Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – January 2, 2013

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  • Welcome back!
  • Africa  The Harper government is examining whether to dispatch Canadian troops to help train an African force whose purpose would be to take back a vast swath of Mali from an off-shoot of al-Qaeda.  Defence Minister Peter MacKay, speaking in Halifax Sunday, said what form of military assistance can be provided to a growing international campaign is something that’s under active discussion.  He said the government is contemplating what contribution Canada could make.  The United Nations recently decided to back a proposal from Economic Community of West African States — ECOWAS — to send 3,300 troops to the region.  Canadian special forces troops were active in the west African country for several training missions prior to the coup last March that installed a shaky interim government ….” – more in other news stories here, here, here and here, an editorial (spoiler alert:  it’s a good idea) here, another editorial (gotta be run through Parliament) here, previous stories about Canadians helping training Mali troops here, here and here, and on what’s happening in Mali in general at the European Commission’s news site here
  • Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is counting on statecraft to rein in Iran and its nuclear ambitions next year.  Baird, who views the Islamic regime as “the biggest threat to peace and security in the world today,” hopes a new diplomatic push by the international community will end its nuclear stalemate with Iran’s leadership.  “I think that’s all we have at this stage. We have the sanctions regime, we have the diplomacy,” Baird said in a year-end interview with QMI Agency.  “The Iranian regime would be wise to look at what the international community has said, look at what the leader of the free world (U.S. President Barack) Obama has said and to give serious reflection to that.” ….” 
  • Canada’s Foreign Affairs department continues to warn Canadians that they should exercise caution if travelling to Haiti. But the department is not going as far as the United States State Department, which recently toughened its warning to American travellers.  On Friday, the U.S. State Department issued an updated warning, stating that “no one is safe” from kidnapping and violent crime in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince. It also highlighted the risks from robbery, lawlessness, cholera and poor medical facilities.  Canada’s Foreign Affairs does not have a similar countrywide advisory in place. But it says Canadians should exercise a “high degree of caution” in Haiti, particularly in the capital.  It advises against “non-essential travel” to a number of Port-au-Prince neighbourhoods, “as the security situation is particularly unstable and dangerous,” it says ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Victory over polio felt tauntingly close in Kandahar City The disabling, sometimes lethal, disease hadn’t taken a new victim all year in Afghanistan’s second largest city.  To the Afghan doctors and vaccinators fighting the Canadian-funded war on polio, momentum seemed to be shifting their way.  There was talk of winning a historic fight that would benefit the whole world. If only the virus could be destroyed and join small pox to become only the second disease to be wiped from the face of the earth.  But endemic corruption, mismanagement and insecurity are sabotaging Afghanistan’s campaign against polio, a faltering struggle that Canada backed with some $60 million from 2008 to 2011.  Just weeks ago, the virus found a crack in Kandahar City’s defences. It paralyzed the young son of a truck driver, sheltered behind tall mud-brick walls in a Taliban bastion ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Sayed Shah Sharifi has discovered a simple strategy for figuring out the Canadian way of doing things during the six months since the former translator for the Canadian military in Afghanistan made this country his home: just observe Canadians and copy them Usually it works. He learned subway etiquette by watching TTC commuters as they quietly listened to music on earphones and did not make eye contact with strangers. In Afghanistan, people on public transport are boisterous.  “Life here is like watching a movie. I watch the movie and copy it,” said Sharifi, 24.  Sometimes the tactic doesn’t work. Dec. 25 was his first-ever Christmas but when he wandered out of his 21st-floor North York apartment to see how this famous Christian holiday was celebrated, he was surprised to see deserted streets.  During religious festivals back home, the restaurants, mosques, Sufi shrines and parks are packed with families.  “I was like, ‘why aren’t people outside?’ Then Hasham told me Canadians stay home and eat turkey,” said Sharifi.  Hasham Mohammad, also a former combat interpreter, is one of the first friends Sharifi made when he landed in Toronto last July after a two-year battle with the Canadian government to get a visa under a special program to protect Afghans working with Canadian forces or officials.  Sharifi, 24, was staying at a reception centre run by COSTI Immigration Services, a settlement agency which helps newcomers in the Greater Toronto Area, when Mohammad, invited Sharifi to live with him and two other former military translators ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  Omar Khadr’s ex-brother-in-law reported missing in Afghanistan 
  • Paeta Derek Hess-Von Kruedner, 1962-2006, R.I.PHmmmm….  “It was a mistake to remove a report on the 2006 accidental death of a Canadian soldier by Israeli Forces from its website, the Department of National Defence admits.  The report was posted in 2008 then removed in January 2009 “after it was discovered that some of its content is considered protected information,” DND spokesperson Jennifer Eckersley told QMI Agency, adding, “We consider this an error” and it will be made public again.  “DND will examine how best to do this in the coming weeks.”  A redacted version of the report is available to the public on request.  Maj. Paeta Hess von Kruedener and three other UN peacekeepers were killed by an Israeli bomb at their observation post in Southern Lebanon, during the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel ….”  Here’s another theory:  “The widow of a Canadian soldier killed by Israeli forces says the country’s Defense Department removed a report of his killing from its website in an effort to shield Israel.  Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener and three other United Nations observers were killed in 2006 when Israel’s military shelled their outpost in southern Lebanon during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.  Hess-von Kruedener’s widow, Cynthia, says that the report was removed because of reluctance on the part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government to criticize Israel ….”  Here’s the original report (67 page PDF) the government has spent 4 years figuring out how to re-release, here’s the 2008 news release associated with the report(also here at Google Docs if link doesn’t work) and here’s a bit of older content from in, around Lebanon. 
  • Another penny-pinching federal budget is mere months away, but Defence Minister Peter MacKay says he’ll enter 2013 expecting the military to remain a strong fighting force.  “The vulnerability and the volatility of the security environment is increasingly of concern,” MacKay told QMI Agency in a year-end interview. “That’s why I would suggest that we have to continue down this path of properly resourcing, funding, training and preparing the Canadian Forces.” ….” – more analysis of the Defence Minister here, and another “how’s the CF going to do with less money?” piece here.
  • Meanwhile, how many military references do we find in the PM’s “Accomplishments of 2012” speech?
  • The federal government has put a cap on rent increases for newer serving members at Department of National Defence housing units across CanadaDefence Minister Peter MacKay says a rent increase limit of 2.21 per cent for the 2013-14 fiscal year has been set for some privates and officer cadets effective April 1.  MacKay says rent will also not increase at the 4 Wing Cold Lake military housing units in Alberta, which was set to swell by about nine per cent next year — about $92 a month.  MacKay says the cap attempts to provide parity for members in lower earning brackets who often seek housing outside the military because it’s more affordable.  A news release says monthly rent for privates has increased 27 per cent over the past 10 years, while officer cadets saw a similar increase at 25 per cent ….”
  • Royal Canadian Air Force search and rescue crewmembers have received another accolade for a dangerous and tragic rescue that occurred in the Arctic in 2011.  The Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators (GAPAN) Award for Gallantry was this year awarded to Royal Canadian Air Force crews who, on October 27, 2011, responded to a distress call near Igloolik, Nunavut, where two hunters were stranded in icy waters in deteriorating conditions.  The award, which is given to an individual or crew of an aircraft in any field of aviation for an outstanding act of gallantry, was presented in the Guildhall in London, England, on October 23, 2012 ….”
  • Eve Adams, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, confirmed …. that the improvements to the Veterans Independence Program (VIP), which will put money in the hands of Veterans faster, will come into force on January 1, 2013. Veterans who receive housekeeping and grounds maintenance services through the VIP will no longer have to submit receipts and then wait to be reimbursed by the Department. Instead, they will receive up-front payments ….” – more here and here.
  • Canada’s largest veterans centre had police escort the daughter of an aged vet from the facility and warned her never to return on pain of arrest after she complained about bed bugs and a patient-safety issue.  Jackie Storrison said Sunday she was devastated and humiliated to be marched out of Sunnybrook Veterans Centre by security and issued a formal do-not trespass notice.  “I was paraded through Warrior’s Hall like a common criminal in front of a large crowd to my great embarrassment,” Storrison said.  “I believe this to be a deliberate, calculated act of retribution against me for attempting to advocate for my father.”  Storrison, 61, is among more than a dozen relatives with loved ones in the veterans centre who have spoken publicly about concerns of neglect and substandard care of the most frail residents at the 500-bed centre ….”
  • Way Up North (1)  China’s designs for a greater role in the Arctic could be built on Canadian resourcesChinese firms have invested over $400 million in northern Canada through various mineral and petroleum projects, while the Chinese government tries to simultaneously edge its way into the region’s key governance body, the Arctic Council.  While most of these deals are small, the resource sector is intiminately linked to the larger policy questions facing Arctic nations, which range from environmental protection to shipping corridors. If China gains influence in Artic affairs in the coming years, the impacts could be felt in Canada’s northern backyard.  “They have demonstrated that they will play hardball politics in terms of their interests,” said Rob Huebert, an associate professor at the University of Calgary who tracks China’s economic and strategic creep into the Arctic ….”
  • Way Up North (2)  “The Arctic has become an important part of North American perimeter security. Recently, the U.S. and Canada signed two new agreements that will expand bilateral military training, security and defense operations in the region. Both countries are working together to prepare for any real or perceived threats and are moving towards merging their Arctic foreign policies ….”
  • Two Canadian men wanted in the U.S. for shipping weapons to a foreign terrorist group were arraigned Thursday after losing their bid to the Supreme Court of Canada to avoid extradition earlier this month.  The FBI alleges Piratheepan Nadarajah, 36, and Suresh Sriskandarajah, 32, are operatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and were among co-conspirators who tried to purchase and export to Sri Lanka $1 million worth of high-powered weapons and military equipment, including 20 anti-aircraft missiles; 10 missile launchers; and 500 AK-47s. They are also accused of laundering money for the Tigers.  “The defendants allegedly set out to provide material support for high-level members of the LTTE, a known terrorist organization responsible for civilian massacres and other heinous crimes, by attempting to use our country and its resources as a gateway for criminal behaviour,” the FBI’s George Venizelos said in a news release ….” – more here.
  • The Canadian police are looking at using facial-recognition technology to nab terrorists and law-breakers who try to slip into Canada at Pearson Airport to cause trouble or derail the Pan-Am Games.  The Canadians have contacted some Israeli companies for proposals on methods to screening the visitors without creating “traffic jams” and bottle-necks in the airport.  The technology, that uses passport photos to screen travelers, may be ready in time to help process estimated 250,000 tourists, 10,000 athletes and officials arriving for the 2015 Pan/Para-pan American Games, according to police.  More than 10,000 athletes, coaches and delegates from the Caribbean and Central, South and North America will compete in 48 sports at more than 40 venues, spread across several municipalities of the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region.  The Canadians are expected to invite Israeli security experts to offer them some solutions based on technology but also on other methods used in Ben-Gurion airport in Israel ….”
  • An 88-year-old Ukrainian Canadian has once more been stripped of his Canadian citizenship by the federal government and is facing possible deportation over his connection to a Nazi killing unit.  The government filed an order in council in late December at Federal Court in Toronto quietly stripping Helmut Oberlander of his citizenship.  Now, the only thing that stands between him and deportation is the possibility of yet another judicial review.  Oberlander has been at the centre of a legal wrangle for years over his alleged involvement in Nazi war crimes.  In 2009 the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that federal cabinet must revisit a prior decision to strip Oberlander of his citizenship and consider whether or not he was forced to join the Nazis under duress.  Oberlander and his family have always maintained that he was conscripted into a Nazi death squad — the EK10A, which operated behind the German army’s front line in the eastern occupied territories during World War II — under duress.  His family says he wasn’t a Nazi and has never been charged with any war crime by Ottawa ….”

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  1. […] it really is problematic if such an African adventure will be excellent. I have little doubt the CF are eager for a (smallish) mission alongside the US and French-led EU but I do hope there is some political-level looking before leaping. In for a penny, in for a…and how long? At […]

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