MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 26 May 11

  • Libya Mission (1):  Canadian fighter jets have dropped 240 bombs over Libya in 324 flights, the military says. The figure was released in a defence department briefing one week after air force officials said such information might compromise the safety of Canadian pilots and the success of the mission to support rebels who are trying to topple Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi. But as doubts grow about the political and military purpose of the mission, the Canadian Forces is still refusing to say where Canadian bombs have been dropped, whether they’ve successfully struck their targets and how much the whole endeavour has cost taxpayers so far ….”  More from the Canadian Press here and CBC.ca here.
  • Libya Mission (2):  “…. A spokesman for the Libyan rebels said he wanted to see Canada supply more fighter jets to the mission and more support to the rebels fighting forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. “It’s the people trying to protect themselves against an army and it’s not equal at all. If NATO suspends its mission, there will be a slaughter,” said Sufyan Maghur, who is the liaison between the rebels and the Canadian government. The Canadian Libya Council, organized in response to the conflict, said it believes an increase in NATO strikes is necessary to avoid a prolonged conflict ….”
  • Libya Mission (3):  A Canadian frigate stopped and boarded a ship off the coast of Libya, but then let the vessel go despite the fact it was ferrying a large amount of arms and explosives to the rebel movement fighting Moammar Gaddafi’s regime. The revelation, stemming from a video posted on NATO’s website on May 24, has some experts fearing Canada and the military alliance are picking and choosing how they apply the UN-mandated arms embargo—and effectively allowing the ongoing Libyan civil war to continue. The video, which was also posted on YouTube follows the men and women of the HMCS Charlottetown in early April as they stop a tugboat in international waters near the Libyan port of Misrata. The Charlottetown has been patrolling in the Mediterranean since April and is Canada’s major contribution to enforcing the UN arms embargo. In the video, the Charlottetown’s captain, Craig Skjerpen, says he has received information that the ship—flying the flag of the Libyan rebels and appearing in the video jam-packed with people—is carrying weapons. The Canadians subsequently send a boarding team that uncovers what the video’s narrator describes as “lots of weapons and munitions on board,” including “small ammunition to 105mm Howitzer rounds and lots of explosives.” However, when the Canadians relay the findings up the chain of command to NATO headquarters, they are ordered to let the tugboat go without confiscating the arms. When asked to explain why NATO chose not to enforce the resolution in this instance, a NATO official who asked not to be named said “obviously it’s a fairly fine line.” NATO says it does not consider internal movements between Libyan cities to be a breach of the arms embargo at sea, especially between Misratah and Benghazi, two rebel-controlled cities that the alliance says has fairly frequent maritime traffic now ….”
  • Libya Mission (4):  Two Canadian soldiers in Italy were under medical observation Wednesday after they walked away from a car crash that killed an Italian fighter pilot. The Department of National Defence said the two Canadians were unharmed in the accident. The accident happened a little after 9 p.m. Tuesday about 100 metres outside the entrance to the Trapani-Birgi airbase where Canada’s air force for the Libyan mission is stationed, the department said. Local Trapani newspaper Telesud reported Wednesday that the two Canadian women were in a car that collided with a Ducati motorcycle. Telesud reported that 33-year-old Francesco Rinciari, a sergeant in the Italian air force, was killed in the accident. On Wednesday, Canadian Forces spokesman Brig-Gen. Richard Blanchette expressed his condolences to Rinciari’s family ….”  Note to Postmedia editors:  Telesud 3 is a local TV station, not a newspaper (check the video of the story here about 9:15 into the newscast).  Also, although I stand to be corrected, Italian media aren’t saying the man killed was a pilot, they’re saying he was a senior NCO (who don’t tend to fly planes).  More in the Italian media here, here, here, here and here.
  • Afghanistan:  After nearly a decade of “tremendously successful work” in Afghanistan, the general commanding Canada’s elite, secret special forces says they are to end combat operations here at the same moment as the country’s regular combat forces. “The Taliban cannot operate with impunity anywhere in Kandahar largely because of all the SOF (special operations force) community, because it is an alliance, but certainly because CANSOF was focused on it,” Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, commander of the country’s clandestine military community, said in a rare interview. After the Taliban lost badly on the battlefield to mostly Canadian troops in 2006 and early 2007, the insurgents “essentially changed their tactics from holding ground and trying to be the shadow government in a large part of the province and directly challenging the authorities with formed units” to using “intimidation tactics,” Thompson said. “They started to go after the Afghan leadership and upped the ante with IEDs and suicide bombings and became much more asymmetrical. “That’s when their leadership became the more critical component and that’s when SOF began to play its role.” ….”
  • Robert Giruourd, 1960-2006, Michelle Mendes, 1978-2009, R.I.P.:  Planting trees to remember the fallen.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  More attacks claimed in Kandahar, Zabul.
  • Flooding/Quebec:  Defence Minister Peter MacKay toured the flood-ravaged Richelieu Valley south of Montreal on Wednesday, but his appearance did little to tamp down a controversy over the military not taking a role in the eventual flood cleanup. While hundreds of Canadian troops have been in the area for weeks sandbagging and helping out locals, the Quebec provincial government has requested that the troops stick around to help with the aftermath, too. The request comes as both the provincial and federal governments deal with anger and resentment over the way the flooding of 3,000 local homes has been handled by authorities in both Quebec City and Ottawa ….”  More from CBC.ca here, and the Canadian Press here.  The CF’s Fact Sheet on the flood assistance work in Quebec, OP Lotus, is here.
  • Canada’s defence minister says information about the delivery of the country’s new maritime helicopters will be released at a news conference Thursday. Peter MacKay made the comments Tuesday night in New Glasgow, where he and Gen. Walter Natynczyk, chief of the defence staff, met with a group of cadets and reservists from MacKay’s Central Nova riding. The helicopters, the CH-148 Cyclone, are being produced by Sikorsky and are to replace the aging fleet of Sea Kings. MacKay admitted the helicopter program has faced a number of challenges. “There’s a long and, dare I say it, tortured history when it comes to the maritime helicopter program,” he said, calling it “one of the worst examples of a military procurement that went badly.” ….”  Last week’s announcement that “we finally have one (but not for using on ops just yet) here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  As Mark Collins asks, who do you believe?
  • General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., a leading manufacturer of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, tactical reconnaissance radars, and surveillance systems, and CAE today announced that the companies have signed an exclusive teaming agreement to offer the Predator® B UAS to meet Canada’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance needs …. Under the program presently referred to as the JUSTAS program, the Canadian Government will establish a requirement to field and support interoperable, network-enabled UASs to provide ISTAR and all-weather precision-strike capabilities in support of its operations worldwide. GA-ASI and CAE will jointly compete for this program, with GA-ASI serving as the prime contractor supporting a U.S. Foreign Military Sale procurement. The teaming arrangement between GA-ASI and CAE is designed to offer the best combination of experience and proven capability to meet program and Canadian-specific requirements while reducing technical, cost, and schedule risks ….”  A bit more on this here.

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 ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 16 Feb 11

  • Canada-US Border Security:  This gives you a sense of how seriously American legislators take the border security issue (and how likely Canada is to have to give up loads in any coming joint security negotiations?) “Every inch of the Canada-U.S. border and the American boundary with Mexico should be under “operational control” of American border officials, a U.S. lawmaker told a congressional hearing into border security on Tuesday. “The acceptable level for the American citizen is total control of our southern border, our northern border, our natural ports of entry,” said Republican Jeff Duncan, a South Carolina lawmaker and a member of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on border and maritime security. Such control would allow Americans to protect “this beacon of freedom,” Duncan said, “where we determine who comes into this country, how many folks come here through legal means annually, what they come for, whether they’re seeking citizenship.” ….”
  • Oopsie….. “…. A hankering for Tim Hortons after a hard day of training went horribly wrong for some of Canada’s super-secret commandos, who wound up handcuffed and face down along a major highway. The elite special-forces soldiers, travelling in a convoy of civilian vehicles, were pulled over in late 2009 along Highway 401 in southern Ontario after a panicked member of the public spotted the burly men at a coffee shop. Ontario Provincial Police were called, though it’s not clear whether it was because someone had spotted a weapon or some other reason. Officers from the Brighton detachment, west of Belleville, Ont., followed the vehicles east along the highway, where they executed “a high-risk takedown,” with weapons drawn. The incident came to light through military records obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act ….”
  • F-35 Fight: “The gruelling political battle over the government’s decision to purchase 65 F-35 fighter jets has drawn a line in the sand, with opposition parties standing on one side, and the government and Canadian Forces on the other. In many ways, the military is the government’s most valuable asset in the fight, with current and retired senior officers coming out strongly in favour of the stealth aircraft, arguing it is the best plane for Canada’s future needs. Yet largely overlooked in the debate is that military officials recommended the F-35 in 2006—four years before they completed what is called a “statement of requirements,” the centerpiece of any military procurement process. Even now, the whereabouts of that statement is crucial because the Conservative government has repeatedly cited military officials’ public statements as proof that their decision to commit to the F-35 is the right one. They have also criticized the Liberal Party for not listening to the country’s armed forces. But experts and former defence officials say that until a statement of requirements is released—if one even exists—the entire effort to purchase the F-35 will be subject to politicking based on speculation and allegations ….”
  • Yet MORE on the PM’s Plane’s Paint Job: “…. The reported tussle is interesting in other ways. MacKay is arguably among the most visible and qualified replacements for Harper, should his quest for a majority government fail next time round. What does it say about the internal dynamics of the Conservatives’ top leadership, if MacKay’s wishes are continually rebuffed by the PMO? If Stephen Harper doesn’t like the advice he is getting from his defence minister, he should shuffle the cabinet. Granted, that would be an unpopular move given MacKay’s high visibility in the Conservative Party. Such a move would also further expose the PM to allegations that he is a micromanager ….”
  • Agreed. “…. A group of students at the University of Toronto are trying to stop the Canadian Forces from holding information sessions on campus on the grounds that they felt it was wrong to recruit students to be trained “to kill and to fight wars.”  With all due respect to the 30 students who felt strongly enough about the issue to show up and protest the information seminar: you’re all wrong.  The seminar being protested was being held behind closed doors and only students interested in hearing the information were in attendance. Recruiters did not station themselves in the middle of campus with megaphones, they did not stage drills in the quad as demonstrations of active duty and they did not interrupt class time.  What they did do was provide information on a legitimate career option for interested students ….”
  • A Canadian researcher is lending credence to the idea that the Cold War-era concept of deterrence can and does work against terrorists. In an article to be published this month in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Alex Wilner rejects the post 9/11 theory that serious threats of punishment without use of force won’t work against an enemy whose assets aren’t defined by geography. Rather, he argues that by incorporating deterrence theory into the war on terror by undermining the cost-to-benefit ratio of executing an attack, “we might not only be able to defeat terrorist groups, but we may be able to manipulate their behaviour pre-emptively …. he argues, terrorist groups like al-Qaida are comprised of individuals who are vulnerable to manipulation. For example, future leaders might be deterred from engaging in terrorism if they see current leaders being punished by death or incarceration ….”
  • A Facebook and Skype scammer used the name and photo of a high-ranking U.S. National Guard general to steal $3,000 from a Toronto woman in what’s believed to be one of a number of frauds that exploit the authority of the military. The woman made two wire transfers to London, believing she was helping Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie of Vermont pay for a shipment of money to Canada after a tour in Iraq. At least two other women, in Taiwan and Germany, have responded to pleas from someone they believed to be Dubie, the guard said. In October, a Skype user claiming to be Dubie asked to the Toronto woman to be friends, she said Tuesday, asking that her name not be used because she fears for the safety of her family. “I was kind of in awe of the whole thing, that someone like that was contacting me,” she said. “I wanted to help someone like that who is an honest, trustworthy person.” The person claiming to be Dubie refused to talk on the phone or video chat. “He was so adamant that it was him,” she said. “He said no, he can’t talk to me because he is in Iraq.” …. “…. “It has come to my attention that there are people using my identity to solicit money on FB and Skype,” Dubie wrote Friday on his legitimate Facebook page. “I will never ask for money from anyone in cyberspace.” …. Vermont guard spokesman Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow said the case has been referred to the FBI. Dubie, through Goodrow, declined to comment.  “He is quite upset by this,” said Goodrow.” “

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 Feb 11

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 19 Jan 11

  • Corporal Jean-Michel Déziel, R.I.P. “A soldier died at approximately 10:00 hrs Monday morning after falling from the roof of a building at CFB Valcartier. Corporal Jean-Michel Déziel, a member of the Headquarters and Signals Squadron, was in the process of installing a telecommunications antenna when the incident occurred. The soldier was immediately evacuated to the Laval Hospital, where he was pronounced dead ….” More from CBC.ca here and QMI Media here.
  • Taliban Propaganda WatchThe bad guys allege blowing up a Canadian “tank” in Panjwai – no confirmation on that.
  • Secret talks are underway in the Afghan capital and in the country’s south to replace the governor of a tumultuous district of Kandahar that is under Canada’s watch, The Canadian Press has learned. The backroom dealing centres around finding a replacement for the illiterate and mercurial Haji Baran, the current governor of Panjwaii. A security shura, or meeting of Afghan elders, was cancelled on Monday because Baran was in Kabul for meetings. Reached by telephone, Baran confirmed he was in the capital this week. Speaking in Pashto, he told a local journalist working for The Canadian Press that he has heard the talk that he will soon be replaced as Panjwaii’s governor. But Baran insisted he’s not going anywhere ….”
  • Canada’s military research arm has just published a military chronology of Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan – downloaable here (via Army.ca).
  • Remember this guy who said an unarmed Afghan teenager had been killed by Canadian troops in 2007?  The investigation says not so. “The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS), the independent investigative arm of the Canadian Forces Military Police, has concluded its investigation into the allegations made by Mr. Ahmadshah Malgarai before the House of Commons’ Special Committee on Afghanistan on April 14, 2010 with respect to his time spent employed as a language and cultural advisor in Afghanistan from July 2007 to July 2008. The CFNIS investigation determined that no service or criminal offences were committed ….” More from MSM outlets here, here, here, here, here and here (note the CBC’s choice of headline – “No proof of Afghan adviser’s shooting claims” – compared to the wording of the CF statement above).
  • CBC’s happy to be pretty declarative with this headline, though:  “JTF2 command ‘encouraged’ war crimes, soldier alleges“.   Note my highlights and what factoid is buried pretty far into the story “A member of Canada’s elite special forces unit says he felt his peers were being “encouraged” by the Canadian Forces chain of command to commit war crimes in Afghanistan, according to new documents obtained by CBC News.  The documents from the military ombudsman’s office show the member of the covert unit Joint Task Force 2, or JTF2, approached the watchdog in June 2008 to report the allegations of wrongdoing he had first made to his superior officers in 2006.  The soldier told the ombudsman’s office “that although he reported what he witnessed to his chain of command, he does not believe they are investigating, and are being ‘very nice to him,’ ” according to the documents, which CBC News obtained through access to information.  As such, the soldier alleged, the chain of command helped create an atmosphere that tolerated war crimes.  The ombudsman’s documents state the soldier was subsequently directed to the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, CFNIS, which in turn launched its own investigation.  The CFNIS told the ombudsman the investigation was “now their No. 1 priority.”  The member alleged that a fellow JTF2 member was involved in the 2006 shooting death of an Afghan who had his hands up in the act of surrender. That CFNIS probe ended without any charges ….”
  • More reaction to Jack Layton’s criticism of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan“…. By making exactly all the wrong comparisons to the Second World War and the great struggle against fascism’s European variants, Mr. Layton forgets that if we were fighting now the way we fought back then we would have turned Islamabad into Dresden by now and Tehran would be the name of a city we’d mention in the same breath with Hiroshima. We would have already forgotten the “war in Afghanistan” because it would have been over long ago ….”
  • Canadians and Americans are working together in search ways to help wounded warriors heal, especially the wounds we don’t see“…. Lt. Col. Stephane Grenier, who returned from duty in Rwanda in 1994 isolated, depressed and eventually suicidal, said today’s language of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) puts too much emphasis on “combat.” Warfare has become the “culturally acceptable excuse,” but troops in any role can get an operational stress injury from fatigue, grief and moral stressors, he said. “What happens to the clerk who never steps outside Kandahar Airfield but whose job is to write those letters, write the inventory of the equipment being shipped back to mom and dad?” said Grenier, who now works on the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s peer project team. Grenier is among a group of Canadian and U.S. military experts who gathered Tuesday to collaborate on ways to help wounded soldiers. Canadian Forces physicians, psychiatrists, chaplains and injured soldiers met with their American counterparts to discuss innovative programs and treatments in a symposium at the University of Southern California called “Wounded Warriors – Healing the Mind, Body and Soul.” ….” More on the conference here.
  • Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopters won’t be available to cover central and parts of Western Canada and the North until at least 2014 because of ongoing problems that have plagued the aircraft fleet, according to newly released Defence Department documents. The use of the helicopters for such missions was temporarily suspended in 2005. But last year the Defence Department quietly extended that until 2014, according to the documents. The area in question, equal to a million square kilometres, extends from the Prairies to Quebec and includes the Northwest Territories and much of Nunavut. Instead, search-and-rescue crews flying out of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont., will continue to use Griffon helicopters for those operations, despite critics’ warning that the smaller helicopter doesn’t have the capabilities for a large rescue operation …. “
  • Testing high-tech at Gagetown“The future face of Canada’s army is being defined this week at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown. The scenario is being played out at the Combat Training Centre via computer war games based on a scenario in the Horn of Africa. Known as Capability Development Experiment 2010, it’s part of an effort to determine what shape this country’s ground forces will take by 2021. Lt.-Col. William Cummings, the experiment director, said the military is trying to validate what it describes as an “adapted dispersed operations scenario.” That involves four major events going on at the same time …. “
  • Anonymous source, but interesting information nonetheless – highlights mine.  “…. Security intelligence authorities are warning that exiled Tamil rebel leaders are re-establishing their violent Sri Lankan separatist movement in Canada. “We don’t know how far advanced it is, but their intent is pretty clear — to set up a base-in-exile here for the leadership. Some leadership is already here,” a well-placed federal government official told the Ottawa Citizen. The warning accompanied a report late last week to senior government officials revealing that two southeast Asian smuggling syndicates are arranging the launch of two more shiploads of Tamil migrants to British Columbia in the coming weeks. The boats are expected to carry as many as 50 former Tamil Tiger rebel leaders and fighters, according to intelligence estimates. “Why here? It doesn’t make any sense because it is much easier to go to Australia,” said the official. “This is the reason.” Two previous cargo ships, Sun Sea and Ocean Lady, arrived off the West Coast last year and in 2009 carrying a total of 568 migrants, including several men the government suspects are former rebels. “How many have made it through, how advanced they are is not clear, (but) we’re concerned,” said the official. “Canadians expect us to avoid becoming a haven for terrorists.” ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 13 Dec 10

  • Canada is apparently continuing to use a controversial Afghan security company to help protect a big dam project in Afghanistan. “Canada is standing by a controversial Afghan security firm that’s controlled by Afghanistan’s ruling Karzai family despite a U.S. military decision to sever ties with it, The Star has learned.  The Watan Group, which safeguards Canada’s signature Dahla Dam restoration project in Kandahar, was blacklisted this week as part of a U.S. effort to stop aid dollars slipping into the hands of corrupt officials and Taliban commanders.  But Watan Risk Management, the specific subsidiary facing intense American scrutiny, will remain Canada’s security partner on the ground, according to Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, the lead partner in the project.  “For the moment, we have no plans to replace Watan. Until or unless we have evidence that these contractors have done something illegal we will continue to employ them,” SNC-Lavalin spokesman Leslie Quintan confirmed in an email to The Star.  “Our primary concern is, as always, the safety and security of our people and we will do nothing to put them in jeopardy.” ….” Meanwhile, the U.S. military is apparently blacklisting said security firm “to clean up a contracting process in Afghanistan that has been riddled with corruption and allowed U.S. funds to pass to insurgents.” A bit of the rocky history of the company protecting Canada’s signature dam project here at Army.ca.
  • The past (Canadian) chair of Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission says some progress is being made, and Canada can still help make the voting process there better. “…. Now is the precisely the time for Canada to renew and redouble our efforts in this area by working with Afghans as they continue to build their nascent democracy. Let’s use the momentum that the IEC has created so that the next elections are less fraudulent, more inclusive, credible and transparent than has been the case to date.”
  • Meanwhile, John Manley (of the 2008 Manley team report on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan) also says Canada can still help out there. “…. Afghanistan has surely taught us that there are limits to what can be achieved through traditional military/ civilian approaches to state-building. Canadians who have grown weary of the war in Afghanistan will welcome the shift to a new, less dangerous role for Canadian troops in that country — a role that will mean fewer ramp ceremonies and solemn processions along the Highway of Heroes in southern Ontario. So Afghanistan will fade from the daily news. But the chilling era of terror that we entered unexpectedly in 2001 will still be with us. We must be intelligent about how we deal with these risks. And we must not allow our will to weaken, nor our determination to flag.”
  • A number of authors and analysts have signed this open letter to U.S. President Obama, calling for the United States to “sanction and support a direct dialogue and negotiation with the Afghan Taliban leadership residing in Pakistan”. From the letter:  “The Taliban’s leadership has indicated its willingness to negotiate”.  Who put up the letter?  Good question, considering Alexa.com shows no stats or information to track for the address, and the URL is registered with a company that hosts addresses.  While I understand that public statements only show part of the picture, the public statements I’ve read all seem to say “no talks until foreign soldiers leave” (check here, here, here and here for some of the latest variations on the “you go, we talk” theme).  I’ve asked signers of the open letter for open source information showing the willingness mentioned in the letter – I’ll share that information as soon as I get it.  Meanwhile, a tidbit from a Taliban statement just posted this morning (links to Scribd.com):  “(The Taliban) is determined that it would never show its readiness for negotiation in conditions that the foreign forces are stationing in the country.”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban claims to have destroyed a new U.S. base in Kandahar.
  • More “Question the F-35 Purchase” copy from the Ottawa Citizen here, here and here.  Some supporting commentary here, and more partisan “Attack the F-35 Purchase” copy here.
  • More on Canada’s JTF-2:  they’re more likely to nab bad guys than nail them. “Canadian special forces in Afghanistan capture more insurgents than they kill.  Surprised?  Well it’s true.  Like most issues surrounding the secretive Canadian special operations community, the truth is more nuanced and complex than the myth.  Contrary to popular belief, Joint Task Force Two (JTF2) is not Canada’s only special operations unit, nor does it spend most of its time shooting.  “You can’t kill your way to victory,” says Brig.-Gen. Michael Day, commander of Canadian Special Operations Command (CANSOFCOM).  Day shatters the shoot-’em-up, cowboy special forces image of popular culture.  Apparently, Canada’s elite commandos don’t go around kicking down doors and shooting up insurgent compounds.  Canadian special operations forces (known as SOF) “pull the trigger less than a quarter of the time,” Day explains ….” The information seems to come from a conference in Kingston last week (information on conference here and here, both via Google’s web cache, or here at Scribd.com of those links no longer work), where the author, Mercedes Stephenson, participated in a media panel.  An interesting message at the end of the column:  “…. This column isn’t long enough to smash every special operations myth, but there’s one more worth mentioning: SOF are expensive. The entire budget for Canadian special operations this year is $205 million. A number that small is peanuts in the defence budget. Now that’s value for money.” Out of a total budget of about $22 billion (according to Treasury Board budget documents), that’s just under 1%.
  • The Toronto Star uses the story of one Canadian military officer to seque into lamenting the loss of Canada’s “peacekeepers” “Unlike most other Canadian soldiers, Lt.-Col. Dalton Cote doesn’t carry a gun. He is a peacekeeper, one of 27 left in a military that used to be defined by that role.  For the past six months, while his comrades in arms were patrolling through Kandahar and sidestepping IEDs, Cote left his guns at home, donned a blue beret, climbed into a UN truck and negotiated his way through checkpoints in an effort to observe troop movements, monitor weapon stashes and investigate violent attacks on both sides of the makeshift border that could next month become the official partition between north and south Sudan.  As the leader of 20 Canadian peacekeepers sprinkled across the Sudanese countryside, Cote, a 45-year-old father of two, was, until five weeks ago, leading the largest Canadian peacekeeping contingent currently deployed ….” More on Canada’s mission in Sudan here, and how the CF’s helping out in Darfur here.
  • Oopsie at Veterans Affairs Canada or the Canadian Forces. ” The Department of Defence has launched an investigation after a former member of the Canadian Forces found sensitive health and personal information about other military personnel in his medical file. Wayne Finn said he was stunned to discover everything from other service members’ social insurance numbers, blood test results, X-ray reports to dates of birth mixed in with his military medical file. The 49-year-old Nova Scotia man said he still has information referring to about 20 people in his file, even after returning the files of eight others to the base in Halifax where he was serving ….”
  • Canada willing to help Haiti (but nobody’s asked for more troops at this point)“Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Canada is ready to do whatever it is asked to help maintain order in Haiti, but doubts that will mean sending more troops to the troubled Caribbean nation. Cannon told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday that Canadian soldiers and police officers are already part of a UN-led security force in Haiti, and Canada has not been asked to send more …” More on Canada’s military presence still in Haiti working under a U.N. mandate, and more on the current unpleasantness there here.
  • What’s Canada Buying? A review of a big plane contract review, and starches in pouches

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 9 Dec 10

  • It’s that time of year again“The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Afghanistan, today released the Government of Canada’s 10th quarterly report on Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan. The report covers the period from July 1 to September 30, 2010, and focuses on the progress achieved on Canada’s six priorities and three signature projects in Afghanistan, through the lens of security.  “Improving security is at the core of Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan,” said Minister Cannon. “It is a factor in every element of daily life for Afghans, and has an impact on the delivery of basic services, the development of village-level governance and even the holding of national elections.” ….” Bitchiness Watch:  Guess how often the name of Canada’s Defence Minister is mentioned in the news release?  Check out the full report here.
  • The Royal Canadian Mint says a “Highway of Heroes” coin is in the works“In keeping with its proud tradition of issuing coins honouring Canada’s veterans and Remembrance, the Royal Canadian Mint today advised members of the Northumberland County Council that a collector coin commemorating the celebrated “Highway of Heroes” and Canada’s fallen in Afghanistan will once again illustrate these themes in 2011.  Further to our intention to introduce this coin at a future date, we are pleased to assure supporters of the “Highway of Heroes” that their tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice during Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan will be immortalized by the Mint in 2011 …. The Mint will report on the status of this project to the Northumberland County Council in the next four to five months and we look forward to the addition of this collector coin to a long line of Royal Canadian Mint coins honouring the men and women who proudly serve the Canadian Forces.”
  • More from the special forces conference taking place in Kingstonit’s safer having a lower profile as special forces, but it can also keep one out of the limelight when it’s time to dole out limited cash: “…. Domestic terrorism is a law-enforcement issue and the military works with Canadian intelligence, the RCMP and other police forces as it has no jurisdiction in Criminal Code matters. It considers a successful operation one in which it works at the invitation of local authorities and no one knows it was ever there.  The special forces are trying to figure out what shape that function will take with military budget cuts looming as Canada’s mission in Afghanistan winds down. An outfit whose work is secret can be an easy target for politicians who can rationalize that if no one sees it now, no one is going to notice if it is cut back ….”
  • It was a F-35 vs. Eurofighter Typhoon vs. Saab Gripen sales pitch to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence (NDDN) this week” The makers of two different fighter jets Canada is not buying made their sales pitches anyway to Parliament’s defence committee Tuesday.  Representatives from the German-based Eurofighter Typhoon and Sweden’s Saab Gripen appeared at committee and told members their planes can meet Canada’s air force demands, and are far cheaper than the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter stealth jet the government agreed to buy in July.  Canada intends to buy 65 F-35s for $9 billion — plus maintenance costs — to replace the aging fleet of CF-18s, with delivery expected to start in 2016.  Antony Ogilvie with Saab said they could supply Canada with 65 upgraded Gripens, with 40 years of maintenance costs included, for under $6 billion.  The Liberals have vowed, if elected, to cancel what they decry as a sole-sourced deal to buy the American F-35, and instead would open up the new jet purchase to a competition ….” More from QMI/Sun Media here.  More industry reps in front of the committee today as well.
  • Meanwhile, Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay on the F-35sThe decision to buy is “firm”, and they’ll be on time, on budget.
  • In other jet flogging news: “Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day made a stop at a River Road facility (in British Columbia) last Friday that will manufacture components for the highly advanced Joint Strike fighter jet.  At the Asco Aerospace Ltd. plant, many military aircraft parts and the machinery that produces them were off limits to cameras, including some sensitive materials that were covered up, as the president of the Treasury Board and minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway announced the funding initiative.  Day said the company would receive a loan, called a “repayable investment” by the federal government, of $7.7 million toward a $19 million project that involves researching and developing innovative manufacturing technologies to produce aircraft bulkheads and specialized metal components ….”
  • Canada’s Auditor General is taking at how the New Veterans Charter was put into place“Auditor General Sheila Fraser is planning to investigate the New Veterans Charter and the lump-sum payments that became a flashpoint for growing numbers of wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan. Fraser confirmed her planned audit in a Dec. 7 letter to Liberal Senator Percy Downe who pressed her office for an audit since studies came to light that predicted the new lump-sum disability payments would mean less money for veterans and save up to $40 million a year. “I’m concerned this became a cost-saving exercise rather than a service to veterans,” said Downe. In the letter, Fraser said the issue “is an important one” for her office and auditors responsible for Veterans Affairs are planning an audit on “aspects” of the charter. Her office expects to deliver the report on the audit in the fall of 2012 …. “ More from CTV.ca here.
  • Parliamentarians also took some heat (again) from Canada’s Auditor General over less-than-ideal helicopter buying processes“…. Canada’s favourite watchdog has again slammed National Defence for bungling two helicopter purchases.  Auditor General Sheila Fraser reiterated to Parliament’s public accounts committee Tuesday what she wrote in her fall report — that National Defence “underestimated and understated” the costs and complexities of both the Cyclone and Chinook helicopters, and in the latter’s case, failed to hold an “open, fair, or transparent” procurement process.  None of the new helicopters have been delivered.  Also, Fraser’s audit of the two defence purchases found National Defence failed to follow its own purchasing guidelines and failed to fully appreciate what these helicopters would actually cost.  “We found that National Defence underestimated and understated the complexity and developmental nature of these helicopters, describing both as non-developmental and using off-the-shelf technologies,” Fraser said Tuesday, adding modifications required to meet Canada’s needs has led to costly delays ….” A bit more in the A-G’s news release from 26 Oct 10 here.
  • CF “to say sorry for Mohawk inclusion in counter-insurgency manual”:   “ The Canadian military is expected to officially apologize early next year for including the Mohawk Warrior Society in a draft version of the military’s counter-insurgency manual (PDF), APTN National News has learned.  The text of the apology has been approved by the upper echelons of the military command, but details still need to be worked out on how to deliver the statement and on how big of an event should be staged.  A draft 2006 version of the military’s counter-insurgency manual was released publicly in March 2007 and it included a reference to the Mohawk Warrior Society in a section describing different types of insurgencies.  First Nations leaders immediately reacted with anger, saying it appeared to equate First Nations with terrorist groups like Hezbollah and the Taliban.  The apology is expected to be delivered in either January or February.  The Assembly of First Nations and representatives from Akwesasne are involved in the discussions ….”
  • Does Canada need a plane just for counterinsurgencies?
  • The Canadian Forces now has uniform rules for men becoming women and vice versa“…. the Canadian Forces have issued a new policy detailing how the organization should accommodate transsexual and transvestite troops specifically. Soldiers, sailors and air force personnel who change their sex or sexual identity have a right to privacy and respect around that decision, but must conform to the dress code of their *target* gender, says the supplementary chapter of a military administration manual …. Added as a chapter to a National Defence manual, the new document defines transsexual as someone with a psychological need to live as a member of the opposite sex, whether they have undergone sex-change surgery or not. Their unit must treat them with the “utmost privacy and respect,” meaning, for instance, that there is no need to explain why a person’s sex is being changed in computer records.  A transsexual service person must comply with the dress code and standards of deportment of the gender to which he or she is changing, the document says. It draws the line, though, at retroactively changing the name associated with any medals awarded to the individual before their change, saying “there is no legal authority for rewriting history.” ….” More on that here.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Almost 90 claimed killed in Kandahar, Zabul, and Taliban Info-Machine’s trying out direct, unsolicited e-mails to media outlets.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 Dec 10

  • Tanks from the 12e Régiment blindé du Canada are covering Vandoos in Zangabad, and head off some ammo for the Taliban Info-machine“…. Farmers in this otherwise bucolic hamlet, long known for its support of the insurgency, vented their frustrations at the convoy of vehicles as it cut a swath across their land, making way for the area’s first major roadway.  “I was never told about this,” Abdul Rahman, a local land owner whose grape field is being cut in half by the new gravel road, said through a translator.  The road is to be eight metres wide, but the disruption is far wider: to discourage the Taliban from planting bombs, engineers have cleared 25 metres of land on either side of the project.  Rahman threw up his hands as mine-sweeping tanks churned up the field in front of him. “What am I going to do with that?” he railed. “They might as well take the whole field.”  It was up to the district governor to consult with residents, but Rahman and several other landowners who turned up at a meeting with coalition officers said they weren’t told the exact route.  Rahman said he tried in vain to convince engineers not to bisect his land, and even offered to allow his personal mosque to be demolished if it meant a different route.  The officer commanding the route clearing was mortified at the request and the optics it would have presented for the locals, to say nothing of the propaganda bonanza for the Taliban.  “It’s weird, but quite frankly I don’t want to have Canadian soldiers being seen levelling a mosque when there’s a clear option to go somewhere else,” said Maj. Eric Landry, the commander of the tank squadron ….” Good call.  Some CF-generated copy of the Afghan push supported by the Vandoos and others here and here, with a Wikipedia page already started on OP BAAWAR.
  • Congratulations Robert & Heather! A soldier returning from duty in Afghanistan proposed to his longtime girlfriend at a Windsor, Ont., airport on Monday. Sgt. Robert Bialkowski went to great lengths to ask his girlfriend of eight years (Heather Greene) to marry him in front of a cheering crowd of friends and family …. After a hello kiss, Bialkowski handed Greene an apple and got down on one knee. Her response: “Of course!” Friends and family shouted “It’s about time!” …. “
  • How Canadian cash is helping keep Afghan jail guards on the job“…. A Sarpoza prison guard’s life away from the job is exceedingly dangerous. One of the warden’s lieutenants was killed in November, two guards have been targeted and killed in recent months, and night letters and threats are common.  It’s why the warden is praising a Canadian initiative giving his staff better pay in recognition of the risks. The threats and the fear were having a debilitating effect on Sarpoza’s staffing levels at a time when Correctional Services Canada mentors are preparing to exit Kandahar in the new year.  “You feel for them … but we were training people and they’d quit,” said Ian Chinnery at the Camp Nathan Smith reconstruction team in Kandahar City ….”
  • Chaplains as religious mediators on the battlefield? The idea was discussed at a recent conference in Ottawa“…. Maj. Steve Moore, a United Church padre, organized the low-key meeting to probe the possibility of making connections between military chaplains and religious leaders in communities in the midst of the conflict.  “I’m getting some traction,” he said from his office at Saint Paul University. “It’s incremental.”  Moore began thinking about this project in Bosnia in 1993 with the Second Royal Canadian Regiment battle group, living in a compound amid the communities of Roman Catholic Croats, Muslim Bosniaks and Orthodox Serbs.  “We weren’t in the conflict, but we weren’t far from it. It was nasty. For me, those experiences never left me. I had to do something.”  He worked with his Roman Catholic counterpart to get to know the religious leaders in Sarajevo. “In fact, they made the first move, inviting us for dialogue. We were invited into their homes.”  Political leaders had co-opted religion, inflaming the population. This left religious leaders torn. “They were worried about the kind of life they would leave for their children. Would (the children) think that religion was just a means of war?”  At first, the padres met only with the Muslim mufti, who oversaw 60 mosques, and the Roman Catholic priest. The Serbs weren’t interested. But when the tour of duty changed, the next two chaplains were able to build on what the first two had done. In September of 1993, all three religious groups, Serbians, Muslims, and Catholics, held an interfaith celebration for peace. Here in Canada, that would hardly be noticed. But there, in the midst of religiously fuelled war, “it was unprecedented,” said Moore ….”
  • Some recent research indicates that American female war vets “have a suicide rate nearly three times greater than the general population of women”.  How’s this number compare to Canadian stats? We don’t keep them right now, but should know something soon, according to a Veterans Affairs Canada spokesperson responding to a question from Postmedia News“Unfortunately we do not have data similar to that used in the American university publication you referred to. Statistics regarding suicide rates amongst Canadian Veterans are not currently kept. However, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and the Canadian Forces have commenced a “Life After Service Study”, to examine transition from the Canadian Forces to civilian life. One of the study components will have Statistics Canada link VAC and Canadian Forces data on CF members with service from 1972 to 2006 (2006 is the end-date as it matches the latest data in the national mortality database). This study will allow VAC to compare suicide rates between Veterans and the general Canadian population. Data is expected in early 2011 ….” More from National Public Radio in the U.S. about this research.
  • This may be disappointing news to video game developers, but speaking at a public forum during a conference on special forces in Kingston this week, the head of Canada’s special forces says special operations work is NOT like the games“…. (Brig.-Gen. Michael) Day, who has been attached since it stood up in 1993, said the unit, described as a made-in-Canada response to terrorist threats and issues of national security requiring a nimble and highly trained force of specialists.  But it is not, as portrayed in wildly popular movies and video games, a collection of rogue operatives creating mayhem and destruction behind enemy lines with neither the knowledge or support of their commanders. With two teenage boys, Day is quite familiar with the popular portrayal.  “Very few special operations can be conducted without the support of conventional forces,” Day said, and noted that due to the high tempo and close relationship between special and conventional units in Afghanistan, army commanders understand and appreciate where his unit fits into the puzzle in a way they may not have a decade ago.  Day stressed that special forces are a complement to the conventional army and vice-versa ….” And how about calls for more public oversight for the special ops units? ” …. “Isn’t it ironic that on the very day some are calling for more oversight, I am standing up and introducing a public forum like this,” he said.  “And I certainly welcome the idea of having conversations about oversight.” …. “We’re trying to find a middle ground, somewhere between I’m not telling you anything and I’m standing here naked in front of you,” said Day ….”
  • News flash – Postmedia News notices women with niqabs serving in CF“Wafa Dabbagh is many things. She is a tiny, bubbly bundle of energy who loves Zumba fitness. She prays five times a day, keeps an immaculate home and bakes a cake for her beloved neighbours each weekend. She has a bachelor’s degree, a master’s in business administration and a cancer diagnosis, the last of which she treats like a bothersome cold. Dabbagh is also a pioneer, the first member of the Canadian Armed Forces — and still only one of a handful — to wear a hijab, the Muslim headcovering for women. After almost 15 years in the naval reserves, she is now a lieutenant-commander, the equivalent of a major in the army. Dabbagh is certified to shoot a C7 rifle and a 9 mm pistol, and is in the process of studying to qualify for promotion to a command position. On Monday at Rideau Hall, Gov. Gen. David Johnston awarded the first Operational Service Medals to 50 recipients, including Dabbagh, who was recognized for her participation in Operation Proteus, a Canadian training mission in Jerusalem ….” One day, it won’t matter whether she’s wearing a niqab or not – a job well done is a job well done, full stop..
  • Roger Clement, who said he firebombed an RBC bank machine in Ottawa “as a partial protest toward the bank’s policies toward the Olympics and the Alberta tarsands” gets 3 years, 6 months for the firebombing. More from the Canadian Press, the BBC and CBC.ca.  And it didn’t take long for the Liberals and NDP to put the boot in, either.
  • Streamlining terrorism trials, better Witness Protection Program, hunting down terrorist money better and improving co-operation between cops and intelligence agencies. Those are some of the highlights of Canada’s new plan (more detail here) to prevent another Air India disaster.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban Info-machine’s English-language site is back with claims of attacks in Kandahar and Zabul.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 7 Dec 10

  • First, a correction:  Remember the Canadian contract listing where the CF is looking for help to improve storytelling in yesterday’s update?  It seems I put the wrong link in – this is the correct one.  Many thanks to Richard, who drew my attention to this.
  • Vandoos into Zangabad: “Taliban fighters in the notorious village of Zangabad aren’t about to just melt away, the commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan warned Monday as Canadian troops officially took control of the long-standing insurgent stronghold.  “Yeah, they’re going to fight. This is their home turf,” Maj.-Gen. James Terry told The Canadian Press at a patrol base in southwestern Panjwaii, the troubled district where a combined force of coalition and Afghan soldiers is pushing forward.  So far, though, “it’s going real well,” Terry said ….”
  • Canada sending medicine, medical equipment to Afghanistan “…. the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation (CIDA), highlighted the first phase of Health Partners International Canada’s (HPIC) Capacity Building and Access to Medicines (CBAM) project, a five-year project that will provide Afghans with reliable access to medicine and medical supplies ….  For more information on the Capacity Building and Access to Medicines project visit www.hpicanada.ca and www.Afghanistan.gc.ca ….”
  • The Globe & Mail manages an e-mail interview with the commander of Canada’s Special Operations Forces, Brigadier-General Mike Day – this on the alleged lack of accountability we hear suggested from some out there“Q:  There’s nothing you’re doing that the Prime Minister wouldn’t know about, right?  A:  All the senior leaders hear what we’re doing. This idea that nobody knows – it’s [expletive]. ” More from the Globe here.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Taliban’s sites are down for now, but not before you get to see lies about Canadian deaths.
  • Remember this little bank firebombing incident around the G8/G20, aimed at sending a message to “resist the trampling of native rights, of the rights of us all, and resist the ongoing destruction of our planet”? Someone’s pleaded guilty, and now he’s about to be sentenced.
  • The government is expected to announce today a plan/strategy to prevent another Air India bombing from happening: “The Honourable Vic Toews, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, and the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism will release the Air India Inquiry Action Plan ….” More from the Globe & Mail here and Postmedia News here.
  • So, what’s the former head of the Military Police Complaints Commission, Peter Tinsley, up to these days? Running for office, it seems: “…. Peter Tinsley, the former chief of the Military Police Complaints Commission — one of several public servants who have parted ways with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government — announced on Monday that he’ll be the Liberal candidate for the Ontario riding of Prince Edward-Hastings in the next election.  And Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is hinting that Tinsley may not be the only person the Liberals will be recruiting from among the swelling ranks of public servants and whistleblowers who have publicly sparred with Harper’s government.  “Will he be the only one? Watch this space,” Ignatieff said ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 3 Dec 10

  • CF Ombudsman to CF:  You’ve gotta do better by familes of the fallen: “…. we found that the Canadian Forces continues to refuse to give family members standing at Boards of Inquiry convened into the death or serious injury of a military loved one. I have seen first hand how much this participation can assist families and help them understand and gain closure. We also found that the Canadian Forces has not yet put in place a national policy for support to families of deceased Canadian Forces members ….” ‘Budman’s most recent letter to the Minister, with names and specific examples of problems, here and more from the media here, here and here.
  • Defence Minister’s Response to CF ‘Budman:  We’re working on it: “The well being of our military members and their families continues to be of the utmost importance to myself and the government. I know it is also a personal priority for the Chief of the Defence Staff.  We are always striving to do better and appreciate that some families feel they have not been well-enough informed about boards of inquiry conducted by the Canadian Forces into the deaths of their loved ones.  I have responded in detail to the Ombudsman’s specific concerns. My letter reiterates our commitment to improve how the Canadian Forces communicate with families about sensitive issues related to the deaths of CF members …. It is important to include family members throughout the board of inquiry process to ensure transparency on all matters. We will continue to work to make this better.  To that end, I have designated an official, Colonel Gerry Blais, to contact the six families indicated by the Ombudsman and to be a single point of contact for them.  Col Blais has already contacted the six families (mentioned in the Ombudsman’s statement)….”
  • Speaking of how people are being treated, while the American military struggles with how to deal with gays in its ranks, Canada’s past treatment of gays in the military could come back to haunt the government“A Halifax lawyer and veteran of successful class-action lawsuits believes the Canadian government could be held financially responsible for military discrimination against homosexuals.  John McKiggan — who helped launch the successful class action for victims of Native residential schools, as well as the $13-million sexual abuse settlement for victims in a Roman Catholic diocese of Nova Scotia — says recent cases have set a precedent for compensation for breaches of charter rights.  “Sexual orientation is protected by the charter,” McKiggan said. “If there are people who had their charter rights breached by being unfairly terminated from the military, the potential exists for a claim for all of those people.”  Until 1992, Canadian Forces investigators would track down homosexuals as a potential security risk and have them fired. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted in 1982, so there’s a 10-year window of potential legal responsibility ….”
  • Another sign of Christmas approaching – NORAD prepares to keep track of Santa on his big road trip in a few weeks“He is preparing for his biggest night of the year and NORAD is getting ready to track his journey as he leaves the North Pole, bound for millions of homes across the globe on the ever magical Christmas Eve.  The count down for Santa’s big arrival has officially begun.  In the days leading up to Christmas, www.noradsanta.org features daily holiday games and activities in seven languages, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese.  Starting at 12:00 a.m. MST on Dec. 24, visitors to the website will follow Santa as he gears up his sleigh, checks his list and makes his final preparations. Once he leaves the North Pole, children of all ages can track him with updated Google Maps and Google Earth reports ….”
  • The good news (and it is “news” because of its rarity) an article in a university paper supporting Canada’s mission in Afghanistan“…. Departing Afghanistan outright would constitute an abdication of responsibility. The mission is sanctioned by the United Nations and Canadian personnel are there on the invite of the Afghan government. The Canadian Forces have spent the last five years trying to build trust and establish security in communities that depend on their protection. Diplomats and NGOs are actively trying to bolster democracy, and countless volunteers and CIDA employees are trying to bring infrastructure, health and education to the citizens of one of the most dangerous and impoverished countries in the world ….” The bad news:  it was going so well until that last paragraph: “…. I don’t like the idea of fighting an American war any more than the rest of you, but cleaning up after them might be the best thing we could do. Our time for fighting will soon be over, but we should continue to help Afghanistan establish its institutions and security.” If it’s sanctioned by the U.N., it’s no more America’s war than it is that of any other member of the Security Council, no?
  • The latest from Canada’s war poet, Suzanne Steele“it’s not their hoar-frost beards, it’s the black hole bargain/they’ve made with their gods and their skin ….”
  • A Liberal MP is calling for more oversight over Canada’s Special Forces following the investigation of some allegations (some going back to 2006 with no charges laid after looking into them) recently shared with the CBC“Canadian military forces should be subject to the same level of oversight as law enforcement agencies, a Liberal MP said Thursday.  Dominic Leblanc, the party’s defence critic, made the comment following a joint investigation by CBC and Radio-Canada that revealed details of two military probes into the behaviour of Canada’s covert elite Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) unit in Afghanistan …. Leblanc said oversight could come without compromising JTF2’s ability to do its job.  “Nobody’s suggesting that the operational details of a unit as important as JTF2 need to be made public,” Leblanc said.  “Nobody is suggesting that security needs to be breached or compromised and the lives of Canadian Forces put in danger by having an adequate oversight.” ….” More on that from the Toronto Star here. The back-and-forth continues at Army.ca, where a reporter who’s been following the story is explaining a few things (and hearing from those reminding us Canada’s military already has civilian oversight).
  • Remember this on the CF working on a new military health research network from about 2 weeks ago?  Here’s Postmedia News’ take“A network of university researchers has launched a Canada-wide program meant to improve the health of military personnel, veterans and their families.  Canada was one of the only NATO countries not to have a national academic pool dedicated to military health research, the director of the new program, Alice Aiken, said yesterday.  “Most of the research that was being done around the country was ad hoc, and not really co-ordinated,” she said. “And sometimes the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs wouldn’t even know what research was being done.” ….” Macleans.ca is also catching up here.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban accuses U.S. of chemical warfare in AFG (kinda again). and what the Taliban’s been trying to say about Kandahar with recent statements (with a cross-posting to the Long War Journal’s Threat Matrix blog).
  • Pentagon to Canada:  We need your help with Mexican drug cartels:  a future mission for Canada? “The Pentagon’s point man on continental security is asking Canada to step up its efforts to fight Mexico’s drug cartels.  “So much of what we do in the U.S. military must be done from a distance. I think Canada has a future in working with the two American neighbours to fight a common corrosive and growing threat to all of our societies,” Admiral James Winnefeld said during a Toronto speech on Thursday ….” Nobody appears to be talking out loud about troops at this point, and according to the article, we have Mounties in Mexico helping out.  That said, when a senior military official says “we should work together on this”, one is drawn to the thought of others also in uniform from here helping out.
  • New study out of Simon Fraser University’s Human Security Report Project: “(The report) examines the forces that have driven down the number of international conflicts and war deaths since the 1950s, and the number of civil wars since the early 1990s (and) the paradox of mortality rates that decline during the overwhelming majority of today’s wars, as well as the challenges and controversies involved in measuring indirect war deaths—those caused by war-exacerbated disease and malnutrition ….”