One blogger’s view of “Libya vs. Afghanistan” ceremonies: “…. After decades of Liberal governments treating the military like high-grade bathroom attendants, the Harper Tories have moved in the opposite direction. Now even a light bombing campaign is worthy of celebration. Oddly the Afghan mission has not yet rated such a grand ceremony. The cynical might suggest this has something to do with our efforts in Afghanistan being unpopular ….” (h/t to Mark for pointing to this one)
“The Canadian Forces is slowing its pace of recruitment after the Afghanistan mission, because of a lower turnover and a troubled economy. Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson said the military’s regular force strength is now in “very healthy” shape at about 68,000 members. Attrition is also down — with economic uncertainty and excitement for the job likely factors — which can make matching desired targets tricky. “That’s a very tough machine to manage,” Donaldson told the national defence committee Thursday. “But we have not stopped recruiting. In fact, we continue to recruit, because you need to keep the machine oiled and to keep new blood coming through, but fewer than before.” The Canadian Forces is now focused on finding people with specialties and technical trades, and providing spots for reservists who served in Afghanistan and want to switch to regular forces ….”
Remember the Minister needing a helicopter ride from a lodge to another engagement? Well, some e-mails seem to suggest the chopper ride may have been more…. requested by the Minister than offered by the CF(well done to the Toronto Star for sharing the e-mails in question (PDF), obtained via an Access to Information Act request). One officer’s e-mail is intriguingly prescient:“…. The request from MacKay’s office went out to senior air force officials on Tuesday July 6 at 8:49 a.m. It took just a few hours for then-Col. Bruce Ploughman, director of the Combined Aerospace Operations Centre in Winnipeg, to raise a red flag. “So, when the guy who’s fishing at the fishing hole next to the minister sees the big yellow helicopter arrive and decides to use his cellphone to video the minister getting on board and post it on Youtube (sic), who will be answering the mail on that one,” he wrote to colleagues in Ottawa and Winnipeg. “If we are tasked to do this we of course will comply,” Ploughman continued. “Given the potential for negative press though, I would likely recommend against it.” ….” More from CBC.ca, the Globe & Mail and Postmedia News (they haven’t shared their obtained documents yet). Here’s the back-and-forth during yesterday’s Question Period in the House of Commons.
If you believe this historian and this web page, Canada may be working with other NATO and Middle Eastern countries to at least discuss “humanitarian corridors” in strife-filled Syria. “…. Monday, Nov. 28, debkafile reported a group of military officers from NATO and Persian Gulf nations had quietly established a mixed operational command at Iskenderun in the Turkish Hatay province on the border of North Syria: Hailing from the United States, France, Canada, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with Turkish officers providing liaison, they do not represent NATO but are self-designated “monitors.” Their mission is to set up “humanitarian corridors” inside Syria to serve the victims of Bashar Assad’s crackdown. Commanded by ground, naval, air force and engineering officers, the task force aims to move into most of northern Syria. Laying the groundwork for the legitimacy of the combined NATO-Arab intervention in Syria, the UN Independent International Commission set up to assess the situation in Syria published a horrendous report Monday, Nov. 28 on the Assad regime’s brutalities. It documented “gross violations of human rights” and “patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture including sexual violence, as well as violations of children’s rights.” ….” Caveat lector.
F-35 Tug o’ War: More on the pricetag. “The federal government is under attack again over the true costs of buying stealth fighter jets for the air force. “Apparently the Norwegians are getting 52 F-35s for $10 billion while we’re getting 65 for $9 billion,” said Liberal MP Frank Valeriote in a Thursday defence committee meeting, citing comments from Norway’s defence minister in November. Asking Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino to explain the discrepancy, Valeriote raised anew the possibility that the government has lowballed the estimated purchase price. “I too spoke with the secretary of defence of Norway and they’re into a different kind of a world in Europe, requiring different armaments and so forth to what we are, in fact, looking at,” said Fantino. “It’s very difficult to compare dollar for dollar, but at some point in time we’ll be able to speak all these issues more fully.” ….” More here, here and a bit more (from the archives) from Mark Collins.
Afghanistan (3a) Toronto Star continues pressing story of Afghan interpreter rejected for “fast-track move to Canada” program. “An Afghan interpreter turned away from Canada says he has been hunted by insurgents on motorcycles because of his work with the Canadian military. Sayed Shah Sharifi disputes the accounts of Canadian officials who have played down the threat he faces for aiding allied forces in Kandahar. Indeed, Sharifi, 23, says he was forced to move his family out of Kandahar for more than two months last year for safety after motorcycle-borne insurgents left a chilling warning with his father. “Your son works with the Canadian Forces and we will kill him,” Sharifi recalled Wednesday in a telephone interview with the Star ….”
Afghanistan (3b) TorStar back stops coverage with letters.
Armenian media reports Canadians (military and/or civilian staff) helping NATO help Armenia. “The NATO-sponsored international expert group is in the Armenian capital Yerevan, from Wednesday to Saturday, within the framework of assistance to Armenia’s reforms in military education. The group comprises military and civil representatives from US, Canada, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Romania, Switzerland, and NATO ….”
Canadian plane engine company STILL gets some business from an American buy.“An unusual turn of events on a U.S. military procurement contract has lightly side-swiped three of Quebec’s largest aerospace firms. Wichita-based aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft Corp. was excluded without explanation last week from a competition to supply 20 AT-6 Texan II light-attack and training planes to the Afghan air force. Its four main suppliers on the bid to the U.S. air force – which would then turn the aircraft over to the Afghan forces – were all Canadian: Longueuil’s Pratt & Whitney Canada for the PT6A-68D 1,600-horsepower engine, St. Laurent’s CAE Inc. for the crew training, St. Laurent’s CMC Esterline for the flight management system, as well as Burling-ton, Ont.-based L-3 Wescam, which was to provide day-light sensors, infrared cameras with zoom and various lasers. The elimination of Hawker Beechcraft apparently makes a winner of the Super Tucano trainer and light-attack aircraft produced by Brazil’s Embraer, the only other bidder for the contract. Matthew Perra, spokes-person for Pratt & Whitney Canada, said by email that “as with any competition there was some investment made, but this amount is not material to P&W Canada.” But it does not signify a loss for Pratt & Whitney Canada – it also supplies the same engine for Embraer’s Super Tucano ….”
My favourite bit from this piece from CBC.ca on monitoring efforts during the G8/G20: “…. (an undercover police officer) told the court about how he attended a meeting prior to the Toronto summit. There, a protest-planning group that included several of the 17 main G20 defendants was discussing whether to lend their support to a First Nations rally. Adam Lewis, one of the 17 accused conspirators in the G20 case, interjected, “Kill whitey!” The group chuckled. Lewis, like all but one of his co-accused, is white. When a Crown lawyer asked the officer what he thought Lewis meant, Showan said in complete seriousness, to “kill white people.” “Deliberately or accidentally, the undercover officers misinterpreted hyperbolic jokes as literal statements of belief,” said Kalin Stacey, a community organizer, friend and supporter of the defendants ….” Really? I’m guessing is a similar statement was made about the protesters, it would NOT be taken as “hyperbolic jokes”.
Credit where credit is due: CBC.ca shared the documents it’s writing about in the above-mentioned story via documentcloud.org (like here for example). Hello? Reporters? News outlets? Are you listening about sharing ATIP’ed documents?
Private Members Bill C-354, An Act respecting the establishment and award of a Defence of Canada Medal (1946-1989), makes it through First Reading in Parliament after being introduced by NDP MP Carol Hughes: “Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be able to reintroduce this bill for the establishment and award of a defence of Canada medal for the men and women who served in the defence of Canada during the cold war. This act represents the hard work and vision of one of my constituents, retired Captain Ulrich Krings of Elliot Lake, who presented me with this proposal shortly after I was elected in 2008. Its purpose is to formally honour the people who defended Canada from within Canada for the period from 1946 to 1989. As such, it is intended to be awarded to individuals who served in the regular and reserve forces, police forces, emergency measures organizations, as well as civil organizations, such as St. John Ambulance, all of whom were concerned with the protection of Canada from the threat posed by the countries behind the Iron Curtain. This medal will recognize the support of the men and woman who gave countless hours to Canadians as they trained and prepared in case of an attack on Canadian soil, which fortunately never took place. Their service to our country came at a time when we became aware of how fragile peace can be and how vulnerable we may become to advances in weapons of warfare. This medal would give something back to all those who worked in those years to keep us safe and prepared. I thank my colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River (John Rafferty) for his continued support on this bill and for seconding this item for a second time.” Caveat: most Private Members Bills do not end up becoming law. Discussion at Army.ca here.
Afghanistan (2) Someone (I’m guessing) in Ottawa is pissed at how ‘terps trying to come to Canada are being handled. “Frustration is growing in government ranks that Ottawa is falling down on its vow to help Afghan interpreters and their families find a new life in Canada. “I would say longstanding and growing frustration,” a senior official said this week after the Star highlighted the plight. The target of that frustration is the Citizenship and Immigration department, which critics say is dragging its feet on a Conservative vow to help Afghans who helped the Canadian mission in Kandahar resettle in Canada. “There is a moral obligation to do the right thing here and it’s unfortunate that CIC doesn’t feel this way,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous ….”
Afghanistan (3a) Canadian Info-Machine officer Commodore Bill Truelove: Taliban losing a grip on its troops? “The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has said that “the Taliban leadership has lost control of their organization.” During an operational update by representatives from the ISAF headquarters and NATO on Monday, Canadian Commodore Bill Truelove, Deputy Director of the ISAF Communication Directorate, said the Taliban carried out several attacks recently in spite of the Afghan Eid holiday. “Over the past week, the Taliban showed their blatant disregard for this holy celebration through a series of attacks resulting in the deaths of many innocent civilians,” he told reporters in Kabul. Truelove said the attacks occurred after senior Taliban leaders issued specific orders to their troops, directing them to stop killing innocent Afghan civilians. “Still, enemy forces are realizing they are sacrificing their lives for a cause that is not just and under leaders who have no concern for this country or its people,” he added ….”
Afghanistan (3b) Does one Taliban post including alleged security plans for a major meeting (link to copy of post at non-terrorist site) constitute a “propaganda war”? “Afghanistan’s propaganda wars are becoming almost as intense as the actual fighting, as all sides jockey for position ahead of an anticipated NATO withdrawal in 2014. On Sunday, the Taliban took their psychological operations to a new level when they attempted to derail a loya jirga, or national council, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, has called for Wednesday. This will discuss future U.S. troop withdrawals and possible peace talks with 2,000 community and tribal leaders. In addition to the usual threats to assassinate anyone who attends the meeting, the Taliban have published what they claim are highly classified documents detailing security arrangements for the council, scheduled to be held at the Polytechnical University in western Kabul ….”
Afghanistan (4) Senator Pamela Wallin on the training mission: “…. Canada has engaged in what is an incredible act of faith, inspired by the knowledge that if we educate and train the next generation of citizens and soldiers we will truly be giving peace – and Afghanistan – a chance.”
“Canadian Forces reservists can face extra hardships after returning from deployments, researchers say. Difficulty finding employment and poor post-mission communications between reservists and military units are major barriers to soldiers reintegrating into civilian life. The findings of a study by Defence Research and Development Canada in Toronto were presented at the second annual Canadian Military and Veteran Health Research Forum in Kingston. The study involved 125 Canadian reserve soldiers who returned from an overseas deployment. The troops were contacted six to eight months after returning and about one-quarter of them took part in the 20-minute electronic survey. The results showed many reservists struggle to find work following their deployments. The lack of work added greatly to their struggle to reintegrate themselves into civilian life, said researcher Donna Pickering Tuesday afternoon ….” A bit more on the Forum here, and the latest, updated (as of yesterday) CF Info-Machine backgrounder on PTSD here.
Another research tidbit from the same conference:“Almost one-quarter of a group of frontline soldiers sent to fight in Afghanistan in 2007 have been diagnosed with mental health problems, according to a new study by the Canadian Forces. The figure shines a light on the psychological risks facing Canada’s battle-hardened veterans not only in CFB Gagetown, where the study was conducted, but at CFB Petawawa in Ontario, CFB Edmonton in Alberta, CFB Valcartier in Quebec and at other major military bases where soldiers have deployed in great numbers over the last few years. The study of 792 members of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, found 23.1 per cent of soldiers who served in Kandahar four years ago were now being treated for their mental health problems. One in five of those soldiers have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, one of the chief health risks to Canadian soldiers after a decade of combat in Afghanistan. The study was presented Tuesday at a military health-care conference (in Kingston) that is bringing together some of the country’s best minds to share the latest research on how to help soldiers with broken minds and bodies ….”
A reminder: “For the sixth year in a row, friends and families of Canadian troops deployed overseas will be able to send their holiday letters and parcels for free via Canada Post. The program, which started in 2006, has delivered close to 90,000 parcels to members of the Canadian Forces serving overseas in war zones. With capacity limitations on military aircraft carrying supplies to deployed forces, this program is restricted to family and friends of the deployed service men and women serving overseas in war zones. Troops serving on any of the deployed Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships are also included in the program. Canada Post will accept regular parcels free of charge to designated Canadian Forces Bases overseas from October 17, 2011 until January 13, 2012. Lettermail weighing up to 500 grams to deployed troops can be sent free of charge until December 31, 2012.” More from Canada Post here.
“Haiti’s efforts to restore its disbanded army could deplete resources from more pressing matters in the Caribbean nation, which is still recovering from the massive earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people almost two years ago, a Canadian diplomat said Tuesday. John Babcock, a spokesman for Canadian Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy, said in an email to The Associated Press that Haiti’s decision to create a second security force is a sovereign right but that its formation “seems premature” because of the difficult living conditions that many Haitians still face following the January 2010 earthquake. “Canada fears that creating a second security force will significantly reduce resources available for Haiti’s other important priorities,” one of them being the need to strengthen Haiti’s national police department, Babcock wrote. Haitian President Michel Martelly is moving ahead with a plan to restore the national army that was disbanded in 1995, and recruiting an initial force of 500 troops would cost an estimated $25 million. Babcock said Tuesday Canada wouldn’t help pay for a second security force, echoing sentiments of foreign diplomats who told Martelly in October they wouldn’t fund the force ….” Here’s a bit of what Canada’s done for Haiti’s police force, as well as the official line on our relations with Haiti.
“As the nuclear crisis over Iran heats up, Canada is veering toward a dangerous place. Israel is again contemplating a military attack on Iran to prevent its developing atomic weapons. This time it’s not clear that U.S. President Barack Obama can forestall the Jewish state …. In the past, Canada would have happily stayed on the sidelines …. Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however, Canada has taken a more militant approach to international affairs. His support for Israel has been rock-hard. He has also shown himself willing to deploy Canada’s small but effective military in combat operations the government deems politically useful …. In short, both sides now see the nuclear issue as life or death. The question for nations like Canada is not which country we like more but which alternative is worse. Is it better to let Iran follow in the footsteps of the U.S., France, Britain, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea by acquiring nuclear weapons? Or is better to unleash another Mideast war?”
A bit of Canadian aviation history will become a bit of a British monument honouring Bomber Command (PDF). “A Royal Canadian Air Force C-17 Transport (landed) in Lethbridge, Alberta on Remembrance Day to pick up 800 pounds of aluminum that was once part of a wartime RCAF Halifax Bomber. The metal will become part of a £6,000,000 Bomber Command Memorial currently under construction in Green Park, London. The aluminum is being provided by the Bomber Command Museum of Canada to draw attention to the fact that 10,000 of the over 55,000 airmen lost with Bomber Command during World War II were Canadians. Halifax Bomber LW682 was part of 426 “Thunderbird” Squadron RCAF. It was shot down in 1944 and crashed into a swamp in Belgium. The seven Canadians and one Briton aboard were killed. The bodies of three of the Canadian airmen, missing in action and entombed in the Halifax bomber, were recovered in 1997 and given a full military funeral in Gerarrdsbergen, Belgium. The recovered parts of the Halifax were all saved and brought to Canada. Some of the parts were used in the restoration of the Halifax currently on display at Trenton, Ontario. The unusable aluminum was saved due to the rarity and heritage of this RCAF metal and was then melted down into ingots to be used into the future for Air Force Memorials, plaques, and statues by the Bomber Command Museum of Canada ….”
Afghanistan Canadian General now second-in-command of NATO’s Afghan training effort.“Canada’s senior general in Afghanistan has been given a much bigger assignment in a reshuffle of NATO’s top command in Kabul. Maj.-Gen. Mike Day was named deputy commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan (NTM-A) last week. Five American generals, a British general and three police generals now report to Day, who will be responsible for the training of hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops and police officers. “Form needed to follow function,” Day said in explaining the changes to the NTM-A, which were made by U.S. army Lt.-Gen Daniel Bolger to streamline the training command in Afghanistan by eliminating a large number of senior staff positions ….”
“The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, congratulates the crews of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships St. John’s, Athabaskan, Algonquin, and the submarine HMCS Corner Brook, and those of the ship-borne CH-124 Sea King helicopters and the CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft, for their outstanding contributions to Operation Caribbe …. Op Caribbe is the standing US-led multinational counter-drug surveillance and law enforcement interdiction operation in the international waters of the Caribbean Basin and Eastern Pacific ….” Well done, folks!
For some reason, it appears to be difficult (if not impossible) to get poppies on NHL jerseys as a symbol of remembrance. A wide-ranging discussion on Army.ca here on what should be done (and through who) to get this to change.
War of 1812 “A Newfoundland soldier who died almost 200 years ago and is interred on a remote Ohio island has been remembered. In late October, Lt.-Col. Alex Brennan, commander of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, laid a wreath at the monument where Lt. James Garden rests with other officers who died during the Battle of Lake Erie. “There was a great sense of pride knowing that a generation of soldiers lost 200 years ago has not been forgotten,” Brennan said of the experience. Garden was a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, which fought for the British during the War of 1812. The Battle of Lake Erie took place Sept. 10, 1813 as part of the conflict between the Brits and the Americans ….”
Bosnia vet’s hunger strike ends.“The federal government will create a new committee to study veterans’ health in the wake of a hunger strike by an ex-soldier who insists he was contaminated by depleted uranium while serving in Bosnia. Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney made the announcement in Levis, Que., after Pascal Lacoste ended his protest and allowed himself to be taken away in an ambulance Tuesday. Lacoste …. battled to get Ottawa to recognize his uranium poisoning while serving overseas …. Further details of the board will be announced in the next 30 days, said Blaney. The minister said the body will comprise academics, medical researchers and soldiers. “It’s a committee that will have a broad mandate,” Blaney said, adding that he wants to see Lacoste’s health get better, along with the health of other veterans ….” More here. We’ll see about the bit in red – one hopes the committee will be allowed to do more than just create a report that gathers dust on the shelf.
“The Harper Government is facing controversy over its pending budget cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs at a particularly awkward time — as the country prepares for Remembrance Day ceremonies Friday. On Tuesday, federal Liberals announced they’ve gathered nearly 9,000 signatures on a petition protesting cutbacks that will total $226 million. That sum is to be added to another $175 million to $350 million that is to be eliminated as a result of the Conservatives’ strategic review — a government-wide federal austerity process aimed at balancing the federal books in the next few years …. The Harper government should not be fiddling with this sacred trust. Canadians should give this some thought on a week when they’ll be remembering those who have fallen for Canada.”
Remembering (4) Honouring the fallen, 140 characters at a time, courtesy of the Ottawa Citizen.“There is one line from the poem In Flanders Fields that in recent times, above all, commands our attention with its call, from the dead to the living, to remember. “If ye break faith with us who die,” wrote Lt.-Col. John McCrae, “We shall not sleep.” Starting Wednesday and continuing well into the next decade, the Ottawa Citizen will keep this ancient faith through the modern channel of social media. Beginning at 11 minutes after 11 a.m., the Twitter account “@WeAreTheDead” will begin reciting the names of Canada’s war dead, one each hour of every day. A computer algorithm will select at random, each name from an electronic scroll of military dead and post it to Twitter. It will take more than 13 years to tweet all the names, finishing sometime in late June 2025, depending on the number of new entries added to the list ….”
Latest on Grapes and his Honourary RMC (declined with thanks) degree, from QMI/Sun Media:“I was hoping to be able to report today how those Royal Military College faculty members who don’t agree with a French teacher’s protest of Don Cherry’s doctorate had rallied to say she does not speak for them. It did not happen Monday. Same goes for a petition from the 800 officer cadets, indicating they did not agree with their French teacher and that they want Don to attend the Nov. 17 convocation to receive the honorary degree he so richly deserves. This also did not happen Monday ….”
Добро пожаловать на борт! “An imposing display of Russian military might is anchored at Canada Place for the next three days. The Russian missile cruiser Varyag and tanker Irkut, which will be here until Friday, are open for public tours between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. today and Thursday ….”
Libya Mission (2) Some hairy times.“It was early in the Libya mission when Italian authorities picked up the distress call. By the next morning, HMCS Charlottetown had gone from enforcing an arms embargo to providing humanitarian assistance. It was March and at the time the Canadian frigate was operating off the coast of Tripoli, part of a ring of NATO warships tasked with making sure weapons and ammunition didn’t get into the country and the hands of Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. But when the Italians relayed the distress call to NATO commanders, who in turn ordered the Canadian frigate to investigate, the Charlottetown’s crew leaped into action ….”
Afghanistan (1) Byron Greff, R.I.P. “A town in central Alberta is paying tribute to a fallen soldier who died in a suicide attack in Afghanistan last week. Master Cpl. Byron Greff was among 17 people killed in Kabul last Saturday when a suicide bomber slammed a vehicle fill with explosives into a NATO bus. Friends and family in Greff’s hometown of Lacombe, Alta. plan to honour his life during a public memorial service on Saturday. The service will be held at 1 p.m. local time at Canadian University College and will occur shortly after Greff is laid to rest at a private family ceremony ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War He says, they say. “The F-35 program is progressing well and on track,” associate minister of defence Julian Fantino told the House Thursday, while answering a question from the Opposition on the fighter jet program. However, other countries continue to make moves that suggest the program is not doing as well as he claims ….”
Remembrance Day (1) All I can say is: scumbags!“City and military officials are shocked after learning one of Calgary’s newest war memorials was vandalized only days before Remembrance Day. Bill Bruce, the city’s chief bylaw officer, said graffiti was sprayed across the riverside wall of Poppy Plaza on Thursday night. Phil MacAulay, president of the No. 1 Royal Canadian Legion, said he was disappointed to learn of the damage. “It’s bad,” MacAulay said. “It’s disrespectful. “You just don’t think something like that would happen any time of year, but especially now. “It’s so close to Remembrance Day, you’d think they’d know,” added MacAulay, who spent five years in the Canadian Navy. “Unfortunately, some lamebrains don’t think of the consequences or anything like that ….” More here.
Remembrance Day (2)“For the last 19 years, students at Ottawa’s Catholic Notre Dame High School have benefitted from a remarkable community program. Every Remembrance Day, local military veterans would come to the school and set up exhibits that the school’s students would visit throughout the day. The students could interact with Canadian military veterans, and examine military antiques, including uniforms, items of personal gear and some disabled military weapons loaned from museums …. what would have been the 20th Remembrance Day Symposium (and was set to include veterans from our war in Afghanistan) has been cancelled. The reason given: The school doesn’t want “guns or tanks” on its property. Ridiculous. Displaying harmless military memorabilia, in the respectful hands of the men and women who carried it in our country’s wars, is a wonderful way to make Canada’s proud military history come alive to a generation that will, we hope, never come closer than a deactivated rifle to the horrors of total war …. “
“Veterans’ advocates said Saturday they achieved their goal despite modest turnouts at some demonstrations to protest proposed cuts to the budget of Veterans Affairs Canada. Dozens of protesters, most of them veterans, gathered on Parliament Hill on Saturday afternoon to call attention to what they call the government’s lack of compassion for those who have fought for their country. A rally in Halifax drew some 30 protesters and onlookers to city hall despite the frigid fall weather. A similar demonstration was held outside the department’s headquarters in Charlottetown on Friday. “People on the Hill have come up and said, ‘I never knew,’ and that’s the object,” organizer Mike Blais of the group Canadian Veterans Advocacy said from Ottawa. “The object is to draw attention to the situation and I think … we’ve certainly accomplished our goal today,” he said Saturday afternoon …. ” More here and here.
The Royal Canadian Legion appears to be taking a stronger stance on veterans’ issues.“The Royal Canadian Legion fired a shot across the federal government’s bow last month. Canada’s veterans, it said sternly, should be exempt from cuts under the government’s program review. “Getting our financial house in order should not be done on the backs of our wounded warriors and their families,” declared Pat Varga, the Legion’s dominion president. It was an unusually blunt public stance for an organization that has traditionally preferred to do its advocacy in private. But it also reflected a new determination by the Legion to speak up in the political arena in order to sharpen its image and help arrest decades of membership decline. “We do want to be able to inject into that debate. That should be our role,” says Brad White, the organization’s dominion secretary …. “
Poochies helping those with hidden wounds. “Dave Desjardins says he’s convinced a Rottweiler named Maggie helped save his life. The 41-year-old retired soldier was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder in 2005, a few months after he returned from Afghanistan. When he first met the dog last year, he was addicted to morphine and afraid to leave his home for anything more than a quick cigarette in the backyard ….”
Libya Mission Softball question in the House of Commons on when the troops are coming home from the Libyan theatre o’ operations: “Mr. Speaker, earlier this year Canada responded rapidly and strongly after the UN Security Council passed a resolution to protect civilians who were being attacked by the Gadhafi regime in Libya. In less than 24 hours CF-18s were airborne from 3 Wing Bagotville en route to their operating base in Trapani, Italy, along with strategic air-to-air refueling support from 8 Wing Trenton’s Polaris aircraft. Canada also sent a frigate to patrol the central Mediterranean. Could the associate minister of national defence please inform the House when our heroes are coming home?” I guess the Conservative member for Chatham-Kent—Essex missed the news release here, not to mention all the media advisories here, here and here.
While troops return from Libya, veterans will be pressing for better benefits. “There will plenty of celebration Friday and Saturday as cabinet ministers travel to air-force bases around the country to welcome home Canadian Forces personnel from a mission in Libya that saw rebels overthrow long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The 630 members of Canada’s military are returning home from Operation Mobile and NATO-led Operation Unified Protector, which saw them enforce an arms embargo and a no-fly zone around the North African nation for most of this year. Julian Fantino, the Associate Minister of National Defence, has been dispatched to Bagotville, Que., to greet troops Friday afternoon. Chris Alexander, the parliamentary secretary to the Defence Minister, will be waiting for them on Friday night in Trenton, Ont. And Defence Minister MacKay will be at 14 Wing Greenwood in Nova Scotia on Saturday, an event that was delayed by weather. At exactly the same time that Mr. MacKay is shaking hands with the folks getting off the plane from Libya, veterans from Afghanistan and other conflicts will be on Parliament Hill protesting what they say are unfair benefits for people who have put their lives on the line for their country. It is the second Veterans National Day organized by Canadian Veterans Advocacy against the New Veterans Charter, which the group says discriminates against military personnel who were injured after April, 2006 – a time when Canada suffered most of the casualties in Afghanistan ….”
House of Commons debate on proposed changes to the CF’s legal system via Hansard here and here.
Don Cherry declines honourary degree from RMC with thanks(you can still vote here on a CBC.ca poll, though). “Concerned controversy may take away from “a special day,” Don Cherry has declined an honorary degree from the Royal Military College. “I can’t accept the degree and I won’t attend the convocation,” Cherry said in an interview Friday about the Nov. 17 ceremony in Kingston. “I am sad because I was really looking forward to spending time with the 800 cadets.” Perhaps instead they can line up to get their picture taken with French Professor Catherine Lord. It is because of her bizarre and vitriolic complaints that the legendary hockey coach and commentator wont be there. “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 in an open letter. “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?” The message would be: “Thanks, Don, for all you have done.” ….”
Big spending by the U.K. to train its troops in Western Canada.“The Army spends an average of almost £45 million a year (CDN$ 74 million) training British soldiers on a Canadian prairie, the Government said today. Seven thousand troops are sent to British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS), on a prairie in Alberta, each year ahead of deployment to war zones, including Afghanistan. They are able to fire live weapons more freely than in the UK because of the vast size of the prairie in Alberta. But figures revealed by the Ministry of Defence show spending on BATUS totalled £224.5 million over the past five years, peaking at £58 million in 2009/10. It works out at an average of £44.9 million annually since 2006 ….” (Article also downloadable as PDF here if link doesn’t work)
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?” ….”
David Braun, 1979-2006, R.I.P. This year’s National Silver Cross Mother named: “The mother of a Saskatchewan infantryman killed in Afghanistan in 2006 will be the National Silver (Memorial) Cross Mother, the Royal Canadian Legion has announced. Patty Braun is the mother of Cpl. David Braun, a member of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. While on patrol in Kandahar on Aug. 22, 2006, he was killed in an explosion triggered by a suicide bomber. She lives in Raymore, north of Regina. In her new role, she will lay a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Remembrance Day on behalf of all mothers who have lost sons or daughters in the military, para-military or RCMP in the service of Canada. Originally from Semans, Mrs. Braun works for the Horizon School Division in the Raymore School ….” More here.
Globe & Mail columnist keeps an eye out for the budget cutting axe at Defence.“This week, for the first time since Stephen Harper took office, there are no Canadian Forces on combat operations overseas. Now, the military is being thrust into the peacetime battle over budgets. But the map of the battlefield is out of date. The government’s 2008 long-term defence strategy still rests on spending budgets which are currently being cut. The strategy needs an update …. soon, before the choices shrink, the government’s going to have to say how it’s going to fit the military it planned for in 2008 into the realities of 2011.”
F-35 Tug o’ War (1a)“The Conservative government’s approval of the multi-billion dollar F-35 plan was held up for over a year by reluctant Industry Canada officials who were angry with the U.S. manufacturer of the stealth fighter, say internal Defence Department documents. Frustrated air force planners said the delay damaged the program and the country’s aerospace industry, which was left hanging while the dispute over a previous purchase played out behind closed doors. Industry Canada blocked the federal cabinet’s “consideration/decision” of a replacement for the country’s aging CF-18s because of “concerns over a C130-J In-Service Support contract issue with Lockheed Martin,” said a May 17, 2010 briefing note prepared for the chief of air staff. The document, obtained under access to information laws by The Canadian Press, was written just weeks before cabinet finally agreed to purchase the F-35. The decision was announced publicly in July 2010 and set off firestorm of criticism that continues to this day ….” Guess what? No indication The Canadian Press is going to share the “obtained” documents.
F-35 Tug o’ War (3) “Staff from the federal auditor general’s office travelled to Texas in September to review progress on the F-35 stealth fighter program for a report that will be released next spring, Postmedia News has learned. The news comes as Australia prepares to ask Canada and other allies to perform a joint study of the program’s delays, and amid concerns from the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester over the speed with which the project is being pushed through safety checks. Officials within the auditor general’s office and Lockheed Martin, the company leading the multi-billion-dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, confirmed the Canadian visit to Fort Worth, but would not say much else. “We do site visits during the normal course of our audits,” said Celine Bissonnette, a spokeswoman at the Office of the Auditor General. “We are planning a report in the spring of 2012, tentatively titled, ‘Replacing Canada’s Fighter Jets.’ However, we regret that we are not able to comment any further on audits in progress until our report has been tabled in the House of Commons.” Bissonnette said the audit’s terms of reference, which outline exactly what is being investigated, will be revealed about a month before the final report is made public. Lockheed Martin spokesperson Kim Testa said the Canadian officials were conducting an “assessment of program progress.” ….”
Editorial on subs for Canada: “…. Eventually Canada will have to decide whether it wants to purchase nuclear subs at $3 billion a copy, or stay with the diesel-electric variety, which have limited capability in the Arctic because of their need to surface to recharge batteries, although new technology has extended their ability to remain submerged for longer periods of time …. Canada should, however, remain committed to the platform, since submarines provide a variety of valuable services, including patrolling the coasts, intercepting smugglers, guarding our economic rights, contributing to scientific research and assisting our allies. With three coasts to defend and worldwide interests to monitor, the submarine is still relevant to Canada’s overall defence requirements.”
“Master Corporal Paul Franklin has become well known across Canada for conquering many challenges, but none as difficult as his passion and purpose in life after losing both legs. Paul was nearing the end of a second tour of duty in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber attacked his convoy. His left leg was gone; the second had to be amputated. That was in January 2006 and three months later, Master Corporal Franklin walked with artificial legs for the first time. On Thursday, Nov. 3rd you can meet Paul Franklin, a Canadian hero, then ask why he supports the Canada-wide Heroes Hockey Challenge series …. Heroes Hockey Challenge™ is a series of national hockey charitable fundraising events to take place in six cities across Canada. The funds raised by Heroes Hockey Challenge will benefit all wounded Canadian soldiers and their families with particular emphasis on amputees. The six Heroes Hockey Challenge events during the winter of 2012 are designed to motivate Canadians to support our heroes ….”
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.