Commentary reminder“…. The government is to issue its fall fiscal update at the end of this month. There has been speculation that, because the budget is de facto in balance now, it will include tax cuts – the beginning of the bonanza that is to bring middle-Canadians back into the Tory fold just in time for next fall’s federal election. Forgoing any of that, or slowing the pace of deficit and debt reduction, in favour of renewed spending on “our brave men and women in uniform,” is not something any member of the Conservative caucus will want to consider. One wonders how long they can keep that up, while at the same time sending the Canadian Forces back to war, for an undetermined length of time.”
The Politics – Prelude to a snap election?“…. It takes 36 days to hold a national election. Yes, according to the law it is scheduled to happen only a year from now, but that law has a loophole big enough to flip a CF-18 through. Now, think about how that election might unfold if called now. The election themes to be set by Mr. Harper, if he could make it stick, is “Our troops must know the people back them no matter what the Liberals and New Democrats say! Fight the most deadly and disgusting and dangerous force in the world which has suddenly appeared in Syria and Iraq and must be stopped!” and, “Canada does not leave it for others to do the heavy lifting. That is not the Canadian way.” The days and weeks pass by. The jet fighters are slowly deployed to the Middle East, no casualties yet, a few sorties flown. IS atrocities grow more horrific by the day and their ground troops are not rolled back. The resolve of the allies strengthens ….”
“News coverage of the Arctic has been steadily growing in tandem with the rising importance of the region in recent years. The focus of international politics often tends to revolve around energy security within the context of a global scramble for resources to keep individual countries’ economic growth engines humming. In view of the possibilities of the Arctic as a future abundant natural resources supply base for various pivotal countries, especially in Asia, non-Arctic states such as South Korea, Japan, and China join actual Arctic nations in taking a more active part in contemplating Arctic development and theregion’s future. The Arctic Council accepted India, China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Italy as observers to the Council in May 2013 even though they all lack territory north of the Arctic Circle.This actually constitutes a welcome development because some circumpolar issues – specifically originating from human activities south of the Arctic Circle – are, indeed, transnational in nature such as climate change and marine shipping ….”
South Koreans appear to be hiding in Canada from conscription“An increased number of young male South Koreans have been caught staying overseas illegally in recent years to dodge the country’s mandatory military service, data showed Friday. Over the past five years, a total of 606 male citizens have been accused of staying overseas without any prior reports to the authorities about their failure to get physical checkups for the compulsory duty that all able-bodied men here are required to undertake for about two years …. Around 85 percent of those accused have stayed in the United States, Australia and Canada, and a majority of them were in their late 20s and early 30s, according to the data ….”
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.
A former Canadian envoy to the U.N. warns Canada to think twice about getting stuck in with Iran. “…. Major Canadian interests are potentially at risk, including the integrity of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, respect for international law, the safety of friends and kin in the region, the health of the global economy and the preservation of the public peace at home. Canadians need to engage and come to as common a view as possible on how to protect our interests and project our values in the Middle East before we find ourselves drifting into war. This issue is too important to be left to politicians and politics as usual.”
Private members bill to end CPP clawback of CF, RCMP pensions makes it through First Reading– more on the proposed bill here (where it’s at) and here (what’s in it). Caveat: private members bills rarely become legislation.
Is Canada up to taking custody of a convicted terrorist? “Omar Khadr, the first Canadian convicted of murder, spying, and terrorism and held at Guantanamo Bay, needs another first before he can go home to serve out his sentence in a Canadian prison. Canada must first be certified as a fit place to send a convicted terrorist, a nation not likely to permit him to attack the United States, and one that has control of its prisons. That certification must be delivered to Congress signed by U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta with “the concurrence of” U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton. It’s new, but hardly trivial. It’s a part of the 2011 National Defence Authorization Act, the annual funding legislation for the entire U.S. military that, among other things, outlaws using U.S. taxpayer funds to airlift a Guantanamo detainee to the United States ….”
New book just out on the “Crazy 8’s” in Italy during WW2. “Anybody who’s ever been to Moncton’s Centennial Park has probably noticed the big Sherman tank between the steam engine and the ship’s anchor, but might not know the significance of the word “Coriano” in yellow lettering on the side. The Sherman that has been sitting peacefully at the park since 1972 is a tribute to the men of the 8th Princess Louise’s (New Brunswick) Hussars, one of Canada’s oldest military regiments. Coriano is the name of a little farming village in Italy where the Hussars and their tanks fought a vicious, deadly battle in September of 1944. The story of the New Brunswick tank regiment is told in a new book called Steel Cavalry: The 8th (New Brunswick) Hussars and the Italian Campaign. The book was released just before Remembrance Day. It was written by Lee Windsor, Deputy Director of the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society at the University of New Brunswick and is Volume 18 in the New Brunswick Military Heritage Series published by Goose Lane Editions ….”
What the Minister is quoted saying 4-5 days ago: “Canada is watching violence in Syria but stepping in would require more thought and possibly a UN resolution, Defence Minister Peter MacKay says. MacKay spoke about Syria hours before meeting with Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak to talk about regional security and a series of agreements on defence cooperation between Canada and Israel. As France pulls its ambassador from Damascus, Syria’s capital, and the country’s suspension from the Arab League takes effect, MacKay says any possible military action needs “further contemplation” and possibly a UN Security Council resolution “to mirror the path that we followed with respect to Libya.” “There’s a number of things that would have to happen. It is a much more complex situation in many ways, given the circumstances on the ground in Syria,” MacKay said Wednesday morning. “But I can assure you in our capital and in capitals around the world, NATO countries are discussing what is happening in Syria.” ….”
Brian Good, 1965-2009, R.I.P.“Sandra Good wants to be able to visit a cenotaph in the city to remember her late husband, a fallen soldier. But there is no memorial in Ottawa honouring Trooper Brian Good, who was killed by a roadside bomb outside Kandahar City on Jan. 7, 2009. Good, a member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, serving with the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment stationed at CFB Petawawa, was 43. “It would be quite powerful to see that (cenotaph) in person. For the girls, too,” said Sandra Good, referring to daughters Jessica, 17, and Kayla, 16. “That would be great to have it here. We have friends and family who would like to see it.” ….”
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 ….”
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 ….”
MCPL Byron Greff, 3PPCLI, R.I.P. He’s home – more here. Photos of his ramp ceremony in Afghanistan on Facebook here(thanks to Senior Airman Kat Lynn Justen of the USAF Info-machine).
Afghanistan (1) Meanwhile, the CF Info-machine shares a backgrounder on part of the training mission. “The Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) is the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) flagship training institution. Located on the eastern outskirts of Afghanistan’s capital city, the KMTC can house and train up to 12,000 trainees at a time. Over 60,000 soldiers graduate from courses at the KMTC annually. Two hundred and thirty-five Canadian Forces advisors serve at the KMTC as part of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Thirty-five members have been with the KMTC since mid-June and the remaining 200 recently arrived in October ….”
Afghanistan (2) Canadian ingenuity as we continue to pack up in Kandahar. “The Armour Removal Platoon of the Mission Closure Unit is responsible for removing the armour added to the combat vehicles used by Canadian troops in Kandahar Province and packing it for shipment back to Canada. The process of dismounting the armour from the vehicles is difficult, labour-intensive and inherently dangerous. Because safety had to be our highest priority, it was difficult to achieve any speed on the production line. That was the case until Private Bryan Capiak and Corporal Bradley Van Olm developed a new way to take the heaviest pieces of armour — the four Z bars — off the Light Armoured Vehicle Mk III (LAV III) ….”
Afghanistan (3) Well done. “On October 20th, 2011, Canada’s Acting Head of Mission Philip MacKinnon and Detective Ken Brander, a member of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS), donated 11 Kobo e-readers to a group of female students of the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA). Each e-reader comes with 50 classic books pre-loaded, which will greatly increase the number of books available at the SOLA library and allow young Afghan students to perfect their reading skills. The funds to purchase the e-readers were raised by Detective Brander’s EPS colleagues including a group of dedicated resource officers, local business, friends, and family, on behalf of Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, Alberta ….”
Libya NATO flies its last air mission.“…. a NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft (AWACS) conlcuded the last flight of Operation Unified Protector. With this, a successful chapter in NATO’s history has come to an end. Since the beginning of the NATO operation, NATO air assets conducted over 26,500 sorties, including over 9,700 strike sorties to protect the people of Libya from attack or the threat of attack ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War (1) LOADS o’ questions on the F-35 (transcripts from Hansard here, here, here and here) during Question Period in the House of Commons so far this week.
F-35 Tug o’ War (3) Postmedia News Columnist: “…. Harper has often shown an ability to execute tactical retreats with lightning speed, if he feels he’s lost the high ground. Look for that to happen with the F-35, sooner rather than later, as the economic gloom deepens south of the border.”
Big Honkin’ Ships Duelling academics: “…. Marc Milner, naval history professor at the University of New Brunswick, said the vessels will let the navy cruise the Canada’s Arctic waters later in the fall and earlier in the spring, though winter access will still be the domain of the Coast Guard. The ships also give the navy full year-round access to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. He said that, while the new Arctic patrol vessels fit into the Harper government’s Canada First Defence Policy, which is looking to expand the reach and scope of the country’s military, the ships are not designed for serious combat. “Nobody anticipates getting into a real big dustup in the Arctic,” Milner said. “More effort will be put into their sensor suite and communications equipment than in their weapons.” The Arctic vessels will fulfil a constabulary rather than a combat role, Milner said. The icebreakers will let the navy patrol emerging shipping routes in the melting Arctic ice. The Russian route through the Arctic, from Europe to China, is “pretty much commercialized,” he said, with several ships having passed through this summer escorted by Russian icebreakers. “There’s good reason for us to be up there with a little more presence than we have at the moment,” Milner said. Paul Mitchell, a naval historian with the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., said the Arctic ships will likely have little more than an anti-aircraft Bofors gun on their bows. “Despite the growing interests in the Arctic, the area is well handled by diplomatic efforts,” Mitchell said ….”
Whazzup with Khadr Boy’s return? “The Conservatives are continuing to play coy over whether or not they’ll allow convicted war criminal Omar Khadr return to Canada. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Tuesday he will decide in good time if and when Toronto-born Khadr can return home to finish his sentence for murdering a U.S. Army medic in Afghanistan. “I put the safety of Canadians first,” he said. “A decision will be made on this file, as on all applications, in due course.” The Conservatives were in the firing line from opposition parties, who accuse the Tories of trying to back out of a commitment they made with the U.S. government a year ago to allow Khadr to return to Canada after serving a year of his eight year sentence. “This fellow was arrested when he was 14-years-old and held since then and ought to have the benefit of Canadian laws,” said NDP justice critic Jack Harris ….” More from Question Period on Khadr here, from QMI/Sun Media here and from Agence France-Presse here.
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.” ….”
Libya Mission (2) PM Harper on Libya’s opposition claiming “liberation”:“Today, Canadians join with the Libyan people in celebrating the liberation of their country. “The Libyan people have courageously risen up against decades of tyranny. Canada’s involvement, as sanctioned by the United Nations and led by NATO, has supported their aspirations for the future. “We join Libyans in welcoming the post-Gaddafi era and the transition of the country to a democratic society – one that respects human rights and the rule of law ….”
Libya Mission (3) Meanwhile, on that respecting human rights and rule of law thing…. “…. An official who opened the ceremony at Freedom Square in Benghazi said, “We declare to the whole world that we have liberated our beloved country, with its cities, villages, hill-tops, mountains, deserts and skies.” …. Another formal declaration was made by NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who saluted all the martyrs who died in search of this day. He also thanked the Arab League, the UN and the EU. During his speech, delivered to tens of thousands in festival mood, he said that Islamic law, including polygamy, would be upheld in Libya. “We as a Muslim nation have taken Islamic sharia as the source of legislation, therefore any law that contradicts the principles of Islam is legally nullified,” he said, according to Reuters Africa. He called on Libyans to follow the law and not to use force anymore. He asked for tolerance and patience from people as they enter a new era ….”
Libya Mission (4) “The day of reckoning for Moammar Gadhafi — what would be the last day of his life — was in the mission commander’s crosshairs. Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard could have watched, in real time, as the deposed dictator was run to ground in a sewer, yanked bloody but alive from his hidey-hole, and set upon by revolutionary fighters. It was the bloody climax to a long, often second-guessed, campaign. Yet the Operation Unified Protector boss from Chicoutimi took his eyes off the drama, visible to him by sophisticated surveillance technology …. “Was I watching? No, I wasn’t. If I had, then I’m not looking at the whole country,’’ Bouchard told the Star by telephone Sunday from his NATO headquarters in Naples. “The death of Gadhafi was not something that I had included in my strategic planning. To be honest, I was surprised that he was still in Sirte. I thought he was probably somewhere in the southern Libyan desert.’’ ….” More on this here.
F-35 Tug o’ War “Canada’s new multibillion-dollar stealth fighters are expected to arrive without the built-in capacity to communicate from the country’s most northerly regions — a gap the air force is trying to close. A series of briefings given to the country’s top air force commander last year expressed concern that the F-35’s radio and satellite communications gear may not be as capable as that of the current CF-18s, which recently went through an extensive modernization. Military aircraft operating in the high Arctic rely almost exclusively on satellite communications, where a pilot’s signal is beamed into space and bounced back down to a ground station. The F-35 Lightning will eventually have the ability to communicate with satellites, but the software will not be available in the initial production run, said a senior Lockheed Martin official, who spoke on background. It is expected to be added to the aircraft when production reaches its fourth phase in 2019, but that is not guaranteed because research is still underway. “That hasn’t all been nailed down yet,” said the official. “As you can imagine there are a lot of science projects going on, exploring what is the best . . . capability, what satellites will be available.” ….”
German POW internal justice while interred in Canada. “The order filtered down in the summer of 1944: Karl Lehmann was a traitor who had to die. Like other prisoner of war camps in Canada, Medicine Hat, Alta. camp No. 132 had its own internal police force, its own hierarchies and government, its own systems of discipline. Though the camp was guarded on the outside by Canadian soldiers, daily life inside the wire was entirely dictated by the German inmates themselves. After an attempt was made on Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s life that July at his field headquarters in East Prussia, rumours circulated that a revolutionary movement was planning to take over the Medicine Hat camp by force. Canada’s highest-ranking prisoner of war decreed from Ontario that anyone suspected of traitorous activities against the German army was to be identified and killed in a way that looked like a suicide. One of those suspected traitors was Karl Lehmann ….”
Theatre review: “Billy Bishop Goes to War is a 100 percent, pure maple leaf saga. It is the colourful and sometimes controversial story of how an unlikely young man from Owen Sound, Ontario, became Canada’s most famed First World War flying ace after flunking out of Royal Military College of Canada for cheating. The Toronto City Airport on Toronto Island is now named for him ….”
What’s Canada (Not) Buying? An answer from DND regarding the cancellation of the process to replace the Canadian Ranger Rifle and General Service Pistol: the process apparently needs more work.“The DND Small Arms Modernization (SAM) Project Management Office (PMO) requested that Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) cancel both the (General Service Pistol) and the (New Canadian Ranger Rifle) Price and Availability (P&A) requests on MERX as a result of questions, and requests for clarification, from industry. The feedback from industry brought the DND SAM PMO to re-evaluate its procurement strategy. The DND SAM PMO is now focusing efforts on clarifying the procurement strategy for the GSP and NCRR with the intent to facilitate future communication with industry. The comments and observations received from industry in response to the P&A requests will be considered when the final requirements are written. The replacement of the GSP and NCRR remain a priority for DND. The next step of the project will be to obtain Preliminary Project Approval (PPA). No additional solicitations will be posted on MERX until after PPA is obtained and an approved procurement strategy is in place ….” Full response (2 page PDF) here – you read it here first!
Afghanistan Medical trainers among the training teams.“Operation ATTENTION began in April 2011 with the arrival in the Kabul area of the first of some 950 Canadian Forces members who will deploy with the Canadian Contingent Training Mission–Afghanistan, Canada’s contribution to the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan. Their mission is to work with the training cadre of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to build a force capable of meeting Afghanistan’s security needs after 2014. In July 2011, a group of Canadian Forces health-care providers deployed on Op ATTENTION with a Training Development Officer to serve as advisor-mentors to their Afghan counterparts at the Armed Forces Academy of Medical Sciences (AFAMS) in Kabul ….”
CBC sends reporter to see what’s happening in Jamaica with Operation Jaguar.“For over four decades, Canada trained the helicopter pilots and mechanics of the Jamaica Defence Force. But last year, Jamaica decided to bring home the training and do all the work itself. However, its mechanics couldn’t keep up with the demand and after a while the Jamaicans found themselves in the very uncomfortable position of not having enough working helicopters, meaning no way to conduct high-stakes rescues and medical evacuations. With a very bad hurricane season predicted, officials there were worried. So they called up Canada and asked if we could send down some of our world-class search and rescue crews. Canada agreed and, in mid-August, sent along three Griffon helicopters and 65 Canadian Forces personnel — only the second time in history that Canada’s search and rescue teams have been deployed in another country ….” CBC coverage of Canada’s training mission in Afghanistan? Not so much lately….
Here’s something to be careful about with the impending “perimeter security” deal between Canada and the U.S. “…. If the new $1-billion perimeter security deal, dubbed Beyond the Border, is an example of big-picture thinking, then its reception may have got fuzzy for many Canadians. Proponents have praised the deal’s measures to reduce cross-border red tape, expand border infrastructure and generally speed up bilateral trade. However, other U.S. actions, such as musings about possibly levying new tariffs on rail cargo from Canadian ports or passing legislation saddling non-U.S. banks with costs associated with new tax reporting requirements for non-resident U.S. citizens, have raised fears our largest trading partner is increasingly retreating behind protectionist and isolationist walls ….”
A bit of government money ($39,980) for an exhibit about a Canadian General.“The Museum Strathroy-Caradoc will be able to share the story of General Sir Arthur Currie with Canadians, thanks to an investment from the Government of Canada. This was announced today by Bev Shipley, Member of Parliament (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex), on behalf of the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. The Museum will create, present, and circulate a travelling exhibition about the life and career of Strathroy native General Sir Arthur Currie. This project will trace Currie’s journey to become Canada’s top military leader during World War I and the first Canadian to attain the rank of full general ….”