Commentary reminder“…. The government is to issue its fall fiscal update at the end of this month. There has been speculation that, because the budget is de facto in balance now, it will include tax cuts – the beginning of the bonanza that is to bring middle-Canadians back into the Tory fold just in time for next fall’s federal election. Forgoing any of that, or slowing the pace of deficit and debt reduction, in favour of renewed spending on “our brave men and women in uniform,” is not something any member of the Conservative caucus will want to consider. One wonders how long they can keep that up, while at the same time sending the Canadian Forces back to war, for an undetermined length of time.”
The Politics – Prelude to a snap election?“…. It takes 36 days to hold a national election. Yes, according to the law it is scheduled to happen only a year from now, but that law has a loophole big enough to flip a CF-18 through. Now, think about how that election might unfold if called now. The election themes to be set by Mr. Harper, if he could make it stick, is “Our troops must know the people back them no matter what the Liberals and New Democrats say! Fight the most deadly and disgusting and dangerous force in the world which has suddenly appeared in Syria and Iraq and must be stopped!” and, “Canada does not leave it for others to do the heavy lifting. That is not the Canadian way.” The days and weeks pass by. The jet fighters are slowly deployed to the Middle East, no casualties yet, a few sorties flown. IS atrocities grow more horrific by the day and their ground troops are not rolled back. The resolve of the allies strengthens ….”
“News coverage of the Arctic has been steadily growing in tandem with the rising importance of the region in recent years. The focus of international politics often tends to revolve around energy security within the context of a global scramble for resources to keep individual countries’ economic growth engines humming. In view of the possibilities of the Arctic as a future abundant natural resources supply base for various pivotal countries, especially in Asia, non-Arctic states such as South Korea, Japan, and China join actual Arctic nations in taking a more active part in contemplating Arctic development and theregion’s future. The Arctic Council accepted India, China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Italy as observers to the Council in May 2013 even though they all lack territory north of the Arctic Circle.This actually constitutes a welcome development because some circumpolar issues – specifically originating from human activities south of the Arctic Circle – are, indeed, transnational in nature such as climate change and marine shipping ….”
South Koreans appear to be hiding in Canada from conscription“An increased number of young male South Koreans have been caught staying overseas illegally in recent years to dodge the country’s mandatory military service, data showed Friday. Over the past five years, a total of 606 male citizens have been accused of staying overseas without any prior reports to the authorities about their failure to get physical checkups for the compulsory duty that all able-bodied men here are required to undertake for about two years …. Around 85 percent of those accused have stayed in the United States, Australia and Canada, and a majority of them were in their late 20s and early 30s, according to the data ….”
Royal Military College Academic: Iran strikes might be the CF’s next shooting stint? “Canada may get pulled into military strikes against Iran if it comes to a showdown between western powers and the rogue state. And things could get messy considering a new report from the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog that’s expected to indicate Tehran is on the brink of being able to develop a nuclear warheads, said Houchang Hassan-Yari, an expert in military and strategic issues at the Royal Military College of Canada. “If it gets to a military campaign, I think Canada will participate with the Americans and their allies,” the international relations professor said. “If sanctions are the next avenue, Canada will participate in that.” ….”
What a surprise: the military appears to be planning and weighing how to deal with evacuating Canadians in trouble overseas. “Plucking Canadians out of the world’s hot spots is a growing area of concern and study for military planners, who until a few years ago didn’t have their own tools or the resources to carry out such missions. Internal Defence Department documents obtained by The Canadian Press show that in the aftermath of the Libyan crisis, the Canadian military is examining not only its war-fighting skills, but its newly enhanced ability to quickly organize evacuation and rescue missions. Planners have been quietly taking stock of the world’s flash points and considering how to get military forces into those troubled regions, while at the same time smoothly getting civilians out of harm’s way …. internally at the Defence Department there has been angst about future evacuations, especially in light of expected budget cuts, suggest the documents obtained under Access to Information. Among the most worrisome trouble spots is South Korea, where frequent and increasingly violent outbursts from the hermit kingdom in the North have military planners concerned and looking for guidance. “With over 20,000 Canadian citizens resident in the (Republic of South Korea), in the event of a full-scale crisis (censored) the evacuation efforts required could significantly exceed those of the Lebanon evacuation,” said a Nov. 30, 2010 briefing note prepared for Defence Minister Peter MacKay ….” I’ve asked if CP plans to share the obtained documents online for anyone interested to read – no word back yet.
Canada is taking part in U.S. Northern Command Exercise Operation Vigilant Shield ’12.“The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, as well as the Canadian military, have begun an extensive annual field training exercise for the U.S. Northern Command. “Operation Vigilant Shield 12” is the biggest multi-spectrum, high-level exercise for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command. Northern Command is a Unified Combatant Command of the United States military, formed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 to protect the United States homeland and support local, state, and federal authorities. Operation Vigilant Shield 12, or VS 12, is a joint exercise supported by the Joint Coalition Warfare Center and conducted as a command post exercise with a supporting field training exercise in Key West, FL. The exercise is also linked to a Canada Command exercise called “Determined Dragon,” and runs concurrently with the Arizona’s “Vigilant Guard” exercise. It runs Nov. 1-10 ….” More from the Pentagon Info-Machine here.
Remembrance Day (2) Unambiguously Ambidextrous on Remembrance Day and Canada’s newest vets. “…. There is a new generation of soldiers returning from war, something that has not been seen in Canada in about 50 years, or two generations. That’s not to trivialize Rwanda or Bosnia, but our country hasn’t had to deal with the reality of war dead in a half century and we have not handled their sacrifices very well. In fact, it would be fair to say we have broken faith with the dead, choosing not to carry on their torch and honour their sacrifices by seeing through the mission to success. It was a political decision made to pacify the pacifists created by two generations of peace. Today’s young people know nothing of war, and so their only reaction to it is revulsion ….”
“An audit into Veterans Affairs Canada and how it handles privacy issues will be released in early 2012, Canada’s privacy commissioner said Monday. The news came as a third veteran went public with complaints into the number of times civil servants accessed his file, and how his file was handled at the agency. Sylvain Chartrand, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Bosnia, says his file was accessed more than 4,000 times between 2003 and 2010. HIs complaint is similar to one by Sean Bruyea, another veteran who advocates for veterans’ rights, and whose private medical information was shared with both Liberal and Conservative ministers of veterans affairs. A statement by a spokeswoman for Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says an audit into how Veterans Affairs handles private information is coming soon ….”
“A military veteran on a hunger strike collapsed momentarily during the third day of his protest against the federal government Monday. (Pascal) Lacoste is trying to convince the government to recognize that he and other soldiers were poisoned while serving overseas. The 38-year-old former soldier was leaving a camper lent to him by a friend and heading back to his SUV when he fell to the ground. An ambulance was called as his mother rushed to hold him, clutching him to her chest. Lacoste eventually recovered after taking gasps of air from an oxygen mask. But the exhausted-looking man refused to go to hospital. He decided to continue his hunger strike instead ….”
All of a sudden, Canada’s Liberal Party is keen on helping veterans – more in an online petition here and an e-mail soliciting signatures to said petition here (PDF).
CF looking for more military artists.“The Canadian Forces Artists Program allows Canadian artists the opportunity to record Canada’s soldiers in Canada and around the world. It follows the long-standing tradition of Canadian war artists and is designed to portray today’s Canadian military experience through art while providing artists with a taste of military life. These artists, all volunteers, are helping usher in a new era of Canadian military art …. A new competition is currently being held for the selection of a new group of Canadian artists who wish to participate in the program. Selected artists will be able to participate in a military-related exercise for a period of approximately seven to ten days. This opportunity is designed to springboard their creativity, create works of art depicting military life and to provide memorable military experiences. There is no payment for artists, who in turn are not required to provide works to the program. However, artists may be asked to lend some works for promotional art tours or other uses. Deadline for applications is November 30, 2011 ….”
Canada and Foreign Intelligence (1) “As the Harper government prepares to re-introduce the anti-terrorism measures that were allowed to lapse because of opposition concerns about privacy and Charter rights, there are whispers Conservative plans to expand the role of Canada’s spy service to operate overseas are being dusted off. Currently, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is largely concerned with domestic intelligence and is able to conduct covert operations overseas only if there is a direct threat to Canada. In their 2006 election platform, the Tories promised to overturn this arrangement and set up a separate foreign intelligence service. Once elected, they were persuaded by the bureaucracy that it would be quicker and cheaper to allow CSIS to take on the role ….”
“A Canadian man has been indicted in Seattle for allegedly conspiring to support the Sri Lankan terrorist group the Tamil Tigers nearly six years ago. The single-count indictment against Ramanan Mylvaganam, 34, is the result of a jurisdictional dispute between federal prosecutors in New York City’s Brooklyn borough and Mylvaganam’s attorneys. Mylvaganam is a former Bellevue resident. Brooklyn prosecutors in 2006 had indicted Mylvaganam along with nine others in connection with an alleged plot to pay to import surface-to-air missiles and other military equipment to the Tamil Tigers. The charges also alleged the group was attempting to bribe U.S. officials to have the Tamil Tigers removed from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Mylvaganam’s attorneys had argued that federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York had no jurisdiction over Mylvaganam’s alleged crimes because he was living at the time in Bellevue, according to court papers ….”
MCPL Byron Greff, 3PPCLI, R.I.P. He’s home – more here. Photos of his ramp ceremony in Afghanistan on Facebook here(thanks to Senior Airman Kat Lynn Justen of the USAF Info-machine).
Afghanistan (1) Meanwhile, the CF Info-machine shares a backgrounder on part of the training mission. “The Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) is the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) flagship training institution. Located on the eastern outskirts of Afghanistan’s capital city, the KMTC can house and train up to 12,000 trainees at a time. Over 60,000 soldiers graduate from courses at the KMTC annually. Two hundred and thirty-five Canadian Forces advisors serve at the KMTC as part of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Thirty-five members have been with the KMTC since mid-June and the remaining 200 recently arrived in October ….”
Afghanistan (2) Canadian ingenuity as we continue to pack up in Kandahar. “The Armour Removal Platoon of the Mission Closure Unit is responsible for removing the armour added to the combat vehicles used by Canadian troops in Kandahar Province and packing it for shipment back to Canada. The process of dismounting the armour from the vehicles is difficult, labour-intensive and inherently dangerous. Because safety had to be our highest priority, it was difficult to achieve any speed on the production line. That was the case until Private Bryan Capiak and Corporal Bradley Van Olm developed a new way to take the heaviest pieces of armour — the four Z bars — off the Light Armoured Vehicle Mk III (LAV III) ….”
Afghanistan (3) Well done. “On October 20th, 2011, Canada’s Acting Head of Mission Philip MacKinnon and Detective Ken Brander, a member of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS), donated 11 Kobo e-readers to a group of female students of the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA). Each e-reader comes with 50 classic books pre-loaded, which will greatly increase the number of books available at the SOLA library and allow young Afghan students to perfect their reading skills. The funds to purchase the e-readers were raised by Detective Brander’s EPS colleagues including a group of dedicated resource officers, local business, friends, and family, on behalf of Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, Alberta ….”
Libya NATO flies its last air mission.“…. a NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft (AWACS) conlcuded the last flight of Operation Unified Protector. With this, a successful chapter in NATO’s history has come to an end. Since the beginning of the NATO operation, NATO air assets conducted over 26,500 sorties, including over 9,700 strike sorties to protect the people of Libya from attack or the threat of attack ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War (1) LOADS o’ questions on the F-35 (transcripts from Hansard here, here, here and here) during Question Period in the House of Commons so far this week.
F-35 Tug o’ War (3) Postmedia News Columnist: “…. Harper has often shown an ability to execute tactical retreats with lightning speed, if he feels he’s lost the high ground. Look for that to happen with the F-35, sooner rather than later, as the economic gloom deepens south of the border.”
Big Honkin’ Ships Duelling academics: “…. Marc Milner, naval history professor at the University of New Brunswick, said the vessels will let the navy cruise the Canada’s Arctic waters later in the fall and earlier in the spring, though winter access will still be the domain of the Coast Guard. The ships also give the navy full year-round access to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. He said that, while the new Arctic patrol vessels fit into the Harper government’s Canada First Defence Policy, which is looking to expand the reach and scope of the country’s military, the ships are not designed for serious combat. “Nobody anticipates getting into a real big dustup in the Arctic,” Milner said. “More effort will be put into their sensor suite and communications equipment than in their weapons.” The Arctic vessels will fulfil a constabulary rather than a combat role, Milner said. The icebreakers will let the navy patrol emerging shipping routes in the melting Arctic ice. The Russian route through the Arctic, from Europe to China, is “pretty much commercialized,” he said, with several ships having passed through this summer escorted by Russian icebreakers. “There’s good reason for us to be up there with a little more presence than we have at the moment,” Milner said. Paul Mitchell, a naval historian with the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., said the Arctic ships will likely have little more than an anti-aircraft Bofors gun on their bows. “Despite the growing interests in the Arctic, the area is well handled by diplomatic efforts,” Mitchell said ….”
Whazzup with Khadr Boy’s return? “The Conservatives are continuing to play coy over whether or not they’ll allow convicted war criminal Omar Khadr return to Canada. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Tuesday he will decide in good time if and when Toronto-born Khadr can return home to finish his sentence for murdering a U.S. Army medic in Afghanistan. “I put the safety of Canadians first,” he said. “A decision will be made on this file, as on all applications, in due course.” The Conservatives were in the firing line from opposition parties, who accuse the Tories of trying to back out of a commitment they made with the U.S. government a year ago to allow Khadr to return to Canada after serving a year of his eight year sentence. “This fellow was arrested when he was 14-years-old and held since then and ought to have the benefit of Canadian laws,” said NDP justice critic Jack Harris ….” More from Question Period on Khadr here, from QMI/Sun Media here and from Agence France-Presse here.
Word of a Canadian, said to be part of the anti-Ghaddafi underground, was questioned by CSIS while a…. guest of the former regime. “Canadian spies teamed up with the Gadhafi regime to question a Canadian jailed in Libya, a prominent human-rights group says. Canadian Security Intelligence Service officers travelled to Libya several times to interview the prisoner between 2002 and 2005, Human Rights Watch says. The New York-based group will circulate a statement on Wednesday revealing that it has obtained documents on this obscure case from an abandoned intelligence complex in Tripoli. Mustafa Krer, 56, immigrated to Canada from Libya in the 1990s. He was jailed as a terrorism suspect when he returned to his homeland almost a decade ago. Released only last year, he hopes to return to Canada in coming months ….” More here (Toronto Star) and here (usual Wikipedia caveats apply).
Way Up North “As global interest in Arctic exploration explodes, Canada is pushing to assert rights over a larger chunk of the polar region and lure companies to exploit the territory’s promising natural resources. The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has long engaged in saber-rattling with Russia—Canada’s biggest Arctic rival—over territorial claims in the region. Both sides have recently sent troops to the Arctic to back up their claims, with Canada winding down its largest, and northernmost, military exercise this month. During a trip late last month to Canada’s Far North, Mr. Harper criticized Russia in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, portraying its strategy in the region as aggressive and “a disappointment.” But he said Russia’s actions—including alleged incursions into Canada’s Arctic airspace, which Moscow denies—strengthen Ottawa’s commitment to the region. Those actions “remind us, as I say, that we have an obligation as a sovereign nation to have an ability on land, sea and air to be present and to assert that presence at all times,” Mr. Harper said ….”
Bad news about a war memorial in Montreal – this from a House of Commons statement on the issue: “…. our cenotaphs and monuments are powerful reminders of the sacrifices made by generations of Canadians. They are symbolic places where people can gather in memory of our fellow Canadians, our loved ones and family members, who served our country in the name of peace and the freedom we all enjoy today. Unfortunately, this morning, we learned that a war memorial in Girouard Park in Montreal had been vandalized. We have an obligation to preserve and respect memorials in tribute to the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. I commend Sergeant Jones who notified the police about this vandalism and I hope the guilty parties will be held accountable for the seriousness of their mischief.”
Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (2)And who decides if the rules have been followed? This, from the CDS, quoted by the Globe & Mail: “Canada’s top soldier now says he will cut a cheque to defray the cost of taking a government jet to a Caribbean vacation last year if the Prime Minister’s Office requests it. ….“If the government, as the Prime Minister indicated, his office looks at that trip … if the interpretation of the Treasury Board guidelines on this regard is incorrect, then I will reimburse as required,” he said ….” Similar wording from CTV.ca here. We’ll just have to see what the PM’s Office has to say about Treasury Board’s rules and if they apply here (which is different from hearing what the Treasury Board has to say).
Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3a)The CDS is appointed by the PM. And how was the PM’s defence of his choice of CDS in the House of Commons during Question Period? According to the Globe & Mail, “…. On the current controversy surrounding Gen. Natynczyk, NDP defence critic Jack Harris asked why the general had been allowed to take flights worth more than $1-million in the nearly four years he had headed the military – many of them on Challenger jets reserved for government VIPs. Mr. Harper, who met with Gen. Natynczyk on Monday, said the military chief understands the rules for taking government jets “and is certainly prepared to live according to those rules. The Chief of the Defence Staff does fly very frequently on government business, but obviously where there are alternatives, we will look into that usage.” ….”
Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3b) Here’s what a transcript of the exchange in the House of Commons says was said: “Mr. Jack Harris (St. John’s East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the cost of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s recent taxpayer-funded trips to events such as football games, hockey games and the Calgary Stampede have shocked Canadians. The government is now planning significant cuts to the Canadian Forces. Will the Conservative austerity plan only apply to soldiers, sailors and airmen and women and not to the brass? Why did the Minister of National Defence approve over $1 million of flights to be taken by the Chief of the Defence Staff? Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence has outlined the rules under which ministers use government aircraft. I have spoken to the Chief of the Defence Staff. He understands what those expectations are and is certainly prepared to live according to those rules. As members know, the Chief of the Defence Staff does fly very frequently on government business, but obviously where there are alternatives we will look into that usage.“
Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3c) Here’s how Defence Minister Peter MacKay handled a similar question earlier: “Mr. Mathieu Ravignat (Pontiac, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Conservative ministers are developing quite a passion for the use of high-flying government jets. The Minister of Finance and the Minister of National Defence make particular liberal use of the jets. The Prime Minister says that everything is fine because he pays the paltry equivalent of a commercial airline ticket. Why have the Conservatives abandoned their commitment to respect taxpayers dollars when it comes to jetting around the country? Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, just to throw a few facts into the mix, the policy for the Prime Minister and all ministers requires that commercial travel be utilized for public business, the government aircraft being used when commercial travel is not available. I would remind the member opposite that when it comes to the liberal use of this aircraft, the Conservative government has reduced the average annual spending of the ministers’ Challenger flights by approximately 80% over the previous Liberal government.”
Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (4) I really have to give credit where it’s due – CBC.ca is offering more information (including an intriguing tidbit), and not just from those aching for a “gotcha” story. Good show for not JUST following the pack. “…. Last week’s news reports indicated that it costs about $10,000 an hour to fly a Challenger, including pilot salaries, training costs and the cost of the planes’ depreciation. The actual flying cost is $2,630 an hour, according to numbers provided by the Department of National Defence. “These aircraft — these Challengers — are not used very much,” CBC’s James Cudmore reported. Natynczyk said military Challengers are flown an additional 170 hours a year with no passengers on board so that pilots can maintain their proficiency. “So these hours are paid for, they’re all paid for — there’s no incremental cost to the Crown,” he said. “That’s why, especially when I travel and I have the team with me, it’s less expensive to the government of Canada to get into that Challenger than it is to put them into an aircraft, in a commercial aircraft.” Natynczyk travels with up to six or seven people, sometimes including a close protection team with automatic weapons. He also needs the secure communication lines provided on government aircraft that allow him to work while he’s in the air. Cudmore said sources told CBC News that the story about Natynczyk may have been leaked by someone, perhaps in a bid to see the general replaced ….”
Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (5) We’ve gone from a Saturday Calgary Herald editorial headlined “Jet-setting general” to this commentary from the National Post: “…. Defence Minister Peter MacKay offered him use of the Challenger to join his family on vacation after he spent Christmas in Kandahar, and then attended a repatriation ceremony for five Canadians killed in Afghanistan, forcing him to miss his scheduled flight. Was he supposed to hang around Pearson airport waiting for a cancellation instead? ….”
Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (6) One letter to the editor (bottom of page) sums it up for me: “…. If the Chief of Defence Staff had done what the average Canadian would have done, said, “sorry I cannot be there to honour a Canadian hero, I have a holiday booked,” then the headline would have been something like “Top General Too Busy On A Cruise To Honour Our Dead.” ….”
A reminder that not ALL of Canada’s troops overseas are in Afghanistan. “On 27 August 2011, the nine members of Task Force Freetown were guests of honour at the jubilant opening of the rebuilt Grafton Scout Camp near Freetown, Sierra Leone. Guests and Scouts joined together in a heartfelt ceremony with gifts, singing and outbursts of rhythmic clapping to thank Scouts Canada, the members of Task Force Freetown and the people of Canada for their generosity and compassion. Task Force Freetown, the Canadian Forces team deployed in Sierra Leone with the International Military Advisory and Training Team, got involved with the local branch of the Scouting movement through a civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) project. With a budget of Cdn$90,000, it turned into the most ambitious CIMIC effort ever undertaken by the tiny task force in its 11 years of existence ….”
Afghanistan Door Gunner 101 courtesy of the CF Info-Machine. “Door gunners are combat arms soldiers whose job is all about protecting soldiers. During the Task Force Freedom combat mission in Afghanistan, door gunners ranging in rank from private to sergeant flew aboard CH 146 Griffon and CH-147 Chinook helicopters. On the Chinooks, they used their weapons strictly for local protection and close defence; on the Griffons, they were called upon to protect ground troops and ensure the security of the Chinooks they were escorting ….”
Way Up North Russia: If you’re not an Arctic country, keep your nose outta the Arctic.“Russia will increase its military presence in the Arctic – a region NATO should stay out of, a senior Kremlin official said Tuesday. ‘Our northern border used to be closed because of ice and a severe climate,’ said Anton Vasilev, a special ambassador for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ‘But the ice is going away we cannot leave 20,000 kilometres unwatched. We can’t leave ourselves in a position where we are undefended,’ Vasilev said, in an interview with the Interfax news agency. Global warming and demand for new energy sources make necessary new and clearer international agreements on the division of Arctic region’s resources and usage he said. Only Arctic Council nations – and not outside agencies like NATO or the European Union – should set the groundwork, he said ….”
I’m shocked, SHOCKED to hear someone from the Rideau Institute object to a British nuclear sub visiting Canada. “A British nuclear submarine will visit the Port of Halifax next month, CBC News has learned, and that has at least one military critic worried about the risk of a nuclear accident. The British nuclear submarine fleet has been plagued by accidents in recent years, including a fatal explosion and fire, an onboard shooting and an underwater collision with a French sub.There have also been multiple leaks of low-level radiation. And while the risk of a major accident is small, Steve Staples of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa said, the consequences for Nova Scotians would be dire if the worst should occur. “If a fire spread to a nuclear reactor and even any of the potential nuclear weapons that could be on board, you could see the release of radiation like we had in Fukushima,” Staples said ….”
Now that the branches have been “Royalized”, more calls for unit re-namings are coming out of the woodwork. “Made up mostly of farmers, fishermen and blue collar workers from northeastern New Brunswick, they became one of the most decorated military units in Canadian history as the North Shore Regiment. They were one of the first Canadian units to fight in the Great War. Before the regiment was merged with others in New Brunswick, it was among the first to breach Adolph Hitler’s Fortress Europe on Juno Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day during the Second World War. And while the “royal” title has been restored to many Armed Forces veterans delight, a growing chorus of voices wants to see New Brunswick’s second battalion of the Royal New Brunswick Regiment drop the colonial throwback for its original name. Proponents now say they are closer than ever to seeing the North Shore Regiment return after meeting with both provincial and federal officials this month. “We lost our identity,” said Graham Wiseman, president of the North Shore Veteran’s Association, whose father, Sprague Wiseman, is the only surviving member of the original regiment from Bathurst. “It has been a long wait to get it back, but there is a feeling that it will now happen.” ….”
Afghanistan (1) “Canada’s spy agency has been cleared of wrongdoing in connection with the abuse of Afghan detainees. But the Security Intelligence Review Committee raised two issues for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to consider in future overseas operations — even though CSIS operations on foreign soil are limited by law. The spy watchdog chided CSIS for not keeping adequate records and cautioned it to “assess and qualify with care and consistency” the intelligence it receives from agencies that may be party to human rights abuses. It also recommended that if CSIS continues to operate abroad, its standards of accountability and professionalism should live up to those on Canadian soil ….” Since The Canadian Press isn’t sharing the report, here it is at the Security Intelligence Review Committee’s web page (21 pages of redacted PDF) – here, also, is the news release announcing the findings. Also, more from Postmedia News and the Globe & Mail here and here.
Afghanistan (2a) Finally, a bit of news (albeit sounding a bit like a briefing note) from the CF Info-Machine on the training mission under way in Afghanistan! “Captain (Navy) Haydn Edmundson arrived here on 18 July 2011 as part of the initial rotation of the Canadian Contribution Training Mission–Afghanistan (CCTM-A), the task force deployed on Operation ATTENTION to serve with the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A). As Chief of Staff to the Deputy Commanding General–Police (DCOM-Police) at NTMA Headquarters, Capt(N) Edmundson has a prominent role in the training and development of the Afghan National Police (ANP) ….”
Afghanistan (2b) More from the CF Info-Machine on the training mission: “On 23 August 2011, Colonel Peter Dawe, the deputy commander of the Canadian Contribution Training Mission – Afghanistan (CCTM-A) paid a visit to Camp Souter to meet the small but vital team that lives and works there, and tour their facility. Camp Souter is a British support base conveniently situated near Kabul International Airport. The Canadians assigned there work diligently behind the scenes to meet the support requirements of CCTM-A, the large and growing mission deployed with the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A) under Operation ATTENTION. NTM-A is the international effort to help the Afghan national security forces prepare for the transition to full responsibility for security throughout Afghanistan in 2014 ….”
Afghanistan (3) “The Royal Canadian Legion says it will have to debate whether it supports adding Afghanistan to the National War Memorial. Spokesman Bob Butt says it is a matter for the various Legion commands to decide and the subject has yet to be discussed among the organization’s 340,000 active members. A proposal circulated around National Defence last year called for the word Afghanistan and the dates 2001-2011 to be added to the memorial that sits in the shadow of Parliament Hill. The $2.1 million dollar plan included the addition of an eternal flame and a national commemoration ceremony. But a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay says it would be inappropriate to commemorate Afghanistan right now because soldiers are still there on a training mission. Butt initially indicated the Legion favoured revamping the memorial, however he says the matter is best debated among the members when the federal government has a specific proposal ….”
What’s Canada Buying? (1) “Defence Minister Peter MacKay was warned the manufacturer of the air force’s new maritime helicopters might be tempted to cut corners in the rush to get the long-delayed program back on track, say internal documents. “The remaining elements for the interim (maritime helicopter) delivery are all safety related and it is crucial that DND remain diligent to ensure Sikorsky does not take inappropriate risks to keep schedule,” said a Nov. 23 briefing note. The advice came soon after a scathing report by the auditor general, who’d singled out the CH-148 Cyclone program for delays and cost overruns. Less than three weeks after Sheila Fraser’s assessment, U.S. helicopter giant Sikorsky advised the federal government it wouldn’t meet a Nov. 30, 2010, deadline to land the first helicopter for “limited training and operational testing.” Officials vented their frustration in the note, portions of which were underlined for emphasis. It urged both politicians and defence officials to take a deep breath and not get involved in any further debate — or request changes. “It is also paramount that DND not interfere or influence the conduct of activities, as this would provide Sikorsky rationale for excusable delay.” Ottawa’s $5.7-billion plan to buy 28 new helicopters to replace the geriatric Sea Kings, which fly off the decks of warships, have been hit with repeated delays ….” The Canadian Press doesn’t appear to be sharing this briefing note with the public, who may want to see more of the bigger picture of the document.
Canadian Rangers got a chance to share their stories at the CNE in Toronto. “Six Canadian Rangers from northern Ontario told thousands of visitors to a military display at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto what Canadian Rangers do across Canada’s North. “I’ve never talked to so many people in my life,” said Master Cpl. Bill Morris from Kingfisher Lake, which has a population of 420. “People asked us who the Rangers are and what we do. They were pretty amazed when we told them.” The Ranger exhibit, centred around a traditional tipi, helped attract visitors to a large display of military equipment showcasing the army, navy and air force. The display attracted about one million people to it during the 17 days of the CNE, the biggest fair of its kind in Canada ….”
“Canada’s most decorated military hero, the First World War flying ace William Barker, will be honoured next week in Toronto with a gravesite monument aimed at reviving knowledge of his unmatched exploits above Europe’s battlefields nearly a century ago. Barker, a Manitoba farmboy who went on to be awarded the Victoria Cross, three Military Crosses and a host of other medals for his wartime feats, was credited with destroying 50 enemy aircraft in just the last two years of the 1914-18 war. He later became the founding director of the Royal Canadian Air Force – a designation recently restored to the aviation branch of Canada’s military – before dying tragically, at age 35, in a 1930 crash on the frozen Ottawa River while demonstrating a new aircraft in Canada’s capital ….”
Afghanistan (1) More (again) from the Minister’s spokesperson on how the years of the Afghan fight aren’t going to be carved onto the National Cenotaph just yet.“…. “These men and women in uniform are in harm’s way and it is clearly inappropriate to commemorate a mission which has yet to be completed,” wrote Joshua Zanin, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in an e-mail Wednesday. “When the last troops return home to their families at the conclusion of the mission, the full scope of Canada’s contributions in Afghanistan, including all the work of all those who have sacrificed and fallen in the service of their country, will be appropriately recognized and commemorated.” ….” In case this looks familiar, here’s what the spokesperson told The Canadian Press earlier this week: “…. “These men and women in uniform are in harm’s way and it is clearly inappropriate to commemorate a mission which has yet to be completed,” said Joshua Zanin, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay. “When the last troops return home to their families at the conclusion of the mission, the full scope of Canada’s contributions in Afghanistan, including all the work of all those who have sacrificed and fallen in the service of their country, will be appropriately recognized and commemorated.” ….”
Afghanistan (2) On how long it’s taken to recognize previous wars: “…. It took almost 20 years after the devastation of the Second World War for the federal government to design and erect the national war monument in Ottawa. The inclusion of that war as part of the monument didn’t take place until 37 years after it ended. The 26,971 Canadian soldiers who fought in the Korean War were ignored by both Canadian media and government until 1982 as well. “At the end of the war, Canadians returned to a peaceful nation that almost seemed to be unaware of the conflict across the ocean that had taken 516 Canadian and hundreds of thousands of others’ lives,” Senator Yonah Martin, who has championed the cause of recognizing Korean War veterans, said recently ….”
Afghanistan (3) One columnist’s view on why more Afghan interpreters should be allowed into Canada: “…. This is not just an issue of fairness and moral obligation, but of national security. The world is an increasingly dangerous place, and there is every reason to expect that the Canadian Forces will again soon find themselves deployed abroad in hostile lands. Co-operation from the locals during these future missions will be essential. Giving the people of the world’s trouble spots reason to avoid dealings with our soldiers will make the jobs of our military personnel not only harder, but more dangerous.”
Afghanistan (4) Something to look for as part of coming changes to the Canadian International Development Agency: “…. as Canada winds down its military involvement in Afghanistan, the Canadian International Development Agency will be “normalizing” aid to a level comparable to its 19 other “countries of focus.” This confirms a poorly-kept secret: aid to Afghanistan was always more about Canadians, candy and Kandahar than about sustainable long-term development. With aid levels frozen, there will be fierce competition for the freed-up funds. We should probably expect new assistance to Libya, where Canadian companies are already jockeying for important reconstruction and oil contracts ….”
Ronald Kevin Megeney, 1982-2007, R.I.P.:Second trial of Reservist charged in killing Megeney continues, with reporter noting the blisteringly obvious.“A Canadian soldier who was in Afghanistan when a member of his section was fatally shot at Kandahar Airfield in 2007 says everyone in the group had been given extensive weapons safety training …. everyone in the section of 10 soldiers had been given extensive briefings on weapons handling and safety before leaving Canada and again on arrival in theatre in December 2006 ….”
Canada’s CDS is dropping by to visit his Russian equivalent. “The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walt Natynczyk, is conducting a three-day visit with his Russian counterpart, Army General Nikolay Yegorovich Makarov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation / First Deputy Minister of Defence and General of the Army. The purpose of the visit is to gain the Russian perspective on a range of issues to improve and develop Canada’s bilateral military relationship with Russia. “During my first meeting with General Makarov last January in Brussels, I received his invitation to visit Moscow to expand on our initial discussions,” said General Natynczyk. “This visit is an important opportunity to strengthen Canadian-Russian military ties, and exchange views on some of our common defence interests. I hope that General Makarov will honour us with a visit to Canada so we can continue to build on our relationship.” This is the first time in almost a decade that a Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff has visited Russia to meet its top military leadership ….”
Defence Minister Peter MacKay highlights the highlights of his visit to Australia. “…. While in Australia, Minister MacKay met his counterpart, Australian Minister for Defence, Mr. Stephen Smith, Minister for Defence Materiel, The Honourable Jason Clare, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, The Honourable Warren Snowdon, and Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd. During the meetings, they discussed defence reform, procurement practices, general Asia-Pacific defence issues, and the transformation of the Australian Defence department …. Canada and Australia worked closely together in Afghanistan, and continue to build on their strong bilateral defence relations. Minister MacKay agreed to loan two Husky armoured vehicles and one Buffalo mine-protected vehicle to Australia until the end of 2012, which will allow their engineers in Oruzgan province to detect explosive hazards with low metal content, such as mines and improvised explosive devices.”
What’s Canada Buying: Used Sub Edition (1) Harsh, but with a kernel of truth. “When Britain held a scratch-and-dent sale in 1998 to get rid of some surplus submarines, Canada went shopping. Our 30-year-old fleet was long past its prime and Ottawa wasn’t ready to commit to the cost of new ones. That was 13 years ago. The deal seemed too good to turn down at the start: Just $750 million for an eight-year lease/purchase — about a quarter of the estimated replacement value — for four barely-used diesel-electric submarines that had been mothballed only because Britain had moved to an all-nuclear fleet …. As with a lot of cool stuff we bring home from yard sales, it didn’t take long for the deal to seem a little less of a bargain. Within a year, the National Post was reporting that hidden costs and a wish list for upgrades had pushed the real tab for the four used subs to somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2 billion ….”
What’s Canada Buying: Used Sub Edition (2) Where “independent research, advocacy and consulting group”, read “think tank that has yet to take a pro-CF position”: “Canada’s naval submarine program is a bust and the time is perfect for the federal government to scrap the four-vessel fleet, says the president of the Rideau Institute, an independent research, advocacy and consulting group in Ottawa. I don’t think we’ll ever see all four submarines operating all together and at their full capacity,” Steven Staples said Tuesday. Two weeks ago, the HMCS Corner Brook was put dockside until at least 2016 as a result of damage caused by hitting the ocean floor back in June. As a result, none of Canada’s four Victoria-class submarines are in action …. “I think an argument could be made by the government that they are still committed to the navy by spending upward of $30 billion on a new surface fleet …. I think it is becoming painfully clear that the sub fleet is providing no benefits to Canada in terms of our defence and, in fact, is probably more of a hazard to submariners than any benefit to the navy.” ….”
Ooopsie…. “As a spy, he was said to be sloppy. So sloppy that his masters would complain he “compromised” security and “jeopardized” their credibility – just by showing up for work. But Marc-André Bergeron, fired four years ago for alleged incompetence, has been vindicated by winning his claim of wrongful dismissal. In doing so, he has revealed a rather remarkable state of affairs at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. CSIS, whose bosses lament that they are held to impossible legal standards in court cases involving terrorism, couldn’t muster sufficient proof to fire one of their own. “The employer failed to discharge its burden to present the necessary evidence,” a federal tribunal ruled in mid-August, ordering Mr. Bergeron’s reinstatement or an alternate “appropriate remedy.” ….” Public Service Labour Relations Board decision here, decision summary here.
Libya Mission One columnist’s view:“…. If the foreigners’ motives really were humanitarian — they wanted to stop Gadhafi’s atrocious regime from killing his own subjects, and thought that Libyans would be better off without him — then they actually were using force as an instrument of love. Not “love” as in the love songs, but love meaning a genuine concern for the welfare of others. Most resorts to force do not meet this criterion (although those using the force generally claim that they do). The United States did not invade Iraq out of concern for the welfare of Iraqis, for example. But once in a while there is a shining exception, and this is one of those times. The British, French, Canadians, Swedes, Qataris and so on would not have done it if it involved large casualties in their own forces. (In fact, they had no casualties.) Most Western soldiers didn’t think the operation would succeed in removing Gadhafi, and the outcome has been greeted with surprise and relief in most of the capitals that sent aircraft. But they did it, and that counts for a lot.”
9/11 Plus Ten (1) “Canadians are more concerned about a terrorist attack on Canada now than before 9/11, says a new (Ipsos-Reid poll conducted for Postmedia News and Global TV). Enhanced airport security, no-fly lists and Canada’s participation in the Afghanistan war are just some of the considerable measures taken after 9/11, but Canadians are still worried about potential terrorist attacks within our borders. Half of the respondents said they felt “no change” in safety levels with military intervention and just under half feel ‘more safe’ as a result of domestic security measures ….”
9/11 Plus Ten (2) The CSIS Info-Machine is sharing some stories from officers about their feelings about 9/11 here and here – a bit of a “Canadian milestones in counter-terrorism since 9-11” selected chronology here.
Wanted: some damned good number crunchers and technogeeks for breaking codes.“It boasts some of the top math minds in the country, it’s looking to recruit more, and you still won’t find its name listed among any universities. The Tutte Institute for Mathematics and Computing is like a school for spies – a government-backed “classified research institute” that exists to entice academics who can help the government create and crack codes in the service of national security. The federal government has actually employed a small stable of arms-length academic cryptographers for several years now, but this summer it opted to redouble and rebrand the effort. In doing so, Ottawa has stepped up its quiet drive to lure some of the smartest PhD-calibre mathematicians away from ivory towers and into applied government work ….” And where’d the name of the new institute, part of Communications Security Establishment Canada, come from? “…. In the 1940s, William Tutte, a math genius, figured out ways to spy on encrypted, high-level Nazi communications, a contribution so profound that some observers now credit him and his British colleagues for helping hasten the end of the Second World War. After the war, Mr. Tutte moved to Canada and had a distinguished academic career at the University of Waterloo ….”
Afghanistan (2a)7 Jul 11: CF Info-Machine tells us Canadian takes over command of Consolidated Fielding Centre in Afghanistan. ~6 Sept 11: Foreign Affairs Info-Machine sends RSS feed notice that it’s decided to share this “news” on Canada’s main web page about Afghanistan.
Afghanistan (3b) Terry Glavin reminds us to be wary, too. “…. The Taliban have made it quite plain, by word and deed, that they have no intention of negotiating anything except the general outlines of the civilized world’s capitulation to them and the forward-planning terms of NATO’s surrender of the Afghan people to their custody ….”
New Brunswick is looking for feedback on its ideas for job protection for Reservists.“Finding the right balance can sometimes be a tricky and nerve-testing procedure. But efforts to do just that are exactly what’s happening these days within the part-time military community as officials juggle ideas in an effort to find ways to make the lives of reservist soldiers in this province a little more secure. In April, residents were asked to participate in a provincial government consultation process and provide their views on how to offer better leave protection to reservists working in civilian jobs or pursuing post-secondary studie …. Ideas were collected by the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour and placed in a preliminary report called “What We Heard: Responses to the Review of Canadian Forces Reservist Employment and Education Leave Protection in New Brunswick.“ (PDF) …. If you have ideas on how you would like to see reservists protected in this province, now is the time to step forward. Contact the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour.” Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org, fax (506) 453-3618 or snail mail at Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, Review of Reservists Employment and Education Leave Protections, P.O. Box 6000, Fredericton, NB, E3B 5H1.
Canada has has new deal for annual defence think tank get together.“The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, announced …. that Canada is hosting the third annual Halifax International Security Forum from November 18th to 20th in Halifax, Nova Scotia. With Foreign Affairs as the media partner, this year’s Halifax International Security Forum features over three hundred politicians, academics, policy makers, and journalists from forty countries around the world. Following the 10th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks and Canada’s recent transition to a non-combat training role in Afghanistan, this year’s forum is especially poignant, focusing on key sensitive and emerging global issues …. As the only event of its kind in North America, the Halifax International Security Forum fosters discussions covering a wide range of topics, including the future of the transatlantic alliance, security initiatives in the Middle East, revolutions, responsibility to protect and making better use of resources to deliver on key security and defence commitments. The Halifax International Security Forum is even stronger with Foreign Affairs, the conference’s media partner. Minister MacKay took the opportunity to announce a three year funding partnership for the Halifax International Security Forum from both the Department of National Defence and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency ….”
Remember the list o’ war criminals Canada was looking for your help in hunting down? Guess where one of the guys on the original list is?“An accused Serbian war criminal says his life has been ruined by an Ottawa-led manhunt, even though he left Canada for his homeland six years ago. Dimitrije Karic, also known as Dimitrije Mita, 51, of the Serbian municipality of Kovin, said he came to Canada in 2003 and filed a failed refugee claim. He complied with an order to leave Canada in 2005. “Is anyone, who was wearing a uniform in war in former Yugoslavia, a war criminal for you?” he said in an Aug. 30 e-mail to QMI Agency. “If it is so, there are several hundred thousand war criminals throughout Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia.” He lived and worked at two companies in Medicine Hat, Alta., during his time in Canada, documents show ….”
Remember Gilad Schalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in June 2006? His folks are telling reporters Canada should get Hamas to let him go. What’s Canada saying so far? “…. Chris Day, director of communications for Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, told the Tribune in an email, “Hamas is a listed terrorist organization. The government of Canada has no contact with Hamas.” Canadian aid is supplied to the people of Gaza through “established aid channels and with established organizations” and not via Hamas. Should Hamas and Fatah form a unity government, Day said, “Canada cannot support a government that includes Hamas.” In May, Canada was a signatory to the G8 Declaration of Renewed Commitment for Freedom and Democracy, which stated in part, “We demand the unconditional release of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit [sic] without delay.” When asked what concrete action Canada can or will take in regard to Gilad Schalit, Day said, “Minister Baird has been very clear in calling – as G8 leaders did at Deauville – for Gilad Shalit’s [sic] release…. We will continue to press this case at every opportunity.” ….” But not directly to the folks holding him, given the bits in green.
“The re-incarnated NHL’s Winnipeg Jets (have) unveiled their new uniforms …. The Jets, who returned to Winnipeg with the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to Manitoba’s True North Sports and Entertainment in May, held a news conference to unveil the team’s new uniforms at Royal Canadian Air Force base 17 Wing. The jerseys consist mostly of two shades of blue: Polar Night Blue, found on many of today’s RCAF aircraft, and Aviator Blue, which is similar to historical colours used by the RCAF ….”
Afghanistan Condolences from Canada’s PM on the disastrous helicopter crash in Afghanistan killing more than 30 Americans and 7 Afghans. “…. On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the brave U.S. service members and Afghan soldiers who lost their lives today in this terrible incident. This tragedy is a stark reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that men and women in uniform continue to make in Afghanistan. Canada will not waiver in its efforts to see Afghanistan emerge as a peaceful, secure and stable country that will never again be a safe haven for terrorists ….”
“Ottawa needs to give homeless veterans a place to live while they get their lives back together, New Democrat MP Peter Stoffer demanded Friday. Stoffer said the federal government should set up transition centres in Halifax and across the country to help what he said is a growing number of veterans living on the streets, or at risk of being there soon. The official Opposition’s Veterans Affairs critic said it is Ottawa’s responsibility to help the troubled veterans, many of whom have post-traumatic stress disorder. “These individuals served their country and their country must serve them,” Stoffer told a news conference across the street from the Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope in Halifax ….”
A defence of fraternization in a theatre of war.“…. If there restrictions are imposed on relationships while on active duty because of potential problems, I would make the case that there are as many if not more potential problems from denying the Canadian Force’s personnel the right to have these relationships. Secret trysts, deceptions, and the potential to destroy someone’s career and giving them a criminal record for falling in love must make a near impossible job that much harder ….” Really? Wonder how the boss having sex with the blog post author’s boss would go over? Not great for newsroom morale, I’d guess.
A bit of a fracas over the proposed sinking of the HMCS Annapolis to become a divers’ attraction. “…. The Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia plans to sink the warship in an idyllic bay close to Vancouver, creating an easily accessible opportunity for recreational scuba divers and a new home for possibly more than 100 marine species. Residents of the area near the bay and environmentalists are up in arms. They are troubled by the possible release of toxins and increase in boat traffic that could turn the secluded waters into a busy, commercial dive site. They are upset with both the federal and provincial governments, which raised concerns about the project and then, without explanation, encouraged the reef society to move ahead with it ….”
Remember Adil Charkaoui (who took his security certificate restrictions to court) and Abousfian Abdelrazik (who spent years in Sudan because he couldn’t fly back to Canada due to being on a U.N. terrorist watch list)? A Montreal newspaper (articles in French here, here and here) says it’s received documents explaining why authorities were suspicious about these guys.“…. a CSIS document leaked to Montreal’s French-language newspaper La Presse now suggests why Abousfian Abdelrazik and Adil Charkaoui have been terrorism suspects for so long in the eyes of the federal government. The La Presse report says CSIS intercepted a phone conversation between the two men in the summer of 2000. In the CSIS document the newspaper describes, the two men reportedly discuss a plot to blow up an airplane travelling between Montreal and France using explosives hidden in a keychain. Lawyers representing the two men categorically deny their clients are involved in any terrorist plot, and said the information on which the report is based may not be reliable evidence. “There’s never been any criminal charges against Mr. Abdelrazik. Presumably this type of a conversation would attract at least some kind of criminal investigation or a criminal charge,” said Khalid Elgazzar, one of Abdelrazik’s lawyers ….” More from English-language media here and here.