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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 9 Apr 11

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  • Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, Royal 22e Régiment, R.I.P. Family and friends packed a chapel at CFB Valcartier on Friday to bid farewell to Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, remembering Canada’s most recent combat casualty as a natural leader who embraced life to the fullest. Scherrer died on March 27 when he was killed by an improvised explosive device near the village of Nakhonay, southwest of Kandahar city. Capt. Monique Roumy, the chaplain who conducted the service, said Scherrer had taken on a career that is not always easy. “Our people in uniform are sometimes misunderstood, stereotyped and judged for what they are and what they represent,” she said. “Despite the looks and the unflattering remarks they get, a soldier marches straight and does what he or she must do because it is not just a job — it’s a vocation.” ….”
  • Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, “A dreary makeshift military outpost at the extreme western edge of the Horn of Panjwaii is literally the end of the road for a mammoth, 18-kilometre long, $10-million Canadian-led construction project. When the last three kilometres are completed later this month, the road — which NATO forces call Route Hyena and Canadian Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner calls “a dagger through the heart of the Taliban” — should benefit generations of hardscrabble farmers in what is arguably the poorest corner of one of the poorest countries on earth. Until a few months ago the Taliban freely roamed the Horn, protected from ground attack by hundreds of improvised explosive devices. As elsewhere, they terrified the local population, threatening to kill them if they did not co-operate ….”
  • Remember the possible deal for Canada to buy torpedo conversion kits from the U.S. (5th item) Here’s the latest version from The Canadian Press“Canada’s navy is waiting to hear back from the U.S. regarding the purchase of $125 million worth of torpedo refit kits so it can properly arm its four Victoria-class submarines. At the moment, none of the British-built diesel boats is capable of firing the navy’s current stock of MK 48 torpedoes. Any sale of American made military equipment to a foreign government must be approved by Congress. “The Canadian government submitted a letter of request for these things,” said Paul Ebner of the Defence Security Co-operation Agency, the office in Washington that oversees the clearance of such sales. “We’ve notified Congress and if there’s no objections over the 30-day review period we put together a letter of acceptance.” In a release issued March 23, the agency backs the sale on national security grounds, saying it will improve the security of a NATO ally that “continues to be a key democratic partner of the United States in ensuring peace and stability.” ….”
  • CBC’s angle on the torpedo conversion (without an identified, or even described, source):  they’ll need more converting to be used in Canada’s subs. Canada’s navy plans to spend about $120 million to upgrade 36 torpedoes, but they still won’t work in its four submarines without further refits, CBC News has learned. The navy has MK-48 American torpedoes in stock, but the four British-built submarines aren’t capable of firing them. Even after the weapons are converted, Canada would still have to spend millions more to refit the submarines to fire them. Defence Minister Peter MacKay confirmed the plans on Friday but said no decision had been made about the procurement. “Of course I know about it,” MacKay said during a campaign stop with Conservative MP Gerald Keddy in Bridgewater, N.S. “There’s absolutely no decision taken at this point. The Department of National Defence is continuously looking at different procurements whether it be munitions, whether it be new equipment.” ….”
  • Election 2011 (x) – All the federal party leaders were criticized Friday by Ret. Gen. Rick Hillier, perhaps Canada’s best known soldier, for avoiding a serious debate during their election campaigns about Canada’s role in the Libyan conflict. In an interview on the CBC radio show The Current, Hillier, the outspoken former Chief of Defence Staff, routinely said he was “puzzled” over the relative silence from the campaign buses as Canadian involvement in Libya enters its third week. “What is puzzling to me, personally, is that we’ve had really no discussion in our country whatsoever about this,” Hillier said. “It hasn’t come up during the election campaign whatsoever. And again, here we are at war. We’ve been doing this in Afghanistan — we’ve had immense discussion — huge amounts of discussion, on the mission in Afghanistan, including parliamentary debates. “Here in Canada, right now, it’s actually silent on what is happening in Libya.” ….”
  • Election 2011 (1) – Greens on defence: “…. the Canadian military should stay in Afghanistan, but only under a United Nations peacekeeping mission. Canada would assist Afghanistan’s domestic affairs, including poverty, economic development, amplifying the nation’s government and public institutions and help develop the military and police force ….”
  • Election 2011 (2) – NDP promises ships over jets: “Jack Layton says the NDP would prioritize investment in naval ships over new fighter jets as part of a broader plan to refocus Canada’s defence policy. “Instead of focusing on F-35 fighter jets, I’ll get the job done when it comes to building joint support ships for our naval forces,” he said Friday from Esquimalt, B.C. The NDP would also commit to developing a white paper to chart the future course of defence needs within 12 months of taking office, Layton said, noting that Canada hasn’t issued a white paper on defence since 1994 ….” More from Postmedia News here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he has it in writing that Canada will be exempted from the staggering development cost increases associated with the F-35 stealth fighter. He lamented Friday that the ultra-high-tech jets and their enormous price tag had become a political football in the race toward the May 2 election. “You have to understand that in terms of the F-35 costs, we’ve been very detailed with those to the Canadian public,” Harper said after releasing the Conservative platform in Mississauga, Ont. “A lot of the developmental costs you’re reading in the United States, the contract we’ve signed shelters us from any increase in those kinds of costs. We’re very confident of our cost estimates and we have built in some latitude, some contingency in any case. So we are very confident we are within those measures.” …. “
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)“…. (Critics) claim Canada should wait, that the F-35s are the last of a dying breed – warplanes with pilots – and that it makes sense to hold out a decade or two for the dawn of unmanned, remote-controlled bombers and fighters. But the risks of opting out include no longer being considered a first-rank ally and missing out on cutting edge technology. The inner circle of U.S.-led weapons systems is also an exclusive and perhaps too valuable a club to spurn – even if the F-35 is the last of its kind ….”
  • Ah, those wacky funster Khadr kids…. Ontario’s highest court on Friday reserved its decision on whether it should extradite Abdullah Khadr to the U.S. to face a terrorism-related charge. The three-justice panel at the Ontario Court of Appeal heard arguments from the federal government that a Superior court justice erred by cancelling the extradition and releasing Khadr last August. The main basis of their argument was that the judge had no jurisdiction and did not properly balance the benefits of Khadr’s release with the seriousness of the charge he faces. Khadr’s lawyers, Nathan Whitling and Dennis Edney, countered the judge didn’t need to be taken into consideration because of the “egregious abuse” Khadr was subjected to in Pakistan at the behest of U.S. Authorities ….”
  • Among the 492 Tamil migrants who arrived in Canada aboard the MV Sun Sea last August were 12 crew members who played an “integral” role in helping to execute the large and sophisticated smuggling operation, the Immigration and Refugee Board was told Thursday. The allegation was made at an admissibility hearing for one of the crew members, a man who cooked on the ship and manned the diesel engine room and received free passage from a key smuggling agent in return for that work, the board was told. The Canada Border Services Agency is seeking to have the man — whose brother, who was also on the ship, is alleged to be a key organizer of the operation — deported on the grounds that he engaged in a transnational crime, namely people-smuggling ….”
  • Ooopsie (continued) …. To his neighbours, Aaron Lacey is a bit of a loner, a quiet guy who likes to keep to himself. But to Niagara police, the self-taught artist from Beamsville is allegedly deceitful and aggressive in his pursuit of information from a senior Canadian Forces official. Lacey, 38, was arrested March 30 and charged with five counts of impersonating a military officer and criminally harassing the senior military official. He was also booked on 10 counts of breach of recognizance relating to charges from last August, including attempted fraud, forgery and an additional count of impersonation. Cumulatively, he faces 29 charges. His bail hearing got under way Monday and will continue Friday in a St. Catharines courtroom ….”
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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 6 Apr 11

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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 11 Mar 11

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  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  Parliament’s Budget Office (PBO):  Our estimates (based on production price per pound of plane and a longer service timeline – 30 years vs. the CF’s 20 years) show the F-35 will cost more than the Canadian government is saying now. (1.1 MB PDF, 65 pg).  The executive summary is downloadable here via Army.ca.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) Both the Liberals and the NDP started poking the government almost immediately during Question Period in the House of Commons on this one yesterday.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3) MSM are full of stories on this one as well this from the Canadian Press, this from the Toronto Star, this from the National Post/Postmedia News, this from CTV.ca, and this from Reuters.
  • Mideast Unpleasantness (1)Canada is defending the effectiveness of sanctions against Libya, despite their apparent failure after Moammar Gadhafi’s troops managed to drive rebel forces out of a key oil port. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Thursday that he thinks sanctions against Libya are working, but more are needed. He said all options for Libya remain on the table as he and fellow G8 foreign ministers prepare to meet in France early next week for talks on the crisis. “I think the sanctions regime is working. Obviously it has its merits and its objectives. There needs to be more, I believe. That is why we’re still examining the options.” Cannon rejected a suggestion that sanctions are failing because Gadhafi is still holding power and reclaiming rebel-held territory ….”
  • Mideast Unpleasantness (2) Retired General Lew Mackenzie with a reminder that a no-fly zone could morph into more than JUST a no-fly zone in Libya. “…. once you decide to militarily intervene in another country’s civil conflict, you have to be prepared to escalate even if it’s the wrong thing to do, because quitting your commitment when the initial plan fails is just not on …. Col. Gadhafi doesn’t need his air force to prevail, so its grounding or destruction would merely shift the fighting to the backs of his army. Libya is a big country, with 2,000 kilometres of coastline, so the major fighting would take place along the main coastal road. The opposition forces would be no match for even poorly organized army units if Col. Gadhafi decides to get serious.  Watching this unfold from 20,000 feet, the countries enforcing any no-fly zone would be unable to ignore the carnage below them. Backed into a corner, their political leaders would be forced to escalate and authorize attacks against the Libyan army – thereby becoming, in effect, the opposition’s air force. By so doing, they would assume a much larger role in Libya’s future, including reconstruction of the damage they inflicted ….”
  • Mideast Unpleasantness (3)  Speaker of the House of Commons:  Not unpleasant enough for an emergency debate right now.
  • A little more information on Canada coming through with more funding a school project in Kandahar. “…. the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, announced $250,000 in additional funding for the Afghan Canadian Community Centre (ACCC). This funding will allow the ACCC to continue providing successful literacy courses and training in Kandahar city …. The ACCC is a private training centre in Kandahar City that provides professional education in such subjects as business management, information technology, English and health care. This additional support will enable the Centre to continue delivering valuable training, establish a resource centre, and implement a self-sustainability plan. Translation of that last bit of government-speak in red:  some of the money the school is getting is to be used to come up with a plan to be able to run without any more outside funding (or at least from us).
  • A friend of Colin Rutherford, the Canadian reportedly being held hostage by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan, sees world for what it is“…. We as students need to recognize that terrorism does not only happen to other people. Terrorists exist to cause fear, and through that fear they gain power. Colin was not afraid to go into a place that has been torn by war to try to help people who are different from himself, and to help them on their terms instead of his. It may not have been the brightest thing to do, but it was brave and motivated by a good heart. He may not come home alive or, if alive, not whole and sound. I pray every day for him. I hope I will get to see him again and hug him and tell him that I am proud of him for wanting to bring something positive into a bastion of terror ….”
  • Remember the “MMA Visits Afghanistan to Fight for the Troops?” story earlier this week (eighth bullet here) Here’s the U.S. military information machine’s story on the event.
  • Ooopsie…. “At a time of unprecedented tension between the west and Hamid Karzai over the killing of civilians, Nato has accidentally shot dead one of the Afghan president’s own family members during a botched night raid. Officials in the southern province of Kandahar said Haji Yar Mohammad Karzai, a second cousin of the president, was killed during an operation by US special forces in Karz, the ancestral Karzai home on the outskirts of Kandahar city. In what appears to have been a major intelligence failure, the 63-year-old tribal elder was mistaken for the father of a Taliban commander …. Mahmoud Karzai, one of the president’s brothers, said he “smelled a very deep conspiracy” over the killing of Haji Yar Mohammad and said he feared Nato had been fed false information by someone from within the Karzai family ….” Here’s ISAF’s first statement on the incident, with a follow-up update here.  More on the touchiness of the situation from the Canadian Press here.
  • Canadian shipyard workers pipe in on Canada’s plans to look at foreign designs for new big honkin’ ships for the Navy. “Canada should not adapt foreign designs to replace its 40-year-old supply ships, says the man who represents over 1,000 workers at Halifax Shipyard. The navy is looking for consultants to assess the risks and cost of altering current German and Spanish military supply-ship designs to Canadian needs. They are also being told to be ready to assist federal officials with detailed drawings. “No matter what way you slice the pie, its Canadian tax dollars leaving Canada to go to another country to help them out in an economic crisis when we’re in our own,” Jamie Vaslet of the CAW/Marine Workers Federation, said Thursday. “Made in Canada is not a bad name, so designed in Canada is not a bad name, either. We designed and built some of, if not the best, world-class frigates.” ….”
  • Meanwhile, Mark Collins wonders how sloooooooooooooooooooow one can go to build new ships needed by Canada’s Navy.
  • Remember the shipload o’ Tamils dropped on the west coast by the MV Sun Sea last summerOne of the passengers admitted to being a bad guy, and has been ordered deported (eventually). “A passenger on the MV Sun Sea ship has admitted to being a member of the Tamil Tigers and ordered out of Canada, but don’t expect the unnamed man to be booted out anytime soon.  The man, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, initially denied being associated with the Tiger terrorist group but later admitted to officials with the Canadian Border Services Agency that he had been a member …. “We are pleased that these hearings are moving ahead,” said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the man in charge of the CBSA …. Toews has stated several times that the ship has terrorist links but this case is the first to come with a deportation order.  “That ship, that voyage was co-ordinated by the Tamil Tigers,” Toews told QMI Agency on Wednesday. “Our commitment has been to ensure that individuals who are associated with terrorist organizations do not find refuge in this country.” ….”