News Highlights – 3 Nov 11 News Highlights – 14 Dec 10

  • The CF is reportedly reviewing the files of some of Canada’s most seriously war wounded to figure out if they can continue to stay in the Forces“The administrative review is expected to start in the spring but sources say as many as 18 of the soldiers, some severely wounded, could be asked to leave. Rear-Admiral Andy Smith, chief of military personnel, confirmed the reviews will take place but he said it is too early to determine the outcome. “Those who are wounded in action represent a special set of people who have gone out there and done the business and merit the full compassion of the institution and the country,” he said. But Smith said that the Canadian Forces still adhere to the principle of universality of service, which dictates that all members must be fit and capable of deploying on operations ….” How far we’ve come from then-CDS Rick Hillier, who in 2008 reportedly said “no soldier injured in Afghanistan is to be released from the military without his express authority.” (2008 G&M article via forum)
  • Some moves afoot to make sure wounded warriors are properly represented, by both legal counsel and by the Vets’ Ombudsman. “Moved by the stories of Canada’s wounded soldiers who’ve come home only to be forced to fight the federal government for benefits, Ontario’s trial lawyers say they’ll represent injured veterans for free.  And in Ottawa, sources tell the Star that the Liberals will present legislation Tuesday that, if passed, would elevate the Office of the Veterans’ Ombudsman so that it reports to Parliament, and not the minister of national defence, as is currently the case …. The 1,100-member Ontario Trial Lawyers Association told the Star it is astounded by the “hurdles, the runarounds and the hardships” Canada’s veterans face when they try to collect federal military service and disability benefits.  “These veterans fight for our country and they really should not have to fight for these benefits,” said lawyer Patrick Brown, chair of the new initiative called Trial Lawyers for Veterans ….”
  • A name change coming after all for Canada’s Navy? “…. Senators on the national security and defence committee recommended Monday evening that the Senate adopt a motion encouraging the national defence minister to change the name of Maritime Command to a new name that includes the word “Navy”. The motion, by Liberal Senator Bill Rompkey, originally called on the minister to change the name to “Canadian Navy,” a term already used by Maritime Command in much of its communication, including on its website. The compromise position allowed senators who favour a return the navy’s original name of “Royal Canadian Navy” to support Rompkey’s motion. The Senate is expected to pass the motion Tuesday, opening the door for National Defence Minister Peter MacKay to rename the naval force R.C.N. before the end of the navy’s centennial year.” Nice idea, but do we need to spend all that money changing letterhead, web pages and everything else to include one more word?  I’m as much for tradition as the next guy, but there ARE better things to spend the money on.
  • Remember this tidbit last week about Canada sending a party of ~150 to Roswell, New Mexico for interesting training Here’s the Globe & Mail‘s version: “It’s got a grounded 747 with no engine, fake villages that can be stocked with speakers of unfamiliar languages, and 300,000 acres of some of the most Afghanistan-like desert-and-mountain terrain that money can buy.  And next month, the training camp built upon a decommissioned army base in New Mexico will be taken over by about 150 visiting special-operations soldiers from north of the border.  There, Canada’s most secretive military units will get a respite from the winter, while they keep up with the kind of training that their military masters in Ottawa are loath to highlight.  According to a new $900,000 contract tender posted on a federal government procurement site, they will refine their standard special-operations skills – such as how to storm hijacked airplanes, how to parachute from aircraft, and how to fire and react to live ammunition.  They will also delve into specific lessons drawn from the Afghanistan conflict – including learning how to rappel from helicopters during night raids, how to capture and question foreign enemies, and how to make sense of surveillance drawn from drone planes ….” Remember, you read it here first!
  • A bit of late-night debate in the House of Commons last night over Haiti, and what to do there. “In Ottawa, House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken granted Liberal MP Denis Coderre’s request for an emergency debate, held early Monday evening, on the “extremely tense” situation in Haiti. The MP, who said Haiti has “practically ceased to function,” reiterated the need for the federal government to create a special envoy to Haiti to work with all ministries and help get rid of red tape. “A wave of violence is now raging all over the country and we must, as responsible parliamentarians, look at Canada’s role in the outcome of this major crisis,” Coderre said. Coderre also suggested Canada send troops, such as the Disaster Assistance Response Team or DART, to provide additional security in Haiti ….” More on that from here and Agence France-Presse here.
  • If one believes reports from the Canadian Press based on briefing notes obtained through Access to Information requests, it was not smooth sailing flying for Canadians training Aussie UAV crews in Afghanistan. “Canadian aircrew played a significant, largely unheralded role in helping Australia get its unmanned aerial vehicle program off the ground in Afghanistan, federal documents show. The assistance, which continued for more than a year, involved teaching Australian pilots how to fly the Israeli-built Heron drones. The fact it went unheralded may not be a bad thing, considering the number of accidents the Aussies have had with their remote-controlled aircraft: two of them have crashed, while a third was damaged when its landing gear failed. Reports from the Australian defence ministry suggest one of the incidents forced the private Canadian company that leases the unmanned aircraft to both countries to temporarily suspend flights for two days early last month. Operations resumed once MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA), the B.C.-based defence contractor, checked the gear problem with the manufacturer …”
  • Note to headline writers:  I like to think ALL soldiers think before they shoot, not just special forces troops. Screen capture of headline also here in case link doesn’t work.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban site says fight won’t end when NATO leaves, and (once more) rejects talking to the West until foreign troops are gone.
  • In other security-related news, the RCMP is looking for a consultant to help come up with a plan to fight human trafficking. Some details in the summary of a recent (September 2010) RCMP threat assessment here.