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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 Aug 11

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  • Nanook 2011  Canada is deploying unmanned surveillance aircraft to the High Arctic for the first time, as part of the largest military exercise ever in the Far North. Catapult-launched Boeing ScanEagle unarmed drones similar to those used by the Canadian army for surveillance in Afghanistan are to assist in a major air disaster scenario in an extremely remote area near Resolute, which is about 3,000 kilometres north of Ottawa. They will also assist in a major maritime disaster exercise being overseen by the Canadian Coast Guard in waters between Canada and Greenland. “It’s precedent setting. There will be small UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) in the High Arctic,” Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in an interview. “They are a harbinger of things to come” ….”
  • Afghanistan  NATO trainers will continue to mentor and train Afghan army and police for years past the pullout deadline of 2014, said Col. Peter Dawe, deputy commander of the Canadian contribution to the NATO training mission. Dawe told Postmedia News that as many as half of NATO’s total training contingent will remain after 2014 to continue their job of helping Afghans build a professional security force that by 2012 will number 352,000 strong, including 157,000 police. NATO’s goal is to withdraw gradually all combat troops by March 2014. There are 132,000 coalition forces in Afghanistan. Building and sustaining Afghan security forces beyond 2014, however, requires continued NATO commitment in Afghanistan, Dawe said in an interview. “You can’t view 2014 as an absolute deadline,” he said. He added however that “it is unequivocal” that Canada’s 950 trainers and support staff, whose main job is to train Afghan trainers, will be gone by 2014. “NATO will continue to be engaged for the long haul,” he added ….”
  • Canada and the United States oppose military intervention in Somalia despite evidence the Islamic militant group al-Shabab is blocking famine relief in parts of the drought-ravaged nation that are under its control. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emerged from their first bilateral meeting on Thursday united in their approach to ending the humanitarian disaster in Somalia and responding to the Syrian regime’s violent crackdown on protesters. “At this time, we are not contemplating military action” in Somalia, Mr. Baird said. “Obviously, both countries have experience from that.” He was referring to the participation of Canadian and U.S. troops in the 1992-93 United Nations-sanctioned effort to clear the way for food and medical aid after the Somali government’s collapse ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  “…. The Department of National Defence (DND) has a requirement for the supply of 24 Chemical Identification System (Chem-IS) kits; Spare Parts and Consumables up to a maximum cost specified in the RFP; Initial Cadre Training (ICT); Repair and Overhaul services for a perod of three (3) years; 24/7 Reachback services for three (3) years; and clearance decontamination. The Chem-IS will be manufactured in accordance with DND’s Statement of Work (SOW). The goods are to be delivered to Canadian Forces Base Montreal, Quebec. Delivery is to commence no later than 9 months after contract award and be completed within 18 months after contract award ….”
  • Convicted war criminal Omar Khadr stunned his longtime Canadian lawyers …. by giving them the boot just months before he is due to be repatriated to Canada from Guantanamo Bay. For years, Dennis Edney and Nate Whitling championed Khadr’s cause, fighting protracted and successful legal battles on his behalf in Canada. His decision to fire them took both men by surprise. “I have no idea what pressures are being placed on Omar Khadr in Guantanamo to make that decision,” Edney told The Canadian Press. “I presume he made the decision with full information and Nate and I wish him all the best.” ….”  More here.
  • Canada has the lowest risk of terrorism among major western economies, says a new global security report. The 2011 Terrorism Risk Index, by the respected British risk analysis company Maplecroft, ranks Canada 86th out of 197 countries. The United Kingdom placed 38th, the highest among major western nations, which Maplecroft attributes to deteriorating security conditions in Northern Ireland, with 25 reported terrorist attacks last year, none fatal. Greece had the worst showing of any western nation, placing 27th with a “high risk” classification. No major western economies, however, fell within the “high” or “extreme risk” risk bracket — the U.S. (ranked 61), Germany (62), France (45) and U.K. all remain in the “medium risk” category. China, meanwhile, ranked 39th ….”  More here and here.
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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 9 Apr 11

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  • Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, Royal 22e Régiment, R.I.P. Family and friends packed a chapel at CFB Valcartier on Friday to bid farewell to Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, remembering Canada’s most recent combat casualty as a natural leader who embraced life to the fullest. Scherrer died on March 27 when he was killed by an improvised explosive device near the village of Nakhonay, southwest of Kandahar city. Capt. Monique Roumy, the chaplain who conducted the service, said Scherrer had taken on a career that is not always easy. “Our people in uniform are sometimes misunderstood, stereotyped and judged for what they are and what they represent,” she said. “Despite the looks and the unflattering remarks they get, a soldier marches straight and does what he or she must do because it is not just a job — it’s a vocation.” ….”
  • Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, “A dreary makeshift military outpost at the extreme western edge of the Horn of Panjwaii is literally the end of the road for a mammoth, 18-kilometre long, $10-million Canadian-led construction project. When the last three kilometres are completed later this month, the road — which NATO forces call Route Hyena and Canadian Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner calls “a dagger through the heart of the Taliban” — should benefit generations of hardscrabble farmers in what is arguably the poorest corner of one of the poorest countries on earth. Until a few months ago the Taliban freely roamed the Horn, protected from ground attack by hundreds of improvised explosive devices. As elsewhere, they terrified the local population, threatening to kill them if they did not co-operate ….”
  • Remember the possible deal for Canada to buy torpedo conversion kits from the U.S. (5th item) Here’s the latest version from The Canadian Press“Canada’s navy is waiting to hear back from the U.S. regarding the purchase of $125 million worth of torpedo refit kits so it can properly arm its four Victoria-class submarines. At the moment, none of the British-built diesel boats is capable of firing the navy’s current stock of MK 48 torpedoes. Any sale of American made military equipment to a foreign government must be approved by Congress. “The Canadian government submitted a letter of request for these things,” said Paul Ebner of the Defence Security Co-operation Agency, the office in Washington that oversees the clearance of such sales. “We’ve notified Congress and if there’s no objections over the 30-day review period we put together a letter of acceptance.” In a release issued March 23, the agency backs the sale on national security grounds, saying it will improve the security of a NATO ally that “continues to be a key democratic partner of the United States in ensuring peace and stability.” ….”
  • CBC’s angle on the torpedo conversion (without an identified, or even described, source):  they’ll need more converting to be used in Canada’s subs. Canada’s navy plans to spend about $120 million to upgrade 36 torpedoes, but they still won’t work in its four submarines without further refits, CBC News has learned. The navy has MK-48 American torpedoes in stock, but the four British-built submarines aren’t capable of firing them. Even after the weapons are converted, Canada would still have to spend millions more to refit the submarines to fire them. Defence Minister Peter MacKay confirmed the plans on Friday but said no decision had been made about the procurement. “Of course I know about it,” MacKay said during a campaign stop with Conservative MP Gerald Keddy in Bridgewater, N.S. “There’s absolutely no decision taken at this point. The Department of National Defence is continuously looking at different procurements whether it be munitions, whether it be new equipment.” ….”
  • Election 2011 (x) – All the federal party leaders were criticized Friday by Ret. Gen. Rick Hillier, perhaps Canada’s best known soldier, for avoiding a serious debate during their election campaigns about Canada’s role in the Libyan conflict. In an interview on the CBC radio show The Current, Hillier, the outspoken former Chief of Defence Staff, routinely said he was “puzzled” over the relative silence from the campaign buses as Canadian involvement in Libya enters its third week. “What is puzzling to me, personally, is that we’ve had really no discussion in our country whatsoever about this,” Hillier said. “It hasn’t come up during the election campaign whatsoever. And again, here we are at war. We’ve been doing this in Afghanistan — we’ve had immense discussion — huge amounts of discussion, on the mission in Afghanistan, including parliamentary debates. “Here in Canada, right now, it’s actually silent on what is happening in Libya.” ….”
  • Election 2011 (1) – Greens on defence: “…. the Canadian military should stay in Afghanistan, but only under a United Nations peacekeeping mission. Canada would assist Afghanistan’s domestic affairs, including poverty, economic development, amplifying the nation’s government and public institutions and help develop the military and police force ….”
  • Election 2011 (2) – NDP promises ships over jets: “Jack Layton says the NDP would prioritize investment in naval ships over new fighter jets as part of a broader plan to refocus Canada’s defence policy. “Instead of focusing on F-35 fighter jets, I’ll get the job done when it comes to building joint support ships for our naval forces,” he said Friday from Esquimalt, B.C. The NDP would also commit to developing a white paper to chart the future course of defence needs within 12 months of taking office, Layton said, noting that Canada hasn’t issued a white paper on defence since 1994 ….” More from Postmedia News here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he has it in writing that Canada will be exempted from the staggering development cost increases associated with the F-35 stealth fighter. He lamented Friday that the ultra-high-tech jets and their enormous price tag had become a political football in the race toward the May 2 election. “You have to understand that in terms of the F-35 costs, we’ve been very detailed with those to the Canadian public,” Harper said after releasing the Conservative platform in Mississauga, Ont. “A lot of the developmental costs you’re reading in the United States, the contract we’ve signed shelters us from any increase in those kinds of costs. We’re very confident of our cost estimates and we have built in some latitude, some contingency in any case. So we are very confident we are within those measures.” …. “
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)“…. (Critics) claim Canada should wait, that the F-35s are the last of a dying breed – warplanes with pilots – and that it makes sense to hold out a decade or two for the dawn of unmanned, remote-controlled bombers and fighters. But the risks of opting out include no longer being considered a first-rank ally and missing out on cutting edge technology. The inner circle of U.S.-led weapons systems is also an exclusive and perhaps too valuable a club to spurn – even if the F-35 is the last of its kind ….”
  • Ah, those wacky funster Khadr kids…. Ontario’s highest court on Friday reserved its decision on whether it should extradite Abdullah Khadr to the U.S. to face a terrorism-related charge. The three-justice panel at the Ontario Court of Appeal heard arguments from the federal government that a Superior court justice erred by cancelling the extradition and releasing Khadr last August. The main basis of their argument was that the judge had no jurisdiction and did not properly balance the benefits of Khadr’s release with the seriousness of the charge he faces. Khadr’s lawyers, Nathan Whitling and Dennis Edney, countered the judge didn’t need to be taken into consideration because of the “egregious abuse” Khadr was subjected to in Pakistan at the behest of U.S. Authorities ….”
  • Among the 492 Tamil migrants who arrived in Canada aboard the MV Sun Sea last August were 12 crew members who played an “integral” role in helping to execute the large and sophisticated smuggling operation, the Immigration and Refugee Board was told Thursday. The allegation was made at an admissibility hearing for one of the crew members, a man who cooked on the ship and manned the diesel engine room and received free passage from a key smuggling agent in return for that work, the board was told. The Canada Border Services Agency is seeking to have the man — whose brother, who was also on the ship, is alleged to be a key organizer of the operation — deported on the grounds that he engaged in a transnational crime, namely people-smuggling ….”
  • Ooopsie (continued) …. To his neighbours, Aaron Lacey is a bit of a loner, a quiet guy who likes to keep to himself. But to Niagara police, the self-taught artist from Beamsville is allegedly deceitful and aggressive in his pursuit of information from a senior Canadian Forces official. Lacey, 38, was arrested March 30 and charged with five counts of impersonating a military officer and criminally harassing the senior military official. He was also booked on 10 counts of breach of recognizance relating to charges from last August, including attempted fraud, forgery and an additional count of impersonation. Cumulatively, he faces 29 charges. His bail hearing got under way Monday and will continue Friday in a St. Catharines courtroom ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 Mar 11

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  • A quick Afghan media snippet on the Canadian reportedly held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. “Taliban militants on Monday said they had offered to free a Canadian citizen held hostage for two months in return for the release of several of their captured comrades…”
  • Canada says it would consider direct diplomatic contact with anti-Gadhafi forces in Libya, but unlike its ally Britain, it hasn’t moved in that direction yet. “This is a continuous moving target so, this is the first I hear of this,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday. “There’s always a great deal of validity in being able to speak to these people.” Opposition MPs urged the Harper government to talk directly to Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Gadhafi. Liberal MP Bob Rae presented the option as one of the more “active and inventive” ways Canada could help speed Gadhafi’s overthrow. The National Libyan Council has now positioned itself as the political branch of the anti-Gadhafi forces ….” Let’s see if any OTHER “councils” or “committees” pop out of the woodwork before deciding who to talk to, shall we?  More from CBC.ca here and QMI/Sun Media here.
  • Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae says Canada (and others) have to do more about Libya. “There are many other plans of action the government should be taking against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi right now according to Liberal critic Bob Rae. Rae said he would like to see Canada prepare itself to take part in a no fly zone and place further sanctions on individuals and countries that help the regime by doing things such as buying Libyan oil. “It is no longer a matter of it’s important to try to do this. I think it’s absolutely necessary for Canada to do this. We simply have to engage on the governance issues. We have to engage on the human rights issues and we have to engage successfully in making sure Colonel Gaddafi is history,” said Rae.  ….”
  • Meanwhile, what’s NATO considering? “NATO has decided to boost surveillance flights over Libya as the alliance debates the utility of imposing a “no-fly zone” over the country. U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, said allies agreed on Monday to increase AWACS flights from 10 to 24 hours a day, an expansion that is part of contingency planning for possible military intervention in Libya beyond humanitarian efforts. The decision came as the alliance’s governing board met to discuss what unique capabilities NATO could bring to Libya. Daalder said other ideas being considered are redeploying NATO vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, along with nearby air assets, to deal with humanitarian aid as well as establishing a command and control structure to co-ordinate relief efforts ….”
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • Canada’s Defence Minister, answering questions in the House of Commons, says “Kabul-centric” means “in/around Kabul” when it comes to Canada’s future training mission in Afghanistan. “What we have said is that the combat mission will come to an end this year, that we will transition into a training mission, which will be Kabul-centric, meaning in the Kabul region; and that there will be work done to continue the important efforts by the Canadian Forces to impart the skill set needed by the Afghan security forces to do what we do.” A bit more detail from another question: “The combat mission will come to an end. The Canadian Forces will then transition into a training mission in a Kabul-centric, behind the wire configuration. That is the position of the Government of Canada. “
  • A major Canadian road project in southern Afghanistan has been hampered by an element the military has no control over, one rarely associated with the arid region of Kandahar: rain. Heavy downpours over the past couple of weeks have slowed construction of a 22-kilometre road in the Panjwaii district, a volatile area where the Canadian battle group is conducting one last push to win over locals before combat operations end in July. “I would say that up until the last few weeks, it was going pretty well,” said Capt. Jean-Francois Huot of the 5 Combat Engineer Regiment. “The first rain didn’t affect much, but then with the accumulation and the speed at which it evaporates we’ve seen, well, look how slow it is.” The deluge has clogged irrigation canals and left sandy plains a muddy mess. Last week, a crew from the Kandahar Air Wing had to be dispatched to rescue two Afghan men whose truck became stranded because of flash flooding. The Royal 22e Regiment had hoped to have the road finished by mid-April. Military officials say once completed, the road will link rural villages together, boost commerce and trade and improve the freedom of movement for Afghans ….”
  • Remember this paper on using biometrics to measure bad guy intent? The DRDC publications page is working much better today, so here’s a link to the report, “Biometrics of Intent:  From Psychophysiology to Behaviour.” (405 KB, 27 page PDF).
  • What’s Canada Buying? “The Department of National Defence Canada has a requirement for the provision of Large Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device Disrupter Systems for Canadian Forces’ training and operations ….” (via Milnet.ca)
  • F-35 Tug o’ War “As part of the Harper government’s efforts to promote the F-35 stealth fighter, a top Conservative MP is criticizing a respected retired public servant who has advised government on defence purchases. Edmonton MP Laurie Hawn, who’s the parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, has been sending out e-mails promoting the F-35 purchase and attacking critics of the deal, including former Defence Department assistant deputy minister Alan Williams. The e-mail, which has circulated among retired and serving Canadian Forces members as well as journalists, also attacks a retired Australian air force officer who has raised questions about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and an Australian aviation analyst who has done the same ….” Here’s some of what Williams had to say about the deal he signed in February 2002 (more in a recent letter to the editor here).
  • Sikorsky on the CH-148 Cyclone choppers: They’re coming, honest, really soon! “Sikorsky is ‘weeks rather than months’ away from finally delivering the first interim aircraft for the CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter programme for the Canadian Forces (CF), according to CEO Jeff Pino. A long-running dispute regarding the purchase of the maritime helicopters was seemingly settled when 28 Cyclones were ordered under a $1.8 billion contract to replace the primary Canadian shipboard helicopter, the CH-124 Sea King. Following delays due to issues surrounding the mission system integration aboard the aircraft, in June 2010 Sikorsky announced that as a provisional measure the CF would receive six interim CH-148 Cyclones in November. However, delivery of these aircraft was also delayed due to undisclosed issues Sikorsky claimed was beyond its control. Speaking to reporters at a ‘state of Sikorsky’ presentation at Heli-Expo in Orlando, Pino said delivery of interim aircraft was now ‘imminent’ and highlighted progress on the programme that included 750 flight hours completed, ongoing sea trials in Canada and the finalising of the aircraft’s certification ….”
  • The rehab of Omar Khadr continues apace in Guantanamo. “Providing Omar Khadr with a formal education should help allay fears expressed by many Canadians that he will return to Canada an angry and perhaps dangerous young man with a grudge against society, says his Canadian lawyer. To prepare the 24-year-old for his return to Canada, Khadr’s defence team enlisted a Canadian university professor to design a home schooling program, says lawyer Dennis Edney. Pentagon lawyers travel to the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, every other week to do the teaching. “We provide them with the material and then they go to Guantanamo and sit with Omar and they take him through the subject matter,” Edney explains. The curriculum includes math, history, astronomy and is heavy on English grammar. If Khadr passes a high school equivalency exam, he intends to apply for admission to a college or university as a mature student …..”
  • It was a thundering display of Canada’s Northern resolve with jet fighters, a frigate and even a submarine, but a recently released poll suggests such exercises in military prowess play to the public’s mistaken belief the Arctic is under threat. When Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay posed for a photo-op on the deck of HMCS Toronto 18 months ago in Frobisher Bay, internal polling told them a majority of Canadians believed the North was in peril — a view not shared by defence officials. “Three in five Canadians (60 per cent) living north of 60 degrees, and one-half of Canadians (52 per cent) in the south, believe there is a threat to Canada’s Arctic sovereignty or to the security of its northern border,” says a 2009 Environics survey. The poll was commissioned by the Defence Department and released under the Access to Information Act after long delays. But a Defence Department briefing note that same year assured the minister there was no real threat. “There is no longer a conventional military threat in the Arctic,” says the Aug. 11, 2009, briefing note, also obtained by The Canadian Press under the access law. “The resumption of Russian military exercises in the region is more symbolic of Moscow wanting to be taken seriously as a world power than a return to the armed standoff of the Cold War.” ….”
  • A Utah artist who paints oil portraits of fallen soldiers to pay respect to their lives and sacrifice says her gift is open to families from Victoria, B.C. to Jamestown, New York. “Their lives (Canadians) and their willingness is every bit as precious as an American soldier as they are fighting for the same thing — trying to suppress tyranny and oppression,” said Kaziah Hancock, 62, in a phone interview from, Manti Utah ….” More on the painting program here.
  • G20 protest participant admits to throwing a burning paper into a police car, then says he’s a scapegoat when he pleads guilty to destroying the car?  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight….