Scott Vernelli, 1980-2009 & John Faught, 1965-2010, R.I.P. Remembering the fallen in Sault Ste. Marie. “Mandy Dickson is putting a face to the name of every Canadian killed during Operation Enduring Freedom. Dickson, a former Sault Ste. Marie resident, has created her own “wall of heroes” tribute at her Mr. Sub outlet in Angus, Ont. “It’s important to me . . . It puts a face to every name,” said Dickson, in regards to the 154 three-inch-by-five-inch photos of Canada’s war dead in Afghanistan. “My husband Master Cpl. Scott Dickson and I know a lot of people on the wall . . . This is our salute to their ultimate sacrifice.” Among the miliitary dead they knew were Sgt. John Faught, 44, of the Sault, a cousin of Master Cpl. Dickson’s, and Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli, 28, also of the Sault, who the Dicksons got to know while stationed at CFB Petawawa ….”
“A mostly Canadian-led seven day sweep across Panjwaii district that involved thousands of Canadian, American and Afghan troops ended Sunday, having found a trove of Taliban weaponry and homemade explosives as well as large quantities of drugs often used to fund the insurgency. The weapons and improvised explosive device caches discovered during Operation Hamaghe Shay II were expected to make it much harder for insurgents to plant homemade bombs during the summer fighting season in Kandahar. Attacks by the Taliban are expected to increase when the annual poppy harvest ends in a few weeks. “The caches were mostly in the fields, not in the compounds,” said Maj. Martin Larose, operations officer for the Royal 22nd Regiment battle group. “Because we also found a lot of stuff in compounds in January and February, they may have changed their tactics.” ….”
Is anybody out there watching anymore? “Where have all the embeds gone? At any one time in 2006, when the Canadian military formally launched its embed program in Kandahar, and throughout 2007 and 2008, between 10 and 15 journalists were always embedded in Kandahar to chronicle Canada’s first major combat mission in half a century. However, for the first time since the formal embed program was established in Kandahar just over five years ago, only two reporters are embedded with the troops today — yours truly from Postmedia News and a journalist from The Canadian Press …. You would think that this would be the ideal time for journalists to assess Canada’s military and diplomatic triumphs and failures in Kandahar and to provide insights into the Harper government’s controversial new training mission, which is soon to begin in northern Afghanistan. But Canadian editors obviously have different priorities. For them — although certainly not for the soldiers and their kin or Canadian taxpayers, Afghanistan is yesterday’s war ….”
“Afghanistan: Should the Canadian mission continue to 2014?” CBC online survey says (so far), no.
“Canada’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, now a Conservative candidate, says Canadian soldiers never knowingly handed detainees over to a high risk of torture though he admitted the Afghan system was rife with abuse. Chris Alexander, a former United Nations deputy envoy in Kabul who’s running in the riding of Ajax-Pickering, says the controversy over the treatment of Afghan detainees transferred to Afghan custody is overblown. Until now, Alexander has resisted public comment about allegations by fellow Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin that Canadian government officials turned a blind eye to reports about the clear risk of torture facing prisoners transferred by Canadian soldiers. But in a wide-ranging interview with the Star, Alexander flatly disagreed with Colvin’s interpretation. “I don’t think that happened at all. “I don’t think any Canadian ever handed over a detainee knowing there was a high risk (of torture) because anyone handed over by Canada — as the record shows — was going to be tracked through the system, was going to be monitored more than other detainees would. As a UN official, I was much more worried about people who were being detained by the Afghans or other countries that weren’t as careful as we were.” ….”
Libya Ops (1) – Canada backfills fighters to ensure Iceland has air cover now that CF-18’s are in Libya. “Three fighter jets landed at Iceland’s Keflavik airport and NATO military base yesterday evening and three more are expected later today. The air cover for Iceland had to be swiftly re-arranged because the Canadian Forces Air Command decided to send the team originally earmarked for Iceland on a mission to Libya. Canada has just taken over responsibility for Icelandic airspace under the NATO arrangement which sees allied nations take turns to patrol the air above Iceland. Air forces often also take the opportunity to use Iceland for exercises, as the NATO member country has the relevant equipment and ground crews despite not having a military of its own. Before the three F-18 fighters arrived yesterday, Canada had already sent personnel, tools and equipment to Iceland. Later today one more F-18 will arrive, along with a P-3 aircraft used for aerial re-fuelling. Some 150 personnel accompany the planes and will be staying at the Keflavik base over the coming weeks. As well as patrolling, the Canadians also plan to conduct exercises and landing practice at Keflavik, Akureyri and Egilsstadir ….”
Libya Ops (2) – Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister: Off the campaign trail, over to discuss Libya.“After taking heat for skipping a major international conference on Libya to stay on the hustings, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon will globetrot this week to two major meetings aimed at finding a way around the impasse in the country. With nations around the world looking for a way past what appears to be military stalemate and a divide over whether Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must depart before a ceasefire can be struck, Mr. Cannon is leaving the campaign trail this time – but first asked for a blessing from opposition parties ….”
Remember James Loney, the Canadian peace activist kidnapped with some others in Iraq, then rescued in 2006? He has a new book out about his experiences.“An angry soldier told a Canadian hostage in Iraq that many people risked their lives to rescue him from terrorist kidnappers, according to a new book. Captivity by Christian activist James Loney reveals how a team of Mounties, soldiers and diplomats teamed up for a joint British-Canadian operation that apparently relied heavily on the mass surveillance of cellphone signals to pinpoint the hostages and their captors ….” My own humble open source analysis of what was said in public about the rescue here (Scribd.com). Amazon.com only has the Kindle version out for now here.
Latest recommended no-go-zone for Canadians: Bahrain. “Ottawa has upgraded its travel warning for Bahrain, telling Canadians to avoid all travel to the island nation. Bahrain has faced a month of nonstop unrest which has killed seven people as the country’s majority Shiite Muslims call for the ouster of the long-standing Sunni monarchy. Canada’s department of foreign affairs is advising against all travel to Bahrain due to the “unpredictable security situation” in the country. Canadians already in Bahrain are advised to stay indoors, avoid all political gatherings and keep away from the particularly tumultuous capital Manama. The department is also advising all Canadians in the middle-eastern country to register with the consulate in Manama or the Canadian embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia ….” DFAIT’s latest Travel Report on Bahrain here.
Canada’s Foreign Minister on Libya (1)“Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon took a cautious approach Monday as some of Canada’s allies demanded tough military action to halt the advances against rebels by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. Cannon said Canada will consider all options — from tougher sanctions to a no-fly zone targeting Libyan aircraft and air defences — to oust the dictator. But he added that Canada is looking for greater detail on how a no-fly operation would work against the Libyan military, which continued to drive back rebel forces Monday with air power followed by artillery and ground forces. “We all agree that Gadhafi must leave, we all agree there has to be a stop and an end to the bloodshed and the violence that this individual is bringing upon his population,” Cannon told reporters prior to the start of a two-day meeting here of G8 foreign ministers. “But we have to be able to come together with an option that is viable.” ….”
Canada’s Foreign Minister on Libya (2) “Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday that Canada will consider all options, from tougher sanctions to military intervention, to rid Libya of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Cannon, speaking before the launch of a two-day G8 foreign ministers meeting here, said he plans to meet with rebel leaders either Monday in Paris or in Egypt on Tuesday after the conclusion of the G8 gathering. He said the world is now seeing the same Gadhafi implicated in the Lockerbie terrorist bombing. “What we are witnessing is the Lockerbie Gadhafi,” he told reporters ….”
Blogger Mark Collins on Libya“…. Very many criticize the US, often severely, sometimes stridently, for what they judge an American obsession with military strength. Yet. Libya is close to Europe and far from the US (and Canada). It is Europe that fears a mass migrant influx and loss of oil (along with arms contracts with Libya). The EU in terms of population and GDP is quite equivalent to the US. Its members still have numerically very large armed forces, technically far more advanced than Col. Gadhafi’s. At the same time many in the EU (and in Canada) see themselves, socially and morally, even economically, as an alternative beacon to the “shining city on a hill”. But when something military may be required EU members (as a Union, as part of NATO, or in some coalition of their own) are unable, unprepared, and ill-equipped in fact to do much of anything on their own ….”
More border security information is now out there, this time in the form of a new joint Canada-U.S. risk & threat assessment. “The Honourable Vic Toews, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, today announced the release of the United States–Canada Joint Border Threat and Risk Assessment. The report helps enhance our understanding of common threats and risks in the areas of national security, criminal enterprises, migration, agriculture and health at our shared border. “The Government of Canada is committed to a safe, secure and efficient border. This is vital to Canada’s economy and to the safety and security of all Canadians,” said Minister Toews. “Canada and the U.S. are working closely to ensure that our shared border remains open to the legitimate movement of people and goods, and closed to those who would do either country harm.” “The United States and Canada have a long history of productive collaboration,” said U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano. “The Joint Border Threat and Risk Assessment reflects our ongoing commitment to enhancing security along our shared border while facilitating legitimate travel and trade that is critical to the economies of both countries.” ….” The full report is here.
“Most young Canadians know little or nothing about most of the wars and peacekeeping missions their countrymen have served in, according to a survey done one year ago for Veterans Affairs Canada. While a bare majority of the 13-to-17-year-olds surveyed claimed to know at least a moderate amount about the Second World War, their knowledge fell off rapidly beyond that. More than two-thirds said they knew very little or nothing at all about the First World War, and nearly as many were equally unaware of Canadian peacekeeping efforts since 1960. Their ignorance peaked with the Korean War, about which 82 per cent said they knew nothing or very little. Even for the best-known conflict, the Second World War, 37 per cent of the youth said they knew very little and nine per cent knew nothing at all. The 514 youth were surveyed last March by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives as part of a $47,600 project for Veterans Affairs designed to assess Canadians’ awareness, engagement and satisfaction with Remembrance Day programming ….”
Maybe the bit in red at the end will help young people learn history better…. “The Conservative government is planning a $100-million national celebration to mark the bicentennial of the War of 1812 next year. It is understood that the current plans for the commemoration include re-enactments of famous battles, the repair of monuments and plaques, a new visitor centre at Fort York in Toronto, a documentary, a national essay-writing competition and a dedicated website. Dean Del Mastro, the parliamentary secretary for Canadian Heritage, confirmed the government is keen to make the bicentennial a major event …. many of the events will celebrate 200 years of peaceful co-existence with a former adversary. “These were events that forged our future and made us able to continue as a separate nation,” said Sandra Shaul, project manager for the City of Toronto’s bicentennial commemorations. One of the challenges identified by some event organizers is how to interest recent immigrants to Canada. Ms. Shaul said one proposal is to tell the story of 1812 using puppets accompanied by south-east Asian music ….”
Interested in being heard about a proposed joint border security deal between Canada and the United States? Here’s your chance!“…. The Government of Canada will engage with all levels of government and with communities, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, as well as with our citizens, on innovative approaches to security and competitiveness. This consultation will inform the development of a joint Canada-United States action plan that will set out a range of initiatives in four key areas of cooperation to promote security and support trade and economic growth ….” You have a bit more than five weeks (until 21 Apr 11, just before Good Friday) to send your ides in writing on these topics in to the government. If you can keep it to 10,000 characters (about 2,000 words) or less, you can send it via this page. Need a bit more scope? Here’s some ways to share files no larger than 4MB.
Canada’s offering all sorts of help to Japan to help deal with its earthquake problems.“The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, outlined an array of expertise and technical assistance that the Government of Canada has offered to the Government of Japan as part of international efforts to help Japan respond to and recover from the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on Friday, March 11. “Our government has been actively engaged since learning of this tragic event,” said Minister Cannon. “As Prime Minister Harper stated, Canada stands ready to provide any and all possible assistance to the people of Japan. Canada has put a range of capabilities at Japan’s disposal, including a 17-member Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team, which is currently on standby and ready to be deployed. “In addition, we are offering chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) technical expertise and equipment, Canadian Forces assets—including strategic airlift and personnel—to facilitate humanitarian relief efforts, Government of Canada relief stocks, and emergency medical and engineering capabilities,” added Minister Cannon ….” Why aren’t these assets moving out yet? Because Japan hasn’t asked for anything specific yet. More on a potential DVI team that could head to Afghanistan here, Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) here, and a lesser-known part of Canada’s special forces who might be able to help, the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit (CJIRU), here.
Arab League: UN, approve a no-fly zone over Libya, please. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister: Way to go, Arab League: “Canada welcomes the decision by the Arab League calling for a no-fly zone over Libya. In light of the grave and deteriorating situation in Libya, and Muammar Qadhafi’s reckless disregard for the lives of the Libyan people, this resolution clearly signals that Qadhafi does not have support in the region. He is isolated and ignoring the will of the international community. Canada again calls on the Qadhafi regime to cease its appalling attacks on the Libyan people. We reiterate our call that Qadhafi step down immediately. Canada will continue to work closely with our like-minded partners to explore the full range of options that might be available to us.” More from QMI here.
Another one of the Khadr lads makes the news again. “A terrorist collaborator is walking the streets because a Canadian judge wrongly decided to stay extradition proceedings against him, the federal government asserts. In documents filed with Ontario’s highest court ahead of an appeal hearing, Ottawa maintains Abdullah Khadr should be handed over to the United States to face terror-related charges. Instead, by ordering the stay, Ontario Supreme Court Justice Christopher Speyer put Canada’s security at risk and damaged the fight against terrorism, the government argues on behalf of the U.S. “Because of the extradition judge’s errors, an admitted al-Qaida collaborator walks free,” the documents state. “The security of Canada and the international community is put at risk, Canada’s fight against terrorism is undermined, and the interests of justice are not served.” The U.S. wants to try the Ottawa-born Khadr, whose younger brother Omar is serving time in Guantanamo Bay for war crimes, on charges of supplying weapons to al-Qaida in Pakistan ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War (2) Both the Liberals and the NDP started poking the government almost immediately during Question Period in the House of Commons on this one yesterday.
F-35 Tug o’ War (3)MSM are full of stories on this one as well – this from the Canadian Press, this from the Toronto Star, this from the National Post/Postmedia News, this from CTV.ca, and this from Reuters.
Mideast Unpleasantness (2) Retired General Lew Mackenzie with a reminder that a no-fly zone could morph into more than JUST a no-fly zone in Libya. “…. once you decide to militarily intervene in another country’s civil conflict, you have to be prepared to escalate even if it’s the wrong thing to do, because quitting your commitment when the initial plan fails is just not on …. Col. Gadhafi doesn’t need his air force to prevail, so its grounding or destruction would merely shift the fighting to the backs of his army. Libya is a big country, with 2,000 kilometres of coastline, so the major fighting would take place along the main coastal road. The opposition forces would be no match for even poorly organized army units if Col. Gadhafi decides to get serious. Watching this unfold from 20,000 feet, the countries enforcing any no-fly zone would be unable to ignore the carnage below them. Backed into a corner, their political leaders would be forced to escalate and authorize attacks against the Libyan army – thereby becoming, in effect, the opposition’s air force. By so doing, they would assume a much larger role in Libya’s future, including reconstruction of the damage they inflicted ….”
A little more information on Canada coming through with more funding a school project in Kandahar.“…. the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, announced $250,000 in additional funding for the Afghan Canadian Community Centre (ACCC). This funding will allow the ACCC to continue providing successful literacy courses and training in Kandahar city …. The ACCC is a private training centre in Kandahar City that provides professional education in such subjects as business management, information technology, English and health care. This additional support will enable the Centre to continue delivering valuable training, establish a resource centre, and implement a self-sustainability plan.“ Translation of that last bit of government-speak in red: some of the money the school is getting is to be used to come up with a plan to be able to run without any more outside funding (or at least from us).
A friend of Colin Rutherford, the Canadian reportedly being held hostage by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan, sees world for what it is. “…. We as students need to recognize that terrorism does not only happen to other people. Terrorists exist to cause fear, and through that fear they gain power. Colin was not afraid to go into a place that has been torn by war to try to help people who are different from himself, and to help them on their terms instead of his. It may not have been the brightest thing to do, but it was brave and motivated by a good heart. He may not come home alive or, if alive, not whole and sound. I pray every day for him. I hope I will get to see him again and hug him and tell him that I am proud of him for wanting to bring something positive into a bastion of terror ….”
Ooopsie….“At a time of unprecedented tension between the west and Hamid Karzai over the killing of civilians, Nato has accidentally shot dead one of the Afghan president’s own family members during a botched night raid. Officials in the southern province of Kandahar said Haji Yar Mohammad Karzai, a second cousin of the president, was killed during an operation by US special forces in Karz, the ancestral Karzai home on the outskirts of Kandahar city. In what appears to have been a major intelligence failure, the 63-year-old tribal elder was mistaken for the father of a Taliban commander …. Mahmoud Karzai, one of the president’s brothers, said he “smelled a very deep conspiracy” over the killing of Haji Yar Mohammad and said he feared Nato had been fed false information by someone from within the Karzai family ….” Here’s ISAF’s first statement on the incident, with a follow-up update here. More on the touchiness of the situation from the Canadian Press here.
Canadian shipyard workers pipe in on Canada’s plans to look at foreign designs for new big honkin’ ships for the Navy.“Canada should not adapt foreign designs to replace its 40-year-old supply ships, says the man who represents over 1,000 workers at Halifax Shipyard. The navy is looking for consultants to assess the risks and cost of altering current German and Spanish military supply-ship designs to Canadian needs. They are also being told to be ready to assist federal officials with detailed drawings. “No matter what way you slice the pie, its Canadian tax dollars leaving Canada to go to another country to help them out in an economic crisis when we’re in our own,” Jamie Vaslet of the CAW/Marine Workers Federation, said Thursday. “Made in Canada is not a bad name, so designed in Canada is not a bad name, either. We designed and built some of, if not the best, world-class frigates.” ….”
Remember the shipload o’ Tamils dropped on the west coast by the MV Sun Sea last summer? One of the passengers admitted to being a bad guy, and has been ordered deported (eventually). “A passenger on the MV Sun Sea ship has admitted to being a member of the Tamil Tigers and ordered out of Canada, but don’t expect the unnamed man to be booted out anytime soon. The man, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, initially denied being associated with the Tiger terrorist group but later admitted to officials with the Canadian Border Services Agency that he had been a member …. “We are pleased that these hearings are moving ahead,” said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the man in charge of the CBSA …. Toews has stated several times that the ship has terrorist links but this case is the first to come with a deportation order. “That ship, that voyage was co-ordinated by the Tamil Tigers,” Toews told QMI Agency on Wednesday. “Our commitment has been to ensure that individuals who are associated with terrorist organizations do not find refuge in this country.” ….”
“Canada says it would consider direct diplomatic contact with anti-Gadhafi forces in Libya, but unlike its ally Britain, it hasn’t moved in that direction yet. “This is a continuous moving target so, this is the first I hear of this,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday. “There’s always a great deal of validity in being able to speak to these people.” Opposition MPs urged the Harper government to talk directly to Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Gadhafi. Liberal MP Bob Rae presented the option as one of the more “active and inventive” ways Canada could help speed Gadhafi’s overthrow. The National Libyan Council has now positioned itself as the political branch of the anti-Gadhafi forces ….” Let’s see if any OTHER “councils” or “committees” pop out of the woodwork before deciding who to talk to, shall we? More from CBC.ca here and QMI/Sun Media here.
Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae says Canada (and others) have to do more about Libya. “There are many other plans of action the government should be taking against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi right now according to Liberal critic Bob Rae. Rae said he would like to see Canada prepare itself to take part in a no fly zone and place further sanctions on individuals and countries that help the regime by doing things such as buying Libyan oil. “It is no longer a matter of it’s important to try to do this. I think it’s absolutely necessary for Canada to do this. We simply have to engage on the governance issues. We have to engage on the human rights issues and we have to engage successfully in making sure Colonel Gaddafi is history,” said Rae. ….”
Meanwhile, what’s NATO considering? “NATO has decided to boost surveillance flights over Libya as the alliance debates the utility of imposing a “no-fly zone” over the country. U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, said allies agreed on Monday to increase AWACS flights from 10 to 24 hours a day, an expansion that is part of contingency planning for possible military intervention in Libya beyond humanitarian efforts. The decision came as the alliance’s governing board met to discuss what unique capabilities NATO could bring to Libya. Daalder said other ideas being considered are redeploying NATO vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, along with nearby air assets, to deal with humanitarian aid as well as establishing a command and control structure to co-ordinate relief efforts ….”
More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief: Libya), here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
“A major Canadian road project in southern Afghanistan has been hampered by an element the military has no control over, one rarely associated with the arid region of Kandahar: rain. Heavy downpours over the past couple of weeks have slowed construction of a 22-kilometre road in the Panjwaii district, a volatile area where the Canadian battle group is conducting one last push to win over locals before combat operations end in July. “I would say that up until the last few weeks, it was going pretty well,” said Capt. Jean-Francois Huot of the 5 Combat Engineer Regiment. “The first rain didn’t affect much, but then with the accumulation and the speed at which it evaporates we’ve seen, well, look how slow it is.” The deluge has clogged irrigation canals and left sandy plains a muddy mess. Last week, a crew from the Kandahar Air Wing had to be dispatched to rescue two Afghan men whose truck became stranded because of flash flooding. The Royal 22e Regiment had hoped to have the road finished by mid-April. Military officials say once completed, the road will link rural villages together, boost commerce and trade and improve the freedom of movement for Afghans ….”
Sikorsky on the CH-148 Cyclone choppers: They’re coming, honest, really soon!“Sikorsky is ‘weeks rather than months’ away from finally delivering the first interim aircraft for the CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter programme for the Canadian Forces (CF), according to CEO Jeff Pino. A long-running dispute regarding the purchase of the maritime helicopters was seemingly settled when 28 Cyclones were ordered under a $1.8 billion contract to replace the primary Canadian shipboard helicopter, the CH-124 Sea King. Following delays due to issues surrounding the mission system integration aboard the aircraft, in June 2010 Sikorsky announced that as a provisional measure the CF would receive six interim CH-148 Cyclones in November. However, delivery of these aircraft was also delayed due to undisclosed issues Sikorsky claimed was beyond its control. Speaking to reporters at a ‘state of Sikorsky’ presentation at Heli-Expo in Orlando, Pino said delivery of interim aircraft was now ‘imminent’ and highlighted progress on the programme that included 750 flight hours completed, ongoing sea trials in Canada and the finalising of the aircraft’s certification ….”
The rehab of Omar Khadr continues apace in Guantanamo. “Providing Omar Khadr with a formal education should help allay fears expressed by many Canadians that he will return to Canada an angry and perhaps dangerous young man with a grudge against society, says his Canadian lawyer. To prepare the 24-year-old for his return to Canada, Khadr’s defence team enlisted a Canadian university professor to design a home schooling program, says lawyer Dennis Edney. Pentagon lawyers travel to the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, every other week to do the teaching. “We provide them with the material and then they go to Guantanamo and sit with Omar and they take him through the subject matter,” Edney explains. The curriculum includes math, history, astronomy and is heavy on English grammar. If Khadr passes a high school equivalency exam, he intends to apply for admission to a college or university as a mature student …..”
“It was a thundering display of Canada’s Northern resolve with jet fighters, a frigate and even a submarine, but a recently released poll suggests such exercises in military prowess play to the public’s mistaken belief the Arctic is under threat. When Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay posed for a photo-op on the deck of HMCS Toronto 18 months ago in Frobisher Bay, internal polling told them a majority of Canadians believed the North was in peril — a view not shared by defence officials. “Three in five Canadians (60 per cent) living north of 60 degrees, and one-half of Canadians (52 per cent) in the south, believe there is a threat to Canada’s Arctic sovereignty or to the security of its northern border,” says a 2009 Environics survey. The poll was commissioned by the Defence Department and released under the Access to Information Act after long delays. But a Defence Department briefing note that same year assured the minister there was no real threat. “There is no longer a conventional military threat in the Arctic,” says the Aug. 11, 2009, briefing note, also obtained by The Canadian Press under the access law. “The resumption of Russian military exercises in the region is more symbolic of Moscow wanting to be taken seriously as a world power than a return to the armed standoff of the Cold War.” ….”
Canada to Gadhafi: Maybe it’s time to go?“Canada is warning that the desire for freedom in Libya and across the region will overwhelm leaders who withhold democracy and abuse their citizens. After criticism of its reluctant embrace of the pro-democracy rebellion that toppled Egypt’s longtime ruler, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is now positioning itself squarely behind Libyan rebels who are massing on Tripoli’s doorstep and preparing for battle with their dictator. In Ottawa, Government House Leader John Baird tabled sanctions in the House of Commons and spoke openly of “regime change” to end Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s 41-year rule. At a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Monday, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon spoke hopefully of a “tide of change” sweeping through the Middle East and North Africa ….”
How about a no-fly zone over Libya? No consensus, says Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister. “A military no-fly zone over Libya is unlikely to get off the ground as several allies are balking at the plan, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday. “In terms of the no-fly zone, there doesn’t seem to be consensus among our allies,” Cannon told a teleconference from Geneva, declining to offer Canada’s position. “There are too many elements still not known, so I would not want to offer an opinion at this time,” he said. “We still don’t have enough information.” Earlier, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain was working with its allies to draw up a plan for a military no-fly zone over Libya ….”
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 tidbits of information about missing Canadian Colin Rutherford in Afghanistan. This from CBC.ca: “…. The police chief in Ghazni province confirmed that Rutherford was living in the region for almost a month and that he was seen dressed in local clothing several times ….” This from the Toronto Star: “…. In late October, just six months into a new job as a media auditor in Toronto, Rutherford told his boss he was going on vacation. The 26-year-old wanted to learn Pashto, one of Afghanistan’s two official languages. “He went to Afghanistan and didn’t come back,” said Zia Hasan, manager of audit operations at the Toronto-based Canadian Circulations Audit Board. Rutherford had booked two weeks off. “We just thought he decided not to come back. Sometimes people do that. We’re obviously concerned for his welfare. We’re cooperating with the local authorities for any information that they require,” Hasan said ….”
How’re the Afghan troops being trained by Canadian and NATO troops doing? Not all that great yet according to one journalist blogger: “…. The question on everyone’s mind these days is whether the OMLTs (Operational Mentoring Liaison Teams) can mould the Afghans into an independent fighting force by the time Canada’s military withdraws from combat operations in a few months. Based on my two days on foot patrol with the OMLT (which hardly makes me an expert), the short answer to that question is no. The Afghan company I observed showed a capability to orchestrate simple security missions, though not without some problems. Capt. Eric Bouchard believes Afghans are now at a point where they can successfully conduct searches of compounds and fields for weapons. They are also fast at responding to Taliban activity. But as for more complicated missions, the Afghans seem to be lacking a level of sophistication ….”
A couple of more versions of the Taliban’s “we have a Canadian spy” statement, in Arabic and Pashto (with a Google translation of the Arabic version) here.
It appears, according to media accounts here and here, that the missing man, 1) has been missing for 3 months (with RCMP involvement since November), and 2) wanted to learn Pashto. In case one needs reminding, here’s DFAIT’s recommendations about touristing in Afghanistan: ” …. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to Afghanistan. Canadians undertaking travel despite this warning take serious risks. Canadians already in Afghanistan should leave. The security situation remains extremely volatile and unpredictable ….”
A snapshot of Canadian mentoring work with Afghan troops:“A hint of irritation is evident in Capt. Eric Bouchard’s voice as he tries to figure out where his counterpart in the Afghan National Army is going. Canadian and Afghan forces have barely begun a two-day mission to search villages and fields in the central Panjwaii district, and already there’s confusion between the two groups. It seems the Afghan platoon commander paired with Bouchard has neglected to bring a proper map, and he’s leading his troops off the planned route. Bouchard’s first instinct is to tell him to get back on track, but he restrains himself. After all, this operation has been organized by the Afghans and Bouchard’s job is to mentor their soldiers, not lecture them. Showing respect is paramount. “Tell him the first objective is over that way,” Bouchard instructs his interpreter. “But … but, ask him where he wants to go.” Such interactions are common for Canadians serving in the Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, also known as the OMLT or “omelette,” which provides on-the-job training for Afghan soldiers in the field ….”
Wounded warrior preparing for run on artificial leg: “When army Sergeant Jamie MacIntyre joined Toronto’s annual run in support of St. John’s Rehab Hospital two years ago, he had a special reason for taking part: Among those getting a new lease on life from the widely acclaimed facility was his friend Master Corporal Jody Mitic, who’d lost both legs in 2007 in Afghanistan after stepping on a land mine. This year, Sgt. MacIntyre has a still better incentive for participating: Last June, two months into his second tour of Afghanistan, he too trod on a roadside bomb and his left foot was blown off. So when he does the Achilles St. Patrick’s Day 5K Run/Walk on March 13, together with his wife and some military colleagues, this time he’ll be running with an artificial leg …”
Operation GTFO Libya More details are coming to light about why Canadian planes had to leave empty from Libya last week. “…. MacKay said Sunday the two aircraft had arrived in the middle of the night and officials were having difficulty both identifying Canadians who were waiting at the airport and determining if they were allowed to leave the country. The planes had been given a limited amount of time to remain at the airport, so aircraft from other countries could land. “There was very little co-operation being extended to Canadians by officials at the airport,” MacKay told CTV’s Question Period in an interview from Halifax. “And so they were then told they had to leave because there were specific time slots that were being given to countries at that time.” ….”
“Two more Canadian military planes are being dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean to help with the evacuation of Canadians in Libya. Defence Minister Peter MacKay tells CTV News’ Question Period the pair of Hercules transport aircraft were deployed and could be used to land in austere areas of Libya outside of the capital Tripoli. An estimated 100 Canadians are still trapped in the country, many of them believed to be oil workers. The British military, including members of its special forces, used a Hercules to fly under the Libyan radar and rescue 150 Britons and foreign nationals in a desert area. A spokesman for the prime minister said Stephen Harper was spending the day in briefings on the evolving situation in Libya ….” More on that from Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister here.
Whaddya do when you want to help Canadians GTFO Libya, but the insurance company won’t cover the charter plane you’ve hired go in?Send in the big honkin’ military plane instead!“Canada will send a military cargo plane to evacuate its citizens from Libya, where conditions are becoming more dangerous, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters on Thursday. The announcement came hours after plans to send a chartered civilian airliner on Thursday to the Libyan capital Tripoli fell through over insurance concerns. Cannon said nearly 200 Canadians had been, or were about to be, evacuated from Libya on planes and ships arranged by other nations. Cannon, speaking to reporters in the Canadian embassy in Rome, said a C-17 military transport plane with 156 seats was on its way to Italy from Germany and would fly to Tripoli as soon as Libyan authorities have permission. He also said a charter plane from Amman would arrive in Tripoli in the early hours of Friday. So far, 213 Canadians have expressed a desire to leave Libya ….” About the bit in red, if this is correct, I really hope a politician is not going to take up a seat in any of the planes flying out of Libya. To be fair, I’ve also found this for his being there: “…. Cannon is in Italy to discuss the situation in Libya and the region with his Italian counterpart….” More from CBC.ca here.
Other ways outta Libya: “…. Canada’s governor general …. has agreed to keep his aircraft on standby for possible use; he is due to be in Kuwait on Friday. Italy has also offered to welcome any Canadians trapped in Benghazi aboard its navy ships that have authorization to approach Libyan shores, he said. It’s not clear if and when the Italian vessels might arrive ….”
A Liberal and a Tory senator lay out how Canada can help in Libya. “…. Support from the international community, and Canada especially, should be offered for building Libyan civil society and the national institutions neglected and denied during Gadhafi’s four-decade, one-man rule. Although the Security Council has expressed “grave concern” and called on Libya “to meet its responsibility to protect its population,” its issuance of a press statement is insufficient to communicate the gravity of the situation that Libyans face -namely, the threat of mass atrocities. Time is literally of the essence …. But strong words must be paired with strong action. Canada and the international community must stand by the people of Libya who, like so many others throughout the Arab world, seek the basic human rights that should be enjoyed by all who desire them. Whereas the protests elsewhere have led to relatively peaceful transitions or to dialogues for reform, Libya’s rulers have chosen repression and slaughter …. We have seen the cost of inaction, delay and obfuscation on innocent populations elsewhere. The Responsibility to Protect is about the world engaging when a civilian population is under attack -either from its own government or because its government lacks the means or will to protect it. Libya is one of the clearest examples yet of just such a circumstance. Canada has an opportunity to help build a coalition at the UN for rapid engagement. This needs to be a matter of hours and days, not weeks and months.”
More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief: Libya), here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
Taking a trick out of the Taliban’s play book to reassure Afghans.“The letter opens with a greeting seemingly ripped from a fairy tale: “Brothers and sisters, sleep soundly.” Beginning this week, Afghans in Kandahar province will wake up to those warm words posted on their front doors. The Canadian military is borrowing a Taliban tactic to counter the insurgency’s message, coming up with night letters of its own to be distributed in select communities in the Panjwaii district, where most of Canada’s battle group is based. The letter, written in Pashto, is an attempt to reassure locals that the Afghan National Security Forces are patrolling their villages at night. It also encourages them to report suspected insurgent activity, such as the planting of improvised explosive devices or stashing of weapons, and provides phone numbers where people can offer tips while maintaining their anonymity ….” More on the Taliban’s use of night letters here and here.
Poochie story o’ the week: “The Canadian Army has been employing sniffer dogs to detect mines and improvised explosive devices (IED) not only along routes, but also in buildings and vehicles. “We work with canine teams nearly every day, and the dogs form an integral part of our teams and sections,” explained Sergeant Alexandre Murgia, commander of a combat-engineer section of the 1st Battalion Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group (1 R22eR BG) ….”
23 Feb 11: The head of Canada’s public service gives a Twitter atta boy to civil servants working in Afghanistan. 11 Jan 11: The date of the speech by the head of Canada’s public service in Afghanistan, giving them an atta boy about working in Afghanistan. The good news: good to see government using social media. The bad news: a bit more immediacy (something less than 6 weeks) would keep this sort of thing more timely.
Oopsie….“The cost to refit one of Canada’s trouble-plagued submarines is skyrocketing, according to documents obtained under an access to information request by CBC News. In the year 2010 alone, the Canadian navy spent $45 million on repairs to HMCS Windsor. It had budgeted to spend just $17 million, the documents show. It appears that every system on the British-built submarine has major problems, according to the documents, including bad welds in the hull, broken torpedo tubes, a faulty rudder and tiles on the side of the sub that continually fall off ….” Broken record: any links to the access to information documents obtained? Nope (again).
Tracking down the identity of REALLY “old” soldiers. “The Honourable Laurie Hawn, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, announced today that Department of National Defence has identified the remains of a First World War soldier found in Avion, France, in 2003, as those of Private Thomas Lawless of Calgary, Alberta …. In October 2003, two sets of human remains were found at a construction site south of Avion, France, in the vicinity of Vimy Ridge. Over a period of six years, the Casualty Identification section of the Directorate of History and Heritage, sought the identity of the soldiers …. The first soldier was identified, in February 2007, as Private Herbert Peterson of Berry Creek, Alberta. Through continued genetic testing using inherited genetic material through the maternal line (mitochondrial DNA), osteology, facial reconstruction, military history and finally, stable isotopes – the second soldier was identified as Private Thomas Lawless on January 10, 2011. Veterans Affairs Canada has made contact with the members of Private Lawless’ family and will provide on-going support to the family as arrangements are made and carried out for the final interment ….” More on how this sort of thing is done.
You know things aren’t going well for the Libyan regime when they sic the air force on the crowds. PM Harper’s take? “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has denounced the violent crackdowns by security forces on anti-government protesters in Libya and called for them to stop immediately. “We find the actions of the government firing upon its own citizens to be outrageous and unacceptable,” Harper told reporters in Vancouver on Monday. “We call on the government to cease these actions immediately.” ….” More from the PM here.
More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief: Libya), here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
“A small contingent of the Canadian military will remain at Kandahar Airfield for several months after Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan comes to an end in July. A group of about 40 servicemen and women will continue to work for the commander of Kandahar Airfield until late October or early November. In that role, they are responsible for perimeter security, housing and runway maintenance at the sprawling military base, among other duties. The Canadian chief of airfield plans is hoping other countries will come forward and fulfil their roles ….” Hmmmm, does that meet the requirements of the March 2008 motion the government has been bringing up? It says, “…. Canada should continue a military presence in Kandahar beyond February 2009, to July 2011, in a manner fully consistent with the UN mandate on Afghanistan …”, defining that as troops to train Afghans, to protect development projects and to staff the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction team. Well, it seems KAF-ites not doing any of the above would be OK by my read.
Will Tim Horton’s leave with the last Canadian soldier from Kandahar?“…. The Canadian doughnut chain Tim Hortons at Kandahar Air Field was also allowed to stay, though it had to move from its prime location on the boardwalk to a more discreet locale near the Canadian section of the base. The fact that the U.S. was at the time trying to convince Canada not to pull its combat forces out of Kandahar in 2011 helped to keep Tim Hortons’ franchise there alive, said a coalition official at the time. He laughed when he explained the reasoning, but he wasn’t joking. Canadian forces are nonetheless leaving Kandahar this year. Whether Tim Hortons, which has become a favorite of all the uniformed doughnut lovers, will stay after the last Canadian soldier goes remains an open question ….”
Globe & Mail editorial warns Canada to help Afghan women. “…. Ottawa should heed the advice of CARE Canada, which has called on the government to measure its post-conflict engagement in Afghanistan through the lens of improved human rights. Specifically, Canada could help tackle the barriers girls face in attending primary and secondary school; help train Afghan police in human rights; protect female leaders; ensure women are included in public-policy debate and peace-building; and focus on maternal and child health ….” (Hat tip to Terry Glavin for spotting this one first).
An exercise in the cold to get ready for a bigger exercise in the cold.“A military jet has crashed into a wooded field in Farnham in the Eastern Townships, injuring the pilots and severely wounding a passenger and two farmers on the ground. Screaming residents stumble through thigh-high snow, trying to get to their friends as smoke pours from the fuselage. One man lies face down, blood spattering the snow around his body. Then the army appears. Specifically, soldiers from the 200 members of the 5th Service Battalion of the Canadian Armed Forces who have travelled to the Eastern Townships this week from their base in Valcartier near Quebec City. They’re in the midst of a training operation called Frosty Soldier at the Farnham military base in preparation for one of the largest Arctic military exercises to be held starting this month in James Bay. More than 1,300 soldiers, along with 200 civilians, will be gathering for Exercise Guerrier Nordique (Nordic Warrior), to bolster the military’s northern mandate of search and rescue operations, reconnaissance patrols and “sovereignty patrols,” protecting that part of the Arctic that Canada considers ours ….”
Canada on how quickly Mubarak should get outta Dodge: “The Harper government has endorsed the go-slow transition plan set out by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, signalling that Mideast stability and peace with Israel are its paramount concerns while other Western nations push for faster change. Canada’s warnings that a rushed change in power could lead to instability – Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon insisted that “a vacuum does not mean transition” – came on a day of bloody confrontations in Cairo on Thursday …. In Ottawa, though, Mr. Cannon had emphasized that Canada’s chief concern is for a stable transition, one that protects Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, and indicated support for Mr. Suleiman’s plan for months of step-by-step changes while Mr. Mubarak remains. “I think the question is what’s next. A vacuum does not mean transition. The transition must be orderly, we have said it from the beginning. And these things must be settled by the Egyptians themselves,” Mr. Cannon told reporters outside the Commons. “There were steps, I understand, that were undertaken this morning by the vice-president. I think these steps form part of this orderly transition effort toward reforms, and ultimately an election.” Mr. Cannon did call for a transition to democracy, but did not emphasize speed. When asked whether he wants an “immediate transition,” he replied: “An orderly transition that should bring us to the reforms we’ve talked about.” ….”