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Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – January 17, 2014

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  • Please do what you can to spread the message that folks who are having a tough time don’t have to suffer alone – #sendupthecount – more here on Facebook and here at milnet.ca (Disclosure:  I’m a moderator at milnet.ca)
  • One idea to help vets in Canada in a new papera Veterans Commission  “…. The authors propose the establishment of a Veterans Commission which may save the taxpayer money  as the costs of Commission-initiated investigations may be lower than paying a barrage of Department of Justice lawyers, paralegals and other professionals to proceed with the current and expanding civil litigation. It would also herald a long standing and legislated recognition by Canada of the unique service and sacrifices of those who serve and have served in the armed forces. This would provide Canada with an ability to examine and develop, in a non-partisan basis,  a pro-active, fair and comprehensive national strategy to address and coordinate the nation’s welfare support and obligations towards our serving and retired military personnel ….”
  • Wally Fowler is still looking for closure.  Fowler is the former private in Canada’s air force who left the military in 2003 following allegations of racism during basic training and two postings at Canadian bases.  He was granted an honourable discharge on compassionate grounds.  Fowler was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder based on his time in the military, his family life fell apart and he’s struggled to find and hold a job. All the while, he’s tried to get an inquiry into his treatment while in the service.   In December, his request for an investigation into what Fowler believes is a coverup of his situation was denied.  In response to Fowler’s April request, the Defence Department found “no reason to conclude that the grievance process had been unfair.” ….”
  • For the seventh year in a row, the Canadian Army will provide several winter activities at Jacques Cartier Park as part of Winterlude which runs for the first three weeks of February in the nation’s capitalA favourite among young visitors, the winter obstacle course returns this year and promises to test the coordination and physical fitness of children who accept the challenge. Soldiers from 33 Canadian Brigade Groups (a military formation made up of Army Reserve Units from Eastern Ontario) will also be on hand to show visitors military equipment and winter clothing.  Always ready to entertain children of all ages, the Army mascot “Juno” the polar bear will also be on site for high-fives, hugs and cheering kids through the obstacle course ….”
  • The fight between an Ontario farmer and the Department of National Defence is likely to end in the government’s favour unless protesters are able to inflict political pressure, according to a real estate lawyerApproximately 200 acres of Frank Meyers’ farm in Trenton, Ont. face demolition this week, to make way for the Canada Special Forces Command’s new headquarters and training camp the DND plans to build there.  Now in his mid-80s, Meyers has been fighting the move for more than seven years ….” – more from media here, here and here, and some backstory on the land issue here at Milnet.ca (DISCLOSURE:  I’m a moderator at Milnet.ca)
  • Short & sweet from the Info-machine  “Eight hundred Reservists from 35 Canadian Brigade Group were deployed in Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, for Exercise PÈLERIN VALEUREUX 2014 from January 5 to 11. This large exercice was a great opportunity for Reservists to practise combat operations in sub-zero conditions.”
  • 10 Jan 14, from space-tracking media:  U.S. Strategic Command and Canada’s Department of National Defence have signed an updated accord permitting the exchange of advanced space situational awareness (SSA) data, Strategic Command announced Jan. 10….”
  • 14 Jan 14, from Canada’s Info-machine:  The Department of National Defence announced today the signing of a long-term partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense for the continued sharing of space-related services and information ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  “Capt. Shaun Fevens remembers every detail of the blast that killed six of his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan, back in 2007. The incident could have left Fevens a broken man, but it hasn’t ….”
  • Afghainstan (2)  Former Globe & Mail‘ite“…. Afghan and American leaders must sign a bilateral security agreement to allow a modest number of NATO troops to stay. Afghan forces need more helicopters, as well as logistics, intelligence and medical support. They will need, at a minimum, the $4.1 billion in annual funding promised by participants at the NATO summit in Chicago in 2012.  There is no other option, according to a local journalist in Gardez. “Fighting in Afghanistan is like grabbing a wolf’s tail,” he said. “While you hold on, you’re worried it will bite you. But if you let go, you are sure it will bite you.””
  • Afghanistan (3a)  More commentary on commentary about “was it worth it?”  “…. That’s the problem with actual evidence about those persistently sensible and incorrigibly optimistic Afghans. They stubbornly refuse to go along with the Toronto view that things are “worse” for them now, or at least no better, than the during the Taliban time. What all the evidence shows is if you ask an actual Afghan the question — Was it Worth It? — the odds are overwhelming that the answer will be “yes.””
  • Afghanistan (3b)  Yet MORE commentary on commentary about “was it worth it?”  “…. (military historian Sean Maloney)’s conclusion is that the crippling of al-Qaida was worth it all by its lonesome; I agree. I also agree that there have been plenty of “measurable, positive effects” for the country and its people.  But mostly, I agree with Maloney is that we can’t and won’t know the full answer to the question for decades.”  More on the meme from 3Ds Mark Collins here
  • Way Up North (1)  Stephen Harper says the Arctic should be the domain of countries with territory there and he would oppose efforts to grant influence to outsiders in a region attracting growing global attention amid climate change and the hunt for resource richesCanada is the current chair of the Arctic Council, an international forum for co-operation in the region that has taken on a fresh importance as countries jockey for position and economic opportunities in the North on everything from offshore petroleum deposits to faster shipping routes.  Mr. Harper said he has had misgivings about the rush of countries and other players to join the club as observers.  “It was just becoming literally everybody in the world wanted to be in the Arctic Council,” the Prime Minister said in an interview in his Langevin Block office in Ottawa …. Mr. Harper said he was not comfortable with the expansion of the council to include observers, which began before he took power in 2006.  To be blunt about it, I think, frankly, this had already gone too far before we became government, but given that’s the precedent that’s been established, you know, we’re prepared to have a significant number of observers as long as their presence doesn’t override or impede upon the deliberations of the permanent members,” he said.” ….”
  • Way Up North (2)  Arctic/antarctic primer from the Christian Science Monitor
  • Way Up North (3)  Think tanker hopes for nuanced understanding  “…. When we consider military presence in the Arctic, we must not assume that militarization is on the horizon. Nor should we assume that the Arctic is a chaotic panacea ripe for expansive commercialization. Rather, countless women and men, hailing from an expansive range of associations, nations, and Arctic indigenous groups have contributed invaluable knowledge toward fulfilling the desire for cooperation and peaceful relations between Arctic nations.  At the very least, the spirit of the Arctic Council under which members negotiated not one, but two legally binding agreements within the span of two years must be maintained. To not question media headlines or bellicose political rhetoric aimed at stirring domestic passions, not only discredits the work that goes into negotiating the complexities of a warming Arctic, but it is also misleading, if not detrimental to future relations.”
  • Way Up North (4)  The U.S. lacks “operational experience” in the Arctic region and is conducting a review for a new strategy set to be released in the coming weeks to address the demands of an increase in commercial traffic, oil and gas exploration and tourism have created new demands , according to a new document from U.S Navy.  The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that it had reviewed a draft of the document.  Today, the region has become increasingly important as new sea lanes have opened during Arctic summers, thanks to record high temperatures that melt the sea ice ….” – more on what the U.S. military, Coast Guard’s up to here and here
  • A week ago, we hear a contractor has two more years of work taking care of the base at Goose Bay.  Now …. The union which represents civilian workers at 5 Wing Goose Bay says cuts to jobs and services this week do not bode well for the future of the base“The worst-case scenario is that Goose Bay could be reduced down to a commercial airport, and no military presence at all,” said John MacLennan, president of the Union of National Defence Employees.  Serco, the company that provides services for 5 Wing, eliminated 25 positions at the base this week.  For some, that means a blunt and unplanned layoff. Others, however, are being asked to volunteer for layoff or train for other positions, while some are eligible for early retirement ….” – more here, here and here
  • Syria (1)  A Canadian citizen who converted to Islam has been killed while fighting in Syria, Canadian media said WednesdayMustafa al-Gharib, 22, was executed by the Free Syrian Army forces amid rebel infighting, after being injured in battle and captured by an unknown FSA faction in the city of Aleppo, Canada’s public broadcaster reported.  Citing unnamed sources in Syria and Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) said he had joined Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel group consisting of largely foreign fighters.  A Canadian Foreign Affairs Department spokesman told AFP: “We are aware of reports that Canadians have been killed in Syria. We are following the situation closely.”  Meanwhile Twitter messages from an unconfirmed source purporting to have been close to al-Gharib announced that the young man had been “executed by FSA” and that “he was killed while defending himself and his brothers from the FSA onslaught in Aleppo.”  Born Damian Clairmont in Canada’s Atlantic coast province Nova Scotia, al-Gharib moved with his Acadian family to Calgary in Western Canada at a young age.  After his parents split up, he reportedly dropped out of school and tried to kill himself by drinking antifreeze before converting to Islam and leaving for Syria in late 2012 ….” – more here
  • Syria (2)  Another young Canadian man who converted to Islam and was radicalized has been confirmed dead after fighting in Syria, a CBC News investigation has learned.  By the time of his death in Syria, Andre Poulin from Timmins, Ont., had become a battle-hardened jihadi known as Abu Muslim.  He arrived in Syria in late 2012, and joined a unit of foreign fighters controlled by a Chechen.  He spoke freely with an American filmmaker last spring about what his family thought of what he was doing in Syria.  “Well, on the one hand, they are happy I have found my path and doing my own thing, you know, helping people, but at the same time they don’t understand entirely why I am here,” he said in a Channel 4 documentary.  Last August, he was part of an attack along with other Islamist groups on a government-controlled airport in the country’s north.  He died in the attack, and his body was found and buried by other jihadis.  He is said to have left behind a wife and young child in Syria ….” – more here
  • Syria (3)  Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will attend a major international meeting next week aimed at ending the Syrian civil war as a major push gets underway to convince rebels to attend the talksBaird will travel to Montreux, Switzerland, for the opening of next Wednesday’s peace conference, known as Geneva 2, the latest attempt to find a political solution to a bloody conflict that has killed an estimated 120,000 people.  It wasn’t clear Thursday whether all warring sides in the Syrian conflict would be at the table for the Geneva 2 talks ….”
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced that he will be visiting Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan from January 18 to 25, 2014. During his first official visit to the Middle East, the Prime Minister will meet with political and business leaders as well as various community and business stakeholders, with a view to promoting commercial relations, advancing peace and security, and reinforcing the principles of democracy and good governance in the region ….”
  • Khadr Boy  Khadr supporters underwhelmed with response to letter from Tory MP
  • Ya think“Canada’s border agency is enlisting confidential informants, prompting internal concerns about privacy and the risk to sensitive institutions such as churches, schools and Parliament, newly disclosed documents show.  The Canada Border Services Agency uses confidential human sources willing to provide valuable details about the suspicious movement of people or goods, say briefing notes prepared by the agency for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney.  Following a positive initial evaluation, an informant receives an assurance of confidentiality from a certified Confidential Human Source officer and is registered within the border agency as a “CHS program participant,” say the notes, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act ….”
  • Canadian Veterans of Bomber Command and their families were in attendance (yesterday) for a special Bomber Command Bar ceremony. The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, presented the bars on behalf of the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs. Created by the Government of Canada, this bar of honour formally recognizes the service and sacrifices of these brave Canadians. Minister MacKay presented the Bomber Command Bar to Daniel Britton, John Douglas Havill, Robert Lloyd Burton and Allan John MacLeod at the Camp Hill Veterans’ Memorial Building ….”
  • A Canadian Veteran of Bomber Command and his family were in attendance (Tuesday) for a special Bomber Command Bar ceremony. Parm Gill, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Member of Parliament for Brampton–Springdale, presented the bar to Mr. Charles “Patrick” Wilson on behalf of the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs. Created by the Government of Canada, this bar of honour formally recognizes the service and sacrifice of these brave Canadians. Local Veterans of Bomber Command, their families and members of the community were in attendance for the ceremony ….”
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