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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 30 Sept 11

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  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1a)  PM Stephen Harper continues to back his man (the Minister, anyway) “…. Mr. Harper, however, said all Mr. MacKay’s flights were legitimate. “When he has used them, they’ve been for important government business,” the Prime Minister told the Commons. He invoked fallen soldiers in defending his minister, saying half of Mr. MacKay’s flights were to attend repatriation ceremonies where the remains of dead troopers were returned to Canada. “Half of those flights are for repatriation ceremonies so that he can meet the families of those who have lost their loved ones in the service of this country. He goes there to show that we understand their sacrifice, we share their pain and we care about them,” the Prime Minister said ….”  And this was so different from the CDS’s work before the much-maligned, and un-PM-supported, trip to rejoin his family how?  More from the guys who started the pile on here.
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1b)  Here’s Hansard’s version of what the PM said in the House of Commons yesterday“…. the Minister of National Defence has participated in some 55 repatriation ceremonies for over 80 lost Canadian service personnel …. This minister uses government aircraft 70% less than his predecessors. Half the time, he does so to attend repatriation ceremonies for soldiers who gave their lives for our country. That is why we have such great respect for the Minister of National Defence on this side of the House of Commons …. When this minister pays his respects to the families of our fallen soldiers I expect the official opposition to support us and the minister by showing respect for these families.”
  • On the CDS and plane trips.  “…. Tradition suggests Gen. Natynczyk is heading into the final months of his term as Chief of the Defence Staff. He led our Canadian Forces through the successful completion of our combat mission in Afghanistan — one that elevated Canada’s military reputation around the world. We should allow him to bask in the afterglow that follows a job well done.”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Columnist Joe O’Connor seems underwhelmed at how Canada handled fast-tracking Afghan translators to move to Canada.  “…. Interpreters, or ’terps, in the dusty lingo of life in the Afghan war theatre, were vital to our mission as translators, cultural guides — and as Afghans — who understood what Afghanistan was all about. One imagines that these Afghans thought they knew what Canada was all about after Mr. Kenney launched the program: a land of opportunity, of safety — and a just reward for a job well done. It is a pity that isn’t true.”  Not exactly – it was only true for 1 out of 3 who applied (glass half empty version), or it was true for more than 500 terps (glass half full version).
  • Afghanistan (2)  NDP MP Anne-Marie Day congratulates ROTO 10 in the House of Commons“I am deeply honoured today to draw attention to the difficult commitment undertaken by our Canadian troops on Afghan soil during Rotation 10 of Joint Task Force Afghanistan, which took place from October 2010 to July 2011. We ought to commend and applaud the sacrifices and efforts made during this mission. In 2001, when Canada became involved in this mission, Canadians already suspected that our involvement would be long and arduous. In total, 10 years went by before we considered our work to be done. Tomorrow there will be a ceremony at Valcartier to mark our soldiers’ return. They lived up to the Canadian promise. We can all celebrate their work, be proud of it and honoured by it as well.”
  • Afghanistan (3)  U.S. blogger Michael Yon continues to make no friends – this time, assessing Canada’s impact in Kandahar.  “…. the history of the Canadian troops is softly being rewritten as successful in Afghanistan. Reality differs. The Canadians troops have an excellent reputation and they served with distinction, but after nearly being swallowed whole, they were ordered to abandon their battlespace. There were many causes. The Canadian combat forces could have prevailed, but Ottawa is weak. The prime cause for the Canadian defeat was that tough men in mud homes without electricity defeated comfortable politicians in Ottawa, who seem to think that manufactured history will make them victorious ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  Detainee probe by Military Police Complaints Commission plods on, slowly“The Federal Court has dismissed complaints from military police officers over hearings conducted by the Military Police Complaints Commission into issues relating to the treatment of Afghan detainees. Eight current and former officers with the Canadian military police had argued they were being denied the right to a fair hearing with regard to whether they were at fault in their transfer of detainees to Afghan authorities or for not investigating how they were treated once transferred, given accounts about abuse of such prisoners at the hands of Afghan authorities ….”  Federal Court decision here, decision summary here and more media coverage here and here.
  • Paeta Derek Hess-Von Kruedener, 1962-2006, R.I.P.  Remembering, five years later.  “…. On 25 July 2011, the fifth anniversary of the attack on Patrol Base KHIAM, the fourth annual memorial service was held in El Khiam, led this year by New Zealand Army Lieutenant-Colonel Helen Cooper, the current chief of Observer Group Lebanon (OGL) ….”
  • On how much veteran families get for funerals:  “Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.):  Mr. Speaker, a Canadian Forces member receives $13,000 for funeral costs. A veteran receives $3,600. Nineteen months ago we raised this issue. The answer we received was that it was under review. Last year we asked the minister again to fix this problem. Even though his own officials raised it with him, he told a Senate hearing that it was not the time to talk about the matter. Yesterday we received another non-answer. Our veterans have done their job. They served and defended Canada. Why will the minister not do his and fix the situation now?  Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, I am glad to say that on this side of the House we not only speak for veterans, but we act for veterans. As I told the member yesterday, this program is managed by the Last Post Fund. It is doing an outstanding job. We fund the Last Post Fund. We are making sure that every military member who is killed or injured during service, whatever his or her rank, is well-served and will be treated with respect until the last moment of his or her life.”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Remember the “rent a UAV” bid request A new Statement of Work and Evaluation Criteria document is out (via Army.ca).
  • What’s the U.S. Buying?  A Canadian company is getting more work from additions to this big job“Canadian Commercial Corp., General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada, Ontario, Canada, is being awarded an $87,335,007 firm-fixed-priced modification under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5028) for procurement of 425 of the following engineering change proposal upgrades: upgraded transfer case kit; hood/bonnet assembly kit; exhaust system kit; central tire inflation system upgrade kit; skydex flooring material kit; electrical harness kit; route clearance digirack kit; remote weapon station joystick kit; front door assist kit; wheel and tire upgrade kit; and independent suspension axel system kit. Work will be performed in Benoni, South Africa (70 percent); Trenton, N.J. (20 percent); Chandler, Ariz. (6 percent); and Halifax, Canada (4 percent) ….”
  • Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino chats up defence industry reps at the Canadian Association of Defence and Securities Industries about buying stuff.
  • Whazzup with the General who wrote the transformation/reorganization report that all the reporters got“CGI Group Inc., a leading provider of information technology and business process services, today announced the opening of a new Canadian Defence, Public Safety and Intelligence business unit based in Ottawa with capabilities to serve the Canadian Armed Forces around the globe. In addition, the Company also announced the appointment of Lieutenant General Andrew Leslie to lead the new Defence, Public Safety and Intelligence unit. The offering will build on the corporation’s global expertise to develop and implement innovative, world-class solutions tailored to specific knowledge and requirements of Canada’s modern-day defence and security challenges ….”  A bit more here.
  • An interesting idea from the Royal Canadian Legion as an alternative to recognizing Afghanistan’s war dead on the national cenotaph in Ottawa.  “…. some veterans argue that singling out those who died in Afghanistan for special recognition on the memorial does a disservice to the more than 100 Canadian peacekeepers who have lost their lives in various other conflicts. For that reason, the Royal Canadian Legion said Thursday that, instead of specifically acknowledging the toll in Afghanistan, the monument should be dedicated to all of those who died “In the Service of Canada.” That’s the same inscription that is found in the Seventh Book of Remembrance, which records the names of all of the Canadians who died in military action since the Korean War. “We think that an inscription that covers the sacrifice made in all wars or missions would be acceptable to most people instead of etching the individual wars or missions,” said Patricia Varga, the Legion’s dominion president ….”
  • The World Socialists’ take on “royalizing” the branches:  “…. Though the rose of the Canadian military will smell no sweeter under its new designation, the name change exemplifies the ideological shift pursued by the new Conservative majority government. As the Canadian capitalist class has ever more vigorously asserted its imperialist interests abroad, and employed increasingly anti-democratic methods of rule to enforce its agenda of austerity domestically, its servants in the Harper government have contemptuously discarded the “peaceful” and “liberal- social democratic” Canadian nationalism promoted by the Liberal governments of the 1960s and 1970s and sought to promote the military and the Crown as sacrosanct elements of “what it means to be Canadian.” ….”
  • They’re not “war resisters”, they’re volunteers who ran away and aren’t brave enough to face the music – this from the House of Commons yesterday“Mr. Speaker, decorated Iraq war veteran Rodney Watson has lived in limbo for two years in sanctuary at an East Vancouver church with his wife Natasha and young son Jordan, both Canadian citizens. I have come to know Rodney and know him to be strong in his conviction for peace and justice, and brave in his commitment to go up against an illegal war. It has been a tough two years, and the strong support from the war resisters support campaign has been enormously important. If Rodney were to return to the U.S., he would likely be charged, which would make his return to Canada inadmissible, tearing him apart from his family. As many as 40 other war resisters like Rodney are currently fighting to stay in Canada. This Parliament has passed two motions in support of war resisters, yet the government is still trying to deport them. I encourage Canadians to write to the immigration minister and their MPs about Rodney and all war resisters to support the call for their permanent residence in Canada.”
  • Fence along the Canada-U.S. border?  Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?  “The United States has distanced itself from its own report that suggested it is considering beefing up its security at the Canadian border — possibly through the construction of “selective fencing” and trenches as well as enhanced electronic surveillance. The proposed options are contained in a detailed draft report released Aug. 31 in Washington, D.C., by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. The proposals will be aired at public meetings in American cities this fall, before the U.S. government considers how to further tighten the border to keep out terrorists and other criminals. But late Thursday afternoon, after reports about the possible fence hit the Canadian media, the U.S. agency released a carefully worded statement. “A border fence along the northern border is not being considered at this time,” it said ….”  A summary of the report (PDF) is available here, the news release linked to the report here, and more in the Globe & Mail here.
  • Meanwhile, the UAV’s drone on looking for bad guys and bad stuff going from Canada to the U.S.  “The unmanned planes look north toward the long, lightly defended and admittedly porous Canada-U.S. border – the best route many Americans believe for jihadists seeking to attack the United States to sneak across. Like their missile-carrying military cousins prowling Pakistan’s skies targeting al-Qaeda suspects, the unarmed Predator aircraft that have patrolled the 49th parallel since 2009 are high-tech, sophisticated and little understood. And they are part of the same diffuse and determined effort the Unites States is making to secure its borders and defend itself. “We’re here to protect the nation from bad people doing bad things,” says John Priddy, U.S. National Air Security Operations director for the Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine. He heads the Predator operation guarding American’s northern airspace. “This is the equivalent of the Cold War in terms of a new type of vigilance,” says Mr. Priddy, who has flown everything from Boeing 747 cargo jets to Apache helicopters ….”
  • Former U.S. VP Dick Cheney’s in Canada, worried about a biological or nuclear terrorist attack.
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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 31 Aug 11

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  • Libya Mission (1)  Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is leaving open the possibility of continuing Canadian military involvement in Libya after the scheduled Sept. 27 end date. Canada’s participation in NATO’s air mission over Libya has been extended once, but the government hasn’t yet said whether it will propose another extension. The NDP, the official Opposition, is against another extension. Asked what happens after Sept. 27, Baird said he’s taking the situation one day at a time. “This is quickly coming to an end. It’s not over yet. Canada will obviously be there in theatre to support the Libyan people,” Baird told (CBC) …. “The end is in sight. We’re not there yet, but let’s take it one day at a time,” he said. Pressed again on whether the troops will return to Canada on Sept. 27, Baird reiterated “the job is not yet complete.” “I would think that once the people of Libya are safe, that’ll be something that we’ll consider,” he said ….”  More on this here.
  • Libya Mission (2)  “Canada is heading into high-level talks on Libya this week without formal offers of assistance for the country as it rebuilds after a bloody uprising. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief spokesman says the intent of the meeting in Paris is to determine what the rebels’ National Transitional Council needs. Dimitri Soudas says Canada can contribute in several ways but the international community first needs to co-ordinate assistance. “Before you just start putting things into force and implementing them, you actually have to make sure everyone is going the same direction,” he said in a briefing Tuesday. Mr. Soudas said Thursday’s meeting is also not a victory lap for NATO forces, even as military officials say their sustained campaign is seeing life slowly return to normal in many areas. “The definition of victory is always something that people try to establish,” he said. “Victory to a large extent is democracy in Libya.” ….”  If the Government of Canada really means that bit in red, we may be there a while….
  • Libya Mission (3)  Academic:  Canada should have own eyes, ears on the ground, not just sharing intelligence from NATO partners“…. When asked where Canada is getting its information, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, referenced the NATO-led mission in which Canadian fighter aircraft and a navy frigate have been participating since March. “Don’t forget this is a co-ordinated effort,” he said, “and information is shared internally.” Walter Dorn, a professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., said he was surprised to hear that Canada doesn’t have anyone on the ground in Libya given the importance the government has attached to the mission, both militarily and politically. “It is critical to have Canadian eyes and ears on the ground in order to make informed decisions,” he said. “We have to evaluate those in charge, provide humanitarian assistance and help build the peace.” ….”
  • Libya Mission (4)  “Canada is looking at how to “unfreeze” up to $2 billion in frozen Libyan assets for re-construction efforts in Libya, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s spokesman Dimitri Soudas. The assets were frozen in February following a United Nations sanctions resolution and now Ottawa, following the lead of the United States, is trying to determine whether the money can be released and channelled toward “humanitarian and other needs” to help establish a transition to a democratic government in Libya. Ottawa is “looking at options at how to proceed to unfreeze those assets and for them to be put towards that use,” said Soudas ….”
  • Libya Mission (5)  And for all those calling for a U.N. mission in Libya, this, from the rebels“Libya is rejecting the idea of deploying United Nations military personnel to help stabilize the country. A 10-page document written by the UN Secretary General’s special adviser on Libya that was leaked and published online recently calls for the deployment of 200 unarmed UN military observers and 190 UN police to help stabilize the country …. that could include monitoring or mentoring police officers. Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the chairman of the transitional council, said Tuesday he had met a day earlier with NATO officials in Qatar, where it was decided that no foreign soldiers would be needed in Libya. “We decided that we do not need any forces to maintain security, be it international, Muslim or other,” he said ….”
  • The CF’s Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) is getting a new boss tomorrow.
  • Way Up North (1)  Lookit what the South Koreans are up to (hat tip to Mark Collins for sharing this one)  Commercial ships able to route through the Northwest Passage without ice breaker assistance are a step closer to becoming a reality. Korean shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), announced a few days ago that a model of their 190,000 dwt iron ore bulk carrier had finished its test program in the world’s largest – 90 meters long – ice test tank at Canada’s Institute for Ocean Technology (IOT). With an awareness that the traditional ice-breaker bow construction (where the mass of the ship’s bow structure bears down to break up pack ice) acts as a drag on efficient progress in open waters, international collaboration between IOT and Korean researchers from Pusan National University aimed at finding the optimal bow design for a ship operating in various ice conditions. Numerical computer analysis by the team culminated in manoeuvring and resistance performance tests of the model bulk carrier in the special ice-test tank ….”
  • Way Up North (2)  One academic’s view, post-Nanook 2011“…. one could argue that the senior military leadership views the Arctic (especially in a post-Afghanistan milieu) as a means of further justifying its reason for being. Stated differently, it gives them a mission priority that has the firm backing of the Conservative government in Ottawa. This is critical because it allows the military to make the case to political masters that the defence budget should be insulated from any deep cuts in the rush to balance the books …. It would be better for the military to wrap itself in an Arctic mission (and to secure the requisite procurement) rather than have the Coast Guard squeeze out more money for sovereignty patrols, scientific investigation and a polar-class icebreaker. In short, the Canadian military is perfectly content to play around in the Arctic just as long as the money taps stay open and they can use their training there for other “hot spots” around the world. And if this is the case, you can look for the Canadian Forces to deepen its military footprint in the Arctic.”
  • NATO’s mission boss in Kosovo:  we’re not ready to cut back troops just yet because of violence here.  Canada has five troops there with Operation KOBOLD – stay safe, folks.
  • Afghanistan (1)  Federal Court of Canada to Amir Attaran seeking pictures of detainees:  no photos for YOU! (via Army.ca)
  • Afghanistan (2a)  Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing shuts down (via CEFCOM Info-Machine  news release, 18 Aug 11)
  • Afghanistan (2b)  Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing shuts down (via CEFCOM Info-Machine feature story, 30 Aug 11)
  • Afghanistan (3)  QMI/Sun Media editorial“If there was a truly down moment during Jack Layton’s funeral on Saturday, it was Stephen Lewis praising Layton for wanting to negotiate with the Taliban. And, worst of all, this venture into the absurd got a generous and lasting applause. Can you imagine anyone but the elite left giving a generous and lasting applause to something so offensive and so wrong-headed? Yet, they lapped up the Orange Crush like it was cultist Kool-Aid. How sad is that knowing those same Taliban that Lewis and Layton think would give credence to a negotiated end to their terror have taken the lives of more than 150 of our Canadian soldiers, plus a diplomat, plus a Canadian journalist? And that’s not counting the hell and death they have brought down on the Afghan people. But everybody Rise Up! Rise Up! ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  I screwed up, missing this film from the CF Info-Machine:  “…. You don’t have to wait for a telling, warts-and-all documentary made about one Canadian military experience in Kandahar. Desert Lions: Canadian Forces Mentors in Kandahar is a great piece of reporting and surprise, it’s a Canadian army production. A reservist with the Calgary Highlanders regiment and a former CBC television reporter, Mike Vernon spent several weeks in 2010 shooting footage and collecting stories in the volatile Panjwaii district of Kandahar. This was a hairy time for the Canadian Forces, especially in Nakhonay, the small, Taliban-infested village where Mr. Vernon found himself encamped with nine members of an Operational Mentor Liason Team (OMLT), reservists like himself, assigned to a complex and dangerous mission: To hold Nakhonay while helping “enable” a company of Afghan soldiers, some of them good, some of them awful. All of the men struggled with cultural barriers and stupid military politics, inside a deadly combat environment where the enemy was always present but seldom seen. Scary ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Vendors aiming to sell the CF a quiet electric snowmobile have a bit more time to send in their bids (via Army.ca).
  • What’s Canada Buying (2)  Wanted:  someone to build a cold storage building in Petawawa.
  • Royalizing the CF  Survey says…. “According to (Harris Decima) Senior Vice-President Doug Anderson “By and large, Canadians agree with reverting to the traditional names for Canada’s Navy and Air Force and only one in ten are strongly opposed to the change. As might have been predicted based on historical evidence, Quebec residents find the lowest level of agreement on this point, but even there, opinion is fairly evenly split.” ….”  More from The Canadian Press here.
  • Ministers responsible for Veterans Affairs and senior officials from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Germany, Denmark, France and the Netherlands today completed two days of meetings to discuss support for Veterans. Ministers emphasized the need for collaborative research, policy development and programs for Veterans. The meetings were hosted in Ottawa by the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs …. The following statement was released by the Summit participants at the conclusion of the meetings: Honouring and providing services to Veterans is a shared goal around the world. All of our governments have programs in place to meet the needs of those transitioning from military to civilian life. Research is playing a growing part in allowing us to better understand the transition experience. By agreeing to collaborate more closely on common research projects, we will be able to develop improved ways of supporting Veterans throughout their lives ….”
  • Border Security:  Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird releases two reports on consultation results with Canadians – one here, the other here.  Media coverage:  folks seem to worry about privacy, information sharing/civil liberties (more on that here) and sovereignty (more on that here), while business wants a more open border.
  • Vancouver PD to public:  recognize any of these rioters?  Vancouver police have already received more than 50 tips after launching a website Tuesday aimed at identifying participants in the June 15 Stanley Cup riot. So far, police have posted photos of 40 suspected rioters, and scores more are expected to be added to the riot2011.vpd.ca site over the coming weeks. Police Chief Jim Chu said Tuesday that the riot investigation was proceeding carefully to ensure suspects could be charged with participating in a riot, rather than lesser crimes such as looting or mischief. “We’re not pulling our punches. We’re going for the most serious charges we can give,” said Chu. The first 40 suspects posted to the Riot 2011 website were randomly selected from a group of some 200 unidentified people police are investigating ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 22 Jun 11

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  • More help coming for Canadian military families?  We’ll see later today.
  • A Winnipeg Free Press editorial on the Universality of Service provisions keeping some wounded warriors from being able to serve again. “Canadian military doctrine emphasizes flexibility and the ability to adapt to new circumstances, but when it comes to integrating wounded soldiers into the regular force, the generals and admirals at the National Defence Headquarters seem trapped in the past. The story of Cpl. Ryan Elrick is a case in point. Mr. Elrick was a combat soldier who lost both legs to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan five years ago. His combat days were over, but Mr. Elrick refused to throw in the towel and terminate his military career. Instead, he soldiered on, learned to walk with two prosthetic devices, and eventually found success in a new career as an air force intelligence analyst in Winnipeg. His superiors recommended him for promotion, but the brass in Ottawa sacked him instead. The case is now before the courts …. a policy of routine reintegration would be bad military policy. The military’s job is to prepare for the worst and its soldiers are trained to survive under harsh conditions with little food and no medical attention. The soldier-first policy doesn’t mean that seriously maimed soldiers cannot serve. Capt. Simon Mailloux lost a leg in Afghanistan but learned to run and carry heavy loads with his new prosthetic leg. As a result, he was redeployed as a brigade staff officer in Kandahar Airfield, basically an office job, albeit in a war zone …. Mr. Elrick is not a threat to the military or to its valid concerns about maintaining an effective fighting force, but the Armed Forces’ rigid attachment to doctrine could undermine the broad support it has received from Canadians.”
  • Libya Mission (1)  Update from the big boss there coming up today.
  • Libya Mission (2)  Good question“Canada’s involvement in Libya is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the country has in a short period of time boosted its international reputation and thus, its influence among the leaders in NATO. “(Canada’s contribution) is a very big effort for a military that still has a major presence in southern Afghanistan,” a senior NATO officer, who was not authorized to be quoted, told the Globe and Mail. Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also heaped praise upon his country’s northern neighbour. In a speech at a NATO gathering in Brussels, he commended Canada for being among a handful of members that has “managed to punch well above their weight” in a transatlantic alliance that faces a “dim” future due to American belt-tightening and European indifference. The international community is undoubtedly paying attention. But, as the stalemate continues and the number of civilians killed continues to rise, Canada risks being part of an increasingly unpopular conflict ….”
  • Libya Mission (3)  No surprises from a ceasefire.ca online survey on the Libyan mission.
  • Afghanistan (1)  Canada’s mission continues to shift.  “As the last troops dribble in from the former Taliban heartland of Panjwaii, ending Canada’s bloody five-year combat commitment in southern Afghanistan, the Canadian army has already begun tackling a new, less dangerous mission in the north. Nearly 50 Canadian trainers started working with Afghan army recruits two weeks ago at a joint Afghan-NATO Regional Military Training Centre on the outskirts of Kabul ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Brace for detainee political fracas!  “The heated political debate over whether Canada was complicit in the abuse of Afghan detainees will suddenly re-emerge Wednesday, as the federal government releases thousands of pages of documents related to the issue. The long-awaited release of the records comes a year after the Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois formed an ad hoc committee of MPs to review 40,000 pages of uncensored documents. The records focus on how the Canadian Forces transferred detainees to Afghan authorities during this country’s military mission, and whether there is any truth to allegations that Canadian soldiers and officials knew — but failed to act — on abuse and torture of those detainees by Afghans ….”  More from the Canadian Press here.
  • Afghanistan (3)  Remember the Canadian kidnapped last year by the Taliban in Afghanistan?  Not much to say during Question Period about what Canada’s doing to help – this from the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs“…. the government is aware of this case. Due to security and privacy concerns, it would be absolutely inappropriate for us to comment on this case.”
  • Afghanistan (4)  Former CF soldier tells the War on Terror story via a chess set “A chess set of Taliban fighters featuring Osama bin Laden as the king and a suicide bomber as the knight is selling hundreds of copies to coalition troops in Afghanistan. The Terror Chess sets feature hand-painted Taliban militants with a woman in a burka as the queen. Ranged against the insurgents are soldiers from a choice of coalition countries including American, Canada and Britain. In the British set, the king is Tony Blair and the queen is Queen Elizabeth, while the rook is Big Ben. In the American set they are replaced by Barack Obama, the Statue of Liberty and the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Jeffrey Train, a 48-year-old former Canadian soldier who designed the figures, said he had sold around 1,500 sets, mainly as souvenirs to troops serving in the 140,000-strong international coalition in Afghanistan. Read it on Global News: Canadian-designed Taliban chess set latest craze for troops ….”  Global TV story here, and more from terrorchess.com here.
  • Afghanistan (5)  Wonder what folks who’ve been there, done that had to say about the season premier of “Combat Hospital” (usual Wikipedia caveats) on Global TV last night?  A bit of feedback here at Army.ca.
  • Andrew James Eykelenboom, 1982-2006, R.I.P.:  Mom of one of the fallen honoured for her work“Ninety-four strapped on helmets and sunglasses on Friday and spilled out from Courtenay Civic Cemetery onto Mission Hill to begin the two-day Boomer’s Legacy Bike Ride to Victoria. Their purpose was the same as last year and the year before – to raise as much money as possible for the Boomer’s Legacy fund. Cpl. Andrew “Boomer” Eykelenboom may well have been among the riders last week, were it not for the suicide bombing that claimed his life in Afghanistan back in 2006. The young medic had often asked his mother, Maureen, to send him items for the women and children he saw each day during his duties – many of whom would be in want of basic medical or other necessities. But after Andrew was killed, Maureen vowed to keep continue her son’s dream of helping vulnerable Afghan civilians, and founded Boomer’s Legacy in 2007. Four years and four cycles later, Boomer’s Legacy has raised over $400,000 – a benchmark that earned special recognition from Canada’s chief of defence staff, Gen. Walt Natynczyk, just a few feet away from Boomer’s grave. Natynczyk presented Maureen with the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service, the highest military honour for a civilian ….”
  • It appears Prince William will be doing a bit of military flying while visiting Canada later this summer.  “Prince William will help perform the daring manoeuvre of landing a (Sea King) helicopter on water during the royal visit to Canada. William and Kate arrive in the country next week on their first foreign trip, and details of their eight-day itinerary were released today by the Canadian government. William – who was at work as an RAF search and rescue pilot in Anglesey today, on his 29th birthday, – will join members of the Royal Canadian Air Force as a co-pilot, as they carry out the “waterbirding” technique in a Sea King. The prince’s private secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, said: “The Sea King, which operates below 500 feet or in a hover when conducting anti-submarine warfare or search-and-rescue operations, does not always have a safe landing site should an emergency occur – the closest ship or land could be miles away ….”  In case you didn’t know, Prince William’s day job is flying search and rescue helicopters (Sea Kings, specifically) with the RAF.  More on the Royals’ itinerary here.
  • Some Canadian fighters are back in the U.S. training, and helping others train. “…. Salina (Kansas) residents have become more accustomed to the sounds of freedom and our neighbors to the north are feeling more at home as the Salina Municipal Airport is now a regular forward operating location for the Canadian Army and Air Force. CF-18s on the flightline in Salina. Canada’s Tactical Fighter Squadrons have an economic impact of close to $2 million each deployment. “Salina always treats us well,” said Capt. Tyler West, detachment commanding officer. “We really enjoy it here. It’s good training.” The Canadian Air Force is supporting the Army during forward air controller training. The Army FACs will be training to serve as the eyes on the ground for the Air Force pilots. Through a number of methods, FACs communicate with the inbound pilots, guiding them to destroy enemy targets and minimize collateral damage. A composite squadron of airmen and equipment from 409 and 425 Tactical Fighting Squadrons along with U.S. Navy and U.S. Army exchange pilots have come together for this vital mission ….”
  • (Belated on my part) Happy Air Force Appreciation Day, Canadian Air Force!
  • Remember this incident where Jamaican troops (trained, in part, by Canadian special forces) stormed a jet and arrested a man wanting to hijack the plane about two years ago?  The convicted hijacker is appealing his 20 year sentence.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 15 Apr 11

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  • Libya Ops – Long Beach-built Boeing C-17 Globemaster jets owned by the United States, Canada and Qatar are playing an increasing role in operations across war-scarred Libya, including the recent airlift of wounded rebel fighters. According to Press-Telegram, a newspaper from Long Beach, California, at least two Canadian C-17s are operating from Malta. A Qatari Air Force C-17 was used in early April to ferry 15 seriously injured fighters from outside the eastern harbour town of Brega, where revolutionaries have been clashing with fighters loyal to longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The C-17, which can be converted to a flying Intensive Care Unit capable of carrying up to 12 critically injured or sick passengers, has also been airlifting tonnes of military, medical and food supplies to bases supporting Operation Odyssey Dawn, the United Nations mission against the Libyan government’s repression. The Qatari rescue mission was first reported by the Greek Defence Ministry, which said the C-17 first landed on the island of Crete to drop off the most severely wounded and one man who died during the short flight ….”
  • About 40 Taliban insurgents who have been fighting and killing Canadian troops in Panjwaii laid down their weapons this week and agreed to rejoin mainstream Afghan society. “Some of them undoubtedly have blood on their hands,” said Australian Lt.-Col. Liam Hale, who oversees NATO’s “Reintegration Cell” in southern Afghanistan. Canada’s Task Force Kandahar (TFK) had been a leader in establishing reintegration as a priority, the combat engineer said. “It was TFK that developed a formal process to sit down with them,” he said. “It has worked really hard with the district governor, pushing the messages that are important.” Task Force Kandahar’s commander, Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner, said that such defections from the Taliban’s cause represented a potential “tipping point” in the war in Kandahar. “They are switching sides,” Milner said. “How confident do those who remain (in the Taliban) feel when some are laying down their arms and reintegrating? What does it mean for what they can muster in May and June?” he asks, about when the fighting season usually begins ….”
  • The acting commander of Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan is decidedly upbeat as the clock ticks down on Canada’s five-year military effort in the region. Col. Richard Giguere does not seem to be bothered by the approach of the summer “fighting season” in which insurgent activity usually picks up. “There is a positive momentum going on right now in our area of operations,” Giguere said Thursday. Canadian commanders have often used glowing terms to describe the situation on the ground, even as their troops took casualties and military gains were quickly undone by an obdurate and wily insurgency. But Giguere points out that the situation has changed significantly in the past nine months or so. The most important change has been the significant shrinkage in Canada’s area of operations, combined with an influx of American forces ….”
  • Two judges overseeing the release of Afghan detainee documents as demanded by Parliament have decided the documents will remain secret for the rest of the election campaign, CBC News has learned. CBC News has obtained a letter sent by the judges to the leaders of the three federal parties on a committee looking into the release of the documents to inform them that the records cannot be released while Parliament is not sitting. The memorandum of understanding signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the two opposition leaders agreed to the formation of a committee of MPs to determine how to release secret documents about Canadian prisoners in Afghanistan. The Liberals said Thursday that they are prepared to make whatever amendments are necessary to the original memorandum of understanding reached last year in order to have the documents released now ….”
  • Election 2011 – Michael Ignatieff has begun the second half of the federal election campaign with a partial retreat from some of his comments from Wednesday night’s debate. During the French-language leaders’ debate, the Liberal chief was adamant that he’d let the United Nations Security Council make the ultimate call on whether to send Canadian troops abroad. “The Canadian army must never be used outside the country without the authorization of the UN,” Ignatieff told his debate partners. While allies like France and Britain have vetoes on the Security Council, so do countries like China and Russia, which have shown much less willingness to support NATO or other interventions abroad. Asked whether he really wanted to give Beijing and Moscow that kind of power over Canadian policy, Ignatieff chuckled. “That’s a very funny construction to put on my words,” Ignatieff said. Then he dialed back his debate rhetoric and admitted there could be exceptions ….”
  • Some U.S. defence work for an East Coast company.A rare ray of hope shone on the Miramichi economy Thursday as DEW Engineering and Development ULC announced an $8.7 million contract for its New Brunswick facility. The aerospace and defence company will create 35 new short-term jobs and maintain the 160 workers it currently employs. DEW was awarded the contract by General Dynamics Lands Systems Canada to manufacture bomb-resistant armour for front-line military vehicles used in Afghanistan by the United States Marine Corps. Tim Dear, president and CEO of DEW, said the armour manufactured in Miramichi – a lightweight ceramic composite technology – offers the same ballistic protection as the traditional steel armour at half the weight. “As the Stryker vehicles get older and need to be refurbished, we replace the heavy steel with our ceramic composite armour to get those vehicles back to the mobility they had when they were first made,” he said ….”
  • New Brunswick is consulting Reservists about education. The provincial government is adding military reservists to its list of public consultations. Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Martine Coulombe announced Thursday she will review ways to further enhance employment and education leave protection for Canadian Forces reservists in New Brunswick. “We are consulting with key stakeholders, including military reservists, to ensure that we are meeting their current and future needs,” Coulombe said. “The consultation process is designed to seek ideas on how to provide further clarity to existing rules, to support the Armed Forces’ ability to plan deployments, and to incorporate best practices implemented in other Canadian jurisdictions.” ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 12 Apr 11

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  • Scott Vernelli, 1980-2009 & John Faught, 1965-2010, R.I.P.  Remembering the fallen in Sault Ste. Marie. Mandy Dickson is putting a face to the name of every Canadian killed during Operation Enduring Freedom. Dickson, a former Sault Ste. Marie resident, has created her own “wall of heroes” tribute at her Mr. Sub outlet in Angus, Ont. “It’s important to me . . . It puts a face to every name,” said Dickson, in regards to the 154 three-inch-by-five-inch photos of Canada’s war dead in Afghanistan. “My husband Master Cpl. Scott Dickson and I know a lot of people on the wall . . . This is our salute to their ultimate sacrifice.” Among the miliitary dead they knew were Sgt. John Faught, 44, of the Sault, a cousin of Master Cpl. Dickson’s, and Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli, 28, also of the Sault, who the Dicksons got to know while stationed at CFB Petawawa ….”
  • A mostly Canadian-led seven day sweep across Panjwaii district that involved thousands of Canadian, American and Afghan troops ended Sunday, having found a trove of Taliban weaponry and homemade explosives as well as large quantities of drugs often used to fund the insurgency. The weapons and improvised explosive device caches discovered during Operation Hamaghe Shay II were expected to make it much harder for insurgents to plant homemade bombs during the summer fighting season in Kandahar. Attacks by the Taliban are expected to increase when the annual poppy harvest ends in a few weeks. “The caches were mostly in the fields, not in the compounds,” said Maj. Martin Larose, operations officer for the Royal 22nd Regiment battle group. “Because we also found a lot of stuff in compounds in January and February, they may have changed their tactics.” ….”
  • Is anybody out there watching anymore? Where have all the embeds gone? At any one time in 2006, when the Canadian military formally launched its embed program in Kandahar, and throughout 2007 and 2008, between 10 and 15 journalists were always embedded in Kandahar to chronicle Canada’s first major combat mission in half a century. However, for the first time since the formal embed program was established in Kandahar just over five years ago, only two reporters are embedded with the troops today — yours truly from Postmedia News and a journalist from The Canadian Press …. You would think that this would be the ideal time for journalists to assess Canada’s military and diplomatic triumphs and failures in Kandahar and to provide insights into the Harper government’s controversial new training mission, which is soon to begin in northern Afghanistan. But Canadian editors obviously have different priorities. For them — although certainly not for the soldiers and their kin or Canadian taxpayers, Afghanistan is yesterday’s war ….”
  • “Afghanistan: Should the Canadian mission continue to 2014?” CBC online survey says (so far), no.
  • Canada’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, now a Conservative candidate, says Canadian soldiers never knowingly handed detainees over to a high risk of torture though he admitted the Afghan system was rife with abuse. Chris Alexander, a former United Nations deputy envoy in Kabul who’s running in the riding of Ajax-Pickering, says the controversy over the treatment of Afghan detainees transferred to Afghan custody is overblown. Until now, Alexander has resisted public comment about allegations by fellow Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin that Canadian government officials turned a blind eye to reports about the clear risk of torture facing prisoners transferred by Canadian soldiers. But in a wide-ranging interview with the Star, Alexander flatly disagreed with Colvin’s interpretation. “I don’t think that happened at all. “I don’t think any Canadian ever handed over a detainee knowing there was a high risk (of torture) because anyone handed over by Canada — as the record shows — was going to be tracked through the system, was going to be monitored more than other detainees would. As a UN official, I was much more worried about people who were being detained by the Afghans or other countries that weren’t as careful as we were.” ….”
  • Here’s the report I mentioned yesterday, saying a training mission in Afghanistan would be dangerous for Canadian troops (PDF).  Here’s some of what someone who’s been there, done that in Afghanistan has to say: “…. this was a rather shoddy paper, even by CCPA standards. What was remarkable about it to me was that the writers did no real research of any kind, with all their citations pointing to news articles or other similar papers. They didn’t interview a single soldier or former soldier, or anyone with any first-hand knowledge of Afghan military training in Canada or outside. (The bibliography is also bereft of any references to Afghan sources of any kind, for that matter.) I doubt I’d have said anything if they had called, but I really don’t think we’re all that hard to find. So there’s no real reason to take anything they have to say seriously ….” More from CTV.ca here and CBC.ca here.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Assassinations and attacks claimed in Kandahar, Uruzgan, and Taliban (responsible for 3/4 of civilian casualties) worries about civilian casualties.
  • Libya Ops (1) – Canada backfills fighters to ensure Iceland has air cover now that CF-18’s are in Libya. “Three fighter jets landed at Iceland’s Keflavik airport and NATO military base yesterday evening and three more are expected later today. The air cover for Iceland had to be swiftly re-arranged because the Canadian Forces Air Command decided to send the team originally earmarked for Iceland on a mission to Libya. Canada has just taken over responsibility for Icelandic airspace under the NATO arrangement which sees allied nations take turns to patrol the air above Iceland. Air forces often also take the opportunity to use Iceland for exercises, as the NATO member country has the relevant equipment and ground crews despite not having a military of its own. Before the three F-18 fighters arrived yesterday, Canada had already sent personnel, tools and equipment to Iceland. Later today one more F-18 will arrive, along with a P-3 aircraft used for aerial re-fuelling. Some 150 personnel accompany the planes and will be staying at the Keflavik base over the coming weeks. As well as patrolling, the Canadians also plan to conduct exercises and landing practice at Keflavik, Akureyri and Egilsstadir ….”
  • Libya Ops (2) – Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister: Off the campaign trail, over to discuss Libya. “After taking heat for skipping a major international conference on Libya to stay on the hustings, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon will globetrot this week to two major meetings aimed at finding a way around the impasse in the country. With nations around the world looking for a way past what appears to be military stalemate and a divide over whether Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must depart before a ceasefire can be struck, Mr. Cannon is leaving the campaign trail this time – but first asked for a blessing from opposition parties ….”
  • Election 2011 – Blogger Mark Collins on the Conservative and Liberal platforms on defence.
  • Remember James Loney, the Canadian peace activist kidnapped with some others in Iraq, then rescued in 2006?   He has a new book out about his experiences. “An angry soldier told a Canadian hostage in Iraq that many people risked their lives to rescue him from terrorist kidnappers, according to a new book. Captivity by Christian activist James Loney reveals how a team of Mounties, soldiers and diplomats teamed up for a joint British-Canadian operation that apparently relied heavily on the mass surveillance of cellphone signals to pinpoint the hostages and their captors ….” My own humble open source analysis of what was said in public about the rescue here (Scribd.com).  Amazon.com only has the Kindle version out for now here.
  • Added #100 to my list of Fave War Flicks here.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 6 Apr 11

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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 Apr 11

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  • Election Promises (1) A Liberal government would restore full university status to the Royal Military College in St-Jean, Que., the party said Monday. If elected May 2, the Liberals would immediately invest $25 million to pay for infrastructure to boost the campus from what is now a CEGEP-level facility, to university status ….”
  • Election Promises (2)Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff pledged Monday to deliver a two-year $120 million plan to help Canadian military veterans return to school and find work. Ignatieff, backed by local candidates and a couple of veterans, said the plan would be increasingly important in the near future with thousands of Canadian soldiers returning from the mission in Afghanistan. “We get a lot of veterans coming home and end up on the street,” Ignatieff said. “One of the things I want to do is make sure those brave, young Canadians get the education that allow them to get the great jobs of the future.” ….” Liberal Party statement here, a critique of the pledge here.
  • Election Promises (3)  Blogger Mark Collins quickly sums up the Liberal’s defence platform (hint:  there’s a reason he can do it quickly).
  • Libya Ops  Columnist says it’s time for Canada to GTFO Libya. “…. this has now become a matter of power and prestige for the U.S. It is no longer about enforcing a UN resolution. It has, instead, become a showdown between America and Gadhafi. Canada was quick to deploy fighter jets and to take overall command of the NATO-led, UN-sanctioned no-fly zone. However, now that this situation has quickly morphed into yet another American intervention in yet another oil-rich Middle Eastern quagmire of tribal warfare, it is time for us to cut bait.”
  • Meanwhile, in AfghanistanThe Arghandab River is barely a trickle as Claude Desilets scrambles down the bank to inspect recent repairs on the Dahla Dam water network — arguably the most important infrastructure project in southern Afghanistan. Of particular interest are recently installed gates at the diversion weir, a vital control point for the entire irrigation system Canada is spending $50 million to refurbish. While the river lapping at the gates is currently more reminiscent of a lazy creek, Desilets knows big changes are coming. “In a week, all of this will be under water,” he said. The project field manager notes the traditional agricultural season in Kandahar province is set to begin, at which point the Dahla Dam reservoir 17 kilometres to the north will begin unleashing its contents into the Arghandab ….”
  • More on how the Government of Canada wants one of the probes into how Afghan detainees were treated to exclude non-military sources here (Toronto Star).
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  The company says things are looking good for the new jet. “Lockheed Martin Corp said on Monday it made considerable progress on testing three variants of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the first quarter, conducting 57 more test flights than planned. Lockheed said the short takeoff version of the new radar-evading fighter, put on probation by Defense Secretary Robert Gates for ongoing technical issues, logged 61 vertical landings in the first three months of 2011, six times more than the 10 landings done in all of 2010. The F-35 test program remained ahead of plan, despite a dual generator failure on March 9 that grounded the entire U.S. fleet of 10 F-35 fighter planes for 4 to 15 days during the quarter, the company said. “The vector is moving in the right direction,” said Lockheed’s F-35 program manager Larry Lawson ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) As an American, I am extremely reluctant to presume to offer Canada advice on how to proceed with the purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. However, the airplane is the culmination of such malevolent trends in my own country that I believe all allies and neighbours should be warned about going down the same path ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Anyone interested in providing professional services for designing/building new honkin’ ships for the CF gets a bit more time to submit a bid (via Army.ca).
  • Remember how the CF’s top cop would be getting more control over some parts of the military police apparatus (fourth item)?  Here’s the CF’s new fact sheet on what the new organization looks like.
  • I’m.  NOT.  Making.  This.  Up. A second military court martial is being convened against a Canadian Forces seaman accused of disgraceful conduct after a prank involving a glass of milk and a sailor’s penis. The unusual case happened aboard the HMCS Nanaimo when the coastal defence vessel was visiting Seattle in 2009. A leading seaman in the ship’s mess poured the last of the chocolate milk; mess protocol dictates he refill it. Master Seamen W.L. Boyle told him to refill it and the sailor of a slightly lesser rank said he would do it after lunch. An argument ensued and the junior sailor left, presumably to get fresh milk. While he was gone, MS Boyle took the glass of milk, unzipped his overalls and, according to one witness, inserted his penis into the drink, swirled it around and returned the glass to the table. The sailor was warned by a shipmate not to drink it. MS Boyle was charged with disgraceful conduct and conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, under the National Defence Act, which he was found not guilty of almost a year later. The military appealed, however, and won a retrial on the disgraceful conduct count ….” The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada decision is here.
  • A bit of a reminder from a Sun Media columnist. “Canadians are not capable of terrorism. We are the mild mannered and polite people of the Great White North who apologize to furniture when we bump into it. Surely we are not a nation capable of producing people who are willing to kill innocents in the name of an ideology. Reality, however, tells another story. There is a long, disturbing list of Canadians who have been arrested on terror charges both at home and abroad. Many have been convicted, Canadians with darkness in their hearts and violence on their minds: Members of the Toronto 18, Mohammad Momin Khawaja, Mohammed Jabarah among them. Since August 2010 alone, five Canadians have been arrested on terrorism charges. Yet Canadians continue to delude themselves into believing that terrorism doesn’t exist here, that every arrest is an aberration and that Canada is somehow an island in a world of instability ….”
  • Speaking of which….The Toronto family of a young woman who has sparked an international panic over her sudden travels to Somalia says that she has called home to tell them that she is not affiliated with terrorists. “Based on direct contact with her, they are assured she is safe with family in Somalia and that she is not with al-Shabab,” a source who spoke to the woman’s close relatives on Monday told The Globe and Mail. He asked that neither he nor the family members be named ….”
  • A Spanish judge has issued an international arrest warrant seeking the extradition from Canada of a former Guatemalan soldier suspected of involvement in a brutal 1982 massacre during Guatemala’s civil war, a court official said Monday. Judge Santiago Pedraz ordered the arrest of 53-year-old Jorge Sosa Orantes for his alleged role in the massacre in the village of Dos Erres in 1982 in which more than 100 people died, the court official said. Sosa faces charges of crimes against humanity, according to the court official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with policy. The more-than-three-decade civil war in Guatemala claimed at least 200,000 lives before it ended in 1996. The U.S.-backed army was responsible for most of the deaths, according to the findings of a truth commission set up to investigate the bloodshed Sosa has been in custody in Alberta since January on U.S. charges of lying about his role in Guatemala’s war when he applied for American citizenship in 2008. He lived for many years in Southern California, working as a martial arts instructor ….”
  • How some troops in the Dominican Republic seem to be supplementing their wagesA dozen soldiers in the Dominican Republic have been arrested in an alleged plot to ship cocaine to Canada in a child’s suitcase.  Prosecutor Elvis Garcia says the 12 soldiers include a lieutenant colonel. Eight work with the national anti-drug agency at the airport in Puerto Plata and four with the airport security agency. Two civilians have also been arrested.  The arrests stem from the discovery last month 33 kilograms of cocaine in the suitcase of a Canadian child at the airport. The girl was traveling with her parents to Toronto ….”