measures which (a) condemn the brutal massacre of Syrian civilians by government forces in clear violation of earlier commitments; (b) call for an immediate end to the violence, especially the attacks on civilians; (c) support the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and Arab League efforts to establish a ceasefire and implement the six-point peace plan; (d) call for unrestricted access to the country for the international media; (e) support the government’s decision to expel Syrian diplomats in protest to the latest atrocities in Syria; (f) call on the international community to speak with one voice clearly and categorically condemning the violence and working to bring about a complete cessation of hostilities; (g) urge the leadership of China and Russia to play an active and decisive role in achieving an effective ceasefire that saves the lives of innocent civilians as well as negotiating a road map to reforms that respond to the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people; (h) continue Canada’s humanitarian aid to refugees and to internally displaced persons fleeing violence in Syria, as needed, and; (i) stand in solidarity with those who aspire for peace, democratic governance and the protection of human rights ….”
  • Afghanistan  Canadian General to talk about lessons learned at Senate Committee hearing next Monday
  • A second front in the war over veterans benefits opened up Wednesday as ex-soldiers rallied on Parliament Hill and the families of two young men killed in Afghanistan learned their discrimination complaints are likely headed for a human rights tribunal. The demonstration, on the 68th anniversary of the historic D-Day landings, was aimed at the federal government’s relatively new policy of paying injured soldiers lump-sum compensation for wounds and injuries, rather than life-time pensions. At the same time came news that the Canadian Human Rights Commission is deciding what forum will hear the complaints of the families of two single soldiers killed in the line of duty, neither of them eligible for a $250,000 death benefit paid to married troops. Errol Cushley, the father of Pte. William Cushley, and Beverley Skalrud, the mother of Pte. Braun Scott Woodfield, say they’ve been told that human rights investigators found merit in their complaints about the death stipend, which was instituted as part of an overhaul of veterans benefits in 2006 ….”
  • The ombudsman for Canada’s armed forces moved Wednesday to block one of his investigators from testifying at an inquiry into the suicide of Afghan veteran Stuart Langridge, claiming it would damage the credibility of his office. And in a surprise attack, ombudsman lawyer Paul Déry-Goldberg, suggested that the lawyer for Langridge’s family, Marcel Drapeau, had “conflicting interests” because he is also representing an employee in the ombudsman’s office in a grievance case. A clearly furious Drapeau, who specializes in military cases, hit back, accusing Déry-Goldberg of being “unprofessional and offensive” and said the public attack before the Military Police Complaints Commission had left him even more certain that the ombudsman’s office has something to hide …. The application by Daigle to prevent investigator Patrick Martel from testifying is a twist on solicitor-client privilege, which is the reason being given by Defence Department lawyers for censoring and withholding numerous documents from the commission ….”
  • Speaking of withholding documents in the Langridge case, this from the House of Commons yesterdayMr. Jack Harris (St. John’s East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the search for the truth into why a young Canadian soldier killed himself after returning from Afghanistan is being blocked by the Conservatives. The Minister of National Defence has prevented the release of documents about his department’s investigation into the case and many of the documents that have been released to the inquiry are censored. How can we avoid another tragic incident like this one if the minister is making it impossible for the commission to get to the bottom of this? Why will he not release the documents? Hon. Julian Fantino (Associate Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we are deeply saddened by this tragedy. The Government of Canada has reiterated its commitment to co-operating with the commission and within the proper limits of the commission’s mandate and the law. That is exactly what we have been doing …. we are totally and absolutely committed to supporting our soldiers not only in theatre but also those coming back from service. In this matter, the issue is being dealt with through the commission. I understand as well that there are legal considerations with respect to lawyer-client privilege. We are in fact working to resolve these issues as we speak.”
  • Children in military families across Canada will soon be hearing a fairy tale to help them understand mental health and encourage them to seek help when needed. A new book written specifically for them, called Project: Kids, Let’s Talk, will be delivered to Canadian Forces bases across the country. It is the result of a partnership between the Department of National Defence and Iris the Dragon, a charity based near Ottawa that produces books to educate children on mental health and well-being. Storytelling has always been used as a means of communicating values and moral lessons, said Jessica Grass, who works with the charity that was founded by her mother Gayle, the author of the books. “We’ve written fairy tales to help children understand how to embrace and communicate their thoughts and feelings,” Grass said. “And with that lesson in life early on, we hope that by being able to have a dialogue about their thoughts and feelings that that will lead them to getting the help they need, should they need it at one point.” …. “
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  “The NDP has served notice at a Commons committee inquiry into the government’s controversial $25-billion F-35 fighter jet project that it wants the committee to report on a possible contempt of Parliament because of contradictions between testimony from the deputy minister of the Department of National Defence and Auditor General Michael Ferguson. In a motion tabled at the Public Accounts Committee hearings into Mr. Ferguson’s politically-charged report released in April on the federal government’s F-35 procurement, the NDP raised the possibility on Tuesday that it believes the deputy minister of National Defence, Rob Fonberg, may be in contempt of Parliament because of his insistence in early testimony that Mr. Ferguson was wrong to tell the committee that Cabinet approved a total budget of $25-billion for the acquisition and operations of 65 F-35 stealth fighter jets two years before Defence Minister Peter MacKay (Central Nova, N.S.) announced the procurement plan in 2010 ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying (Maybe)?  The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) may be looking for a new jet trainer to replace its BAE systems CT-155 Hawk aircraft, multiple industry sources confirm. The service wants a complete training system that can adequately prepare pilots to fly the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Canadian government has said it will buy 65 of the stealthy single-engined jets, but the selection is mired in controversy. A complete training system would entail not only an aircraft, but also high-fidelity simulators, a training curriculum and other services. Advancements in simulation technology might mean that high-fidelity simulators will replace live flying events for certain tasks–aerial refueling being one. But there might also be simulated mission systems training embedded onboard whatever new aircraft are chosen. But some sources say that any new effort would not necessarily mean that the Canadian government is going to replace the Hawk. The RCAF could simply upgrade its current CT-155 aircraft fleet. All that needs to happen in that case is that the trainer be adequately upgraded to handle the training tasks associated with the F-35. But other ancillary devices such as advanced simulators might also be needed. Industry sources say that there is no current programme of record to replace the British-built Hawk trainers. However, a request for proposal could be released “relatively soon.” ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Someone to convert an Australian military “business acumen” course into a Canadian military “business acumen” course
  • Caveat: No sign of Bloomberg sharing the obtained briefing notes, so no word on what else may be in them.  Cyber attacks pose a greater risk to Canada’s economic prosperity than the government previously believed and the country lacks the tools to fight hackers, officials warn in internal documents obtained by Bloomberg News. “All new knowledge obtained indicates the problem is more widespread than previously thought,” said a “secret”-stamped memo to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews from his deputy minister, obtained under Canada’s freedom-of-information law. Canada is trying to bolster its defenses as countries deploy increasingly advanced technology to disrupt their enemies’ networks and gain access to trade secrets. Some of Canada’s biggest companies, such as Potash Corp. (POT) of Saskatchewan Inc. and Nortel Networks Corp., have been targeted. Poor security against cyber attacks “is increasingly recognized as impacting not just national security, but also public safety and economic prosperity through growing cyber crime and loss of intellectual property,” states the Aug. 2011 memo to Toews from deputy William Baker, who retired in April. The government’s ability to respond is hindered by the lack of a national emergency policy for cyber attacks, aging lab facilities and difficulty recruiting specialists eligible for “top secret” security status, according to another document written in January by Canada’s Public Safety department ….”
  • Canada’s proposed “Combating Terrorism Act” passes First Reading in the House of Commons after working its way through the Senate and Committee.
  • The federal government has set up a counter-terrorism unit in Alberta and one of its main jobs will be to help protect the energy industry from attacks by extremists. The integrated national security enforcement team will be led by the RCMP and include officers from CSIS, the Edmonton and Calgary police forces and federal border patrol. Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud said the key to effectively guarding the labyrinth of oil and natural gas wells, pipelines and refineries in Alberta will be to gather intelligence to prevent attacks before they happen. “When we look at the booming economy of the province of Alberta over the years, one would be led to believe that there is an increased threat to the infrastructure,” Michaud said Wednesday. “We are basically looking at any individuals or groups that pose a threat to critical infrastructure, to our economy, to our safety that is based on either religious, political or ideological goals.” ….” more on the new Alberta-based team from the RCMP Info-machine and from media here, here and here.
  • The idea of building a fence along the U.S.-Canada border has been officially ditched. Instead, the United States’ new Northern Border Strategy looks to rely on more virtual eyes in the sky, boots on the ground and greater integration with Canadian law enforcement. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano released Tuesday the new blueprint, the first department-wide strategy for American policy and operations at the northern border. The 20-page document foresees a far more fluid border — at least as far as law enforcement personnel and border guards go. It says the U.S. will continue to rely on the “strategic deployment of technology” — radars, sensors, cameras posted on poles between ports of entry, drones in the sky, and vehicle scanners — as a “force multiplier” to deter and prevent terrorism and illicit activity on the border. It flags “the next generation of integrated cross-border law enforcement,” such as a planned permanent extension of the joint vessel patrol pilot program — known as Shiprider — in shared waterways; the planned introduction of similar joint land operations; and efforts underway to eventually share biometric information collected through each country’s immigration visa application system. It says the two countries must achieve the “interoperability” of Canadian and American border law enforcement agencies ….” – more in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s northern border strategy document here.
  • Speaking of border security, Canada’s pumping some money into improving it (as well as other security) all over Latin America  “The Honourable Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs), today announced Canada’s support of new and ongoing projects aimed at enhancing security, stability and the rule of law in the Americas. “Addressing the security threats posed by conflict and by transnational crime will help create better conditions for prosperity,” said Minister Ablonczy. “Our government is contributing nearly $4 million in new support for key projects that address these security issues and improve the safety of the region’s citizens.” The projects tackle some of the hemisphere’s priority issues, including the prevention and mediation of regional conflict, crime prevention and the improvement of border control and security. Minister of State Ablonczy made the announcement in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where she is attending the 42nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) ….”
  • The RCMP’s investigation into the massive MV Sun Sea smuggling operation that began almost two years ago is nearing an end, officials said Wednesday. Supt. Derek Simmonds, the officer in charge of the federal border integrity program in B.C., announced at a press conference that three additional men had been charged in the “exceptionally complex” case — bringing to six the total number charged with people-smuggling. “The investigative phase will soon conclude, and RCMP efforts will focus upon supporting Crown counsel and the court process,” he said. “While the possibility cannot be entirely ruled out, I do not expect further charges from this investigation.” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews commended the RCMP for the additional charges ….”
  • Speaking of human trafficking…. “The Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, along with the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women, (yesterday) launched Canada’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. The National Action Plan was also launched today by the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, in Montreal, and Member of Parliament Joy Smith (Kildonan–St. Paul) in Vancouver …. Canada’s National Action Plan, with participation from 18 federal departments, is a comprehensive blueprint to guide the Government of Canada’s fight against the serious crime of human trafficking …. The National Action Plan will: Launch Canada’s first integrated law enforcement team dedicated to combating human trafficking; Increase front-line training to identify and respond to human trafficking and enhance prevention in vulnerable communities; Provide more support for victims of this crime, both Canadians and newcomers; (and) Strengthen coordination with domestic and international partners who contribute to Canada’s efforts to combat human trafficking. These new measures totalling $25 million over four years build on and strengthen Canada’s significant work to date to prevent, detect and prosecute human trafficking ….” – a bit more detail in the backgrounder here.
  • Columnist on federal Cabinet ministers who should go  “In the life of a government caucus, few events are as disruptive as a cabinet shuffle. The exercise inevitably results in more losers than winners. Over time, repeat losers tend to become less and less accommodating of the party line. That is often even more true of anyone who is actually dropped from the cabinet. For that reason, a prime minister will usually turn a deaf ear to a lot of squeaks before he gets down to replacing or repositioning any of his cabinet wheels. But there comes a time when a poor ministerial alignment threatens to fundamentally derail a government’s message. In the case of Stephen Harper’s cabinet, that time has come. There are five problem cases that no ambitious government with three years left in its mandate can afford to ignore (including) Defence minister Peter MacKay: His credibility took a major hit over the F-35 saga. There is evidence that the minister’s relationship with the military brass is in tatters. With military procurement under the tutelage of Public Works, so is his moral authority ….”
  • A Canadian soldier will be sentenced June 7 in the killing of a young aboriginal gay man in Manitoba that some ( note:  in this piece, only one friend of the man who was killed) are calling a case of gay panic. According to testimony heard at the preliminary enquiry in April 2011, as reported in the Brandon Sun, Jason Ouimet strangled 21-year-old Duane Lacquette to death on Jan 16, 2010, while the two were alone together in Lacquette’s house. Ouimet, a gunner at a Canadian Forces base near Brandon, claims that he acted in self-defence after Lacquette came on to him. The soldier was originally charged with second-degree murder but avoided a trial earlier this spring by pleading guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter ….”
  • The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, issued the following statement today in recognition of the 68th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy ….”

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