Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – January 9, 2013

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  • More Mali (1)  Prime Minister Stephen Harper ruled out any direct Canadian military involvement in an African-led mission in MaliBut he said the Conservative government is weighing other options to help Malian troops roust Islamist terrorist who have taken hold of the West African country’s northern regions.  “We’re providing humanitarian aid to this region, which is important, and we are consulting with and working with and will continue diplomatically with our allies in the West and obviously with our friends in Africa on ways we can be of assistance,” Harper said Tuesday during a joint news conference with Beninese President Thomas Boni Yayi, the head of the African Union.  “The development of essentially an entire terrorist region in the middle of Africa is of grave concern to everyone in the international community.” ….”– more on the PM’s latest statement here, here and here.
  • More Mali (2)  Why someone who spent months as a hostage of Al Queda in Africa says Canada should do something  “Why should Canada help Mali?  Because our African friends so desperately need our assistance in stopping the threat of a jihadist takeover of northern Africa. And that threat is very real: Al-Qaeda and its allies are preparing to turn an 8,000-kilometre strip stretching across the widest part of Africa into a chaotic and ungovernable zone in which their jihad would flourish. They told me repeatedly, during my 130 days as their captive, that such was their aim: to extend the turmoil of Somalia from Mogadishu on the Indian Ocean to Nouakchott on the Atlantic ….”
  • More Mali (3)  More news on Mali here (Google News) or here (European Commission news aggregator)
  • Meanwhile, where’s HMCS Toronto headed?  “Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Toronto will deploy early this year until the fall of 2013 with a crew rotation during the deployment contributing to the multinational coalition fleet conducting maritime security operations in the Arabian Sea region.  HMCS Toronto has been undergoing extensive training in preparation for this deployment as part of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) and will replace HMCS Regina which has been in the region since August. HMCS Regina deployed to the Arabian Sea region with CTF- 150 in order to conduct maritime security operations in the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea and in the Indian Ocean ….”
  • “HMCS Athabaskan Off Glace Bay”
  • Federal Industry Minister Christian Paradis will be in Montreal (today) to announce that the controversial RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) is going aheadThere have been reports the projected costs of the three-satellite program have jumped to more than $1 billion from $600 million.  The program began in 2005.  MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (TSX:MDA), which had been contracted to develop the project, recently had to submit a revised proposal for the construction phase — the next step in the process.  In the past, Paradis has said the Harper government was committed to the satellite program but that it would be done in the most cost-effective way.  An official in his department would only say that Paradis would be making a significant announcement.  Officials from MDA and the Canadian Space Agency will join Paradis at the company’s satellite systems office in suburban Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue ….”
  • Afghanistan  Playwright Hannah Moscovitch has turned her focus to the experiences of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan in her new play This is War, now being staged at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre.  It’s an offshoot of the Tarragon playwright-in-resident’s work on the CBC Radio drama Afghanada, as well as one specific incident, which Moscovitch won’t reveal to prevent giving away the substance of the play.  Instead, This is War unfolds as four onstage characters — three soldiers and a medic — recount the event to an unseen person. Their stories unveil the kind of quick decisions soldiers must make on the ground. The play is set in 2008, as the Canadian Forces are holding Panjwaii, the most volatile region of Afghanistan.  “They’re all speaking to an interviewer or journalist, who you don’t see, and they’re talking about why that incident occurred,” Moscovitch explained to CBC News.  “In some ways, what they’re dealing with is how much to talk about and how much to conceal.” ….” – more on the show from the theatre’s web page here or here.
  • Stuart Langridge, R.I.P.  An independent military complaints commission looking into Canadian Forces investigations of a young soldier’s suicide wraps Wednesday after 10 months of hearingsThe Military Police Complaints Commission launched a public inquiry into how the military handled the death Cpl. Stuart Langridge, 29, in May 2011.  In 2008, Langridge, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan, hanged himself in a barracks at CFB Edmonton after five previous attempts to commit suicide …. The commission will hear up to three hours of closing arguments from each from government lawyers and those representing the Fynes family.  It can take months before the commission tables its decision and recommendations.”  More here.
  • Canada’s military ombudsman is appealing to the new defence chief to intervene on behalf of Armed Forces families who’ve been forced to swallow large home-equity losses after being transferred.  Pierre Daigle has written to Gen. Tom Lawson, saying his office has received “numerous complaints” about the home-equity assistance program.  The Canadian Press reported last week at least 146 military families faced financial hardship between 2007 and 2010 after being rejected for full compensation of losses when they were required to sell their homes in depressed markets.  The ombudsman looked at more recent data and concluded something must be done about the differing interpretations of federal policy when it comes to compensating soldiers for a mandatory transfer.  It is a growing problem that is eating into morale, Daigle said Tuesday.  “Money talks,” the ombudsman said in an interview.  “When you sign on the dotted line for unlimited liability, you prepare to give your life to serve your country, you don’t expect to be fighting a bureaucracy and administrative processes like that. It is not right.” ….”
  • More on the CF aiming to recoup disaster relief costs in the future  “…. One way or another, the bill for future disasters will likely land at the door of the federal government. It may try to recoup the money later on, probably from the province, once the disaster is over and no one is paying much attention any more. But good luck in collecting: the federal government took its own sweet time before compensating Toronto businesses for disruptions caused by the 2010 G-20 summit; provincial governments are just as good at dragging their feet, especially if they’re already broke and don’t figure they should be on the hook in the first place.”  You can even vote on the idea in a Postmedia News poll here.
  • Another opinion on making provinces, cities pay for CF help in disasters  “…. does the brass really want to put itself in the position of demanding user fees from the people – taxpayers, that is – who already pay their soldiers’ salaries? How’s that likely to resonate public-relations-wise, given that Canadians, due to years of their exemplary work, now consider domestic crisis relief to be a core CF duty?  This is an idea for the trash bin. The sooner it is relegated there, the better.”
  • A Halifax veteran who launched a class-action lawsuit against Ottawa over the clawback of military pensions says a settlement has been reached.  Dennis Manuge says the settlement is expected to be made public Wednesday following a teleconference call between lawyers representing veterans and Ottawa.  The class-action lawsuit was filed in March 2007 on behalf of Manuge and 4,500 other disabled veterans whose long-term disability benefits were reduced by the amount of the monthly Veterans Affairs disability pensions they received.  Last May, the Federal Court ruled that Ottawa should stop that practice and weeks later, the federal government said it would not appeal that decision.  The government appointed Stephen Toope, the president of the University of British Columbia, to negotiate a settlement with Manuge’s legal team ….”
  • The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, (yesterday) announced that 2013 will mark the Year of the Korean War Veteran. Minister Blaney made the announcement today at a special event held at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. He was joined by Senator Yonah Martin, representatives from the Royal Canadian Legion, the Korea Veterans Association of Canada, and Korean Veterans ….” – more here.

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