Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight

Posts Tagged ‘Minister of Veterans Affairs News Highlights – 19 Oct 11

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  • What’s Canada Buying?  Big Honkin’ Ship contract announcement creeping closer.  Shipbuilders across the country will find out (today) who will share $35 billion to revitalize the navy and coast guard over the next 30 years. Two massive contracts are up for grabs: $25 billion to build 15 military vessels, such as destroyers, frigates and offshore and Arctic patrol vessels; as well as $8 billion to build non-combat ships, including scientific vessels for the coast guard and a new Arctic icebreaker. The announcement is expected (today) at 4 p.m. ET. Halifax’s Irving Shipbuilding and Vancouver’s Seaspan Marine Corp. are bidding on both, while Quebec’s Davie Shipyard is bidding on the $8-billion contract. Davie, which had been idle and on the brink of bankruptcy, put together a last-minute bid with Ontario’s Upper Lakes Group, international giant SNC-Lavalin and Korea’s Daewoo ….”  More on the wait here, here, here, here, here and here.
  • Honkin’ big exercise coming to CFB Wainwright. “CFB Wainwright is partaking in a historical exercise this month at the base’s Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre as part of a progressive shift to prepare troops for any battle they may face in the near or distant future. The Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre in Wainwright officially opened in 2004 with only 30 permanent staff. In 2006 the CMTC held its first large-scale military exercise and since then has grown to incorporate more challenging exercises and learning methods. Enter MAPLE RESOLVE. On Oct. 11 CFB Wainwright held a media day to showcase CMTC’s latest exercise called MAPLE RESOLVE 1101 (MR 1101), a month-long exercise running from Oct. 1 to 28. During the exercise CFB Wainwright will be hosting about 4,000 soldiers from Canada, the United States and The United Kingdom and more than 900 military vehicles and other assets such as Air Force support, making this the largest exercise in CMTC’s history ….”
  • Members of the Order of Military Merit are now eligible to preside at citizenship ceremonies, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced (Tuesday) …. Although citizenship judges preside at most citizenship ceremonies, occasions arise where they are not available. On such occasions, recipients of the Order of Military Merit may be invited to preside at a ceremony. This is an honorary role, in which the volunteer ceremony presiding official speaks to new citizens about the responsibilities and privileges of Canadian citizenship, administers the Oath of Citizenship and presents a citizenship certificate to each new Canadian ….”  More on this here.
  • What’s the Veterans Affairs Minister have to say when asked in the House of Commons about $226M being cut from the budget?  “…. on the contrary, we are investing in our veterans. With the new veterans charter, we are investing an additional $189 million for our veterans. However, there is a reality we must all face in the House and that is that our Korean War and World War II veterans are aging and, unfortunately, will be passing away in greater numbers over the coming decades. I invite the hon. member to support this government’s initiatives. She can support our “Helmets to Hardhats” initiative to encourage our soldiers ….”
  • Remember this story, with no shared documentation?  “The Canadian military is keeping a watch on aboriginal groups through an intelligence unit that is meant to protect the Forces and the Department of National Defence from espionage, terrorists and saboteurs. The Canadian Forces’ National Counter-Intelligence Unit assembled at least eight reports on the activities of native organizations between January, 2010, and July, 2011, according to records released under access to information law ….”  Since the Globe & Mail doesn’t appear to want to share, I will – documents in question downloadable (21 page PDF) here – you’re welcome.
  • Head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Alan Bersin:  it doesn’t HAVE to be “increased security” VERSUS “harder trade”“On the eve of a perimeter security deal between Ottawa and Washington, the top U.S. customs official is championing the idea of a “thinner” border for low-risk traffic as he seeks to reassure Canadians he understands what they want from the controversial agreement. Alan Bersin, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says he wants to make it easier for legitimate travellers and cargo to enter the United States so both countries can focus on high-risk traffic instead …. “The message I hope to be helping spread during this trip is that the old dichotomy between the promotion of trade and heightening of security … is a false choice,” he said ….”
  • Barnett “Barney” Danson, 1921-2011, R.I.P.  Barney Danson’s life was forged on the battlefields of Normandy, where he was wounded, lost his three best friends and the sight in one eye, and found himself as a person. Danson, who died Monday in Toronto, returned from the Second World War to found a successful business and an equally successful political career that saw him become defence minister. He went on to win many awards, help build the Canadian War Museum and be named a companion of Order of Canada. But it was his experiences at war with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, where he rose to lieutenant from ordinary rifleman, that had the greatest impact on him. “Many of the things from my military experience were invaluable in shaping the rest of my life,” he said in a 2002 interview. “Certainly it was a great motivating factor in getting into politics in the first place.” ….”
Advertisements News Highlights – 31 Aug 11

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  • Libya Mission (1)  Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is leaving open the possibility of continuing Canadian military involvement in Libya after the scheduled Sept. 27 end date. Canada’s participation in NATO’s air mission over Libya has been extended once, but the government hasn’t yet said whether it will propose another extension. The NDP, the official Opposition, is against another extension. Asked what happens after Sept. 27, Baird said he’s taking the situation one day at a time. “This is quickly coming to an end. It’s not over yet. Canada will obviously be there in theatre to support the Libyan people,” Baird told (CBC) …. “The end is in sight. We’re not there yet, but let’s take it one day at a time,” he said. Pressed again on whether the troops will return to Canada on Sept. 27, Baird reiterated “the job is not yet complete.” “I would think that once the people of Libya are safe, that’ll be something that we’ll consider,” he said ….”  More on this here.
  • Libya Mission (2)  “Canada is heading into high-level talks on Libya this week without formal offers of assistance for the country as it rebuilds after a bloody uprising. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief spokesman says the intent of the meeting in Paris is to determine what the rebels’ National Transitional Council needs. Dimitri Soudas says Canada can contribute in several ways but the international community first needs to co-ordinate assistance. “Before you just start putting things into force and implementing them, you actually have to make sure everyone is going the same direction,” he said in a briefing Tuesday. Mr. Soudas said Thursday’s meeting is also not a victory lap for NATO forces, even as military officials say their sustained campaign is seeing life slowly return to normal in many areas. “The definition of victory is always something that people try to establish,” he said. “Victory to a large extent is democracy in Libya.” ….”  If the Government of Canada really means that bit in red, we may be there a while….
  • Libya Mission (3)  Academic:  Canada should have own eyes, ears on the ground, not just sharing intelligence from NATO partners“…. When asked where Canada is getting its information, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, referenced the NATO-led mission in which Canadian fighter aircraft and a navy frigate have been participating since March. “Don’t forget this is a co-ordinated effort,” he said, “and information is shared internally.” Walter Dorn, a professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., said he was surprised to hear that Canada doesn’t have anyone on the ground in Libya given the importance the government has attached to the mission, both militarily and politically. “It is critical to have Canadian eyes and ears on the ground in order to make informed decisions,” he said. “We have to evaluate those in charge, provide humanitarian assistance and help build the peace.” ….”
  • Libya Mission (4)  “Canada is looking at how to “unfreeze” up to $2 billion in frozen Libyan assets for re-construction efforts in Libya, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s spokesman Dimitri Soudas. The assets were frozen in February following a United Nations sanctions resolution and now Ottawa, following the lead of the United States, is trying to determine whether the money can be released and channelled toward “humanitarian and other needs” to help establish a transition to a democratic government in Libya. Ottawa is “looking at options at how to proceed to unfreeze those assets and for them to be put towards that use,” said Soudas ….”
  • Libya Mission (5)  And for all those calling for a U.N. mission in Libya, this, from the rebels“Libya is rejecting the idea of deploying United Nations military personnel to help stabilize the country. A 10-page document written by the UN Secretary General’s special adviser on Libya that was leaked and published online recently calls for the deployment of 200 unarmed UN military observers and 190 UN police to help stabilize the country …. that could include monitoring or mentoring police officers. Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the chairman of the transitional council, said Tuesday he had met a day earlier with NATO officials in Qatar, where it was decided that no foreign soldiers would be needed in Libya. “We decided that we do not need any forces to maintain security, be it international, Muslim or other,” he said ….”
  • The CF’s Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) is getting a new boss tomorrow.
  • Way Up North (1)  Lookit what the South Koreans are up to (hat tip to Mark Collins for sharing this one)  Commercial ships able to route through the Northwest Passage without ice breaker assistance are a step closer to becoming a reality. Korean shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), announced a few days ago that a model of their 190,000 dwt iron ore bulk carrier had finished its test program in the world’s largest – 90 meters long – ice test tank at Canada’s Institute for Ocean Technology (IOT). With an awareness that the traditional ice-breaker bow construction (where the mass of the ship’s bow structure bears down to break up pack ice) acts as a drag on efficient progress in open waters, international collaboration between IOT and Korean researchers from Pusan National University aimed at finding the optimal bow design for a ship operating in various ice conditions. Numerical computer analysis by the team culminated in manoeuvring and resistance performance tests of the model bulk carrier in the special ice-test tank ….”
  • Way Up North (2)  One academic’s view, post-Nanook 2011“…. one could argue that the senior military leadership views the Arctic (especially in a post-Afghanistan milieu) as a means of further justifying its reason for being. Stated differently, it gives them a mission priority that has the firm backing of the Conservative government in Ottawa. This is critical because it allows the military to make the case to political masters that the defence budget should be insulated from any deep cuts in the rush to balance the books …. It would be better for the military to wrap itself in an Arctic mission (and to secure the requisite procurement) rather than have the Coast Guard squeeze out more money for sovereignty patrols, scientific investigation and a polar-class icebreaker. In short, the Canadian military is perfectly content to play around in the Arctic just as long as the money taps stay open and they can use their training there for other “hot spots” around the world. And if this is the case, you can look for the Canadian Forces to deepen its military footprint in the Arctic.”
  • NATO’s mission boss in Kosovo:  we’re not ready to cut back troops just yet because of violence here.  Canada has five troops there with Operation KOBOLD – stay safe, folks.
  • Afghanistan (1)  Federal Court of Canada to Amir Attaran seeking pictures of detainees:  no photos for YOU! (via
  • Afghanistan (2a)  Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing shuts down (via CEFCOM Info-Machine  news release, 18 Aug 11)
  • Afghanistan (2b)  Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing shuts down (via CEFCOM Info-Machine feature story, 30 Aug 11)
  • Afghanistan (3)  QMI/Sun Media editorial“If there was a truly down moment during Jack Layton’s funeral on Saturday, it was Stephen Lewis praising Layton for wanting to negotiate with the Taliban. And, worst of all, this venture into the absurd got a generous and lasting applause. Can you imagine anyone but the elite left giving a generous and lasting applause to something so offensive and so wrong-headed? Yet, they lapped up the Orange Crush like it was cultist Kool-Aid. How sad is that knowing those same Taliban that Lewis and Layton think would give credence to a negotiated end to their terror have taken the lives of more than 150 of our Canadian soldiers, plus a diplomat, plus a Canadian journalist? And that’s not counting the hell and death they have brought down on the Afghan people. But everybody Rise Up! Rise Up! ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  I screwed up, missing this film from the CF Info-Machine:  “…. You don’t have to wait for a telling, warts-and-all documentary made about one Canadian military experience in Kandahar. Desert Lions: Canadian Forces Mentors in Kandahar is a great piece of reporting and surprise, it’s a Canadian army production. A reservist with the Calgary Highlanders regiment and a former CBC television reporter, Mike Vernon spent several weeks in 2010 shooting footage and collecting stories in the volatile Panjwaii district of Kandahar. This was a hairy time for the Canadian Forces, especially in Nakhonay, the small, Taliban-infested village where Mr. Vernon found himself encamped with nine members of an Operational Mentor Liason Team (OMLT), reservists like himself, assigned to a complex and dangerous mission: To hold Nakhonay while helping “enable” a company of Afghan soldiers, some of them good, some of them awful. All of the men struggled with cultural barriers and stupid military politics, inside a deadly combat environment where the enemy was always present but seldom seen. Scary ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  Vendors aiming to sell the CF a quiet electric snowmobile have a bit more time to send in their bids (via
  • What’s Canada Buying (2)  Wanted:  someone to build a cold storage building in Petawawa.
  • Royalizing the CF  Survey says…. “According to (Harris Decima) Senior Vice-President Doug Anderson “By and large, Canadians agree with reverting to the traditional names for Canada’s Navy and Air Force and only one in ten are strongly opposed to the change. As might have been predicted based on historical evidence, Quebec residents find the lowest level of agreement on this point, but even there, opinion is fairly evenly split.” ….”  More from The Canadian Press here.
  • Ministers responsible for Veterans Affairs and senior officials from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Germany, Denmark, France and the Netherlands today completed two days of meetings to discuss support for Veterans. Ministers emphasized the need for collaborative research, policy development and programs for Veterans. The meetings were hosted in Ottawa by the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs …. The following statement was released by the Summit participants at the conclusion of the meetings: Honouring and providing services to Veterans is a shared goal around the world. All of our governments have programs in place to meet the needs of those transitioning from military to civilian life. Research is playing a growing part in allowing us to better understand the transition experience. By agreeing to collaborate more closely on common research projects, we will be able to develop improved ways of supporting Veterans throughout their lives ….”
  • Border Security:  Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird releases two reports on consultation results with Canadians – one here, the other here.  Media coverage:  folks seem to worry about privacy, information sharing/civil liberties (more on that here) and sovereignty (more on that here), while business wants a more open border.
  • Vancouver PD to public:  recognize any of these rioters?  Vancouver police have already received more than 50 tips after launching a website Tuesday aimed at identifying participants in the June 15 Stanley Cup riot. So far, police have posted photos of 40 suspected rioters, and scores more are expected to be added to the site over the coming weeks. Police Chief Jim Chu said Tuesday that the riot investigation was proceeding carefully to ensure suspects could be charged with participating in a riot, rather than lesser crimes such as looting or mischief. “We’re not pulling our punches. We’re going for the most serious charges we can give,” said Chu. The first 40 suspects posted to the Riot 2011 website were randomly selected from a group of some 200 unidentified people police are investigating ….” News Highlights – 9 Nov 10

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  • Belatedly on my part, here’s the Veterans Affairs Minister’s response to all the protests calling for better treatment of wounded veterans here“…. I have listened closely to the concerns of the Veterans who gathered today. They can rest assured that we are working hard each and every day to make sure we are meeting their needs. Other improvements are in the works, notably concerning wait times and bureaucratic red tape ….”
  • According to the National Post, Denmark seems to be the latest to ask Canada “Please Don’t Go” from Afghanistan (not to mention a “stealth diplomatic charm offensive” allegedly being waged by the U.S., U.K. and NATO, according to the Canadian Press).  Terry Glavin at his Transmontanus blog, opines on, among other things, the PM’s position on the post-2011 mission and the potential for a flip flop:  “Prime Minister Harper has committed no flip from which to flop. He has kept shtum, like some sort of pensive emir, and he’s been allowed to get away with it. For more than a year.” Well, not COMPLETELY shtum – more from the PM here from January of this year“…. the bottom line is that the military mission will end in 2011. There will be a phased withdrawal, beginning in the middle of the year. We hope to have that concluded by the end of that year. As you know the Obama administration, not coincidentally, is talking about beginning its withdrawal in 2011, at the same time we are. We will continue to maintain humanitarian and development missions, as well as important diplomatic activity in Afghanistan. But we will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy ….” The latest, according to, from PMO spokesperson Dmitri Soudas:  “After 2011, the government is considering the three following options: aid, development, and training in a non-combat role” Quite the change from the PM’s words in January, eh?  Meanwhile, more unnamed sources are telling CBC News that up to 1,000 Canadian troops could be left in Kabul to help train Afghan soldiers and cops – if the sources are to be believed, quite the embassy guard, indeed.  It’ll be interesting to hear how it’s sold if the training option gets picked.
  • Speaking of “Do we stay or do we go?”, CBC has an online poll to gauge public opinion here. So far, as of this post, loads more saying “go” than “stay”.  As for other opinions, at least one engineer sergeant who spoke to the National Post says the troops would be up for another go in Afghanistan, especially behind the wire.
  • According to the Toronto Star: The outgoing veterans ombudsman is prepared to launch a class-action lawsuit against the government over a claims process he says is wrongly denying disability benefits. Pat Stogran, who steps down from the position Wednesday, told the Star he has been approached by a private law firm about pursuing legal action over decisions made by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board regarding disability benefits ….”
  • Blog Watch (1): “Ex-journalist, ex-PR guy, and ex-Afghan military advisor”, Bruce Ralston, shares some insights about a recent article on the fight in Kandahar, and how all the money available to hire Afghans to help fight the fight may, in the long run, be making things worse.
  • Blog Watch (2):  Should Omar Khadr be charged with high treason?
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: More Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces.