Afghanistan (2) Former diplomat, political communicator reminds us of Canada’s legacy (while reminding us whose job it is now to keep it going) (PDF). “In 2009-10, former political aide Renée Filiatrault volunteered for a tour of duty as a foreign service officer in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Here she provides a glimpse of the realities that Canada’s civilian and military team faced while fighting an insurgency on the ground. As Canada stood down its combat mission in Kandahar this summer, she says, despite some bitter lessons, it is a legacy of which Canada can be proud. Ultimately, she adds, “while we can set the conditions for success, winning is not up to us, but up to the government of Afghanistan, which all efforts are ultimately intended to support.”
F-35 Tug o’ War (1) More from The Canadian Press’s obtained (but not shared with the readers) stack o’ briefing notes.“Canadian pilots are expected to receive training for the F-35 stealth jet at a U.S. Air Force base in Florida, a plan that raises questions about the future of the country’s existing advanced fighter training school. Internal Defence Department documents show that a fee-for-service plan involving an international training centre, already constructed at Eglin Air Force Base by manufacturer Lockheed Martin, has been the main option under consideration. Several air force briefings compiled last year and obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws show that not only is there “potential for NO pilot training in Canada,” but that “pooled” training with international partners is likely the most cost-effective plan ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War (2) CDS: more would sure be nice. “Canada’s top soldier says the 65 stealth fighters the government is planning to buy are the minimum number the military needs – but he hinted the back-up if jets are destroyed is that more will be for sale later. General Walter Natynczyk, the Chief of Defence Staff, told members of the Commons defence committee Thursday that the 65 F-35 fighters the government is planning to buy “is the minimum operational essential for the needs of Canada.” ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War (3) CDS: pilots want the F-35. “Pilots with the Royal Canadian Air Force want to fly in F-35 stealth fighter jets when the current CF-18s are retired, according to the chief of defence staff. Walt Natynczyk, the military’s top boss, appeared before Parliament’s defence committee Thursday to talk about military preparedness but was peppered instead with questions about the controversial purchase of the multi-role fighter jets. “Let me tell you that when I go to Cold Lake and I go to Bagotville and I talk to those young men and women who get in the F-18 and I ask them ‘What aircraft so you want?’ they tell me that they want the F-35 because it is the only fifth-generation, capable fighter for that next phase,” Natynczyk told reporters after his committee appearance ….”
A reminder from the Chief of Defence Staff: to a certain extent, anyway, you get what you pay for.“The country’s top soldier says that the speed with which Canada contributed to the mission in Libya and post-earthquake relief in Haiti would not have been possible without a trained and well-equipped military. But Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk, whose department is struggling with pending budget cuts during the first real lull in combat operations since 2006, said such capabilities do not come cheap. “If you ask me how we’re doing in maintaining our readiness, I’d say we’re doing the best we can with all the resources we have,” Natynczyk told members of the Commons’ defence committee Thursday. “Readiness is a perishable commodity and it’s expensive.” ….”
Remembrance Day (1) No “tanks”, no guns, no displays at Ottawa Catholic school for Remembrance Day. “For the past 19 years, students at an Ottawa high school have hoisted 10-pound military rifles to feel what it may be like to lug one around in the muddy trenches. They’ve met veterans and heard their stories, learning how their families were affected and what it was like to fight so far from home. But this year — the year that was supposed to mark the 20th Remembrance Day Symposium at Notre Dame High School — they will get no such chance. The traditional school event, scheduled for Nov. 10, has been cancelled because of a school committee decision to ensure there were “no tanks or guns” at the event, its co-ordinator told participants in an email last Friday …. The event was cancelled because some students who hail from countries touched by war raised concerns about it last year, said Lauren Rocque, a spokeswoman for the Ottawa Catholic School Board. “There are many students in that school that come from war-torn countries and when they saw replica guns in the hallway, it did upset them.” Ms. Rocque was unable to say whether the students had complained to the principal directly. “The tanks on the front lawn, that upset them too, so the committee decided to take this different direction,” she added. Mr. Mac Culloch said he doesn’t remember any tanks — just a variety of other military vehicles ….” More on this from QMI/Sun Media here, a good question from the Globe & Mail here and discussion over at Army.ca here.
Remembrance Day (2) Editorial:“In Toronto and Hamilton, human scum steal poppy boxes filled with donated money to help war vets and their families, leading up to Remembrance Day on Nov. 11. In London, a war vet coming in to man his poppy station at a local mall finds a cartoon describing Canadian soldiers as “hired killers”. In Ottawa, a high school cancels a two-decade old program in which vets share their war-time experiences with students and show them the equipment they used, because of a decision to ban “tanks and guns” from the school, even though no tanks have been displayed and the guns are inoperable. That this is happening in the year Canada ends its 10-year military mission in Afghanistan, in which 158 of our soldiers died, is a disgrace ….”
Remembrance Day (3) Conservative MP reminds the House of Commons: “Mr. Speaker, July 2011 marked the end of Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan. While the combat mission has come to an end, the Canadian Forces continue to play an active role in training their Afghan counterparts. The past 10 years have brought about many changes for Afghanistan. Afghanistan has held three elections, government agencies have been improved, its economy has gained momentum, girls are going to school and the Afghan security forces have been provided with invaluable training and mentoring. One hundred and fifty-nine Canadian Forces members have made the ultimate sacrifice to help Afghans obtain a taste of the freedoms that we hold so dear, tragically, joined recently by Master Corporal Byron Greff, of Edmonton’s Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. In addition to Afghanistan, Canadian Forces are serving in 15 overseas missions, including Libya, Haiti, and Sudan. At home, they save lives during search and rescue missions, provide assistance when natural disasters strike, and protect our nation’s sovereignty on a daily basis. This Veterans’ Week, let us remember the service and sacrifice of our Canadian Forces members and their families. “To live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die”.
Don Cherry is getting an honourary degree from Royal Military College (and some profs are pissed). “…. The college’s senate approved awarding the controversial hockey commentator with the honour at a recent closed-door meeting. But now at least one protesting member of the faculty is protesting the decision publicly. French professor Catherine Lord criticized the college’s decision to honour Cherry in a letter sent to local media. “On many occasions he publicly expressed his contempt for many groups of the Canadian population, notably for the French-speaking Canadians, for the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community and for the immigrants,” Lord wrote. “RMC is increasingly representative of the diverse society in which we live. RMC is a strong and unifying place.” Lord questioned what kind of message granting the honorary doctorate would send to the rest of the country. “What message will RMC send, in celebrating Don Cherry, to the students coming from these groups? And what will the Canadian people remember from RMC, as a serious and prestigious institution?” ….”
Libya Mission We’re done. “As directed by the Government of Canada, Operation MOBILE (Canada’s military response to the crisis in Libya) will commence mission closure activities. This announcement comes as the North Atlantic Council agreed today to end Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, the NATO-led effort to impose on Libya the arms embargo and no-fly zone authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. This follows the UN Security Council’s unanimous adoption yesterday of UNSCR 2016 on Libya, terminating the protection of civilians and no fly zone provisions of UNSCR 1973, effective October 31, 2011 ….” More on that here, here and here.
Way Up North One of Canada’s competitors partners in the Arctic says China has at least some claim in the colder parts of the world.“A new Great Game is making a quiet appearance in Canada’s Arctic. In a speech Friday in Beijing, the Danish ambassador to China, Friis Arne Peterson, said the communist country has “natural and legitimate economic and scientific interests in the Arctic” even though it lacks a coastline in the rapidly thawing polar region. He went on to say that his government would like to see China given permanent observer status in the eight-member Arctic Council, which currently includes Canada, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and the United States. China has applied to become a permanent observer in the forum. “The Danish government would like to see China as a permanent observer, and I think that others (in the Arctic Council) are likewise willing to do that,” the ambassador told a group of journalists. That assumption is both questionable and problematic, according to scholars and analysts who specialize in Arctic affairs. Some suggest the Danish ambassador was not only trying to leverage Denmark’s influence in the Arctic Council, but soliciting Chinese investment to help the Danes exploit Greenland’s natural resources. And from China’s perspective, they say, the ambassador’s remarks reflect China’s interest in gaining access to resources and increasing its geopolitical clout ….”
Is Canada Buying Nuclear Subs (continued)? (3) Another American defence purchasing blog’s take: “…. defense issues are national issues for Canadians (and Australians) in ways they aren’t for Americans …. for the most part, voters just don’t care. Canada is different, though. Every couple of weeks, for example, the mainstream national newspapers have an item about Canada’s membership in Club F-35 — either political controversy or some new question about the jets’ capability. As you read on Defense Tech, the Winnepeg Free Press reported that Canada’s CF-35s may not be able to fully communicate when they’re patrolling their portions of the Arctic. The National Post had a column about the program “unraveling” on Friday. All this means that Ottawa can’t make big defense decisions such as buying or leasing nuclear submarines out of sight, the way our Pentagon mostly operates on its own. So given how much juice it’s already costing Canada’s Conservative government to buy 65 CF-35s, any discussion about nuclear submarines might prove to be a boat too far.”
Is Canada Buying Nuclear Subs (continued)? (4) One National Post columnist’s take: “…. If we want to preserve our Arctic sovereignty, we need submarines capable of staying submerged for weeks. Only subs with nuclear powerplants can do that reliably. So if we want to patrol our northern ocean effectively we need nukes. Either that or we should just get out of the sub-owning business altogether ….”
Is Canada Buying Nuclear Subs (continued)? (5) Ceasefire.ca’s take: “…. Nuclear-powered submarines are definitely not part of Ceasefire’s vision of an ideal world, and neither for that matter is Peter MacKay as Minister of National Defence. But however that may be, in the real world there is not going to be any Canadian nuclear sub purchase. Indeed, the government is already apparently disavowing the notion. Even a minimal, one-to-one replacement of the Victorias with French or British nuclear submarines similar to those proposed when Perrin Beatty was Defence Minister in 1987 would cost around $10 billion, not counting lifetime operations and maintenance costs. And buying something like an American nuclear sub would be vastly more expensive, assuming we could convince the U.S. to sell some. All in order to create a bare minimum force of marginal use (if indeed it had any use at all)? Not even this government is that dumb. Right? ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War (1) Associate Minister Julian Fantino confirms we’re NOT dumping the F-35 program (again) in the House of Commons. “Mr. Speaker, there is no intent to pull the plug on an asset that is so critical to Canadian sovereignty and provides our men and women the assets they need well into the future to fulfill their missions and return home safe at the end of those missions to their families. As well, we are now into cutting steel. This is not a reversal item. This is the right plane, the right aircraft for the right time and well into the future. We made that decision. In fact, the Liberal government of the day in 1997 embarked on this very same project.”
What the Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent says he heard during a recent series of town-hall meetings on Veterans Affairs Canada programs and benefits. “…. Two main themes emerged throughout these activities. Firstly, the communication from Veterans Affairs Canada to the Veterans’ community needs improvement. There is often either a lack of communication from the Department or the information that is provided is unclear, too complex, and bureaucratic. Secondly, access to programs is too complex and difficult. Often, Veterans in need of assistance are so disheartened by the process that they simply give up and suffer in silence. I want to assure the Veterans’ community that we hear these concerns loudly and clearly and that the Office will continue to raise these issues with the Department and the Minister ….”