MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 6 Jun 11

  • Here’s hoping for a full and speedy recovery. Two sailors were injured as a Canadian submarine hit bottom near Nootka Sound, off the west coast of the Island. HMCS Corner Brook, under the command of Lt. Cmdr. Paul Sutherland, struck bottom while conducting submerged manoeuvers during advanced submarine officer training, said Navy spokesman Gerry Pash. “The submarine’s crew, in accordance with their training, brought the submarine to the surface, conducted an internal damage assessment and carried out a series of safety checks. Two sailors suffered some bruising as a result of the incident. No fuel was released into the environment,” Pash said. “The boat is now underway and scheduled to return to Esquimalt tonight for further assessment,” Pash said. An investigation will be ordered to determine the cause of the incident. There were 60 personnel on board at the time of the incident which is a lot for the sub which would normally carry a crew of 49 plus a few trainees, Pash said. They were doing advanced officer training which is probably the most challenging training exercises conducted in submarines because it focuses on developing the skills of potential submarine officers,” Pash said ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  The hockey meme appears, again, in coverage of CF troops overseas.
  • Afghanistan (2)  A bit more history from the early days of the mission from Postmedia News’ Matthew Fisher.
  • Afghanistan (3)  “…. In terms of lasting achievements that can be listed to offset Canada’s cost in blood and gold, the growing strength of the insurgency makes any such tally premature. And however historians record this conflict, as an intervention or a war, in the future, it will not be defined as a “victory” for the US-led allies.”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  Almost 20 claimed killed in attacks across Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul.
  • Today’s the anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy landings – message from the Governor General/Commander in Chief here, the PM here, the Defence Minister here and the Veterans Affairs Minister here.
  • Yesterday was Canadian Armed Forces Day – message from the Governor General/Commander in Chief here, the PM here and the Minister of National Defence here.  A bit more on this here.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Some editorial advice from the East Coast on how shipbuilding contracts should be parcelled out“…. Let’s not rattle on about what we’ll get from the big contract. Let’s make an honest case on what a good deal Canada gets by choosing the Halifax bid. Let’s agree right now the Irving group should win the contract by guaranteeing it can produce the ships on time, on budget and with unassailable quality assurance. Anything short of that is nothing more than special pleading and entitlement. We don’t “deserve” the contract. Arguing that Nova Scotia should get the work because we need it is just as bogus as Duffy’s implication that voting Conservative should make the difference. The Irving shipyard should win the lead contract based on its capabilities, its record of building naval ships, the investment of its owners and their sincere commitment to deliver value for money for Canadians. There is no other fair and just measure by which these contracts should be awarded ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  BAE Systems has conducted factory acceptance testing of the first of 14 57mm MkIII naval guns for the Department of National Defense (DND) in support of the Canadian Navy’s upgrade of the Halifax class frigate. The 57 MkIII serves as the main gun for this ship class and the ongoing upgrade program will deliver much-increased versatility against an ever-widening range of threats. Tomas Erlandsson, director integrated systems for BAE Systems Weapons in Karlskog says: “The upgrade from 57 Mk2 to 57 Mk III makes these guns as capable as our highly-advanced 57 Mk3, including the ability to fire the sophisticated 6-mode programmable 3P ammunition. This program, together with the recent contract to build the 57 Mk3 for the US Navy Littoral Combat Ship program, results in a stable foundation for naval gun production.” ….”
  • Russian eyes in Canadian skies. A Russian Federation aircraft will conduct an aerial observation mission over Canada under the Treaty on Open Skies between 7 and 9 Jun 2011.  A Tupolev TU-154M aircraft, which arrived at 8 Wing Trenton yesterday will conduct an unimpeded observation overflight of Canadian territory, in fulfillment of Canada’s obligations as a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies. The Treaty on Open Skies is one example of how Canada exercises its commitment to reducing the threat of armed conflict by increasing trust and confidence though developing greater openness and transparency amongst states. The Treaty on Open Skies, entered-into-force on January 1, 2002. Canada and 33 other nations has exercised its treaty rights in having conducted a number of observation flights over other states, including the Russian Federation, Belarus, Croatia, Georgia, Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina ….”
  • A Canadian citizen will learn (today) if he will be extradited to France to face murder and attempted murder charges in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue. On Oct. 3, 1980, plastic explosives strapped to a motorcycle ripped through the Paris synagogue on Rue Copernic, killing four and wounding dozens. Witnesses placed a man resembling Hassan Diab at the scene, though his passport put him in Spain at the time of the bombing. But the battle to keep Diab in Canada would appear to have been already lost, thanks to a handful of handwritten words on a hotel card and the nature of extradition law. In February, Judge Robert Maranger ruled admissible a questionable French handwriting analysis that supposedly links Diab to the bombing ….”
  • Tahawwur Rana is a 50-year-old Canadian businessman in a heap of trouble. For the past three weeks, Rana has been on trial in a Chicago courtroom charged with several counts of providing material support for terrorism. U.S. federal prosecutors have presented extensive wiretap and surveillance evidence they allege connects Rana to both the 2008 Mumbai attacks and a plot to murder journalists at Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten newspaper. The Danish paper enraged some Muslims by publishing controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. In the coming days, his American lawyers, Patrick Blegan and Charlie Smith, will begin to mount a defence. But Rana’s personal fate is being overshadowed by sensational evidence that threatens to poison Washington’s already troubled relationship with its erstwhile ally Pakistan even further — evidence that appears to show that despite repeated denials, the Pakistani military is secretly training and financing militant groups ….”
  • The prime minister and the president of the United States took time out from the recent G-8 meetings in France to discuss perimeter security. The Deauville talks between Barack Obama and Stephen Harper are the first time the issue has come onto the radar since early February when the two launched a commission to look into the issue -hardly surprising given assorted political distractions like wars and elections. But the government’s throne speech Friday places the issue back on top of the agenda. The topic is vast, complex, and carries massive baggage. How (for instance) are Canada’s immigration interests to be squared with the Americans’ when our domestic workforce is shrinking and theirs isn’t? How does that affect efforts to rationalize approaches to refugee and visa policy? ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 5 Mar 11

  • In Libya, the Brits & Germans may have done it, and the Dutch tried it, but Canadians aren’t planning on doing it “The Canadian military has no plans to conduct extraction raids into Libya and citizens who want out of the chaotic North African nation should make their way to embarkation points, the commander of the mission said Friday …. “There are no current plans to extract Canadians,” Lt.-Col. Tony DeJacolyn told The Canadian Press in an interview from Malta.  “The current concept of operations is to move Canadian entitled persons and instruct them to move to points of exit, whether it be by sea or air.” ….”
  • Of course, this story focuses on the KEY element of the Libyan evacuation effort in the lead paragraph“Instead of rations, tents and makeshift showers, the command post for Canada’s military-assisted evacuation from Libya offers fruity drinks, poolside umbrellas and spa packages. Lt.-Col. Anthony DeJacolyn, the commander of that effort, has yet to indulge. Instead, the Pickering native and his team are pulling 21-hour days at Malta’s five-star Excelsior Hotel in an attempt to get to safety the Canadians remaining in Libya. Efforts in the early days of the crisis had mixed results. Charter planes were turned back midflight. Others that could land at the airport in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, were forced to return empty because no evacuees were ready to get on board ….” Have they run out of news angles so soon?
  • More whining (this time from the International Committee of the Fourth International) about Canada in Libya“…. Like the other imperialist powers, the Canadian government is depicting its plans to intervene militarily in Libya as born of altruism—of abhorrence at the repressive actions of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime, fear for the lives of ordinary Libyans as the country descends into civil war, and concern for the spread of democracy in North Africa and the Middle East. This is poppycock. If Canada’s government is plotting with the US and the European Union to intervene in Libya, it is because the popular upsurge that has toppled Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia, hobbled Gaddafi, and challenged governments throughout North Africa and the Middle East is threatening vital imperialist economic and geo-strategic interests ….” Riiiiiiiiiiight.
  • Meanwhile, remember the Canadian Peace Congress’ position on Canadian military forces headed to Libya, calling for less militarism and more “solidarity”? A good response from Patrick Ross over at the Propagandist“…. Muammar al-Gadhafi doesn’t pay attention to Canadian protest rallies. I know: crazy, right? But somehow he just doesn’t care about what I hope will be thousands of Canadians – conservative and progressive alike — coming out to show their support for Libyans fighting for freedom in their own country.  At times like this, solidarity can be a pretty great thing. But solidarity won’t stop a Libyan Mirage fighter jet from strafing a peaceful protest rally. But a Canadian CF-18 shooting it out of the sky sure as hell will.  So it’s really this simple: either the so-called “peace movement” needs to be prepared to accept some kind of foreign intervention in Libya – whether it ends with a no-fly zone, or merely begins there – or they will have to accept what Muammar al-Gadhafi has been doing to his people ….” Well, Canadian Peace Alliance, which is it?
  • A Toronto cop shares his story from Kandahar through Canada’s web page on Afghanistan.
  • Toronto Terrorist Gets Life Sentence Shareef Abdelhaleem, the final member of the Toronto 18 to be sentenced for his crimes, has been handed a life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 years. Abdelhaleem, 35, was sentenced Friday just before noon for his role in a homegrown terror plot to detonate bombs at the Toronto offices of CSIS, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an Ontario military base. He was found guilty last year of participating in a terrorist group and intending to cause an explosion. Ahead of his sentence, Shareef delivered a 23-minute rambling speech, in which he claimed he never intended to harm anyone. He also said that Canadians have been silent on the blatant injustice of his case…. ” More MSM coverage here.
  • Alleged Edmonton Terrorist Back in Court An Edmonton accused terrorist facing extradition to the U.S. is trying to block seized evidence from being sent south until the validity of the search warrant is examined. In a Court of Queen’s Bench hearing Thursday into the case of Iraqi-born Sayfildin Tahir-Sharif, defence lawyer Nate Whitling said an inquiry is necessary to make sure there were no Charter rights violations when police raided the 38-year-old’s north-side apartment on Jan. 19. “There has been an attempt to evade this inquiry,” said Whitling, suggesting authorities were attempting an “end run” by passing along evidence seized in the search to U.S. officials before ensuring the warrant was proper. “What we are saying is this was, in substance, a search and seizure and they should have followed the proper procedures,” said Whitling. Federal prosecutor Stacey Dej denied anything improper had taken place stemming from dual investigations by the American and Canadian authorities and said the RCMP had “acted responsibly” in its handling of the raid ….” More MSM coverage here.
  • Alleged Ottawa Terrorist Still in Court There is more than enough circumstantial evidence against former University of Ottawa professor Hassan Diab to justify his extradition to France, a federal Crown lawyer argued on Friday. Urging Justice Robert Maranger to ignore “emotional pleas” from Diab’s lawyer, prosecutor Jeffrey Johnston said the relatively “low standard” of evidence required by Canadian extradition law has been amply met during the protracted two-year proceedings against Diab. The Lebanese-born Canadian is wanted for murder and attempted murder by Paris police for his alleged role in the bombing of a synagogue in the French capital in October 1980. Diab, 57, says he is an innocent victim of mistaken identity ….”
  • The results of a sweeping federal review of veteran health services are being kept secret and former soldiers are losing out on benefits as a result, stakeholders say. “There’s something amiss,” said Liberal Sen. Percy Downe, who has been pressuring the government on the issue. “What we have is a cone of silence.” Since 2005, the Tories have been touting the Veterans Health Services Review as one of the most extensive ever undertaken by Veterans Affairs. It was meant to identify gaps in access to health programs plaguing this country’s vets – everything from spousal and burial benefits to the evolving needs of newer veterans.  In 2008, then minister Greg Thompson told a Senate committee the review was nearly complete. “It is going to provide us with a way forward in terms of how we provide services to our veterans,” he said. But when Downe pushed the feds for information from the report in 2010, he was told the recommendations were “protected information.” ….”
  • A hearty “well done” to Royal Canadian Regiment Colonel of the Regiment Walter Matheson Holmes for his work with those members of the regimental family needing help.  This, from a statement announcing his Meritorious Service Decoration (Military Division)“Since June 2006, Colonel of the Regiment Holmes has been providing leadership and has been dedicated to The Royal Canadian Regiment. He championed the development of the Regimental Veterans’ Care Cell, as well as the sourcing of private funds to support both wounded soldiers and the post-secondary education of the children of fallen soldiers. These initiatives have enhanced the quality of life for both serving and retired members of the regiment. His service has brought great credit to The Royal Canadian Regiment and to the Canadian Forces.”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 4 Mar 11

  • Canadians continue to GTFO LibyaA Canadian military transport made it to Malta safely on Thursday with another 31 evacuees and more flights were planned as a botched Dutch rescue operation underscored the perils of western military actions in Libya. A spokesman for Canada’s overseas headquarters said 14 of the passengers aboard the Hercules aircraft were Canadians and the rest were foreign nationals. The plane returned from Tripoli without incident, said Maj. Andre Salloum. As of Thursday, the Foreign Affairs Department said 327 Canadians, including those on the military flight, had found their way out of the Libya crossfire. The Harper government dispatched a frigate, HMCS Charlottetown, this week to take part in a possible blockade to enforce sanctions ….”
  • Commentariat on Libya (1): “…. the (HMCS) Charlottetown could turn its attention to ill-defined humanitarian relief operations or to the enforcement of a potential international embargo against the Libyan regime. Whatever the ultimate mission, it will likely come as a surprise — just as much of one as the decision to deploy the warship …. How Canadian assets could be used to alleviate the exodus from Libya or to deliver relief supplies remains to be seen. But clearly, Ottawa is committing to stay on the job long after its primary objective of securing Canadian lives is met. This is commendable, and not just from a humanitarian point of view. It also sends a strong signal to our European allies that their interests are vital to us …. The rapid downfall of Col. Moammar Gadhafi is the best way to prevent a full-blown refugee crisis inside and outside Libya. Whatever Canada can do to help tip the scales — short of direct military intervention — is worth doing.”
  • Commentariat on Libya (2): “…. The West should tread carefully in Libya. While it is tempting to imagine the country’s conflict as a simple struggle between good and evil that can be brought to a speedy and decisive conclusion, the reality is more complicated than that. Aggressive intervention might easily end up doing more harm than good.”
  • Commentariat on Libya (3): Canadians who believe that their military’s primary purpose should not be to fight wars, but fervently want their troops to only be Boy Scouts, should be pleased by Ottawa’s evolving commitment to the crisis in Libya.  With China, Russia, Turkey and Germany having already strongly rejected any kind of military intervention – which could result in unpredictable and unwelcome outcomes – the West will have considerable trouble gathering a coalition of the willing to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. But western countries want to be seen to be helping in other ways.  So, just in time to give the Harper government a wee bit of an election boost, Canadian sailors and air force personnel will be drawn into international humanitarian operations in the Maghreb.  Canada’s part in potential Libyan humanitarian operations are to be much smaller than what its armed forces did in Haiti after last winter’s earthquake. But there will still be a feel-good factor ….”
  • Interesting pointIt’s curious, how the most vocal opponents of military spending go quiet whenever boats and planes and superbly trained soldiers suddenly come in handy. Where were the critics of Ottawa’s C17 purchase last January, when these massive air barns were deployed at a moment’s notice to transport aid into earthquake-struck Haiti? And where are they now, as Canadian Forces aircraft based in Malta and JTF2 special forces troops work to extract Canadians trapped by the fighting in Libya? What will critics of the government’s proposed CF-35 jet fighter purchase say if, as now appears possible, Canadian Air Force jets are involved in enforcing a no-fly zone in North Africa, to protect innocents from Gadhafi’s warplanes? Here’s what they’ll say: Not much, for the duration of the crisis. Then, when the smoke clears and the planes are back at CFB Trenton, they’ll start again with the mantra that spending money on warriors and their gear is needless and wasteful ….” Not ALL vocal opponents of military spending are staying silent – more here.
  • Canada’s post-military legacy in southern Afghanistan may well rest on the slender shoulders of Haji Hamdullah Nazak.  The 32-year-old governs the district of Dand, a relative model of stability compared to the violence and intimidation that permeates other regions of Kandahar province.  But as the Canadian military gradually shifts its focus away from patrols and towards packing boxes for a training mission said to be “Kabul-centric,” Nazak frets over the possibility of lost progress.  “I’m a little bit afraid of that,” Nazak says through a translator. “If they stopped helping us, assisting us in this major purpose, we will face some challenges, problems.” ….”
  • Meanwhile, opposition to the war in Afghanistan is higher in Britain and Canada than the United States, with at least 60 percent against it, a poll indicated Thursday …. Almost two-thirds, 63 percent, of Canadians said they oppose the war, while only 32 percent support it, a new low. Last year, 47 percent supported the war.   Albertans were most likely to back Afghan operations, but even there only 43 percent said they support it. In Quebec, 75 percent oppose the war.  Vision Critical, based in Toronto conducted the poll on line from Feb. 22 to Feb. 28, surveying 1,022 Angus Reid Forum panelists in Canada, 1,006 Springboard America panelists and 2,019 members of Springboard UK. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points for Canada and the United States and 2.1 points for Britain.”
  • A parliamentary committee tasked with vetting documents related to the abuse of Afghan detainees could make the secret material public within the next two weeks, according to the Liberals. Amid mounting pressure from the Bloc Quebecois and New Democrats, Liberal defence critic Dominic LeBlanc suggested a report by the three-judge panel of legal experts advising the team of MPs should be available within a “week or two” along with “a considerable number of the documents” themselves. His comments come a day after Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe issued an ultimatum. Frustrated the uncensored documents still haven’t been released despite promises they’d be ready in January, Duceppe vowed to pull his two MPs from the committee. “The process has become bogged down and I don’t understand why,” he said ….”
  • Bye bye old subs“…. The Department of National Defence (DND), has a requirement for the removal, dismantling and disposal of the Oberon Class Submarines Olympus and Okanagan, and an option to dispose of a third, Ojibwa …. A bidders’ conference chaired by the Contracting Authority will be convened at HMC Dockyard, Jetty NL, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on March 23, 2011 @ 0900 ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  Steven Staples’ top 10 list on why Canada shouldn’t buy the F-35.
  • Operation: Western Front (OWF) – a very special initiative organized by mission commanders and philanthropists Warren M. Spitz and W. Brett Wilson to raise awareness and funds for military causes – has collected a stunning $1.5 million in sponsorship and donations. The funds will be donated to various military programs – including Outward Bound for Veterans and Canada Company, a charitable, non-partisan organization that builds a bridge between business and community leaders and the Canadian Military Forces, including providing scholarships to surviving offspring of fallen Canadian Forces personnel. The funds will support a variety of other needs – from medical support to childcare and financial aid – and will be directed through Canada’s True Patriot Love Foundation ….”
  • Conservative MP pitches softball question to Minister in House of Commons on what government is doing to help veterans in Quebec (giving Minister a chance to bash the Bloc). “I would like to thank the hon. member from Lévis—Bellechasse for his excellent work and his concern for veterans. Our government is listening to the regions of Quebec and to veterans. We introduced Bill C-55 in the House, and it will serve as the enhanced new veterans charter and will help our modern-day veterans, who may come back wounded from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Bloc is still not co-operating as we would like, but we still hope to pass this bill before the upcoming budget ….”
  • Federal Crown prosecutors do not have to hand over a complete set of photographs used by French police to link former University of Ottawa professor Hassan Diab to a Paris terrorist bombing. Diab’s lawyer Donald Bayne had asked for the photographs to be entered into the record of the case, but federal Justice Department lawyers acting for the French government resisted. Only nine of 33 “mug shots” shown by Paris police to witnesses 30 years after the bombing have been used as evidence by the prosecution. All nine are of the 57-yearold Diab at various stages of adult life ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 2 Mar 11

  • CF to Libya (1)  HMCS Charlottetown on its way (Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons, CF statement (1), CF statement (2), CTV.ca, Postmedia News, Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Canadian Press, CBC.ca (1), CBC.ca (2), Agence France-Presse)
  • CF to Libya (2)  JTF 2 headed downrange? (Twitter from Le Devoir-iste Alec Castonguay, Agence France-Presse)
  • CF to Libya (3)  CF military plane turned back from Tripoli because there was nowhere to land, park (CP via Globe & Mail, Times of Malta)
  • Canada Grabs Libya by the Assets  Canada freezing Libyan assets (~$2 billion)“The Canadian government has frozen more than $2 billion in Libyan assets so far, and continues to target holdings of embattled ruler Moammar Gadhafi and his family, CBC News has learned.  The move to freeze the assets came after Canada learned the Libyan regime was planning to withdraw the funds from as-yet-unidentified Canadian banks ….” More from FINTRAC, Canada’s agency for tracking suspicious money movements, here, and from Reuters.
  • The Commentariat on Libya (1)  Bad news for Libya could be good news for Canada? “…. Canada is likely to be one of the few western beneficiaries of the uncertainty that is sweeping the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.  The reason is, of course, oil. For decades to come the tarsands are going to be Canada’s trump card every time there is volatility in international energy markets …. The events of the past two months, and dramas still unfolding in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and oil-rich countries such as Libya, Oman and a few of the Gulf sheikdoms, make it more and more obvious that there is going to be a keen demand for Canada’s so-called “dirty oil” for years to come.  Viewed through this prism, if the U.S. does not want the kind of oil that Canada has to offer, China and India, with huge economic ambitions to fuel, almost certainly will ….”
  • The Commentariat on Libya (2)  Help out, by all means, but be careful about too much military “help”. “…. For Western powers to involve themselves more deeply in Libya would be   counterproductive. It would suggest to pro-democracy elements in the Middle East that, if their opposition becomes violent, they will get help from the West. It would put non-Libyan lives at risk in a situation that is extremely difficult to assess from outside – without any clear benefit to Libyans themselves. Indeed, military intervention might eventually provoke an anti-Western reaction that could end up discrediting the democrats that the West rightly wishes to encourage and help.  By seizing assets abroad and imposing diplomatic sanctions, the West should indeed tighten the vise on Col. Gadhafi. But it should not use its military forces to depose him, in what is ultimately a matter that must be decided by Libyans.”
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • More on Canada’s upcoming mission in Afghanistan (highlights mine): “The government’s plan to keep 1,000 Canadian troops near Kabul after their mission in Kandahar ends this year is looking increasingly unlikely after comments from the military’s second-in-command last week. “There will be no Canadian Forces units located in Kandahar province after 2011,” Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, the vice-chief of the defence staff, told the Conference of Defence Associations in Ottawa on Feb. 25. “Rather, our training mission will be Kabul-centric, meaning that the main effort will be centered in and about the city of Kabul. “That said, a small number of CF personnel may be assigned to other areas of Afghanistan where the risks to our personnel is assessed to be no greater than that found in Kabul.” ….” Hmm, wonder where that might be?  And how safe, really, is Kabul these days?
  • One Canadian Corrections staffer’s story from working in Kandahar.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban claims to have RPG’ed a transport plane in Helmand.
  • Ooopsie“A Tutor jet, the plane assigned to the military’s aerobatic flying team known as the Snowbirds, was damaged during a landing at 15 Wing Moose Jaw Tuesday afternoon around 3 p.m. CT. Its two crew walked away from the plane and were to be evaluated by medical staff ….”
  • Accused terrorist Hassan Diab failed Tuesday in a last and crucial attempt to get handwriting evidence being used against him disallowed. The handwriting analysis by French forensic expert Anne Bisotti has been called the “smoking gun” by prosecutors, meaning that it is key to the French case. Paris authorities say Diab was a key player in a terrorist bombing outside a synagogue in October 1980 and that handwriting comparisons prove his involvement. A former University of Ottawa professor, Diab says he is innocent and the victim of mistaken identity ….”