Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – January 30, 2013

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  • Mali (1) MPs will soon debate Canada’s involvement in Mali as the Conservative government continues to offer limited support to the French-led mission in the west African nationPrime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed Monday the issue would be debated in the House and be studied by the Commons foreign affairs committee in the coming weeks.  NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said New Democrats would wait until Parliament has studied the issue before deciding whether to push for further intervention.  “We’re going to get full information on the state of play in Mali,” he told reporters.  “That’s the undertaking. There’s nothing else on the table right now. But anything else would of course come before Parliament or its committees. That’s what the Prime Minister said and that’s what we agreed to.” ….” – more from Monday’s Question Period in the House here.
  • Mali (2) The feds are well advised to use an ounce of prevention to protect Canadian diplomats in Mali with special forces soldiers, says an international security expertIf special forces are indeed on the ground, Christian Leuprecht says it’s at least partly because officials don’t want Canada to be caught in an incident like the deadly terror attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya last September.  The Queen’s University and Royal Military College professor says the government “wants to be careful and take the right precautions so that we don’t become the next victim” of that sort of attack ….”
  • Mali (3a)  More mission creep worries from and a commentator
  • Mali (3b)  Liberal Defence Critic“…. The prime minister is right to express his non-verbal hesitations about engagement in yet another “African” conflict, but he is the prime minister and Canadians are entitled to a well-articulated, coherent expression of his views.  He might start with an articulation of the foreign policy goal of this mission.  Is it to contain militant Islamism, and if it is, say so.  If there are other goals, state them.  What will be the measure of success and when will we know it’s time to leave?  What will be the likely consequences on regional and international interests, and what are Canada’s interests? ….”
  • Mali (3c)  Toronto Star columnist  “Inch by inch, Canada and the West are being drawn into an African war we don’t understand ….”
  • Mali (3d)  Toronto Star editorial  “…. While the Conservatives have rightly drawn a line against sending combat troops, Ottawa should be prepared to offer not only political support for the French-led mission, but also cash, humanitarian aid and other non-lethal assistance as the African stabilization force ramps up.  That help should be conditioned, however, on Malian President Dioncounda Traore’s government setting the country back on the path to democratic, constitutional rule ….”
  • Mali (4) Canada will provide another $13 million in aid to Mali, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino announced Tuesday in Ethiopia.  Fantino is the Canadian representative at a donors conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital ….” – more here and here.
  • Mali (5)  More on whazzup in Mali here (Google News), here (EMM Explorer) and here (France’s defence ministry’s daily update in French)
  • Elsewhere….  Spillover from Mexico’s violent drug war is prompting the Harper government and the Canadian military to become more involved in helping defend the tiny Central American country of BelizeA series of internal reports, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, show the government has quietly increased co-operation with the Commonwealth nation, formerly known as British Honduras.  Canada is providing non-lethal equipment for security services and helping with strategic planning and the training of soldiers.  The documents, which all date from the spring of last year, describe the situation in Belize as deteriorating in the face of ultra-violent drug cartels that are battling not only Mexican and U.S. law enforcement, but each other as well.  “Belize is of growing importance to the Canadian government due to the increasingly precarious security situation in Central America, particularly along the Belize-Mexico border,” said a March 23, 2012, briefing note prepared for Defence Minister Peter MacKay ….”
  • Joshua Caleb Baker, 1985-2010, R.I.P.  Three days after leading a training exercise that went horribly wrong and killed a fellow soldier, warrant officer Paul Ravensdale told a military investigator he had no idea what caused the accident“All hell broke loose and I honestly don’t know what happened,” Ravensdale is heard saying in the recorded interview, played Tuesday at his court martial at CFB Shilo in Manitoba.  “I honestly felt I did everything right.”  Ravensdale, who is now retired, faces six charges — including manslaughter and unlawfully causing bodily harm — stemming from an incident on a weapons range in Afghanistan on Feb. 12, 2010 ….”
  • The Official Opposition has launched new salvos against Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s credibility over revelations about his controversial 2010 ride on a military helicopter from a central Newfoundland fishing camp.  Postmedia News reported earlier this week it has obtained emails that show government officials did not want MacKay to attend an Ontario news conference that prompted use of a Cormorant helicopter in July 2010.  As well, the emails appear to contradict MacKay’s assertions that the chopper ride was arranged at the last minute, and that officials knew 11 days in advance of the event that critics have slammed as a “photo op.”  Defence critic Jack Harris hammered MacKay in the House of Commons on Monday ….” – more here.
  • A Conservative MP wants to reward permanent residents serving in the Canadian Armed Forces with faster citizenship and revoke the citizenship of people who engage in acts of war against Canada.  “Canadian citizenship is an honour and a privilege,” said Devinder Shory, who represents Calgary Northeast, in a press release. “Those who put themselves on the front lines for Canada deserve to be acknowledged, while those who repudiate their citizenship by committing violent acts against Canada’s armed forces should not be able to retain it.”  Shory’s private members bill was debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday.  Bill C-425 would allow permanent residents who have signed a minimum three-year contract with the Canadian Forces to gain citizenship one year earlier than normal.  While citizenship is generally a requirement to join the Canadian Forces, permanent residents can receive a citizenship waiver if they have specific skill sets needed.  The second, and more contentious part of the bill, would see people stripped of Canadian citizenship if they fight against the Canadian Armed Forces. The provision would apply to dual citizens, citizens who are also a legal resident of another country or permanent residents of Canada who have applied for citizenship.  Shory commissioned a poll last year which suggested 80 per cent of Canadians would like to see citizenship be revoked in such cases ….” – more from the House of Commons debate here.
  • Oopsie…. The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax raised eyebrows in Newfoundland and Labrador after an official at the centre confused the names of a western Newfoundland peninsula and a Caribbean cityIn a voice recording made by a JRCC employee, there was some confusion about the location of a duck hunter who was reported missing Monday evening when he did not return to his home in the West Bay area.  “We are currently assisting the police up in Newfoundland on a search for a 51-year-old male duck hunter that is missing in the Port-au-Prince peninsula area.”  JRCC official Maj. Martell Thompson explained that the employee meant to say the Port au Port Peninsula.  “Pure slip of the tongue,” Thompson said.  “We all understand that Port-au-Prince is in the Dominican Republic.”  Port-au-Prince is actually the capital city of Haiti ….” – mention in the House of Commons here.
  • Speaking of search and rescue….  “One year after the death of Labrador teen Burton Winters, Liberal MHA Randy Edmunds says a lot of good has happened, but if more isn’t done, another similar tragedy could happen again.  “We’ve got to find out what went wrong. I mean, inquiries have been called for far less situations than what happened with Burton,” Edmunds said.  “You’ve got to find out what went wrong. For one reason, if not any other, it’s to fix what went wrong. I don’t like to see governments blaming each other and the issue not being addressed,” Edmunds said.  On Jan. 29. 2012, Burton’s body was found on the sea ice off Makkovik. He got lost on his snowmobile three days earlier, and tried to walk home.  Confused, in a snowstorm, he walked 19 kilometres in the wrong direction before he froze to death.  In the months after his death, questions were raised about why the Canadian Forces failed to send a helicopter to search for the teen ….” – more on the anniversary in the House of Commons here and here.
  • Way Up North  Canadian Rangers from seven First Nation communities made a big impression on an army colonel during a recent four-day visit to Northern Ontario“It has been a wonderful and very useful experience,” said Col. Jennie Carignan, chief of staff for Land Force Central Area, the military name for the army in Ontario.  “I was absolutely astonished at the way the Rangers have adapted to living extremely well in their environment.  “They are very knowledgeable about their own areas and their role is absolutely critical to the safety of their communities.”  Carignan encountered severe weather conditions during her visit, with temperatures dropping to -40 C and windchills reaching as low as -58 C.  Despite that she shot outdoors with Rangers at Lac Seul, near Sioux Lookout, and went snowmobiling with Rangers on the shore of Hudson Bay at both Fort Severn and Peawanuck. She also saw Rangers from Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, Fort Albany and Moose Factory teaching winter survival techniques to soldiers from Toronto at a temporary training site near Moosonee ….”
  • Naval spy sentencing approaching  “…. The senior officer at the Trinity naval intelligence centre inside CFB Halifax, where SLt. (Jeffrey) Delisle worked, raises a key issue facing Crown prosecutor Lyne Décarie and defence lawyer Mike Taylor as they prepare for SLt. Delisle’s two-day sentencing hearing, which begins on Thursday – the length of time he should serve in prison.  No one in Canada has ever been charged or convicted under the Security of Information Act. The 41-year-old intelligence officer pleaded guilty in October to two charges under the act of “communicating with a foreign entity.”  Nova Scotia’s Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, Patrick Curran, is expected to consider the sentencing submissions for a couple of weeks – and when he gives his decision, SLt. Delisle will become the first Canadian sentenced under the law created a decade ago in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.  With no precedents in Canada, Ms. Décarie and Mr. Taylor have been searching legal textbooks and data bases from around the world to make their case for the navy spy’s sentence ….”
  • Minister of Defence responding to an NDP question on the potential privatization of managing DND property  “…. I am very proud of the significant investments we have made through the Canada first defence strategy to infrastructure on bases across the country. The Department of National Defence continues to ensure that members of the Canadian Forces and their families have the necessary infrastructure to train, to live, to do the important work that we ask of them. The department will leverage private sector capabilities with the realignment of internal resources to oversee the right mix of in-house and external delivery options ….”
  • Canada’s military ombudsman is calling for the Department of National Defence to re-examine its long-standing practice of sending thousands of military personnel to new postings every year, including the relocation policies to manage those moves.  Pierre Daigle said the military should rethink how often it needs to transfer soldiers and uproot their families as part of its “operational requirements.” He said moving 20 per cent of the forces every year is expensive for taxpayers and can impose major personal and financial hardships on military families.  “Why do we move people so much and how many times do we have to move?” said Daigle in an interview. “Yes, they need operational capacity and people have to be moved, but when they are moved for operational requirements, it is not their choice where they have to go so to they shouldn’t be paying for it and that’s where we see the unfairness that needs to be addressed.” ….”
  • Date set for Federal Court hearing into long-term disability clawback settlement  “T-463-07; DENNIS MANUGE v. HMQ Federal Court Hearing will take place at the World Trade and Convention Centre, 1800 Argyle Street, Halifax, NS on February 14 and 15, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.”
  • “The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, (yesterday) participated in events organized by the True Patriot Love Foundation, and the Veterans Transition Advisory Council (VTAC), a team of corporate champions committed to removing the barriers that Veterans face during the transition to civilian employment …. The day began with a “From Battlefield to Boardroom” conference, which saw human resources executives from corporate Canada gather to learn more about the value and experience of military Veterans. The conference was followed by the inaugural Veterans Transition Advisory Council meeting ….”

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