“Canada’s top soldier is defending the use of Challenger jets in an email to all the staff at the Department of National Defence ….” Here’s the text of the e-mail sent to all CF members this week – media coverage here, here, here, here and here.
Latest to the defence of the Minister, CDS on Challenger use: former Ministers Graham and Pratt & former CDS’s Manson and Henault:“…. We the undersigned, having served in the past respectively as ministers or chiefs of defence, view with concern the recent attacks regarding the use of government jets by the current incumbents. Alarming the Canadian public with dollar figures that dramatically inflate the real cost of using the Challengers, while misconstruing the context and realities of that use, does a disservice to the Minister of National Defence, the Chief of Defence Staff and the people they serve.”
Afghanistan (3) Khadr Boy on his way back to Canada?“Omar Khadr has started the process to come back to Canada. Lawyers for Khadr, who is serving eight years in a U.S. prison for killing a U.S. soldier when he was 15, have filed the paperwork required to start the repatriation process. Corrections officials have received the request for transfer and now have to determine if Khadr is eligible to return to Canada to finish out his sentence. Once Canadian officials determine that, they send an official request to American officials. If U.S. officials agree, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has the final say. He has the option of refusing the transfer if he decides Khadr is a risk to public safety. The process is expected to take about 18 months ….”
One Naval Reservist’s job in the fight against pirates.“When she arrives at work each morning in a northwest suburb of London, Lt.-Cmdr. Susan Long-Poucher steps into the North Arabian Sea. Her windowless office at the the NATO shipping centre in Northwood is lined with maps of exotic locations such as the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Somali Basin and the Persian Gulf. From here, Long-Poucher, 49, helps keep tabs on pirates who, equipped with tiny speed boats and a handful of small arms, prey on a fortune of commercial shipping. “Even though I work in the United Kingdom, when I come to work I am in the gulf,” said Long-Poucher, commanding officer of HMCS Cataraqui, the local naval reserve unit. Long-Poucher is in the midst of a six-month assignment to the shipping centre as part of an international anti-piracy campaign. Long-Poucher is the senior of three Canadian officers assigned to the centre as part of Operation Saiph, Canada’s commitment to increasing maritime security in the waters around the Horn of Africa ….”
Talkin’ search and rescue way up north.“Delegates from eight circumpolar countries met in Whitehorse this week for a conference on Arctic search and rescue co-operation. The purpose of the meeting of members of the Arctic Council Oct. 5 and 6 was to study the Arctic Search and Rescue agreement signed in May in Nuuk, Greenland, and to examine ways to enhance search and rescue capability and response across the North. Besides Canada, the members of the Arctic Council are Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia and the United States. It took 30 hours for some of the delegates to get to Yukon ….”
What’s Canada Melting Down? Loads of old pistols, apparently. “Despite all its bluster about saving money and honouring Canada’s armed forces, the Conservative federal government is poised to melt down millions of dollars worth of military memorabilia. Specifically, the Department of Defence is planning to send 19,000 highly collectable Browning Hi-Power pistols made in Toronto more than 60 years ago to the smelter and destroy them, instead of allowing licensed firearm owners to buy them for hundreds of dollars each. As reported recently, the Canadian Forces are replacing the Browning Hi-Power semi-automatic pistols starting in the fall 2015. The decommissioned sidearms, the standard military issue pistol for the forces since 1944, are set to be destroyed ….” Just a reminder – the process to replace the Browning HP has been “cancelled” – still no word from Public Works Canada re: why.
Congrats on hour #3000. “Major Miguel Bernard joined an elite club on Aug. 15, 2011 when he flew his 3,000th hour in the CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft while transiting from Bagotville, Que. to Trapani, Italy, to support Operation Mobile. “It’s a significant milestone because not many people have it,” he said from Trapani. “It just takes time.” Maj Bernard is one of only two active CF-18 pilots with 3,000 hours in the aircraft ….”
(Maybe) (Alleged) Terrorist Bad Guy Update “The RCMP was last night interviewing a man in connection with a plot involving the national security of Canada. The man was first seen on Oct. 1 at a DocuServe Etc., store at 20 Dundas St. E., Mississauga, the Mounties. “We believe he can corroborate some information that we have received,” Const. Richard Rollings said. Rollings refused to comment on specifics citing an ongoing national security probe. Police said the man, who may be a suspect, holds answers regarding the legitimacy of a plot or where an incident may occur ….” More from Postmedia News here, and a copy of the RCMP news release downloadable here (via Milnet.ca).
Oopsie….“Researchers in Winnipeg’s National Microbiology lab must now obtain extra approval before they transport lethal pathogens, after a “miscommunication” three years ago left senior officials scrambling to find out why a shipment of Level 4 viruses was sent out of the secure lab ….”
Libya Mission Latest ROTO takes first flight downrange. “The CP 140 Aurora aircraft continued to add to an impressive list of firsts, flying its first mission over Libya and its first strike coordination and armed reconnaissance-coordinator (SCAR-C) mission during Operation MOBILE. On 22 September 2011, crew from 405 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 14 Wing Greenwood, flew its first intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission over Libyan soil ….” (via CEFCOM Info-Machine)
“NATO defense ministers are exploring ways Wednesday of ending the alliance’s aerial campaign in Libya and training Afghan security forces for a larger role in their country’s war. In a speech before the meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged NATO member states to cooperate more closely and pool their resources in order to make up for the shortfalls that have plagued the alliance’s operations in Libya and Afghanistan. “It would be a tragic outcome if the alliance shed the very capabilities that allowed it to successfully conduct these operations,” said Panetta, who is making his first visit to Europe after taking over from Robert Gates as Pentagon chief in July. European members and Canada provided most of the strike aircraft used in the Libya campaign. But the war exposed shortages in their capabilities in strategic transport, aerial surveillance, air refueling, and unmanned drones, most of which had to be supplied by the U.S. ….” More on the U.S. poking allies to crank up the military capabilities here.
Afghanistan (3) Editorial: “Part of the rationale for military intervention in Afghanistan was the deplorable state of women’s rights, and the need to free women from the gender apartheid practised by the Taliban. This was a country where women could not have direct contact with men after the age of eight, could not go to school or work outside the home, visit public baths to stay clean, wear nail polish, high heels or be seen in public without a burqa, or a male relative. As the 10th anniversary of the military invasion approaches on Oct. 7, the hard-won gains that women have made over the past decade must be safeguarded. They cannot be sacrificed for the larger goal of ending Afghanistan’s protracted conflict ….”
Provincial politicians use CF search & rescue as provincial campaign lighting rod. “Newfoundland nd Labrador’s premier and the opposition leader say search and rescue services provided by the federal government must be investigated to see if improvements are necessary. Progressive Conservative Leader Kathy Dunderdale said a recent episode of CBC’s The Fifth Estate on search and rescue has left her with concerns about the military’s service. “It is not satisfactory to the people of this province, to the people who earn their living on the sea, to be at further risk because of a slow response time or policies that affect response time in marine search and rescue,” she said. Dunderdale said she plans to vigorously pursue the issue of search and rescue with the federal government. Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward agreed and went further, calling for a full inquiry into federal search and rescue services. Both Aylward and Dunderdale are campaigning in preparation for the provincial election on Oct. 11 ….”
Wounded Warriors, Mental Health & Suicide (1) “For decades, the issue of suicide in active soldiers and retired veterans was something that no one wanted to talk about. But a number of programs both within and outside the military are finally focusing attention on the issue. How big a problem is suicide in Canada’s military? It’s difficult to say. The Canadian Forces reports that the suicide rate among currently active soldiers is actually lower than that of the general public. But once many of those soldiers are released from the military, research shows their suicide risk can rise to higher levels than that of civilians. Assessing the toll can be difficult, because beyond the clear-cut suicides are the more subtle instances in which soldiers end their own lives. A veteran who drinks heavily to dull mental pain might be engaging in a slow form of suicide. A soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder and anger issues might take reckless risks if he’s lost his will to live. And how about the veteran with depression who ends up homeless and dies far too young? None of these deaths would register on the books as a suicide, but all might well be traced back to the soldier’s time in service ….”
Wounded Warriors, Mental Health & Suicide (2) From Question Period (QP): “Hon. John McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last week, the Minister of National Defence and I, along with others, attended a conference put on by the military called “Caring for our Own”. One of the concerns raised by some of the soldiers was the fear that the military would not be there for them in their hour of need. Specific worries included PTSD, suicide ideation and suicide itself. The next budget will be under severe pressure for cutting these “soft services”. Could the minister give the House assurances that our vulnerable soldiers and their families will be protected from these budgetary pressures? Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, my colleague is correct. My friend was in attendance, along with many members who are specifically tasked with how we deal with the scourge of post-traumatic stress and many of the challenges related to overseas deployments. I am very pleased to report that Canada has in fact become a world leader in fighting the stigmatization and raising awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries. As well, we have increased mental health awareness and we have increased the number of mental health professionals who are dealing specifically with these challenges.”
Wounded Warriors, Mental Health & Suicide (3) More from QP: “Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is a great need to enhance suicide prevention programs in Canada. With respect to our veterans, the data is alarming. The suicide rate in the armed services is nearly three times that of the general population. According to a departmental study of all males who enrolled in the regular forces after 1972 and were released before 2007, a total of 2,620 died and almost 700 of them were suicides. Could the minister outline new steps or strategies that his department is undertaking to tackle this crisis among veterans? Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his important question. While mental health was taboo then, it is a priority for our government now. That is why we have established, in conjunction with the Department of National Defence, 17 operational stress injury clinics that provide services to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress across the country and at various levels that they might experience. This approach is working. As of June, Veterans Affairs Canada is helping more than 14,300 veterans with mental health conditions and their families ….”
New fur hats for the troops (and the animal rights activists are unhappy). “The Department of National Defence has decided to add fur to the winter gear of the Canadian Forces, a move that’s getting a frosty reception from animal-rights advocates. The government says fur is part of Canada’s heritage and the winter tuque currently in use doesn’t stand up to the rigours of the Canadian winter. So it’s buying an initial run of 1,000 fur-trimmed caps at a cost of $65,000, for use by guards of honour and Canadian Forces starting this winter …. “There are synthetics that are just as good and that don’t necessitate the killing of animals,” Elizabeth Sharpe of the World Society for the Protection of Animals said from Toronto. “Killing animals for their fur is completely unnecessary and cruel.” Lesley Fox of the British Columbia-based Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals says muskrats are known to chew off their limbs to free themselves from leg-hold traps ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War (1) Defence Minister Peter MacKay, facing questions from the NDP on the upcoming F-35 buy: “These aircraft, as the House will know, will replace our aging CF-18 fleet of fighter jets. These aircraft, like other aircraft, have served our country extremely well. They are used in Libya today. They have been used in previous missions, but that they aging. As a matter of course we are taking the responsible step of following a procurement process that has been in place for a significant period of time in which a number of countries are participating …. We committed $9 billion for the replacement of the CF-18. In fact, it not only includes the cost of the aircraft, this will include: spares, weapons systems, infrastructure and training simulators as well as the contingency associated with this important procurement. We are purchasing the most cost-effective variant at the prime of peak production when the costs will be at their lowest. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has admitted to that. Why are the NDP members constantly against getting the best equipment for the best forces in the world?”
F-35 Tug o’ War (2) The latest from the Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino: “An overall $9 billion cost estimate is more honest than relying on individual plane costs, says the minister handling the purchase of Canada’s new fighter jets. Despite a promise by manufacturer Lockheed Martin that Canada will get its F-35 fighter jets at a cost of $65 million each, Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, says the government’s overall $9 billion estimate is the more honest number. The cost of the F-35 depends on the number of planes ordered by other countries, as well as on how early Canada wants to get its order. The manufacturing cost goes down as more planes come off the assembly line, with Canada expecting the U.S. to absorb the bulk of the F-35’s development costs. “There are just so many variables, and that’s why I think the more honest, ethical response to all these issues is the $9 billion figure, which in fact will be the ceiling that Canada will be investing in these particular aircraft,” Fantino told Evan Solomon, host of CBC’s Power & Politics ….”
Canada’s top military cop to chair NATO committee. “The Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM), Colonel Tim Grubb assumed the post of Chairman of the NATO Nations Military Police (MP) Chiefs’ Committee at a brief ceremony last week in Prague, Czech Republic. The ceremony concluded the committee’s annual meeting …. Colonel Grubb has been the CFPM since 2009 and during his tenure has overseen significant transformation in the Canadian Forces Military Police organization ….”
How some of the Americans are doing the War of 1812 anniversary. “Out of the murk of history and the trough of government funding, here comes the War of 1812 again, 200 years old and as ambiguous as ever on both sides of the Canada-U.S. frontier. “The festivities reach a crescendo!” trumpets the Maryland Bicentennial Commission, as if three years of bombarding, cannonading, spearing, shooting, scalping, burning, sinking, drowning, pillaging, invading, retreating, ambushing, marching, fleeing, starving, freezing, and occupying had been a holiday for all concerned. Undeterred by the carnage – after all, the war didn’t kill THAT many guys, compared to, like, Gettysburg or Hitler or whatever – we are going to have “a Star-Spangled tribute to the defense of America” down here, a display at the U.S. Naval Academy of “the British flag captured at Fort York (Toronto),” plus “a week-long maritime event to kick off the bicentennial celebration.” In other words, there are going to be a lot of people in pantaloons hoisting mainsails and firing muskets before this thing is put away for another century ….”
R.I.P. Jack Layton. I didn’t agree with many of his policies, but you have to admire his commitment and passion – awfully big shoes to fill.
Libya Mission (1) “Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will remain a part of NATO’s military mission in Libya for now, even as Moammar Gadhafi’s regime appears to be crumbling. “Today, Canada welcomes the news that the Gadhafi regime is at the beginning of its end,” Harper told reporters on Monday. Reports from Tripoli suggest most of Gadhafi’s security forces fled or surrendered when rebel forces took control of most of the capital Sunday night. But rebels are still fighting pockets of fierce resistance from regime loyalists firing mortars and anti-aircraft guns. The rebels say they will only declare victory when Gadhafi, whose whereabouts are not known, is captured. NATO has vowed to keep up its air campaign until all pro-Gadhafi forces surrender or return to their barracks. More than 600 Canadian troops are taking part in the military campaign led by Canadian Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard. “For now our military forces will remain in place and we’ll consult our allies on the next steps,” Harper said, adding that Canadians have every reason to be proud of their participation. “I’d like to thank the brave men and women of the Canadian armed forces for their impressive contribution to the allied effort.” ….” More from Postmedia News here, and in PM’s statement here.
Libya Mission (2) Don’t know where this guy’s getting his numbers, but here’s some alleged stats via Twitter.“Total Cdn sorties Op Unified Protector as of 0530Z 22 August 2011 CF-188 HORNET 721 CC-150 POLARIS 187 CC-130 HERCULES 128 CP-140 AURORA 129”
Libya Mission (4) Notwithstanding the Centre for Research on Globalization’s concerns about the mainstream media’s objectivity, check here (Google News) and here (European Commission news aggregator) for more of the latest out of Libya.
Way Up North (1) “Prime Minister Stephen Harper leaves this morning on his annual Arctic tour. It’s his sixth consecutive summer visit to the Far North as the government aims to exert greater territorial control over the region. The melting Arctic ice is seen as an opportunity for increasing international ship travel, mineral and gas exploration and scientific research ….”
Way Up North (2) Blogger/info curator Mark Collins on what sovereignty means, exactly. “…. the word “sovereignty” refers to whether or not Canada has a legal right to our northern lands. We do and no country disputes it. How well the area is governed, how its people fare, what military or physical presence the government has there, are completely unrelated issues–which this government and other interested parties do their best to associate, misleadingly, with sovereignty ….”
As I’ve said before, let’s hope….“It’s a crucial question with no clear answer: will the Taliban return in strength to Kandahar when the traditional fighting season resumes after the annual opium harvest ends this spring? It’s a question of immense interest to Canada’s battle group, which will continue to patrol one of the three districts in Kandahar, where the insurgency has always been strongest, until its combat mission ends this July. With no firm evidence yet one way or the other, but armed with knowledge of the Taliban’s usual fighting calendar and their long history of resilience, Canada’s Task Force Kandahar — now led by a battle group in Panjwaii built around a Royal 22nd Regiment battalion — has had to prepare as if the enemy will be back again in April ….”
Just as Canada’s at least thinking about packing its bags in Kandahar to leave, it needs to find another staging base to move a not-insubstantial amount of hardware through. “The Canadian military is casting about for another staging base for Afghanistan to replace makeshift arrangements in Cyprus – where the Forces relocated after Canada was kicked out of the United Arab Emirates late last year. A move is not certain, but the Canadian Forces are searching for another, possibly closer, location from which to move troops and supplies in and out of Kandahar …. Canada is using two civilian airports in southern Cyprus – Paphos and Larnaca – to shuttle soldiers and other personnel in and out of Afghanistan. In Cyprus, the Canadians are housed in hotels. The operation is a pay-as-you-go contract, and cargo is shipped separately into Afghanistan via Germany. The Forces are eyeing other locations that could offer more benefits, including lower costs, the ability to handle more volume or offer more flexibility. Defence sources wouldn’t identify possible alternatives, but it’s believed options could include another Gulf nation or one of the countries north of Afghanistan that diplomats refer to as “the Stans.” ….”
The latest protest aimed at keeping American deserters in Canada from facing the music in the U.S. was in Winnipeg. “Provencher MP Vic Toews’s constituency office will serve as the backdrop for a social justice rally in Steinbach this afternoon. The demonstrators, part of a nationwide action organized by the Keep Resisters in Canada Campaign, are urging Ottawa to discontinue the practice of deporting United States war resisters. The group wants the federal government to stop punishing American soldiers who come to Canada in protest of the U.S. military’s actions. Protesters say that would help restore “Canada’s tarnished international image.” ….”