One blogger’s view of “Libya vs. Afghanistan” ceremonies: “…. After decades of Liberal governments treating the military like high-grade bathroom attendants, the Harper Tories have moved in the opposite direction. Now even a light bombing campaign is worthy of celebration. Oddly the Afghan mission has not yet rated such a grand ceremony. The cynical might suggest this has something to do with our efforts in Afghanistan being unpopular ….” (h/t to Mark for pointing to this one)
“The Canadian Forces is slowing its pace of recruitment after the Afghanistan mission, because of a lower turnover and a troubled economy. Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson said the military’s regular force strength is now in “very healthy” shape at about 68,000 members. Attrition is also down — with economic uncertainty and excitement for the job likely factors — which can make matching desired targets tricky. “That’s a very tough machine to manage,” Donaldson told the national defence committee Thursday. “But we have not stopped recruiting. In fact, we continue to recruit, because you need to keep the machine oiled and to keep new blood coming through, but fewer than before.” The Canadian Forces is now focused on finding people with specialties and technical trades, and providing spots for reservists who served in Afghanistan and want to switch to regular forces ….”
Remember the Minister needing a helicopter ride from a lodge to another engagement? Well, some e-mails seem to suggest the chopper ride may have been more…. requested by the Minister than offered by the CF(well done to the Toronto Star for sharing the e-mails in question (PDF), obtained via an Access to Information Act request). One officer’s e-mail is intriguingly prescient:“…. The request from MacKay’s office went out to senior air force officials on Tuesday July 6 at 8:49 a.m. It took just a few hours for then-Col. Bruce Ploughman, director of the Combined Aerospace Operations Centre in Winnipeg, to raise a red flag. “So, when the guy who’s fishing at the fishing hole next to the minister sees the big yellow helicopter arrive and decides to use his cellphone to video the minister getting on board and post it on Youtube (sic), who will be answering the mail on that one,” he wrote to colleagues in Ottawa and Winnipeg. “If we are tasked to do this we of course will comply,” Ploughman continued. “Given the potential for negative press though, I would likely recommend against it.” ….” More from CBC.ca, the Globe & Mail and Postmedia News (they haven’t shared their obtained documents yet). Here’s the back-and-forth during yesterday’s Question Period in the House of Commons.
If you believe this historian and this web page, Canada may be working with other NATO and Middle Eastern countries to at least discuss “humanitarian corridors” in strife-filled Syria. “…. Monday, Nov. 28, debkafile reported a group of military officers from NATO and Persian Gulf nations had quietly established a mixed operational command at Iskenderun in the Turkish Hatay province on the border of North Syria: Hailing from the United States, France, Canada, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with Turkish officers providing liaison, they do not represent NATO but are self-designated “monitors.” Their mission is to set up “humanitarian corridors” inside Syria to serve the victims of Bashar Assad’s crackdown. Commanded by ground, naval, air force and engineering officers, the task force aims to move into most of northern Syria. Laying the groundwork for the legitimacy of the combined NATO-Arab intervention in Syria, the UN Independent International Commission set up to assess the situation in Syria published a horrendous report Monday, Nov. 28 on the Assad regime’s brutalities. It documented “gross violations of human rights” and “patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture including sexual violence, as well as violations of children’s rights.” ….” Caveat lector.
F-35 Tug o’ War: More on the pricetag. “The federal government is under attack again over the true costs of buying stealth fighter jets for the air force. “Apparently the Norwegians are getting 52 F-35s for $10 billion while we’re getting 65 for $9 billion,” said Liberal MP Frank Valeriote in a Thursday defence committee meeting, citing comments from Norway’s defence minister in November. Asking Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino to explain the discrepancy, Valeriote raised anew the possibility that the government has lowballed the estimated purchase price. “I too spoke with the secretary of defence of Norway and they’re into a different kind of a world in Europe, requiring different armaments and so forth to what we are, in fact, looking at,” said Fantino. “It’s very difficult to compare dollar for dollar, but at some point in time we’ll be able to speak all these issues more fully.” ….” More here, here and a bit more (from the archives) from Mark Collins.
Afghanistan (2) “Hundreds of sea containers stuffed with military gear that were supposed to be returning to Canada are instead languishing at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan because of Pakistan’s decision to close its border to NATO, a military spokesman said Wednesday. Lt.-Cmdr. John Nethercott said the border closure isn’t expected to affect the military’s imminent withdrawal from Kandahar, though he acknowledged there could be complications if Pakistan doesn’t reopen its borders soon. “We’re assessing the situation,” he said. “At this point, there’s no impact on our withdrawal of personnel and no immediate impact on our efforts to repatriate equipment back to Canada by land and sea.” About 1,200 troops are in Kandahar packing up for the imminent end of Canada’s military presence after six years in the southern Afghan province. They have until the end of the year to wrap up their work. High-priority and sensitive equipment is being shipped out by air, while the rest was to be sent by convoy across the Afghan-Pakistan border and down the 1,600-kilometre route to the Indian Ocean for transport by sea. Nethercott said there are containers already gathered at a port in Pakistan, where they were waiting to be loaded onto a ship once the remainder arrived. The containers being held in transit in Afghanistan are not at the Kandahar Airfield, he added, though he would not say where they are. It’s likely they are close to the Afghan-Pakistan border ….”
“The families of at least four unmarried soldiers killed in Afghanistan have stepped forward to file human-rights complaints. The relatives allege Veterans Affairs discriminates in favour of married troops in the payment of a $250,000 death benefit, The Canadian Press has learned. The cases, which are at the investigation stage, follow the dismissal last week of a similar complaint by the parents of Cpl. Matthew Dinning, who died in an April 2006 Kandahar roadside bombing. A federal human-rights tribunal rejected the complaint of Lincoln and Laurie Dinning because Veterans Affairs abruptly decided to recognize their son’s girlfriend as his common-law spouse, technically making him no longer single. Errol Cushley, the father of Pte. William Cushley, and Beverley Skalrud, the mother of Pte. Braun Scott Woodfield, confirmed they have launched their own challenges of the death stipend, which was instituted as part of an overhaul of veterans benefits in 2006. The families of Trooper Jack Bouthillier and Trooper Marc Diab have launched similar complaints. “You have four men killed in the same battle, three of them are paid $250,000, (but) William does not qualify because he is single. It doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Errol Cushley, who lives near Wallaceburg, Ont. “I always understood you couldn’t discriminate on those grounds.” ….”
Hamilton’s Mayor is hiring a former Reserve CO to be (what appears to be) an on-call military consultant.“A military consultant and a municipal affairs expert are the two newest additions to Mayor Bob Bratina’s staff. In an email sent to councillors Tuesday afternoon, Bratina announced that Lieutenant Colonel Geordie Elms — a defeated Progressive Conservative candidate in October’s provincial election — will take on the role of senior adviser of military heritage and protocol. “Hamilton always has been, historically, a military town. It continues to be. We had 400 people from Hamilton in Kandahar,” Bratina said in an interview. “So it’s important to have a liaison between the mayor’s office and the city. Municipalities have a set of skills and it doesn’t usually include the military.” Former city clerk Kevin Christenson will take on the job of municipal analyst. Bratina said Christenson’s role will be to provide advice and guidance on city issues. “There’s not necessarily a focus,” Bratina said of Christenson’s role. “He may tell us that based on how our office is operating, it may be better to do that or do this,” he said. The two men will act as consultants on an as-needed basis, Bratina said. They will be paid, though the mayor declined to reveal their compensation ….”
At one level, it appears the Cold War never really ended for some countries. “Picture it: a junior executive, excited to be travelling to Hong Kong representing his company at the table with potential Chinese investors. Little does he know, they’ll be the ones doing the courting — and the consequences, for his career, and his company, can cost millions. It happens all the time, says Brian McAdam, a former Canadian diplomat who now specializes in Chinese organized crime. “It’s the co-mingling of the oldest profession, and the second oldest profession: prostitution and espionage,” he said. McAdam, who spoke Wednesday at the Canadian Industrial Security Conference in Gatineau, said Canadian business people and government officials who frequently travel abroad are prime targets for “sexpionage” because, until now, Canadians have been “as babes in the woods,” only recently becoming aware that foreign spies will pay good money to steal our ideas. “Sexpionage is far more effective than any technological surveillance by satellite or anything else,” said McAdam. “It’s so easy and it doesn’t cost much: They hire a prostitute, she does her work, and they have a film — instead of complex spying.” Those who favour the technique — in particular, China and Russia — use hidden cameras and microphones to up their spygame ….” More here.
Afghanistan (3a) Toronto Star continues pressing story of Afghan interpreter rejected for “fast-track move to Canada” program. “An Afghan interpreter turned away from Canada says he has been hunted by insurgents on motorcycles because of his work with the Canadian military. Sayed Shah Sharifi disputes the accounts of Canadian officials who have played down the threat he faces for aiding allied forces in Kandahar. Indeed, Sharifi, 23, says he was forced to move his family out of Kandahar for more than two months last year for safety after motorcycle-borne insurgents left a chilling warning with his father. “Your son works with the Canadian Forces and we will kill him,” Sharifi recalled Wednesday in a telephone interview with the Star ….”
Afghanistan (3b) TorStar back stops coverage with letters.
Armenian media reports Canadians (military and/or civilian staff) helping NATO help Armenia. “The NATO-sponsored international expert group is in the Armenian capital Yerevan, from Wednesday to Saturday, within the framework of assistance to Armenia’s reforms in military education. The group comprises military and civil representatives from US, Canada, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Romania, Switzerland, and NATO ….”
Canadian plane engine company STILL gets some business from an American buy.“An unusual turn of events on a U.S. military procurement contract has lightly side-swiped three of Quebec’s largest aerospace firms. Wichita-based aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft Corp. was excluded without explanation last week from a competition to supply 20 AT-6 Texan II light-attack and training planes to the Afghan air force. Its four main suppliers on the bid to the U.S. air force – which would then turn the aircraft over to the Afghan forces – were all Canadian: Longueuil’s Pratt & Whitney Canada for the PT6A-68D 1,600-horsepower engine, St. Laurent’s CAE Inc. for the crew training, St. Laurent’s CMC Esterline for the flight management system, as well as Burling-ton, Ont.-based L-3 Wescam, which was to provide day-light sensors, infrared cameras with zoom and various lasers. The elimination of Hawker Beechcraft apparently makes a winner of the Super Tucano trainer and light-attack aircraft produced by Brazil’s Embraer, the only other bidder for the contract. Matthew Perra, spokes-person for Pratt & Whitney Canada, said by email that “as with any competition there was some investment made, but this amount is not material to P&W Canada.” But it does not signify a loss for Pratt & Whitney Canada – it also supplies the same engine for Embraer’s Super Tucano ….”
My favourite bit from this piece from CBC.ca on monitoring efforts during the G8/G20: “…. (an undercover police officer) told the court about how he attended a meeting prior to the Toronto summit. There, a protest-planning group that included several of the 17 main G20 defendants was discussing whether to lend their support to a First Nations rally. Adam Lewis, one of the 17 accused conspirators in the G20 case, interjected, “Kill whitey!” The group chuckled. Lewis, like all but one of his co-accused, is white. When a Crown lawyer asked the officer what he thought Lewis meant, Showan said in complete seriousness, to “kill white people.” “Deliberately or accidentally, the undercover officers misinterpreted hyperbolic jokes as literal statements of belief,” said Kalin Stacey, a community organizer, friend and supporter of the defendants ….” Really? I’m guessing is a similar statement was made about the protesters, it would NOT be taken as “hyperbolic jokes”.
Credit where credit is due: CBC.ca shared the documents it’s writing about in the above-mentioned story via documentcloud.org (like here for example). Hello? Reporters? News outlets? Are you listening about sharing ATIP’ed documents?
Private Members Bill C-354, An Act respecting the establishment and award of a Defence of Canada Medal (1946-1989), makes it through First Reading in Parliament after being introduced by NDP MP Carol Hughes: “Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be able to reintroduce this bill for the establishment and award of a defence of Canada medal for the men and women who served in the defence of Canada during the cold war. This act represents the hard work and vision of one of my constituents, retired Captain Ulrich Krings of Elliot Lake, who presented me with this proposal shortly after I was elected in 2008. Its purpose is to formally honour the people who defended Canada from within Canada for the period from 1946 to 1989. As such, it is intended to be awarded to individuals who served in the regular and reserve forces, police forces, emergency measures organizations, as well as civil organizations, such as St. John Ambulance, all of whom were concerned with the protection of Canada from the threat posed by the countries behind the Iron Curtain. This medal will recognize the support of the men and woman who gave countless hours to Canadians as they trained and prepared in case of an attack on Canadian soil, which fortunately never took place. Their service to our country came at a time when we became aware of how fragile peace can be and how vulnerable we may become to advances in weapons of warfare. This medal would give something back to all those who worked in those years to keep us safe and prepared. I thank my colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River (John Rafferty) for his continued support on this bill and for seconding this item for a second time.” Caveat: most Private Members Bills do not end up becoming law. Discussion at Army.ca here.
Afghanistan Canadian General now second-in-command of NATO’s Afghan training effort.“Canada’s senior general in Afghanistan has been given a much bigger assignment in a reshuffle of NATO’s top command in Kabul. Maj.-Gen. Mike Day was named deputy commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan (NTM-A) last week. Five American generals, a British general and three police generals now report to Day, who will be responsible for the training of hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops and police officers. “Form needed to follow function,” Day said in explaining the changes to the NTM-A, which were made by U.S. army Lt.-Gen Daniel Bolger to streamline the training command in Afghanistan by eliminating a large number of senior staff positions ….”
“The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, congratulates the crews of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships St. John’s, Athabaskan, Algonquin, and the submarine HMCS Corner Brook, and those of the ship-borne CH-124 Sea King helicopters and the CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft, for their outstanding contributions to Operation Caribbe …. Op Caribbe is the standing US-led multinational counter-drug surveillance and law enforcement interdiction operation in the international waters of the Caribbean Basin and Eastern Pacific ….” Well done, folks!
For some reason, it appears to be difficult (if not impossible) to get poppies on NHL jerseys as a symbol of remembrance. A wide-ranging discussion on Army.ca here on what should be done (and through who) to get this to change.
War of 1812 “A Newfoundland soldier who died almost 200 years ago and is interred on a remote Ohio island has been remembered. In late October, Lt.-Col. Alex Brennan, commander of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, laid a wreath at the monument where Lt. James Garden rests with other officers who died during the Battle of Lake Erie. “There was a great sense of pride knowing that a generation of soldiers lost 200 years ago has not been forgotten,” Brennan said of the experience. Garden was a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, which fought for the British during the War of 1812. The Battle of Lake Erie took place Sept. 10, 1813 as part of the conflict between the Brits and the Americans ….”
Bosnia vet’s hunger strike ends.“The federal government will create a new committee to study veterans’ health in the wake of a hunger strike by an ex-soldier who insists he was contaminated by depleted uranium while serving in Bosnia. Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney made the announcement in Levis, Que., after Pascal Lacoste ended his protest and allowed himself to be taken away in an ambulance Tuesday. Lacoste …. battled to get Ottawa to recognize his uranium poisoning while serving overseas …. Further details of the board will be announced in the next 30 days, said Blaney. The minister said the body will comprise academics, medical researchers and soldiers. “It’s a committee that will have a broad mandate,” Blaney said, adding that he wants to see Lacoste’s health get better, along with the health of other veterans ….” More here. We’ll see about the bit in red – one hopes the committee will be allowed to do more than just create a report that gathers dust on the shelf.
“The Harper Government is facing controversy over its pending budget cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs at a particularly awkward time — as the country prepares for Remembrance Day ceremonies Friday. On Tuesday, federal Liberals announced they’ve gathered nearly 9,000 signatures on a petition protesting cutbacks that will total $226 million. That sum is to be added to another $175 million to $350 million that is to be eliminated as a result of the Conservatives’ strategic review — a government-wide federal austerity process aimed at balancing the federal books in the next few years …. The Harper government should not be fiddling with this sacred trust. Canadians should give this some thought on a week when they’ll be remembering those who have fallen for Canada.”
Remembering (4) Honouring the fallen, 140 characters at a time, courtesy of the Ottawa Citizen.“There is one line from the poem In Flanders Fields that in recent times, above all, commands our attention with its call, from the dead to the living, to remember. “If ye break faith with us who die,” wrote Lt.-Col. John McCrae, “We shall not sleep.” Starting Wednesday and continuing well into the next decade, the Ottawa Citizen will keep this ancient faith through the modern channel of social media. Beginning at 11 minutes after 11 a.m., the Twitter account “@WeAreTheDead” will begin reciting the names of Canada’s war dead, one each hour of every day. A computer algorithm will select at random, each name from an electronic scroll of military dead and post it to Twitter. It will take more than 13 years to tweet all the names, finishing sometime in late June 2025, depending on the number of new entries added to the list ….”
Latest on Grapes and his Honourary RMC (declined with thanks) degree, from QMI/Sun Media:“I was hoping to be able to report today how those Royal Military College faculty members who don’t agree with a French teacher’s protest of Don Cherry’s doctorate had rallied to say she does not speak for them. It did not happen Monday. Same goes for a petition from the 800 officer cadets, indicating they did not agree with their French teacher and that they want Don to attend the Nov. 17 convocation to receive the honorary degree he so richly deserves. This also did not happen Monday ….”
Добро пожаловать на борт! “An imposing display of Russian military might is anchored at Canada Place for the next three days. The Russian missile cruiser Varyag and tanker Irkut, which will be here until Friday, are open for public tours between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. today and Thursday ….”
Royal Military College Academic: Iran strikes might be the CF’s next shooting stint? “Canada may get pulled into military strikes against Iran if it comes to a showdown between western powers and the rogue state. And things could get messy considering a new report from the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog that’s expected to indicate Tehran is on the brink of being able to develop a nuclear warheads, said Houchang Hassan-Yari, an expert in military and strategic issues at the Royal Military College of Canada. “If it gets to a military campaign, I think Canada will participate with the Americans and their allies,” the international relations professor said. “If sanctions are the next avenue, Canada will participate in that.” ….”
What a surprise: the military appears to be planning and weighing how to deal with evacuating Canadians in trouble overseas. “Plucking Canadians out of the world’s hot spots is a growing area of concern and study for military planners, who until a few years ago didn’t have their own tools or the resources to carry out such missions. Internal Defence Department documents obtained by The Canadian Press show that in the aftermath of the Libyan crisis, the Canadian military is examining not only its war-fighting skills, but its newly enhanced ability to quickly organize evacuation and rescue missions. Planners have been quietly taking stock of the world’s flash points and considering how to get military forces into those troubled regions, while at the same time smoothly getting civilians out of harm’s way …. internally at the Defence Department there has been angst about future evacuations, especially in light of expected budget cuts, suggest the documents obtained under Access to Information. Among the most worrisome trouble spots is South Korea, where frequent and increasingly violent outbursts from the hermit kingdom in the North have military planners concerned and looking for guidance. “With over 20,000 Canadian citizens resident in the (Republic of South Korea), in the event of a full-scale crisis (censored) the evacuation efforts required could significantly exceed those of the Lebanon evacuation,” said a Nov. 30, 2010 briefing note prepared for Defence Minister Peter MacKay ….” I’ve asked if CP plans to share the obtained documents online for anyone interested to read – no word back yet.
Canada is taking part in U.S. Northern Command Exercise Operation Vigilant Shield ’12.“The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, as well as the Canadian military, have begun an extensive annual field training exercise for the U.S. Northern Command. “Operation Vigilant Shield 12” is the biggest multi-spectrum, high-level exercise for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command. Northern Command is a Unified Combatant Command of the United States military, formed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 to protect the United States homeland and support local, state, and federal authorities. Operation Vigilant Shield 12, or VS 12, is a joint exercise supported by the Joint Coalition Warfare Center and conducted as a command post exercise with a supporting field training exercise in Key West, FL. The exercise is also linked to a Canada Command exercise called “Determined Dragon,” and runs concurrently with the Arizona’s “Vigilant Guard” exercise. It runs Nov. 1-10 ….” More from the Pentagon Info-Machine here.
Remembrance Day (2) Unambiguously Ambidextrous on Remembrance Day and Canada’s newest vets. “…. There is a new generation of soldiers returning from war, something that has not been seen in Canada in about 50 years, or two generations. That’s not to trivialize Rwanda or Bosnia, but our country hasn’t had to deal with the reality of war dead in a half century and we have not handled their sacrifices very well. In fact, it would be fair to say we have broken faith with the dead, choosing not to carry on their torch and honour their sacrifices by seeing through the mission to success. It was a political decision made to pacify the pacifists created by two generations of peace. Today’s young people know nothing of war, and so their only reaction to it is revulsion ….”
“An audit into Veterans Affairs Canada and how it handles privacy issues will be released in early 2012, Canada’s privacy commissioner said Monday. The news came as a third veteran went public with complaints into the number of times civil servants accessed his file, and how his file was handled at the agency. Sylvain Chartrand, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Bosnia, says his file was accessed more than 4,000 times between 2003 and 2010. HIs complaint is similar to one by Sean Bruyea, another veteran who advocates for veterans’ rights, and whose private medical information was shared with both Liberal and Conservative ministers of veterans affairs. A statement by a spokeswoman for Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says an audit into how Veterans Affairs handles private information is coming soon ….”
“A military veteran on a hunger strike collapsed momentarily during the third day of his protest against the federal government Monday. (Pascal) Lacoste is trying to convince the government to recognize that he and other soldiers were poisoned while serving overseas. The 38-year-old former soldier was leaving a camper lent to him by a friend and heading back to his SUV when he fell to the ground. An ambulance was called as his mother rushed to hold him, clutching him to her chest. Lacoste eventually recovered after taking gasps of air from an oxygen mask. But the exhausted-looking man refused to go to hospital. He decided to continue his hunger strike instead ….”
All of a sudden, Canada’s Liberal Party is keen on helping veterans – more in an online petition here and an e-mail soliciting signatures to said petition here (PDF).
CF looking for more military artists.“The Canadian Forces Artists Program allows Canadian artists the opportunity to record Canada’s soldiers in Canada and around the world. It follows the long-standing tradition of Canadian war artists and is designed to portray today’s Canadian military experience through art while providing artists with a taste of military life. These artists, all volunteers, are helping usher in a new era of Canadian military art …. A new competition is currently being held for the selection of a new group of Canadian artists who wish to participate in the program. Selected artists will be able to participate in a military-related exercise for a period of approximately seven to ten days. This opportunity is designed to springboard their creativity, create works of art depicting military life and to provide memorable military experiences. There is no payment for artists, who in turn are not required to provide works to the program. However, artists may be asked to lend some works for promotional art tours or other uses. Deadline for applications is November 30, 2011 ….”
Canada and Foreign Intelligence (1) “As the Harper government prepares to re-introduce the anti-terrorism measures that were allowed to lapse because of opposition concerns about privacy and Charter rights, there are whispers Conservative plans to expand the role of Canada’s spy service to operate overseas are being dusted off. Currently, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is largely concerned with domestic intelligence and is able to conduct covert operations overseas only if there is a direct threat to Canada. In their 2006 election platform, the Tories promised to overturn this arrangement and set up a separate foreign intelligence service. Once elected, they were persuaded by the bureaucracy that it would be quicker and cheaper to allow CSIS to take on the role ….”
“A Canadian man has been indicted in Seattle for allegedly conspiring to support the Sri Lankan terrorist group the Tamil Tigers nearly six years ago. The single-count indictment against Ramanan Mylvaganam, 34, is the result of a jurisdictional dispute between federal prosecutors in New York City’s Brooklyn borough and Mylvaganam’s attorneys. Mylvaganam is a former Bellevue resident. Brooklyn prosecutors in 2006 had indicted Mylvaganam along with nine others in connection with an alleged plot to pay to import surface-to-air missiles and other military equipment to the Tamil Tigers. The charges also alleged the group was attempting to bribe U.S. officials to have the Tamil Tigers removed from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Mylvaganam’s attorneys had argued that federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York had no jurisdiction over Mylvaganam’s alleged crimes because he was living at the time in Bellevue, according to court papers ….”
David Braun, 1979-2006, R.I.P. This year’s National Silver Cross Mother named: “The mother of a Saskatchewan infantryman killed in Afghanistan in 2006 will be the National Silver (Memorial) Cross Mother, the Royal Canadian Legion has announced. Patty Braun is the mother of Cpl. David Braun, a member of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. While on patrol in Kandahar on Aug. 22, 2006, he was killed in an explosion triggered by a suicide bomber. She lives in Raymore, north of Regina. In her new role, she will lay a wreath at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Remembrance Day on behalf of all mothers who have lost sons or daughters in the military, para-military or RCMP in the service of Canada. Originally from Semans, Mrs. Braun works for the Horizon School Division in the Raymore School ….” More here.
Globe & Mail columnist keeps an eye out for the budget cutting axe at Defence.“This week, for the first time since Stephen Harper took office, there are no Canadian Forces on combat operations overseas. Now, the military is being thrust into the peacetime battle over budgets. But the map of the battlefield is out of date. The government’s 2008 long-term defence strategy still rests on spending budgets which are currently being cut. The strategy needs an update …. soon, before the choices shrink, the government’s going to have to say how it’s going to fit the military it planned for in 2008 into the realities of 2011.”
F-35 Tug o’ War (1a)“The Conservative government’s approval of the multi-billion dollar F-35 plan was held up for over a year by reluctant Industry Canada officials who were angry with the U.S. manufacturer of the stealth fighter, say internal Defence Department documents. Frustrated air force planners said the delay damaged the program and the country’s aerospace industry, which was left hanging while the dispute over a previous purchase played out behind closed doors. Industry Canada blocked the federal cabinet’s “consideration/decision” of a replacement for the country’s aging CF-18s because of “concerns over a C130-J In-Service Support contract issue with Lockheed Martin,” said a May 17, 2010 briefing note prepared for the chief of air staff. The document, obtained under access to information laws by The Canadian Press, was written just weeks before cabinet finally agreed to purchase the F-35. The decision was announced publicly in July 2010 and set off firestorm of criticism that continues to this day ….” Guess what? No indication The Canadian Press is going to share the “obtained” documents.
F-35 Tug o’ War (3) “Staff from the federal auditor general’s office travelled to Texas in September to review progress on the F-35 stealth fighter program for a report that will be released next spring, Postmedia News has learned. The news comes as Australia prepares to ask Canada and other allies to perform a joint study of the program’s delays, and amid concerns from the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester over the speed with which the project is being pushed through safety checks. Officials within the auditor general’s office and Lockheed Martin, the company leading the multi-billion-dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, confirmed the Canadian visit to Fort Worth, but would not say much else. “We do site visits during the normal course of our audits,” said Celine Bissonnette, a spokeswoman at the Office of the Auditor General. “We are planning a report in the spring of 2012, tentatively titled, ‘Replacing Canada’s Fighter Jets.’ However, we regret that we are not able to comment any further on audits in progress until our report has been tabled in the House of Commons.” Bissonnette said the audit’s terms of reference, which outline exactly what is being investigated, will be revealed about a month before the final report is made public. Lockheed Martin spokesperson Kim Testa said the Canadian officials were conducting an “assessment of program progress.” ….”
Editorial on subs for Canada: “…. Eventually Canada will have to decide whether it wants to purchase nuclear subs at $3 billion a copy, or stay with the diesel-electric variety, which have limited capability in the Arctic because of their need to surface to recharge batteries, although new technology has extended their ability to remain submerged for longer periods of time …. Canada should, however, remain committed to the platform, since submarines provide a variety of valuable services, including patrolling the coasts, intercepting smugglers, guarding our economic rights, contributing to scientific research and assisting our allies. With three coasts to defend and worldwide interests to monitor, the submarine is still relevant to Canada’s overall defence requirements.”
“Master Corporal Paul Franklin has become well known across Canada for conquering many challenges, but none as difficult as his passion and purpose in life after losing both legs. Paul was nearing the end of a second tour of duty in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber attacked his convoy. His left leg was gone; the second had to be amputated. That was in January 2006 and three months later, Master Corporal Franklin walked with artificial legs for the first time. On Thursday, Nov. 3rd you can meet Paul Franklin, a Canadian hero, then ask why he supports the Canada-wide Heroes Hockey Challenge series …. Heroes Hockey Challenge™ is a series of national hockey charitable fundraising events to take place in six cities across Canada. The funds raised by Heroes Hockey Challenge will benefit all wounded Canadian soldiers and their families with particular emphasis on amputees. The six Heroes Hockey Challenge events during the winter of 2012 are designed to motivate Canadians to support our heroes ….”
Cuts at Veterans Affairs Canada (2) Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Eve Adams: no benefit cuts are in the works. “The minister could not have been clearer in answering the question about whether or not veterans’ benefits would be cut. The expert witnesses we heard today at committee could not have been clearer on whether or not veterans’ benefits would be cut. So I will add my voice to answer the question for the member for Charlottetown and let me say it very simply and very clearly. There will be no cuts to veterans’ benefits.”
Highway of Heroes coin to be unveiled soon by the Royal Canadian Mint. “Since the start of the Afghanistan war, thousands of Canadians have stood on bridges and lined streets to watch motorcades head west on the Highway of Heroes. The motorcades include hearses carrying the remains of Canada’s war dead. Family members ride in other vehicles. To commemorate those ultimate sacrifices and the groundswell of public tribute, the Royal Canadian Mint has struck a commemorative coin. The mint will unveil the Highways of Heroes silver commemorative coin at a ceremony Monday at Quinte West City Hall in Trenton. The coin was the brainchild of QMI Agency visual journalist Pete Fisher. He’s also the author of the recently released book Highway of Heroes, True Patriot Love ….”
“A Canadian war amputee and Canucks legend Richard Brodeur will come together …. to announce the Heroes Hockey Challenge, a national charity benefiting wounded soldiers and their families. “Remember that these families weren’t drafted into this. These individuals chose to go into it, but it’s much more difficult for their families,” said Master Cpl. Paul Franklin, a double amputee. In January 2006, a convoy Franklin was riding in was hit by a suicide bomber in Kandahar, Afghanistan, severing his left leg. He later underwent 26 surgeries before his right leg was also amputated …. The charity will see galas and charity hockey games in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and Halifax in the early new year. The events will feature auctions, celebrity guests, NHL stars and live entertainment. The games, taking place in each city’s official NHL arena, will pit former NHL greats against Canadian soldiers ….” More on the Heroes Hockey Challenge here (Facebook) and here.
F-35 Tug o’ War (2) Defence Minister takes softball question in the House of Commons on the Joint Strike Fighter. “Ms. Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre, CPC): Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government has made unprecedented investments in Canada’s armed forces. Our commitment to rebuilding their capacity, after a decade or darkness, is ensuring that our brave men and women have the tools they need. The work to supply this equipment is also providing an incredible boost to the Canadian economy. Could the Minister of National Defence please inform the House of recent developments on the economic benefits of the F-35 program? Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, my friend from Winnipeg is right. Our government has committed to provide the air force with the F-35 and has enabled Canadian companies to compete for large-scale contracts to help build the aircraft for the global supply chain. Today, Bristol Aerospace in Winnipeg celebrated the opening of its new advanced composites manufacturing centre, which will house the production lines for parts as well as the assembly of the horizontal tail structure for the F-35. This work at Bristol, we are told, will create 100 new jobs. Our government is proud to stand with Canadians and for the Canadian economy and the Canadian Forces. We wish the opposition would stop fearmongering and support— “
Big Honkin’ Ships Globe & Mail column:“…. the shipbuilding contract broke with a long Canadian tradition, produced a rational, fact-based decision, bullet-proofed the government from any charge of political interference, and gives Canada a chance to build a more streamlined and efficient industry. Hats off to the Harper government.”
If the socialists aren’t happy with the big honkin’ ships and the F-35’s, they MUST be good! “…. The expenditures fit with Canada’s increasingly aggressive military posture in the world. From its combat roles in Afghanistan and Libya to its police/military occupation role in Haiti, Canada is joining the front ranks of imperialist countries that are increasingly turning to military force to advance their economic interests and maintain the unequal and unfair international status quo ….”
The Canadian Forces apparently beat out CBC in Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa. “The Conservative government’s overhaul of the 2011 Canada Day celebrations, which included scrapping plans to honour the CBC’s 75th anniversary, drew ire from the opposition Tuesday. As reported by iPolitics Tuesday morning, Conservative officials drastically changed what the Canadian Heritage department had in mind for the Canada Day show on Parliament Hill. A suggestion to celebrate the CBC was rebuffed, and a renewed emphasis was placed on the Canadian Armed Forces ….” This, from Heritage Minister James Moore during Question Period yesterday: “I think my colleague is talking about my speech on Canada Day last year, which I wrote myself. Instead of celebrating the CBC, which the member is free to do as he wants, what I chose to say instead in my speech was, “On this Canada Day…to those men and women of the Canadian Forces serving in Afghanistan, in Libya, and other difficult places in the world: to put it simply, you are the bravest and the best, we are proud of your service, and we are honoured by the work that you do for Canada”. That is what I said instead of praising the CBC. I had two minutes, and I stand by my decision.”
“George W. Bush’s visit to Surrey, B.C., on Thursday was met with a protest and an unsuccessful courtroom bid to have him detained for torture during his presidency. Roughly 200 demonstrators chanted for his detainment, many waving their shoes in the air, in reference to a 2008 incident at Baghdad press conference, when Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi hurled a sneaker at the former president …. As Bush arrived …. the Canadian Centre for International Justice filed a private prosecution in a Surrey provincial court to have him arrested. Made on behalf of four plaintiffs the unsuccessful attempt joined calls by Amnesty International, as well as a 4,000-page legal submission to Canada’s Attorney General …. He and other members of his administration insist their measures were both legal under international law, and necessary to prevent terrorism after September 11, 2001. In one exchange with demonstrators yesterday, one RCMP officer guarding the Surrey Regional Economic Forum — where Bush was to speak alongside another former U.S. president, Bill Clinton — said the former president could not be arrested because he is an “internationally protected person.” ….”
Honkin’ Big Ship (HBS) contracts awarded:“…. The combat package includes the Royal Canadian Navy’s Arctic Offshore Patrol ships and the Canadian Surface Combatants ships. The non-combat package includes the Navy’s joint support ships, the Canadian Coast Guard’s off-shore science vessels and the new polar icebreaker. Small ship construction (116 vessels), an estimated value of $2 billion, will be set aside for competitive procurement amongst Canadian shipyards other than the yards selected to build large vessels. Regular maintenance and repair, valued at $500 million annually, will be open to all shipyards through normal procurement processes. Irving Shipbuilding Inc. has been selected to build the combat vessel work package (21 vessels), and Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd. has been selected to build the non-combat vessel work package (7 vessels). The total value of both packages is $33 billion and will span 20 to 30 years ….” More in the government backgrounder here.
HBS editorial from the National Post:“…. The Tories are to be congratulated for devising a tamper-proof, corruption-free, unbiased system for awarding such large contracts. We realize that they originally built this process in large part as a means to cover themselves from the political fallout of hard, unpopular contracting decisions. Nevertheless, they are to be congratulated for sticking with it to the end, despite the potentially controversial result in this case ….”
A more “glass is half empty” HBS opinion. “The denouement of the great multi-billion-dollar shipbuilding bonanza has left almost everyone popping Champagne corks —except perhaps Quebec, and the poor, bloody taxpayer who will end up footing the bill for the inevitable cost overruns and delays that will result from the government’s made-in-Canada national strategy ….”
More HBS commentary: “…. It’s almost a no-win situation for the government. Still, the only way to prevent this from becoming the Harper government’s CF-18 moment is for them to hew scrupulously to their technocratic bid process.”
More HBS analysis: “…. Despite efforts taken to eliminate appearances of partisan interference, it continues to swirl around the billions of dollars in contracts. “Whatever the outcome, the decision is likely to unleash a firestorm,” said Christian Leuprecht from the Queen’s University Centre for International and Defence Policy. “There are no obvious pork-barrel political choices here,” he said, noting the ridings around the Halifax shipyard are all NDP, as are those around the Vancouver shipyard — although some of the neighbouring ridings went Conservative — and around the Davie Shipyard in Quebec City. “If you’re trying to prop up Canada’s industrial heartland, Ontario and Quebec, which has been hurting pretty bad economically and where the Conservatives would be likely to get the most political bang for their buck in terms of votes, the core bid would go to the Davie shipyard.” ….”
“Canadian federal officials will participate in an annual crisis management exercise organized by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from October 19 to 26, 2011. Canada’s part in the international exercise will be played from government offices in Ottawa and linked to Canada’s NATO delegation. Crisis Management Exercise 2011 (CMX 11) provides an international forum to test, evaluate and improve coordination, intelligence and information sharing amongst federal departments and agencies with NATO Allies. It will ensure that we work effectively with our international partners to respond to emergencies in Canada or abroad. …. This exercise will involve civilian and military officials from all 28 NATO member nations, NATO Headquarters and NATO Strategic Commands, as well as participants from Sweden and Finland. Lessons learned from the exercise will enhance Canada’s ability to work together with Allies to confront threats of all kinds ….”
Stuart Landridge, R.I.P. (1) “A public hearing into the suicide of Edmonton-based soldier Cpl. Stuart Langridge will start in Ottawa on Feb. 27. Langridge hanged himself in March 2008 following several earlier suicide attempts. The young soldier suffered from severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled with substance abuse after he returned from a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2005. The Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) announced last month that a hearing would be held. The date was set on Wednesday. The hearing comes after Langridge’s parents filed a formal complaint with the commission. Sheila and Shaun Fynes allege the probe conducted by the Canadian Forces National Investigations Service was not impartial or independent, and aimed to absolve the military of any responsibility for their son’s death ….”
Ooopsie….“Some Canadian soldiers are feeling a little unappreciated after home improvement retail giant Lowe’s announced it would pull its discount program it said was offered by mistake – the discount program was only intended for U.S. military members. The U.S.-based company had offered the 10% discount since 2008 to members of the Canadian Armed Forces at four stores – two in Ottawa, one in Kingston, Ont., and one in Belleville, near CFB Trenton. The company said the program was never intended for Canada and just recently realized its error. “I’m not able to get into the specifics of our (Lowe’s) systems and processes, but it (the discount) was a combination of misunderstanding and miscommunication that unfortunately went undetected until now,” Joanne Elson, corporate communications manager with Lowe’s Canada, said Wednesday ….”
More back and forth in the House of Commons on east coast search and rescue.“Mr. Ryan Cleary (St. John’s South—Mount Pearl, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Canada has one of the worst search and rescue response times in the world. A recent incident off Bell Island, Newfoundland showed just how bad it was. After emergency flares were fired in the area, the Coast Guard called in a provincial ferry, full of passengers, to help the search and rescue effort. It then took the Canadian Coast Guard vessel over three hours to arrive on the scene. This is not about a limo service from a fishing lodge; this is about human lives. How long would the minister be prepared to wait in icy water before being rescued? Hon. Keith Ashfield (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows full well that the search and rescue system is made up of a network of potential responders that includes the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard auxiliary, the Canadian Forces and any vessel of opportunity. Any vessel within the vicinity of a search and rescue call can be asked to assist. When the flares are discharged, the CCG will treat it as a matter of distress. If the member would like to be constructive, he would help us to take this message back to the public so that lives are not put at unnecessary risk.”
Tory MP Tilly O’Neill Gordon (Miramichi) salutes women in the CF in the House of Commons. “October is Women’s History Month in Canada. This year’s theme, Women in Canadian Military Forces: A Proud Legacy, highlights the important contributions of women to the Canadian military forces throughout Canada’s history. It is an ideal time to learn about the work of outstanding women who serve and protect Canada and Canadians through key roles in the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force. Women such as Elizabeth Gregory MacGill, the first woman aircraft designer in the world, Josée Kurtz, the first woman to command a warship, and Marie Louise Fish, the first woman to serve as a naval officer at sea, are inspiring leaders. Their milestone achievements helped pave the way for women in the Canadian military. On behalf of all Canadians, we thank them for being an important part of our national military history.”
A Conservative MP presents a nuclear disarmament petition in the House. “Canadians are well aware of the destructive power of nuclear weapons, a power that the world’s worst dictators and terrorists are trying to acquire. I would like to present to the House a petition from the Oakville chapter of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The petition is signed by 330 residents of Oakville. The petitioners ask the government to commit to the motion passed by the House on December 7, 2010, regarding the global disarmament of nuclear weapons. I am happy to present this petition for a response from our government.” The text of the December 2010 motion: “By unanimous consent, it was resolved, — That the House of Commons: (a) recognize the danger posed by the proliferation of nuclear materials and technology to peace and security; (b) endorse the statement, signed by 500 members, officers and companions of the Order of Canada, underlining the importance of addressing the challenge of more intense nuclear proliferation and the progress of and opportunity for nuclear disarmament; (c) endorse the 2008 five-point plan for nuclear disarmament of Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and encourage the Government of Canada to engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention as proposed by the United Nations Secretary-General; (d) support the initiatives for nuclear disarmament of President Obama of the United States of America; and (e) commend the decision of the Government of Canada to participate in the landmark Nuclear Security Summit and encourage the Government of Canada to deploy a major world-wide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of preventing nuclear proliferation and increasing the rate of nuclear disarmament.”
Letter to the editor: let’s not forget the Aboriginal contribution to the War of 1812. “Canadians are unaware of the full import of the role of First Nations and the pivotal role the War of 1812 played in the history of Canada’s treatment of aboriginal peoples. Many historians believe that Britain would have lost the war without the aboriginal military strength. Canada’s very existence depended on First Nations co-operation …. Native leaders like Tecumseh hoped for an alliance with Britain to help prevent the elimination of First Nations at the hands of the U.S. The British proclamation of 1763 had meant recognition and accommodation of aboriginal peoples by Britain. First Nations were military allies against the Americans ….”
“For the sixth year in a row, friends and families of Canadian troops deployed overseas will be able to send their holiday letters and parcels for free via Canada Post. The program, which started in 2006, has delivered close to 90,000 parcels to members of the Canadian Forces serving overseas in war zones. “Serving your country so far from home is particularly difficult during the holiday season,” said Steven Fletcher, Minister of State (Transport). “With the help of Canada Post, this program has enabled us to bring some extra holiday cheer to our men and women serving this country.” …. With capacity limitations on military aircraft carrying supplies to deployed forces, this program is restricted to family and friends of the deployed service men and women serving overseas in war zones. That includes members of the Canadian Forces serving, for example, in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Sudan, Sinai, Jerusalem, etc. Troops serving on any of the deployed Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships are also included in the program ….” More here.
What’s Canada Buying? Defensive electronics for Chinooks. “The Department of National Defence (DND) requires the equipment and support services to install a Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite (DEWS) Laboratory for the Electronic Warfare Operational Support (EWOS) facility. The EWOS facility is located at the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre at the Shirley’s Bay Campus, Ottawa. To provide the necessary operational support for the Medium-to-Heavy Lift Helicopter Project (MHLH), a DEWS laboratory must be established at EWOS ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War More U.S. jitters?“Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told House lawmakers Thursday that he supports the “concept” of a fifth-generation fighter, but he wavered more than any Pentagon official in recent history in questioning whether DoD can afford all three flavors of the F-35 Lightning II. Appearing with Secretary Panetta before the House Armed Services Committee, Dempsey said “I’m concerned about the three variants, whether we can afford all three.” In doing so, the chairman took a dramatically different line from other DoD leaders, saying not ‘We must have the jets and we’ll get their costs down,’ but ‘We need an airplane but we might not be able to buy the ones we’re trying to roll out.’ ….”