News Highlights – 22 June 12

  • What HMCS Charlottetown boarding parties are up to these days on OP Artemis  “As they wait to kick off on a mission, members of a naval boarding party are like athletes before a big game — there’s a bit of anxiety, but mostly they focus on visualizing what may come, and their strong desire to perform well. ““I think when people picture the boarding team swinging into action they picture everything happening very quickly,”” said Lieutenant (Navy) Adam MacIntyre, the Naval Boarding Party Officer in HMCS Charlottetown. ““While this is sometimes the case, there are also times when we know that a boarding is likely to take place as much as 24 hours in advance — or even more. It leaves time to think about what’s going to happen next.”” ….”
  • Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay responds to a question about cutting 140+ civilian staff at CFB St. Jean:  “Mr. Speaker, we are still investing in the military, including in its infrastructure across Canada. At the same time, we need to ensure our economy is balanced, while making important decisions that respect Canadian taxpayers. For every decision that is made, we work with the public service in order to find fair solutions that are necessary to maintain support for our soldiers as well as local communities.”
  • Meanwhile, Sun Media Columnist on DND, Veterans Affairs execs getting bonuses  “Most people find it commendable that the federal government is determined to trim the costs of running the country, even if it means some programs suffer cuts and restraints. The Harper Conservatives are adamant that the days of lavish spending are over (for the time being). Once again the Department of National Defence will take the lead in cutbacks — especially now that Afghanistan is on the back-burner. While all this has an inevitable feel, there are aspects that are so bothering that one wonders at the mental make-up of those involved. What I’m referring to are bonuses …. DND is reportedly cutting 1,000 jobs as its part in government austerity — clerks, kitchen staff, technicians, secretaries, whatever. That said, apparently some 157 DND employees in the executive category are dividing about $2 million in bonuses and extra pay. Over in Veterans Affairs (VAC), which is continually under fire for apparent short-changing those who come home with life-altering wounds (mental and/or physical) in foreign missions, there are also cutbacks — and more bonuses. Some 800 VAC jobs are said to be slated for extinction, yet $700,000 or so is headed to 57 executives or senior people in the form of bonuses or extra pay ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  The Harper government’s attempt to shut down a House of Commons committee investigation into the handling the F-35 stealth-fighter deal has failed, thanks to a filibuster by the Opposition. As the Commons adjourned for the summer, New Democrats managed to hold up the writing of a final report into the auditor general’s criticism of the multibillion-dollar program. It has been put off until the fall when opposition members will try once again to have more witnesses called before the public accounts committee. An in-camera motion by Conservative members that called for public hearings to end, and for the committee to conclude its study, was filibustered by an Ontario New Democrat, Malcolm Allen, and other Opposition members. The committee met one last time before the summer break on Thursday, where the matter was once again delayed ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Lookit who’s in the approval chain for at least some e-mails to reporters on this file…. “The Public Works Department provided the strategic communications branch in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Cabinet department with at least one copy of emails to a journalist this week as it was attempting to deny an outside review of F-35 stealth fighter jet costs will not have access to key information provided by the F-35 project’s head office in the U.S. The Public Works communications office accidentally included The Hill Times as one of the recipients of an email it sent to officials in the Privy Council Office to show the powerful PCO branch a copy of an email Public Works had prepared in response to a Hill Times report posted Monday about the government’s plan to review F-35 costs, following Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s scathing report on the stealth warplane project last April. In the email, Public Works denied that an obscure footnote in the government’s new F-35 management plan to be set up in Public Works means an independent review of $25-billion in estimated F-35 costs will not have access to key data and estimates from the U.S. that Canada’s Department of National Defence has been using to establish its own cost estimates for aircraft acquisition and maintenance. “Please find below for your information what we will send to Tim Naumetz,” the Public Works Department email said. It went on to explain the email to The Hill Times had already been approved by the Public Works secretariat now in charge of the F-35 project, as well as the office of Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose (Edmonton-Sherwood Park, Alta.) ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  Short and sweet on this one from the PM in the House“Mr. Speaker, the government has not yet purchased the F-35. On the contrary, we have said many times that we will replace the jets when necessary, at the end of this decade. Now, we are in the process of rebuilding the Canadian armed forces. It is very important to give our men and women in uniform the equipment they need. I am very proud of our government’s track record on this.”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Someone to check out areas around CFB Goose Bay to prep for (environmental?) clean up and someone to provide “900 kits of Survival Evasion, Resistance and Escape Kits (SERE)” for delivery “within 250 KM radius of (Ottawa).”
  • Search and Rescue on the East Coast  CF Info-Machine has this to say about the Burton Winters rescue operation  “Information regarding the use of a military aircraft at the end of January 2012 was recently tabled in Parliament by Minister MacKay. A Cormorant training flight that flew from CFB Gander to St. John’s on 30 January 2012 is listed in this documentation. January 30th is the same day that a ground search and rescue operation was being led by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador for Burton Winters. My intent with this communication is to provide context to this flight in light of the tragic passing of Burton Winters. The Canadian Forces have consistently stated the operational decision not to deploy a Cormorant was based on a number of complex and inter-related factors to include: weather, aircraft availability, distance to the search area and the requirement to respond to an aeronautical and/or maritime search and rescue call which is the primary responsibility of the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces ….”
  • Speaking of coastlines, this from Senator Colin Kenny on keeping a better eye on them  “…. It is true that the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) gives us a well-focused picture of what aircraft are entering Canadian air space. But the picture isn’t nearly as clear on our marine coastlines.  Canada does have coordinated coastal defence systems feeding into Marine Security Operation Centres (MSOC) at Trinity, in Halifax, and Athena, in Esquimalt, B.C. These centres are staffed by experts from various branches of government. They assemble information funneled to them in various ways and fuse it to produce intelligence as to what might be a threat off our coastal waters. The problem is that while NORAD air defences give us a real-time picture of what’s coming and going in our skies at any given moment, our coastal pictures are a mix of real-time and past-time information. Here’s an example. On the Atlantic Coast, some of the information funneled into Trinity is provided by Provincial Airways aircraft. Their observations are obviously of use, but these aircraft aren’t flying all the time, and they can observe only what is below their flight paths. Ideally, every component of an MSOC’s picture would be “real time” — exactly what’s happening in the moment, like an air traffic controller’s display screen ….”
  • New boss coming at CF Operations Support Command (CANOSCOM)
  • “Media are invited to attend a short press conference on Friday, June 22, where the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, will be joined by Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, to officially present Ms. Arlene Dickinson with her appointment as an Honorary Captain (Navy) in the Royal Canadian Navy. The Minister will also discuss the importance of the Honorary Captain (Navy) / Colonel program ….”
  • Note to Edmonton Journal:  a big honkin’ truck =/= an “armoured vehicle”  “Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a CFB Edmonton vehicle fire on a highway north of the city Wednesday morning. The accident happened around 11 a.m. on Highway 28 near the intersection of Highway 37, six kilometres from the base, said Morinville RCMP. Earlier information from the RCMP said explosives inside the armoured vehicle had detonated, but CFB Edmonton spokesperson Fraser Logan said there were no explosives on board at the time. “The driver’s front tire popped, which accounts for the loud noise,” said Logan. Police said the armoured vehicle was “fully engulfed” when they arrived, but no injuries were reported. Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fire ….” – more from the CF Info-machine here
  • Khadr Boy (1)  Omar Khadr’s Canadian and American lawyers are calling on the Conservative government to live up to its agreement with the United States and approve his transfer to serve out the rest of his sentence for war crimes in Canada. “The Canadian government has consistently failed to live up to its obligations to Omar Khadr. While Omar, a child, was trapped in a place that has been condemned around the world, the Canadian government stood idly by and said simply, ‘We will let the process run its course,'” his Canadian lawyer, John Norris, told an Ottawa press conference Thursday. “Well, that process has now long run its course. “In October of 2010, Canada committed to return Omar to complete his sentence in Canada after he served one additional year in Guantanamo Bay. Yet today, he still sits in a cell in Guantanamo, eight months after he was eligible to return to Canada,” Norris said. One of his Pentagon-appointed U.S. lawyers said Khadr is not a threat. “I’ve spoken to dozens of guards and staff at Guantanamo Bay and they all say the same thing about Omar Khadr, it needs to be clear to Canadians: He is a good kid and he deserves a chance at life,” said Lt.-Col. Jon Jackson. …. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said again Wednesday there was nothing new to say about the case. “I’ve made no decision in that. I’ll make a decision in due course, in accordance with the law.” That’s been Ottawa’s position ever since it became clear that the Americans were seeking to have the Toronto-born Khadr transferred to Canada to serve out his sentence ….” – more here and here.
  • Khadr Boy (2a)  Editorial“…. Does (Public Safety Minister Vic) Toews really think he and his successors can continue to push paper around on their desks for another six and a half years, until Khadr’s sentence is up and he comes home a free man? Whatever the government has planned for Omar Khadr, it doesn’t seem inclined to share those plans with Canadians. Instead, it continues to say one thing and do another.”
  • Khadr Boy (2b)  More opinion“…. The disagreement over Khadr’s place, or lack of place, in Canada will go on, but the moral battle is in my view already lost. The Khadr detention and especially the dirty work of Guantanamo which followed was a disgrace and a crime. Now there appears a new challenge and a new opportunity, to reintegrate and restore a Canadian citizen so badly abused, by so many, and for so long.”
  • Remembering the Air India terrorist bombing in the House of Commons“Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims (Newton—North Delta, NDP): Mr. Speaker, each year, June 23 marks a painfully sad day for thousands of Canadian families. Twenty-seven years ago this Saturday, 329 people lost their lives in a tragedy known as the Air India bombing, the largest mass murder in Canadian history. Although a Canadian inquiry was launched and completed, many questions remain unanswered. Relatives still struggle to understand how it happened. Today, our hearts go out to each and every one of them. As we approach another anniversary of this atrocity, I stand here asking all parties in this House to join together in remembrance of the victims and their families. Canadian, British and Indian citizens perished on that flight, but countries all over the world mourn them.”
  • The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, and Greg Rickford, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, laid wreaths (yesterday) at the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument on the occasion of National Aboriginal Day. Representatives of Aboriginal Veterans’ organizations were in attendance …. The National Aboriginal Veterans Monument was dedicated in 2001. The monument incorporates images of four “spiritual guides”—the wolf, the bear, the bison and the caribou—possessing qualities that Aboriginal Canadians see as key to military success. …. Canada’s Aboriginal people have been fighting for Canada on the front lines going back to 1812. Then, warriors like Tecumseh, John Norton and John Brant led Aboriginal forces in alliance with the Canadians and the British against the Americans. Aboriginal Canadians would go on to serve in many more conflicts over the years, from the First World War to Afghanistan ….”
  • War of 1812  Part of the PM’s message for National Aboriginal Day yesterday  “…. Aboriginal peoples have made immense contributions to our nation. First Nations fought as allies in the War of 1812 and in every major conflict since, and their cultures and traditions continue to be an integral part of Canadian identity. The enduring relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations is one based on mutual respect, friendship and support, and we are committed to working towards deepening this bond ….”
  • Remembering Bomber Command in the House of Commons – this from former CF pilot MP Laurie Hawn (highlights mine):  “Mr. Speaker, the early 1940s were dark days in England and in the rest of the free world. People were desperate for some good news and a feeling that freedom was fighting back against tyranny and oppression. Bomber Command became a ray of hope as the only way that the allies could take the fight to Nazi Germany. Canada’s contributions were impressive and the stuff of legend, but the success of Bomber Command came at a terrible cost. Out of 125,000 aircrew who served, over 55,000 were killed, including over 10,000 Canadians. This is a debt that can never be repaid but it is a debt that can never be forgotten. In an act of political correctness in 1945, Bomber Command was left off the list of organizations that were officially recognized for the role it played in the allied victory. This oversight is finally being corrected 67 years later. The new Bomber Command memorial will be unveiled in London on June 28 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the presence of 42 Canadian Bomber Command veterans. The Bomber Command memorial will form a physical and emotional link to our past. We will remember its members’ dedication to the values of freedom and democracy and we will remember their sacrifice. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.” News Highlights – 6 June 12

  • The PM on D-Day + 68 years:  “(Today), we mark the 68th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion of Normandy that marked the beginning of the march toward the liberation of Europe. On the morning of June 6, 1944, over 150,000 members of Allied forces from Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Free France and Poland landed on the northern coast of France with one goal in mind: to break Nazi Germany’s stranglehold on the continent. With great courage and determination, 25,000 members of the Canadian military took part in the largest amphibious assault the world has ever witnessed, playing a major role in the mission’s success. The seizing of Juno Beach would become one of Canada’s most renowned military victories and was a key part in one of the greatest battles of the Second World War. “As we mark this anniversary, we commemorate the thousands of brave and selfless Canadians – heroes one and all – who fought so tirelessly, and we pay tribute to those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice ….”
  • More on scaling back Canada’s military plans (1) “The Conservative government is being forced to defend its record following revelations Defence Department budget cuts have rendered its multi-billion-dollar shopping list of military ships, planes and vehicles “unaffordable.” Postmedia News revealed this week that National Defence officials told the government as far back as last year that its vaunted plan to invest $490 billion over 20 years to rebuild the Canadian Forces was no longer feasible …. In the House of Commons on Tuesday, NDP deputy House leader Nathan Cullen demanded to know why the government continued to promise the military equipment. “The Conservatives were well aware that they could not deliver. They could not pay for their promises,” Cullen said. “Why did the Conservatives not tell the truth about their military procurement strategy? Why not respect the taxpayers?” With Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay out of the country, it fell to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to respond for the government. “We told the truth and acted to rebuild our military,” Kenney said. “This government has made historic, unparalleled investments in Canada’s modern history to provide equipment and resources to our men and women in uniform.” ….” 
  • More on scaling back Canada’s military plans (2)  More from the House  “…. Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino said the government is doing what it can to ensure the military has the necessary equipment. “The issue here is that we are doing the best we can under the circumstances to provide our men and women the tools they need to do their job,” he said ….”  I’d love to share the House of Commons transcripts of the exchange, but that part of the Parliament of Canada web site doesn’t work as of this post.
  • More on those Canadian mini-bases all over the place (no obtained documents seem to be shared via the article, so no way to know what else is in them)  “The military is hunting for seven strategically placed nations willing to host a network of Canadian bases aimed at cutting costs and boosting response times to future wars, disasters and humanitarian crises. Two of those bases — in Germany and Kuwait — have already materialized, but the full extent of the plan to create overseas beachheads for military planes, ships and equipment has not been previously acknowledged. Defence officials and diplomats, armed with a $500,000 budget, are now working to finalize agreements with governments in some of the most volatile parts of the world. When the collection of operational support hubs is complete, Canada’s military will also have a permanent footprint in the Latin America and Caribbean region, on both sides of the African continent, in the swath of countries marked by the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as in Southeast Asia. Defence Minister Peter MacKay said last week that Canada is actively seeking a deal to set up one of those hubs in Singapore. The bases will form dots along the line of what military planners refer to as the Arc of Instability — the parts of the world where future conflicts are deemed most likely to occur ….”
  • More on the fracas over the DND Minister’s Office being underwhelmed about military staff not (apparently) backing the Minister enough over the chopper ride from the fishing lodge:  “…. Apparently, his office paid some of it forward. Internal Defence Department emails, obtained by the CBC under Access to Information, show that members of MacKay’s staff communicated their displeasure that the military was not sufficiently supportive of the minister during this time. Inter-office squabbling between civilian and military officials at Defence isn’t exactly new, but these revelations are particularly delightful now, for the simple reason that the Tories are quietly preparing to make cuts, potentially big cuts, to the armed forces. Or, in other words, are not being sufficiently supportive ….”
  • Globe & Mail: Build up the RC Navy, pick a sailor as the next Chief of Defence Staff  “With Canada’s grinding, decade-long ground commitment in Afghanistan at an end, there is a sea change needed with respect to Canada’s Armed Forces. Quite literally. Prime Minister Stephen Harper hinted at it eloquently in a recent speech in Ottawa, declaring that “Canada is a maritime nation, a maritime nation with trade, commerce and interests around the world…Canada and its economy float on salt water.” “Such a nation,” Mr. Harper said, “must have a navy.” …. given the defence challenges and its own priorities, it needs to appoint a naval officer as the next Chief of Defence Staff, following the expected departure later this year of General Walter Natynczyk. The last an admiral was in that role was 1997. It’s time again.”
  • Afghanistan (1)  What Canadian Preventative Medical (public health) Techs are helping teach the Afghans (via the ISAF Info-machine)  “As the Afghan National Army (ANA) grows and trains to combat the Taliban insurgency, it is also taking aim at another equally insidious enemy confronting the nation—disease. The Armed Forces Academy of Medical Sciences (AFAMS) delivers a Preventative Medicine (PMED) Technician program and is training personnel to check for potential health hazards at military and police facilities throughout the nation. The PMED course is a one-year program of instruction for select Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) personnel taught by Afghan instructors and now supported by a team of specialists from the Canadian Forces. They are part of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) AFAMS medical advisory training team and include Warrant Officer Eric Bouchard and Master Cpls. Sonia Lavigne, Ryan MacDonald and Brad Studham ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Analyst Lauren Oates on being careful who you pick as an “expert” to comment on current events (with an interesting example)  “…. it is often the habit of many mainstream news outlets to have a handful of suitably appearing academic figures on speed dial to testify on anything of international flavour showing up in the news, if they can be vaguely labeled as experts in “global affairs.” It’s very often the same “experts” who are called upon by the media to comment over and over again, not for their expertise per se, but rather more often their willingness to comment on anything on a wide array of places and issues. Often, their good sound bites only distill complicated issues into digestible bits for the public. The problem is that the simplicity of their commentary is not necessarily derived from their grasp of the subject matter, but often from their lack of it. It’s easy to make sweeping, general statements about topics that we’re unfamiliar with. But it’s also very dangerous ….”
  • Canada taking part in international professional development conference for NCO’s  “U.S. Army Europe and the Croatian Army are co-hosting the sixth Conference of European Armies for Noncommissioned Officers (in Zagreb, Croatia) this week, bringing together senior NCOs from more than 40 European nations, Canada and Afghanistan. The three-day conference is a key component of USAREUR’s theater security cooperation program, which is designed to share tactics and techniques that build partnership and interoperability among European, U.S. and other allied and partner forces. “The purpose of the conference is to encourage the development of professional armies throughout the European land forces and build relationships between the European armies’ senior NCOs,” explained USAREUR Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport Sr. “This is an opportunity to build mutually beneficial personal and professional relationships and to hear other countries’ views on topics and issues that are important to all of us here in Europe,” Davenport continued. “Many of these countries are our coalition partners in Afghanistan. In fact, 93 percent of our coalition partners in ISAF are European countries. So, this is an opportunity to for us to discuss joint exercises and engagements, at which we train for our coalition missions.” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  An oft-maligned 2010 news conference to announce a plan to buy 65 stealth fighters cost taxpayers more than $47,000, say documents tabled in Parliament. The figure was revealed by Defence Minister Peter MacKay in a written response to an opposition question. Liberal defence critic John McKay wanted details about the event, which saw MacKay, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose and Treasury Board President Tony Clement pose with an F-35 mock-up built by manufacturer Lockheed Martin. The response shows Lockheed Martin offered the model and transported it “to Ottawa via flatbed transport truck” at no charge. The money was well spent, Clement said Tuesday after question period. “We have an obligation to communicate our decisions,” he said. “We decided to give a visual portrayal of what we were talking about. We had over 100 stakeholders who were there, who were invited because they are experts in the field of the fighter jets. I don’t think we have to make any apologies about that.” Jay Paxton, a spokesman for the defence minister, says almost half of the $47,313 spent by National Defence went to an audio-visual company that helped stage the event. He says the expense was necessary because the news conference involved a number of national media outlets, as well as more than 100 invited guests ….” – more from Postmedia News here.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Sandwiches, box lunches for Kingston, Petawawa and Trenton – menus and sandwich specs here.
  • Way Up North (1)  Editorial:  Time for an Arctic strategy for Canada  “…. When it comes to either of the primary strategies in the great game for resources, Canada seems to be more of a stumbler than a doer. Despite its repeated announcements of enhanced infrastructure to provide a strong military and civilian presence in the region, much of Canada’s capacity remains on the drawing board. Russia, Denmark and even Norway already have a leg up on Canada ….”  Here’s a bit of what Russia and Norway (as well as Russia & Norway together) are up to in their Arctic areas.
  • Way Up North (2)  China and India should be granted entry to the intergovernmental council for Arctic issues, a leading group of policy experts has told Canada. Canada takes over leadership of the Arctic Council in 2013, and granting observer status to China, India and other “non-Arctic powerhouses” should be a top priority, according to recommendations stemming from a conference organized by the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program policy forum. At present, the council consists of the eight Arctic nations (Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States) and six observer countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom). There are also six groups of indigenous peoples who hold ‘permanent participant’ status. China and other nations such as South Korea have vastly increased their polar-research spending in recent years, and there has been much debate about whether they should be allowed to join the Arctic Council as observers ….” – the full report, “Canada as an Arctic Power: Preparing for the Canadian Chairmanship of the Arctic Council” available here A big hat-tip to Tom Fries of the Arctic Institute for pointing me towards this one via his weekly round-up of Arctic news from around the globe.
  • Way Up North (3)  A buildup of military forces around the Arctic amid growing excitement about its oil wealth has the ability to undermine stability in the region, a research paper has warned. According to the report – called Climate Change and International Security: the Arctic as a Bellwether – the military buildup is neither advisable nor a sensible peacekeeping measure, as it is increasingly designed for combat rather than policing. The paper, published by the US not-for-profit organisation, the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), warns: “Although the pursuit of co-operation is the stated priority, most of the Arctic states have begun to rebuild and modernise their military capabilities in the region. The new military programs have been geared towards combat capabilities that exceed mere constabulary capacity.” ….”
  • Yesterday,the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, met with Thailand’s Minister of Defence, Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol Suwanatat, during a bilateral visit in Bangkok, Thailand ….”
  • Tomorrow, the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence hears from LGen Charles Bouchard, (Retired), speaking as an individual, on “NATO’S Strategic Concept and Canada’s Role in International Defence Cooperation”
  • Yesterday, at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, “Drafting Instructions for a Document” and discussion of “Transformation Initiatives at Veterans Affairs Canada.”  Tomorrow, more discussion of “Transformation Initiatives at Veterans Affairs Canada.”
  • Columnist underwhelmed by Veterans Affairs Minister  “I’ve noticed that there has been a subtle shift in the language of politics in Canada. Cabinet ministers used to be called “the Minister responsible for…” That has been supplanted with “Minister of…” Admittedly, the longer version doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it does serve a critical purpose: it reminds everyone that holding a portfolio is more than carrying a leather folder — it is a position of responsibility. It means the buck-stops-there. Ministers don’t just wield power, they take charge and fix problems. That’s something that Minister Blaney needs reminding of ….”
  • What the Veterans Ombudsman’s office is up to this summer  “As I mentioned previously in my blog, the Office has adopted the theme of One Veteran for the period of my mandate. As this theme suggests, I feel very strongly that all Veterans, regardless of their service, should be treated fairly by Veterans Affairs Canada. To the same end, it is crucial that the many voices within the Veterans community come together to share the same goal: to ensure that those who have honourably served our country have access to the benefits and services they need, in recognition of their service and of the individual sacrifices they and their families have made. In many ways, the concept of coming together to work as one team applies to the Office. With a team that is split between two different locations—one in Ottawa and one in Charlottetown—it is extremely important that geographic distance does not take away from the quality of the work we do to ensure the fair treatment of all Veterans …. During the second week of June, my team will assemble for an all-staff retreat. This will be an opportunity to foster communication and plan strategically for the year ahead. We will use this time to plan for upcoming outreach tours and systemic reviews, identify possible areas of concern, and generally ensure that the team is working together towards a common goal—the fair treatment of all Veterans. I expect that this retreat will be very informative and productive, and I will be sure to provide an update following our return.”
  • Another Highway of Heroes coming, this time in New Brunswick?  Brian Macdonald, MLA for Fredericton-Silverwood, introduced a motion Tuesday for New Brunswick to have its very own “Highway of Heroes.” Macdonald said the motion could be debated as early as Friday. The driving force behind the idea came from the New Brunswick chapter of the Canadian Army Veteran Motorcycle Unit. The group has been advocating for the initiative for the past year and has collected more than a dozen letters of support from various veterans groups throughout the province …. Macdonald told CBC News he suspects there will be unanimous support for the designation ….” – more on all the other Highways of Heroes out there here via
  • A high-ranking U.S. military official says the case of Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle, the Halifax naval officer accused of spying, has not diminished NATO’s faith in Canada. “I will tell you as a member of a military that is one of Canada’s strongest allies and partners, we’re not shaken by this at all and I don’t think our strategic imperative has been diminished in any way, shape or form,” Vice Admiral David Busse told reporters Tuesday. He is in Halifax attending the 2012 Maritime Security Conference. Canada’s Rear Admiral David Gardam called the Delisle case “regrettable.” But Buss said the U.S. has “blips” too. He said all sides must learn from the case because they must continue to share information. Delisle, 41, faces two charges of violating a section of the Security of Information Act and one charge of breach of trust under the Criminal Code. He is accused of passing secrets to a foreign entity or terrorist group sometime between July 2007 and Jan. 13, 2012 ….”
  • Human trafficking announcement coming today in Ottawa, Montreal and Surrey, B.C.
  • Lt. Cmdr. Wafa Dabbagh, R.I.P.  The first woman to wear the hijab in the Canadian Forces died Tuesday. Lt. Cmdr. Wafa Dabbagh was an energetic, optimistic person who entered the naval reserve in 1996 in search of adventure and a job. She got both. In 2010, Dabbagh was awarded one of the first Operational Service Medals, and last month she received a Diamond Jubilee Medal. The medal ceremony was held in the hospital where she was being treated for lung cancer, a diagnosis she received in 2010. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation while continuing to work ….”
  • War of 1812 (1)  Canada-U.S. switcheroo of relics  “A mortar that stood in defence of Canada during the War of 1812 is going on display at the American Embassy in Ottawa, courtesy of the Canadian War Museum, as both countries commemorate the 200th anniversary of their historic, cross-border conflict. The 91kg (200 lb.) brass mortar from the Museum’s permanent collection was presented on loan to U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson by Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. The ceremony was held today at the War Museum in Ottawa. A reciprocal loan from the Smithsonian Institution will be made at a later date to Ambassador Doer, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States in Washington. The exchange is a symbol of the close friendship that exists between the two countries 200 years after the outbreak of war ….”
  • War of 1812 (2)  LOADS o’ places to commemorate the anniversary of the war – all the way until 2014 News Highlights – 4 May 12

  • We’ll see …. The Conservatives insisted Thursday that resources to help soldiers deal with the effects of war aren’t being lost to budget cuts. Union officials say a dozen researchers and experts who work on mental-health issues in the military have been told their jobs are on the line. The Opposition called the cuts callous, given statistics released this week showing suicide rates among soldiers reached record high levels last year. But Defence Department officials say no final decision has been made on those positions. Meanwhile, they’re moving to increase the number of front-line personnel available to help active soldiers and veterans. “Our government has made the decision to ensure that the positions of all front-line workers who treat ill and injured personnel are protected,” Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in a statement. “Direct patient care is not being affected in any way by recent efficiency measures.” ….”  More from the union involved here, and more media coverage from, the Toronto Star, here, here and here.  More in Question Period yesterday in the House of Commons here
  • Disabled veterans in Canada are “cautiously optimistic” they will see the money the federal government owes them, says Dennis Manuge. “Everybody is pretty excited that we have this kind of pressure now to bring to bear on the government,” Manuge said Wednesday. He was the lead plaintiff in a class action that was brought against the federal government on behalf of disabled veterans. On Tuesday, the Federal Court ruled that Ottawa has been illegally clawing back veterans’ disability benefits and ordered the practice stopped. It is not yet known if the decision will be appealed ….”
  • Remember this man saying he was being pressured to reject vets’ claims and appeals for compensation as part of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB)?  You can go here to and download a Parliamentary Library of Canada document showing a list of  VRAB members and the number of times they said “yea” or “nay” to requests (semi-spoiler:  most gave far more “yeas” than “nays), as well as stats on board hearings and rejections.
  • Meanwhile, the Minister of Veterans Affairs gives $5K to a Georgetown, Ontario group to celebrate VE Day.
  • Budget 2012  Collapsing of the COM’s  The Canadian Forces will merge the separate military commands that direct missions overseas and operations at home in a bid to cut headquarters overhead now that the military is refocusing after wars in Afghanistan and Libya. In a major restructuring of the forces’ command, Defence Minister Peter MacKay has ordered that the headquarters of two senior generals be trimmed, as field operations at home and abroad are merged under one Canadian Joint Operations Command, according to a Defence Department source …. Now that major combat operations have ended and the troops’ activities are largely in Canada, the Defence Department faces a new peacetime challenge: to restructure in a time of belt-tightening. Mr. MacKay has ordered consolidation, the official said: “It’s going to be phased in over the coming months.” Three existing commands will be merged: CEFCOM, the expeditionary command which directs overseas operations like the Afghanistan mission or the Libya air strikes; Canada Command, in charge of domestic defence and all North American operations such as navy drug interdiction patrols; and CANOSCOM, the logistics command responsible for getting ammunition and supplies to troops in the field ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1a)  Guess who we’re hearing from on this file in the House of Commons?  Question Period hit here
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  Guess who we’re NOT hearing from on this file?  “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has had to face one of his government’s biggest challenges to date — the controversy over the multi-billion-dollar purchase of fighter jets — without the help of his right-hand man. Nigel Wright, the prime minister’s chief of staff, has carefully and completely stayed out of any discussions of the procurement issue since he took up his post in January 2011, according to several government sources. Wright has had to abide by a so-called “ethical wall,” put in place to ensure that there was no conflict between files he dealt with in corporate Canada and those that would come across his political desk. Wright was an executive with private equity firm Onex Corp., and dealt specifically with the aerospace industry. Onex manages capital for Hawker Beechcraft, a firm that has partnered on projects with F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Wright is on a leave of absence from Onex, and could go back any time between July and next January ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2a)  Canada’s budget watchdog on Thursday accused the government of trying to mislead Canadians about the cost of the US-led F35 fighter jet program. Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page told reporters a flat “yes” when asked if he believed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government wanted Canadians to think the planes were going to cost less …. On Thursday, Page defended his cost estimates around the F35s before a parliamentary committee. He said he included operating costs of the jets, based on Treasury Board guidelines and a 30 year lifecycle, versus the 20 years used for the government’s tally that does not include fuel or pilot costs ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2b)  Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page says National Defence’s process to buy equipment is broken if the way they handled the F-35 fighter jet program is normal. In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CBC’s Power & Politics, Page pointed to committee testimony by top department officials who said the way they handled the process to buy the F-35 is the way they usually do it. If that process is normal, Page said, then it’s “broken. Completely broken. And wrong.” Officials gave one estimate to cabinet, he said, that included the full costs of the plane for the complete lifespan, but gave another estimate to MPs. “To tell Parliament, effectively, to tell Canadians, that, well, actually it’s a much smaller number, that’s wrong,” Page said. Earlier in the day, Page testified at a committee that National Defence withheld information when he was preparing his controversial report on the costs of the F-35s, and he later indicated he thinks Canadians were misled about the true costs of buying the fighter jets ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  Some details on some of the Committee testimony regarding numbers
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (4)  The general responsible for NATO’s military hardware says it’s not important that countries buy the same fighter jets, punching a hole in the government’s argument that it must buy the F-35 for the sake of “interoperability.’‘ NATO’s supreme allied commander transformation, Stephane Abrial, a former fighter pilot and chief of staff of the French air force, testified before the House of Commons Defence Committee Thursday. “We do not advocate a single type of aircraft, single type of ships, single type of rifles,” Abrial said. “We never wanted to make sure everyone has the same equipment: that’s not our goal.” Abrial said interoperability has to do primarily with training and ensuring all NATO forces have sufficient skills to function as one on the battlefield. “Interoperability means you are different but you work together,” he said ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (5)  National Defence is touting F-35 fighter jets as a key tool against overseas threats for decades to come, stating the military can’t pick an aircraft based solely on Canada’s domestic needs. But government insiders, opposition critics and military experts are arguing that National Defence needs to reopen the debate over mandatory requirements for the new fighter jets. At this point, Canada’s defence policy calls for the purchase of stealth fighter jets, which is a characteristic that will be of use in international missions – but doesn’t necessarily serve Canada’s needs on the home front. “For missions in Canada, it’s not the ideal aircraft,” University of Ottawa professor Philippe Lagassé said of the F-35. He said the F-35 is relatively costly, slower that some competitors and hampered by the fact that it has a single engine, instead of being a twin-engine jet like the current fleet of CF-18s. However, based on current requirements for overseas missions, the Lockheed-Martin aircraft is Canada’s only option. “The only stealth aircraft that Canada can buy, apart from those being developed in Russia and China, is the F-35,” Prof. Lagassé said ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (6)  Column throwing out yet another question worth considering “The notion that Canada may one day need stealthy F-35 fighter jets to help counter a threat from China has hardly been discussed in the raucous, mostly uninformed debate over whether Ottawa should acquire the fifth-generation warplanes. The few times that the possibility has been raised that China and Canada might be at odds in 2030 or 2040 it has usually been ridiculed  …. militaries must prepare for future contingencies. To do that they need the best equipment that they can get. Until now almost the entire focus of the current F-35 debate in Canada has been about what the Harper government knew about long-term costs and whether it was truthful to Parliament and the public about this. These are important questions. But they have totally obscured serious discussion about why Canada needs such a warplane. Part of that conversation has to be about what Canada’s relationship may be with China and many other countries several decades hence. The answers to such questions may be as hypothetical as what the operating costs of the F-35 will be by then, but they must be posed ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (7a)  A bit of old news, refreshed (I guess) by the blazing hot lights cast on the F-35 fight  “The department of National Defence last month retroactively amended a key phrase in a report it submitted for tabling in Parliament last year on the government’s planned F-35 fighter jet acquisition after Auditor General Michael Ferguson issued a scathing report on the controversial project’s costs. National Defence described the change as being due to a “typographical error.” The department, through the office of Vice-Chief of Defence Staff Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, changed wording that originally placed the project further along the Cabinet decision-making process when Treasury Board President Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) tabled the report in Parliament last June …. “
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (7a)  This, from 25 April (7th bullet):  The federal government is officially back-tracking on the process of buying the F-35 stealth fighter, part of a reassessment of the purchase that’s causing anxiety among Canadian companies hoping to tap billions of dollars in spin-off work for the jets. The Department of National Defence has issued a significant correction to the “Plans and Priorities” report it tabled in Parliament for MPs last year. In an “erratum” note, it says the 2011-12 report wrongly described the F-35 purchase as being in “definition” project phase, which generally means an item has already received preliminary approval from Treasury Board, the gatekeeper for federal spending. Instead the decision to buy a next-generation fighter is being reclassified as being in “option analysis” phase, which means Ottawa is still determining what it needs in terms of a plane. In the note, National Defence blames an unknown bureaucrat for the snafu, saying someone made a “typographical error” in the 2011-12 “Report on Plans and Priorities.” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (8)  Aussies getting cold feet?  More here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (9)  Aussie blogger on the irony of web pages carrying stories on the Tug o’ War while also carrying ads for the F-35
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Wanted:  someone to take apart the aircraft arrester at Bagotville as a first step to replacing it with a new one
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  A highly unusual sight occurred at the Abbotsford International Airport today when a CC-130J Fuselage Trainer shrouded in white plastic departed Cascade Aerospace Inc.’s headquarters facility aboard a transport truck. With the truck, trailer and Trainer totaling 190 feet in length, it is the longest over-sized truck shipment ever to be transported in B.C. The massive training device is destined for Canadian Forces Base Trenton, ON, where it will be installed at the new Air Mobility Training Centre (AMTC) and used by the Royal Canadian Air Force to train loadmasters on Canada’s newest tactical airlifter, the Lockheed Martin CC-130J Super Hercules ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  CF Info-machine on legal beagles teaching Afghan troops about the law  “Established at the Kabul Military Training Centre on 3 February 2010, the Afghan National Army (ANA) Legal School graduated its first class in August 2010 and in only two short years is gaining recognition as the ANA’s centre of excellence in legal training. A move to permanent quarters at the Afghan National Defence University in Qargha-Kabul — planned for Spring 2013 — will significantly enhance its training capacity. The ANA Legal School has a mission and a mandate to promote justice and the rule of law in the ANA ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  CF Info-machine on helping train Afghan women to join the Afghan National Army  “One of the most potent signs of change in Afghanistan is the sight of uniformed women on the job in the army, the air force, and in a wide range of policing services. Their recruitment, training and deployment is part of Transition, the plan for security in Afghanistan to be in Afghan control by the end of 2014. At the Kabul Military Training Centre, the Female Training Battalion is responsible for training of women destined for the Afghan National Army. From 1 April to 4 April 2012, I had the privilege of observing a group of female officer candidates as they conducted four days of performance objective checks (that’s “test” in army-speak) with personal weapons on the KMTC range ….” An interesting sidebar re: what the Afghan institutional memory is dredging up while NATO troops train them: “…. a new class comes in every week or two, so each class has an identifying name. The Canadian Forces uses serial numbers — course 12-04 is the fourth class to start a particular course in 2012. The Female Training Battalion uses women’s names, and this group of officer candidates came from Malalai Company. “Malalai” means “sad” or “melancholy” in Pashto, but its real significance here is that, in 1880, a girl named Malalai went down in Afghan history as the heroine of the Battle of Maiwand, for waving her veil as a flag to rally her countrymen against the British invaders. It’s like the French Army calling a group of female recruits “Joan of Arc Platoon.” ….”  Or like an Indochinese unit being trained by the French Army being called “Dien Bien Phu Platoon”….
  • Way Up North  Canada is moving to wrest back control of a swiftly changing North – or at least get a better handle on what’s going on in its icy waters. Global warming and growing international interest in the melting Northwest Passage make it imperative, the federal government says in an online call for expressions of interest, to improve surveillance in territory Canada claims but knows little about. The research arm of the Department of National Defence is investing $10-million from now through 2015 in a remote-controlled satellite surveillance project in the Barrow Strait, a small slice of the Northwest Passage through which most vessels pass on their way westward along that route. The Northern Watch project was announced in 2007 and the first equipment set up the next year, only to be severely damaged by harsh weather conditions. Now, after several years of remediation and altering equipment to make it stand up better to Arctic conditions, Ottawa has put a call out for a company to build a system that researchers can control from Halifax and, eventually, set up to be entirely automated. It will send the signals to Defence Research and Development Canada’s Atlantic section, which specializes in underwater photography ….”  More from MERX here (or here if link doesn’t work), and a few previous MERX Northern Watch postings here and here (via
  • The Pentagon Info-machine on recent joint Canadian-American training in southern Ontario  “For the first time since 2001, a New York state-based Marine Corps Reserve infantry company trained with The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Canadian forces here, April 20-22, during a small-scale, bilateral, 48-hour exercise. Following the 9/11 attacks, heightened security at the U.S. and Canadian border made border-crossing procedures more tedious and difficult and bilateral training with Canadian forces was put on hold. The past decade’s operational tempo and deployments to Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, also contributed to taking training with Canadians out of the equation. Training with border nations like Canada is an integral part of Marine Forces North’s responsibility to conduct homeland-defense operations. Reserve units are the ideal forces to conduct this bilateral training due to the unit’s close proximity to the Canadian border ….”
  • More from south Asian media on Pakistan’s military boss’s visit to Ottawa “General Khalid Shameem Wynne, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), who is on an official visit to Canada , called on General Walter J Natynczyk, Canadian Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and discussed matters of military cooperation and emerging regional situation. He attended Joint Staff Action team roundtable at the CDS Headquarters, and discussed at length issues related to regional stability and Pakistan’s security perspective. Later, the Chairman accompanied by Canadian Chief of Defence Staff, visited ongoing training exercises of Canadian Armed Forces in New Brunswick. He appreciated the realistic training maneuvers and dedication of Canadian Armed Forces personnel. General Khalid Shameem Wynne also called on …. Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence ….”  So, are we going to hear from any Canadian media on this one?
  • Terrorists in Somalia may apparently be raising money by smuggling, selling khat (even in Canada)  “British counter-terrorism police arrested seven people Tuesday on charges they were part of a network that had been exporting khat to Canada and the U.S. to fundraise for terrorism. Police raided four homes in London, Cardiff and Coventry at 6 a.m. as part of what Scotland Yard described as “a pre-planned, intelligence-led operation into suspected fundraising for terrorism overseas.” Khat is illegal in Canada but remains popular among émigrés from East African nations such as Somalia, where chewing the leafy stimulant is a ritual for some, although conservative Muslims forbid it. Much of the khat smuggled to Canada comes from Africa via London, where it is not considered a narcotic. The arrests suggest that at least some khat users in Canada may be unwittingly bankrolling terrorists ….”  More from British media here and here, some background on khat from the RCMP here, and some recent Canada Border Services Agency seizures of the stuff here and here.
  • What Canadian columnists did Al Qaida trust the most?  “Two Canadians were among a select group of international journalists singled out by al-Qaida to receive “special media material” on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, according to declassified documents captured during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year. Eric Margolis and Gwynne Dyer were to have been provided with a password and site address to download information provided by the terrorist group “at the right time,” according to the documents, released Thursday in a report by the Combating Terrorism Centre at the United States Military Academy at West Point titled, Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined? Margolis and Dyer were among a dozen journalists named in one of the letters, including renowned British war correspondent Robert Fisk and American Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. It also named journalists from Norway, Pakistan, Egypt and Jordan. Margolis said the documents need to be approached with caution “because there have been a lot of bogus reports, documents and videos that have come out of that area.” “It’s hard to tell. I’m not sure they’re authentic to start with. We have no way of knowing,” he told Postmedia News, adding they are “bad translations.” He said he was “mildly surprised” that he was mentioned as part of a group of independent journalists “not affiliated with news networks” who have an extensive background in the area ….”
  • Note to PM’s Info-machine:  I know the PM’s important, but would it have killed you guys to share some photos of, say, the monument as well?  Prime Minister Stephen Harper today unveiled The Royal Canadian Navy Monument on Richmond Landing in Ottawa. The Monument pays homage to the hundreds of thousands of Canadian sailors who served this great nation during the Navy’s first century of existence. The Prime Minister was accompanied by Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, General Walter Natyncyzk, Chief of the Defence Staff, and Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy …. In true Navy tradition, the Monument was officially named by a member of the Service during the dedication ceremony. Miss Elsa Lessard, who served in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service during the Second World War, accepted this honour ….”  I’ll keep checking the PM’s photo gallery for any other pix (while you’re there, you CAN check out 21 photos of the PM’s visit to Colombia, though).  Meanwhile, Postmedia News isn’t even sharing a photo of the monument onlineHere’s what the PM had to say at the event. News Highlights – 7 Apr 12

  • Budget 2012 (1)  Federal budget cuts at Canada’s military colleges will eliminate up to a third of the professors, says their professional association. Jean-Marc Noel, a professor of physics and president of the Canadian Military Colleges Faculty Association, said Thursday he has been given a list of 68 faculty members that the Department of National Defence plans to cut. That’s more than a third of the approximately 185 faculty teaching at Canada’s three military colleges: Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., the Canadian Forces College in Toronto and the Royal Military College cam-pus in Saint-Jean, Que. “It’s going to seriously negatively affect the institution,” he said. “My problem is if you’re cutting to the bone, which is what they’re doing now, they’re jeopardizing their own reputations.” All the names on the list are tenured professors who are locked into long-term union contracts with the colleges, Noel said ….”
  • Budget 2012 (2)  According to the Union of National Defence Employees, (Joint Task Force North)’s civilian workforce may be spared job losses. More than 1,000 civilian workers are expected to lose their jobs nationally after the Department of National Defence lost $1.1 billion in funding over the next three years in the federal budget. The union’s national president, John MacLennan, said they’ve received official notice from the department of the job losses and cuts at JTFN aren’t part of the plan for now. “They’re going to continue trying to find savings throughout the next three years and I’m very skeptical that this isn’t over,” he said ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  “…. “Is anyone in charge? Or is Peter MacKay a kind of Honorary Defence Minister?” (CBC commentator Rex) Murphy asks during his segment on The National. “He’s Canada’s Defence Minister — he’s a big man at the cabinet table, he’s next to being as powerful as Stephen Harper himself. Except when anything goes wrong. Like F-35 costs, procurement, projections or anything to do with any of these. Then he’s just Peter MacKay — Honorary Defence Minister — an ornament.” Murphy also goes on to ‘dress down’ the Prime Minister. “If Stephen Harper were in Opposition now and it was Liberals who brought about this mess he would be heaving thunderbolts and breathing righteous fire about ‘arrogant and incompetent Liberals.’ and he would be right.” Murphy proclaims ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Caveat:  No sign of documents being shared publicly = no way to know if this is the whole story  National Defence pressured other departments in 2010 to jump on the F-35 program by warning that $15.4-billion in regional spinoffs could be lost if there were any delays, according to federal documents. The move was part of a widespread lobbying effort to promote the fighter jet that included a large-scale sales job by its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, and other Canadian firms that wanted a piece of the $400-billion U.S.-led project ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  Canadian hedging on its original pledge to buy 65 of the stealthy F-35 multi-role warplanes was only the latest in a series of second-guessing, cancellations and delayed deliveries as other countries take a hard look at multi-billion contracts. Stunningly expensive and half-a-decade behind schedule already, the $1.45-trillion program to build more than 3,000 of the sophisticated fight-bombers for the U.S. military and up to a dozen allied air forces is flying into serious turbulence both at home and abroad ….
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (4)  Rounding up suspects“Auditor-general Michael Ferguson’s scathing report on the F-35 has put a rare spotlight on the coterie of senior officials – both civilian and military – who have been central to Canada’s involvement in the troubled stealth fighter jet program over the years. The list includes a former general, now responsible for providing civilian oversight of military purchases, several former fighter pilots and a top official at the Public Works Department who previously managed communications at National Defence ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (5)  Opinion: “…. There is no competition to be had if you want stealth and a networked capability because there are no other western aircraft being produced now that have this. It is THAT simple. The justification that the U.S., Japan and most of their western European allies have accepted is that China and Russia are rushing to catch up with fifth-generation warplanes of their own. Looking out 20 or 30 years, it is hardly a stretch to see how the Chinese or Russians might one day pose a military threat to Canada or Canadian interests ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (6)  Opinion“…. the public doesn’t seem particularly troubled. Concerns about the program certainly didn’t stop Canadians from giving Stephen Harper’s Conservatives a strong majority last May, even though the program’s troubles were public knowledge. It’s not that the opposition didn’t try to get the public to care. It just didn’t take. Put simply, it’s hard to get us riled up on matters military ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (7)  The F-35 jet has been the whipping boy for auditors and politicians all week, but it remains the darling of Canada’s aerospace industry. Industry veterans are shrugging off the vitriol of “scandal” and “fiasco” by remaining focused on the $12 billion they say the troubled program can bring to Canada. “It’s a state of the art platform,” says Maryse Harvey, an official at Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC). “Hence the delays and the challenges that they’re encountering — it’s pure innovation.” ….”
  • Congrats!  Members of Royal Canadian Air Force 442 Squadron at CFB Comox, won the SAR Award for Operational Rescue Excellence at the 2012 Shephard’s Search and Rescue Conference in Dublin. “The crew of Royal Canadian Air Force Cormorant, call sign “Rescue 907″ of 442 Squadron were the clear choice of the judges for this year’s SAR Award for Operational Rescue Excellence,” said Alex Giles, CEO of U.K.-based Shephard Media. “Their rescue of an injured hiker from Hat Mountain, B.C., at night and in the most demanding of weather conditions, displayed exceptional flying skill, crew coordination and personal bravery.” On hand to receive congratulations and the rescue award were Aircraft Commander Capt. Jean Leroux stationed at CFB Comox and SARTech Sgt. George Olynyk, who is now stationed at CFB Gander. They were presented with the award by Chris Reynolds, Director General of the Irish Coast Guard, the host organization for the conference. The other members of the crew who were honoured by the awards are Maj. Troy Maa, First Officer; Sgt Carl Schouten, Flight Engineer; and search and rescue technician (SARTech) Master Cpl Nicholas Nissen ….”
  • A reminder:  under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  Two Nanaimo men, both members of the Canadian Forces, have been arrested and charged with break and enter and uttering threats, and one faces a variety of weapons offences. Police announced Friday that the two were initially taken into custody as a result of an investigation into a break-in at a Nanaimo fast-food restaurant on Dec. 24, where a large quantity of money was stolen. Cory Damian Wagner and Ryan Kevin Verhoeks, both aged 20, were arrested in their respective residences by Nanaimo RCMP at approximately 6 p.m. on Wednesday. t Verhoeks’s residence, police say they found more than a thousand rounds of ammunition that was not properly secured and six licensed firearms that were neither secured properly nor bearing trigger locks. Verhoeks faces 13 charges including break and enter, theft over $5,000, careless storage of a firearm and uttering threats. Wagner has been charged with break and enter, theft over $5,000 and uttering threats ….”  More here and here
  • Afghanistan  On March 31st, the Embassy of Canada hosted its first-ever blood drive in support of the Kabul Blood Bank. The drive was a great success and resulted in 100 units of blood donated to help Afghans. Volunteers from the Kabul community, the Embassy of Canada, the Canadian Program Support Unit, and the international community joined together to donate blood to help Afghans in need. Canada’s Chargé d’affaires for Afghanistan, Shelley Whiting, and Afghanistan’s Minister of Public Health, Dr. Suraya Dalil, were among the group of VIP donors who took part in this blood drive. “Donating blood is very safe and takes less than 20 minutes,” said Chargé d’affaires Shelley Whiting. “It is also a tangible way in which Canadians, Afghans, and the international community can reach out a helping hand.” ….”
  • Another view of WW I  “…. by the time Canadians started arriving in Flanders in 1915, a system of rotation and rest meant that much of their time was spent in the relative safety of towns and farms behind the lines. There they enjoyed all the amusements readily available in areas populated by French and Flemish civilians, including estaminets, restaurants, shops, and women. Friction between troops and inhabitants, however, was not unusual. The events surrounding the evacuation of the Flemish village of Dickebusch in Spring, 1916 reveal this well. Only a few days after the final inhabitant had departed, Major Arthur Murray Jarvis, the chief military policeman in the 2nd Canadian Division, acknowledged receipt of a claim for 175 francs from a beekeeping local farmer. Having returned to the village to check on his bees, the Belgian farmer stumbled across a group of soldiers from the 28th Battalion, men recruited from Saskatchewan, Fort William and Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay), crowded around his hives. The ringleader, an officer no less, had donned a gas-mask to harvest the honey, so Jarvis’s diary entry on the matter goes ….”
  • More on Canada putting some money into the Bomber Command monument in the U.K. (as well as how the monument is coming along)
  • Also asked of Canada’s Veterans Affairs Minister at the Bomber Command announcement“…. Some media representatives suggested more funds should go directly to veterans. Mr. Blaney said Canada needs to support the veterans and commemorate the past. The students on this tour will be able to reach out and touch history. Students on this tour will be “ambassadors of history,” the minister said ….”
  • Minister of National Defence set to announce something to do with “the care of our ill and injured” at CFB Halifax on Tuesday

I Stand Corrected

Earlier today, I posted this:

Long story short – I blew it.

Further down into the story are, indeed, links to the documents being commented on in the story (all PDF):

 Reaction to CTV report

 Natynczyk’s travel options

 Interim travel guidance

Apologies for the earlier mistake, and well done to Allan Woods for sharing the documents to give the rest of the context. News Highlights – 23 Mar 12

  • Mali  Change o’ government = “keep your heads down” warning for Canadians there  “Canada has closed its embassy in Mali, following a military coup that has plunged the West African country in chaos and violence. “The embassy in Bamako will be closed until further notice,” Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs announced on Twitter Thursday morning. The department is warning Canadians in Mali — especially those in the capital Bamako — to hunker down and stay safe. “Those located in the Bamako affected neighbourhoods are advised to remain where they are,” the department tweeted. “Canadians in Bamako are advised to minimize their movements and stay away from the airport until further notice.” Renegade soldiers launched a coup d’etat against President Amadou Toumani Toure, ousting him from power in advance of elections scheduled for April 29. Toure is now in a “safe and secure location,” a defence ministry spokesman told the Wall Street Journal ….”  More on the Mali coup here and here
  • Syria  Canada welcomed the UN Security Council’s demand that Syria immediately implement a new peace plan, but said more should be done and slammed countries still backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The UN Security Council on Wednesday demanded that Assad “immediately” implement special envoy Kofi Annan’s plan to rein in the government’s bloody year-old crackdown on pro-democracy protests. Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird welcomed the move but said “much remains to be done,” in a statement released late Wednesday. “We call on the United Nations Security Council to adopt a clear and binding resolution condemning outright the ongoing violence,” he said. “Those who continue to support the regime only share in Assad’s responsibility for the continued death and destruction that Syrians are suffering; history will be their judge.” He appeared to be referring to Russia and China, which backed Wednesday’s action but have blocked two proposed UN resolutions condemning the violence ….”  More on the Security Council’s position from the President’s Statement here.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch  AFG Taliban: Wanna negotiate? Here’s whatcha need to do (links to non-terrorist site)
  • Way Up North (1)  Canada scaling back its plans for Arctic base (hat tip to Mark Collins for steering me in the right direction)  “Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s much-ballyhooed plan to build a naval facility at Nanisivik shrunk dramatically last month, when Department of National Defence officials told regulators about big cutbacks to the project. “The planned changes result in a significant reduction of the site layout and function plan that was submitted for review in 2011,” DND’s project manager, Rodney Watson, said in a Feb. 24 letter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, which is now screening the project. Under DND’s new scheme, the Nanisivik naval facility would become a part-time summer-only gas station for Ottawa’s proposed fleet of Arctic offshore patrol ships, along with other federal government vessels. “The facility will only be operational during the navigable (summer) season. All facilities will be shut down and secured when not in use.  On-site support will likely be reduced to an as-needed basis,” Watson said ….”  Here’s a link to the letter in question (7 page PDF), here’s another place you can download it, and here’s a bit more media coverage.
  • Way Up North (2)  The Pentagon wants to know what’s happening in the Arctic; there’s an app for that. Well not yet, but Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants one in a hurry. In a call for proposals this week (alternate link here), it said it plans to pick, deploy and test two systems this summer. “Remote sensing may offer affordable advantages over traditional methods of monitoring the region – aircraft, satellites or manned ships and submarines – due to the great distances in the Arctic,” the agency said in a call for bids. The U.S. military wants “new technologies to monitor the Arctic both above and below the ice, providing year-round situational awareness without the need for forward-basing or human presence.” Nothing nefarious about that. Except that slicing up the Arctic as retreating ice heralds a 21st-century resources rush and shipping boom at the top of the world is shaping up as a race for riches and control ….”
  • No indication of the “obtained” documents being shared, so no way to know if there’s anything else there.  Canada’s top soldier suspected the Conservative government was behind a plot to damage his reputation when reports emerged last fall that he had used a Challenger jet to join his family on a Caribbean cruise, the Toronto Star has learned. Gen. Walter Natynczyk, the chief of defence staff, aired his suspicion after learning a journalist got hold of flight logs that showed him using the military jet to attend sports events, the Calgary Stampede and to catch up to a family trip to the island of Saint Maarten in January 2010. He had missed his scheduled departure in order to attend a repatriation ceremony for four soldiers and a journalist killed in Afghanistan. “Whenever (blank) is involved in a story I tend to suspect a certain source, placed high in Government,” Natynczyk wrote to his chief media adviser on the afternoon of Sept. 15, 2011 ….”  Documents/e-mails in question downloadable here, here and here (all PDF) – more from media  here
  • CBC’s The Fifth Estate digs, and finds the same answer as before in the East Coast fracas “…. The Fifth Estate has obtained the operational log related to the incident and it includes weather reports that contradict that statement. DND’s guidelines say search and rescue helicopters need a 300-foot clearance and half-mile visibility to fly safely. The weather reports show they had twice that on Jan. 30. The military still didn’t send a helicopter after the weather improved. When asked why not, officials replied: no one called them back to say they were still needed ….”
  • Oopsie (follow-up)….  Remember this Here’s what’s apparently happened so far  “The Royal Canadian Navy has confirmed to CBC News that the commander of HMCS Preserver has been stripped of his command. Cmdr. Larry Jones was in charge of the ship when it rammed into a fixed floating dock at the Halifax Irving Shipyard on Nov. 4. The navy won’t say how extensively the ship was damaged or how much the repairs cost. HMCS Preserver is the largest ship in Canada’s east coast fleet and had just undergone a $45-million refit before the incident. In a statement to CBC News about Jones, the navy said there is “enough evidence for the navy to lose confidence in his ability to command at sea.” The navy has yet to complete its official inquiry into the collision. The navy said there is a direct link between the collision and Jones’s removal, and said Jones was relieved of command because of the “result of the preliminary finding of the Nov. 4 incident.” Jones has been transferred to a job ashore ….”
  • Defence Minister in Winnipeg to make building announcement (not publication, as mentioned in the headline here“… the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, announced plans to construct a $9.8M multi-use facility to enhance the delivery of care and the quality of life for Winnipeg’s military community. Minister MacKay also used the opportunity to announce a new, “Caring for our Own” publication which communicates the comprehensive way in which DND/CF commits to supporting ill and injured CF personnel from the time of injury through recovery, rehabilitation and transition back into military or civilian workforces …. The new facility, which will be built outside the security perimeter at 17 Wing Winnipeg, will optimize the operations of several units whose services are essential to the morale and well being of military personnel and their families. Services will include Winnipeg’s Integrated Personnel Support Centre, Military Post Office, Dispute Resolution Centre, SISIP Financial Services, and a CANEX retail outlet ….”
  • Defence Minister in Edmonton today to announce something else
  • What’s Canada (Possibly) Buying?  Textron Systems and General Kinetics have signed a memorandum of understanding for the Tactical Armored Patrol Vehicle project. Textron Systems Canada Inc., a subsidiary of Textron Systems, and General Kinetics will develop the TAPV for the Canadian military. Textron has submitted a proposal to the Canadian government to supply 500 TAPVs to the Canadian army with an option for up to 100 additional TAPVs, all of which will be outfitted with shock absorbers designed to military specifications by General Kinetics, the company said Wednesday. Textron Systems Canada General Manager Neil Rutter said: “The government of Canada has stated it wants to procure the best possible equipment for the Canadian army. We have engaged great partners like General Kinetics to ensure that the Textron TAPV we propose to deliver will be the best option to protect Canadian soldiers.” ….” News Highlights – 4 Mar 12

  • Afghanistan (1a)  A bit more detail re:  Canadian troops and the shooting of two U.S. officers in the Kabul Interior Ministry complex last week:  Several Canadian military advisers were in the Interior Ministry building where two senior American advisers were murdered on Feb. 25 by an Afghan angered by the burning of Holy Qur’ans a few days earlier at a U.S. airbase near Kabul, Canada’s top soldier in Afghanistan, Maj.-Gen Mike Day confirmed Saturday. “There were Canadians in the Ministry of Interior complex but they were not involved,” said the general, who also leads NATO’s Afghan army and police training program, adding that some Canadians, as with some other advisers in the building, were involved in the aftermath. The sanctity of the investigation into the deaths of an American lieutenant colonel and a major precluded him from providing any details about what happened, Day said. As had occurred after other such “green on blue” incidents that “targets or kills a coalition soldier, NATO was “unpacking” what had happened, he said. The general said he was “reaching out” by calling Postmedia News Saturday to clear up what may have been misinformation given by others about whether Canadians were in the Interior Ministry building at the time of the shootings last Saturday ….”
  • Afghanistan (1b)  Here’s what was said last week:  “Canada confirmed that “all Canadian-based staff (in Afghanistan) are accounted for and safe” in the wake of two American military officers who were shot and killed inside a government ministry Saturday. Afghan security sources said the two were a U.S. colonel and a major with NATO forces. Yohan Rodericks, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, told QMI Agency the group includes those who work at the Canadian embassy in Kabul, as well as Canadian civil police and military trainers ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  “When Sgt. Darrel Shepard boards a military transport for Afghanistan later this month, it will be the hardest departure of his life. The 31-year-old soldier has already served two tours in Afghanistan, in 2005 and 2007. Both times he had only himself to worry about as he patrolled. This time is different, and not just because he will be training Afghan soldiers on how to use their American-made assault rifles. It’s also because he will be saying goodbye to a wife and newborn son. For many Canadians, the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan this past December brought a sense of closure after 10 years of war that cost 158 Canadian soldiers their lives and left thousands more physically and mentally scarred. But for hundreds of Canadian military families and their communities, Afghanistan – and the accompanying stress and difficulties that come with having a loved one in a war zone – remains a day-to-day reality ….”
  • Academic critiques media’s coverage of subs  “…. The information about HMCS Corner Brook’s accident is available on the RCN’s website. The only question remaining is: Why didn’t the reporters and commentators take a few moments to read it before going on air?”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1a)  Reuters’ take on “The Meeting” on Friday (from unidentified attendees)“The United States and eight other countries helping to develop the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter underscored their full and continued support for the program, according to two sources who attended a gathering hosted by Canada. Despite U.S. plans to put off orders for 179 planes over the next five years and a steady drip of news about technical problems and developmental issues, a statement issued by Canada on Friday cited “good progress” on the program. Julian Fantino, Canada’s associate minister of National Defence, hosted a dinner on Thursday and all-day meeting at his country’s embassy in Washington, D.C. on Friday to facilitate better communication among political officials from all nine partner countries. “While good progress continues to be made, we will always be vigilant with our stewardship of taxpayers’ hard earned dollars,” he said in a statement, underscoring Canada’s determination to stick to its budget for replacing its aging fleet of F-18 fighter jets. He said the program had already resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of contracts for Canadian firms. The two sources said all nine countries underscored their full and continued support for what one described as the “backbone of allied defense in the free world” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1b)  The Canadian Press’ take on the same meeting“Countries that have invested in the troubled F-35 stealth fighter want to get together more often to keep an eye on costly program, says the Harper government’s point man on the issue. Julian Fantino, associate defence minister, concluded a one-day information session with allied nations in Washington on Friday to update them on the impact of recent changes, including the Pentagon’s intention to push some of its orders to future years. “We agree that similar meetings will help improve mutual understanding and collaboration to protect international stability from threats to security and human rights,” Fantino said in a statement. Another wide-ranging meeting of all nine countries committed to the radar-evading jet is slated for Australia this month, but the agreement at the table in Washington on Friday was that information updates need to happen more regularly ….”
  • Tug o’ War (1c)  Sun Media’s take“The federal government reiterated on Friday it will operate within a set budget to purchase F-35 fighter jets following a meeting with partners in Washington. Canada’s associate defence minister Julian Fantino said the meeting held in the U.S. capital helped Canada gain “valuable” insight from allies and industry partners. Canada has laid out a $9-billion budget for the plane purchase including a contingency fund to compensate if the cost goes up. It has also planned for a $16-billion maintenance fund for the jets over a 20-year period. “Canada has set a budget for replacement aircraft and we have been clear that we will operate within that budget,” Fantino said in a statement ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Forgot this one from Friday – the NDP is now calling for a Plan B“As Conservative Associate Minister of Defence Julian Fantino meets with F-35 purchasing partners in Washington, the NDP is pressing the Conservatives to adopt a plan B. New Democrats are demanding an open and transparent tender process so the air force can obtain aircraft that meet Canada’s needs. “Our partners are concerned about delays in deliveries, skyrocketing costs and the poor performance of these planes. This is why they have a plan B,” said Christine Moore, Critic for Military Procurement. “The Conservatives must follow suit with our allies instead of hiding the details from Canadians on this issue.” ….”

TALIBAN PROPAGANDA WATCH: Timeline of “NATO in Diapers” Claims

You’ve read about the Taliban bodies that don’t decay – now we have ISAF troops in diapers.

Here’s how the latest nose-stretcher got rolling:

You can download all the above-listed material here (15 page PDF) if any of the links above don’t work.

Keep enjoying the lies! News Highlights – 16 Jan 12

  • HMCS Charlottetown helping bring closure to fallen vet on its way to the Med“HMCS Charlottetown, a Navy frigate, left Halifax on Jan. 8, bound for the Mediterranean on a counter-terrorism mission. At some point along the way, or perhaps on the return crossing, Ottawa resident Paul Walker will be gently slid overboard, finally to be one with the sea. Walker died on June 9 at the age of 75 and was cremated. He had been a chief petty officer in the Navy, where he spent 23 years, an old salt who loved the sea. He did not want to be buried. He was long divorced. Ottawa was not his birthplace, nor his longtime home. So what to do with the remains? “He sat in my living room for a couple of months until we figured out what to do,” said his daughter Paula Archambault, 44, one of three children. Her husband Eric, a university professor, was noodling on the Internet one day, looking at the possibility of scattering the ashes over some body of water. One find led to another. Before long, the family had learned about a program run by the Royal Canadian Navy. During regular or training missions, the Navy will happily hold a “committal ceremony” in which the remains of Canadian Forces veterans are dispatched into the ocean. It is done with military precision ….”
  • Oopsie….  “The Royal Canadian Navy didn’t inspect repairs to a ship’s drainage pipe that later leaked about 14,000 litres of diesel fuel into the Halifax harbour last year, says an interim report into the spill. HMCS Preserver was fuelling at a refinery when an improper seal allowed fuel to seep into the pipe, which carries solid waste, and then flow into the harbour, the report says. The navy was able to recover most of the fuel before it spread to shore or cause extensive damage. The report dated March 29, 2011 — about two weeks after the spill — was obtained through access-to-information legislation. A final report hasn’t been completed ….”  No indication that The Canadian Press will share their copy of the report with the reading public.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch  Taliban claim the win?????
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  Senior Canadian officials should be heading Down Under in a few weeks for international talks they hope will clarify some of the outstanding issues and questions about Canada’s involvement in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. The occasion is a JSF Executive Steering Board (JESB) meeting tentatively scheduled for Sydney. March 14-15 is the target, but the Australian Defence Force’s JSF program manager, Air Vice-Marshal Kym Osley, told Canadian Skies that previous meetings have had to be rescheduled for one reason or another. “The JESB normally takes only one day,” he said in an email. “But the previous day is used for resolving issues at the working level and for senior members to conduct side-meetings with their international colleagues.” JESB sessions involve about 50 representatives, including senior officers from each country whom Osley said tend to be at least “at the two-star level.” The Department of National Defence in Ottawa told Canadian Skies that it was too early to say who would represent Canada at the upcoming JESB meeting, but U.S. representatives will include the top officers from the USAF Air Combat Command and the U.S. Navy’s NAVAIR Systems Command ….”  (h/t to Mark Collins for this one)
  • What’s Canada Buying?  New temp office complex for Wainwright and “electronic medical evidence based point-of-care information tool” for the CF Health Services Group
  • Forms of military service could soon be introduced in Canadian universities and colleges through the Canadian National Leadership Program (CNLP), according to “Answering The Call: The Future Role of Canada’s Primary Reserve,” the Senate’s December 2011 interim report. The program is geared towards undergraduates and students enrolled in it would take part in a variety of leadership and military training courses. Rob Roy and John Richmond of Breakout Educational Network, a non-profit organization that will integrate CNLP into the Canadian education system, suggested that the program would “connect Canadians with their military” and provide “hands-on, tangible leadership training.” ….”  If you read the full report (1.1 MB PDF), though, the question that remains unanswered is:  who pays for it?
  • Way Up North  “…. Canada should pursue substantive engagement with the Danish and Greenlandic governments on areas of common concern. Chief among these are environmental protection, trade, and security. Given the high costs of operating in the Arctic, both sides would benefit from cooperation on monitoring, and if necessary, policing the use of Arctic waters for resource exploration and shipping. Luckily, since Canada and Denmark are both NATO members, their militaries are designed to be interoperable by using similar equipment and training. Similar harmonization should be pursued between other Canadian, Danish, and Greenlandic government agencies, including those responsible for border security and fisheries management. While it would be inappropriate for Canada to take a position on Greenland’s independence, it should not neglect the need to maintain and expand relations with Greenland ….”
  • Alleged Rwandan war criminal Leon Mugesera was arrested Saturday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency said. Mugesera was arrested after being released from a Quebec City hospital and was transported to a CBSA-operated holding centre in Laval, Que., just north of Montreal, a senior government official told QMI Agency. CBSA spokeswoman Esme Bailey said Mugesera will have his detention reviewed by the Immigration and Refugee Board. The first review must be held within 48 hours, she added. Mugesera, who is accused of helping to incite the 1994 massacre of one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus, was scheduled to be deported on Thursday to Rwanda to face trial for war crimes. However, an 11th-hour ruling by a Quebec Superior Court judge ordered Canada to temporarily suspend the deportation while the UN committee against torture examined his case ….” News Highlights – 12 Dec 11