“Message from the Chief of the Defence Staff — We have all watched in recent months the alarming advances of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). While it is of course neither Islamic, nor a state, it is a barbaric organization responsible for horrendous atrocities committed in Iraq and Syria, and its rapid growth has threatened regional stability ….”
“Legionnaire feels “vindicated” — The North Bay legionnaire who spoke out against Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Jay Aspin for not accepting a poppy box feels vindicated. “My suspicions were right. I was correct. There was no reason for Mr. Aspin to refuse a poppy box,” said Bill Wilkins, chairman of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 23. Wilkins was reacting to news Aspin had “misunderstood” the bylaw he believed prevented him from displaying a poppy box at his constituency office. Wilkins contacted The Nugget last week with the story. He said it was the first time it had happened in his 50 years as a Legion member. Aspin cited a Board of Internal Economy bylaw that forbids MPs from holding public funds. The board governs House of Commons’ financial and administrative policies. However, on Monday Aspin vowed to file for an exemption to the rule ….”
Word of a Canadian, said to be part of the anti-Ghaddafi underground, was questioned by CSIS while a…. guest of the former regime. “Canadian spies teamed up with the Gadhafi regime to question a Canadian jailed in Libya, a prominent human-rights group says. Canadian Security Intelligence Service officers travelled to Libya several times to interview the prisoner between 2002 and 2005, Human Rights Watch says. The New York-based group will circulate a statement on Wednesday revealing that it has obtained documents on this obscure case from an abandoned intelligence complex in Tripoli. Mustafa Krer, 56, immigrated to Canada from Libya in the 1990s. He was jailed as a terrorism suspect when he returned to his homeland almost a decade ago. Released only last year, he hopes to return to Canada in coming months ….” More here (Toronto Star) and here (usual Wikipedia caveats apply).
Way Up North “As global interest in Arctic exploration explodes, Canada is pushing to assert rights over a larger chunk of the polar region and lure companies to exploit the territory’s promising natural resources. The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has long engaged in saber-rattling with Russia—Canada’s biggest Arctic rival—over territorial claims in the region. Both sides have recently sent troops to the Arctic to back up their claims, with Canada winding down its largest, and northernmost, military exercise this month. During a trip late last month to Canada’s Far North, Mr. Harper criticized Russia in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, portraying its strategy in the region as aggressive and “a disappointment.” But he said Russia’s actions—including alleged incursions into Canada’s Arctic airspace, which Moscow denies—strengthen Ottawa’s commitment to the region. Those actions “remind us, as I say, that we have an obligation as a sovereign nation to have an ability on land, sea and air to be present and to assert that presence at all times,” Mr. Harper said ….”
Bad news about a war memorial in Montreal – this from a House of Commons statement on the issue: “…. our cenotaphs and monuments are powerful reminders of the sacrifices made by generations of Canadians. They are symbolic places where people can gather in memory of our fellow Canadians, our loved ones and family members, who served our country in the name of peace and the freedom we all enjoy today. Unfortunately, this morning, we learned that a war memorial in Girouard Park in Montreal had been vandalized. We have an obligation to preserve and respect memorials in tribute to the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. I commend Sergeant Jones who notified the police about this vandalism and I hope the guilty parties will be held accountable for the seriousness of their mischief.”
Helping wounded warriors. “Gary Vienneau has seen first hand how the family is affected when a soldier in the Canadian Forces comes home with an injury. “There are really two casualties – the CF member and the family,” he says. As coordinator of the Integrated Personnel Support Centre (IPSC) that serves communities across Southwestern Ontario, Vienneau has seen first hand the physical and psychological injuries that troops can bring home when they have been deployed. He works closely with a range of service providers that assist with post-deployment transitions, both for the soldier and for their family members ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War The “glass is half empty” assessment of the Joint Strike Fighter project in the U.S.“…. test flights for the newer F-35 were suspended, too, because of a valve problem in the plane’s integrated power package. It’s the third time this year that JSFs have been grounded. Tests may resume as early as next week. Then again, they may not. Yesterday, the U.S. military committed to spending another $535 million to buy 38 more Joint Strike Fighters — a family of stealth jets that are supposed to become the multipurpose, affordable workhorses of tomorrow’s fleet. Ninety percent of America’s combat aviation power is eventually supposed to come from the jets’ three variants. But the jets have been anything but cheap. The current cost for the JSF program is $382 billion and rising for more than 2,400 aircraft. No wonder just about every major deficit reduction plan scales back the JSF effort in some way. And, at the moment, they’re not producing any combat power, either. Back in 2002, the plan was to have more than 90 JSFs flying by next year. As things currently stand, the Air Force and Navy might not get their variants until 2016. The Marines — who knows? ….”
Way Up North “It took a major Arctic military exercise to help thaw old Cold War suspicions between Canada, the U.S. and Russia, according to a Canadian Forces report. And despite an “immense” language barrier, the Department of National Defence heralded the success of last summer’s groundbreaking joint exercise with its former Cold War adversary. The report offers a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes tensions that led up to the historic attempt at military co-operation, dubbed Exercise Vigilant Eagle. It comes as the second version of Vigilant Eagle took place this week in Alaskan airspace. The exercise was originally set for 2008 but had to be cancelled when relations between Russia and the West plummeted after Moscow’s invasion of neighbouring Georgia ….”
CF budget worries (maybe unwarranted)? “A fear is haunting the defence community and the Canadian Forces; fear of deep cuts to the defence budget. These fears are largely unwarranted. The current reductions called for in the 2011 budget are far from unique to Canada. Instead, the cuts follow the example of the United States and Great Britain in calling for restraint and an overall reduction in spending over the coming years. The trepidation throughout the defence community is that we are headed for the massive cuts that defined the so-called “decade of darkness,” but after a close look at the numbers these concerns seem to be largely unfounded. Yet, the budget still hangs ominously as the defence community has already seen budget cuts, didn’t like it and don’t want to go through it again ….”
Kicking War Criminals Outta Canada: Amnesty International’s point to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s counterpoint – more here.
“The government has enlisted Crime Stoppers to help create a large-scale, most-wanted list for fugitives sought for deportation. In an interview with Postmedia News, Public Safety Minster Vic Toews said his department is still in discussions to expand its list of 30 suspected war criminals to become a much broader list for individuals convicted of crimes both in Canada and abroad. Toews said there were a number of things left to consider before the Canada Border Services Agency moves forward with expanding its most-wanted list. “Are there partnerships that we need to establish in order to make this effective? Could we put more than 30 on the list? Could we highlight a few hundred (individuals), for example. What is the impact from a public communications point of view if you put on too many?” he said. Toews said this is where Crime Stoppers, a non-profit organization that solicits the public’s help in solving crimes, comes in ….”
More non-surprises about the C.I.A. keeping an eye on neighbours as well as bad guys. “The Central Intelligence Agency closely tracked Canadian satellite and imaging research during the Cold War as part of the U.S. spy agency’s efforts to keep apace of global technology advances, declassified records show. The CIA saw Canada’s fledgling telecommunications satellite network as an influential project that would set the standard for other nations planning to launch their own systems. The agency also took a special interest in research by an Ottawa university on Soviet commercial enterprises, reveals a still heavily censored memorandum. The records are among several CIA reports and memos dealing with Canada that were released to The Canadian Press under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The CIA drafted a confidential 1972 intelligence memo on Canada’s Telesat communications system and attended high-tech mapping conferences in Ottawa and Montreal the same year ….”
In spite of all the poking around Russia seems to do in Canadian airspace (recent examples here, here and here), all seems to have gone well in a joint Canadian-American-Russian air interception exercise.“A first-of-its-kind hijacking exercise involving the U.S., Canadian and Russian militaries went so well that a similar drill is planned for 2011, an American officer said. Jet fighters from Russia and the North American Aerospace Defence Command pursued a small passenger jet playing the role of a hijacked jetliner across the Pacific and back during the August exercise. The aim: To practice handing off responsibility for a hijacked jet between Russia and NORAD, a joint U.S.-Canadian command that for decades devoted its efforts to tracking Soviet forces. Officers reviewed the exercise in November at NORAD headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The verdict: It “was pretty much carried on flawlessly,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Lee Haefner, who was the lead planner. NORAD and Russian officers will meet in Russia in February to begin planning a second exercise, Haefner said ….” More on last year’s Exercise VIGILANT EAGLE here, here and here. A reminder: Canada bowed out of the exercise in 2008 because of Russia’s “visit” to neighbouring Georgia.
Remember the several hearings into how Canada is said to have treated Afghan detainees? Here’s an update on one of them: “Whether the Military Police Complaints Commission makes findings that sizzle or fizzle, the panel will claim an important place in the Afghan detainees affair. The quasi-judicial commission is the only forum to conduct a methodical examination of any element of the detainees issue amid repeated rejections by the federal government of opposition calls for a full-scale independent public inquiry. After a year of public hearings end early February with final arguments by lawyers, the commission says its “top priority” will be writing a report on whether Canada’s military police should have investigated military officers’ orders to transfer suspected Taliban captives to Afghan authorities despite a risk of torture ….” Here’s a chronology to help you keep track of the different proceedings.
Troops in Winnipeg are getting ready to train in Canada’s far North.“Soldiers from the Arctic Response Company Group (ARCG) spent the first week of December building komatiks (wooden sleighs) in preparation for Exercise NORTHERN BISON 2011 from February 15–28. The Canadian Forces (CF) will be contributing to a top government priority—protecting the territorial integrity of the Arctic—and the komatiks will play a crucial role in ensuring that the soldiers can successfully move, shoot, communicate and sustain themselves in austere northern conditions. “We will be packing a komatik with the UMS [unit medical station] and another komatik will be like a snow ambulance,” said Master Corporal Calin Ritchie, a medical technician with 17 Field Ambulance. The komatiks will be pulled by snowmobiles throughout the exercise that will see both Regular and Reserve force soldiers work together with 1 and 4 Canadian Ranger Patrol Groups as they conduct a 300-km trek from Churchill, Manitoba to Arviat, Nunavut ….”
This, reportedly from a briefing note obtained by QMI: “The RCMP wanted to stay involved with a controversial peace conference even as the minister in charge of the national police force ordered them out. Newly released documents also show that next time, the Mounties plan to stand their ground. A briefing note prepared for deputy commissioner Bob Paulson, the man in charge of federal and international policing, recommends that the Mounties not back out of future events deemed too hot to handle by the government. “It is recommended that in the future, the Minister of Public Safety supports the RCMP’s position with respect to National Security Community Outreach,” reads the memo. The conference in question was slated for the end of October at the Government Conference Centre, a federal building across the street from Parliament Hill. Among the participants were several Iranian academics tied to the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinehjad and Dr. Davood Ameri of the Islamic World Peace Forum ….” Since QMI doesn’t share said document with the world anyplace I looked, does the note say “we’ll disobey the Minister next time” or “we’ll give him the same advice next time”?
The Toronto Star is doing a bit of catch-up, finally talking to members of a militia in Quebec where some members consider the Canadian Forces their “adversary”. “There’s no sign, per se, but there is a shirt in the window silkscreened with the image of militant Quebec separatist Pierre Falardeau and the words: “Now it’s your turn to be scared.” Inside, past a rack of nationalist books, including one called Quebec Bashing, which can be found alongside one on Mao Zedong, there is a wall of white, winter balaclavas and camouflage gas masks, another wall of boots and, to the right, a counter behind which hang realistic-looking paintball rifles. They hope to soon have a permit to sell real guns. This is the new recruitment centre for the Milice Patriotique Québécoise, a shadowy separatist militia that, after nearly a decade of existence, is only now coming into the light. The centre opened its doors at the end of November in a working class neighbourhood of east Montreal. The founder and leader, “Major” Serge Provost, is not out to make friends with this venture. Indeed, even other separatists are uncomfortable with him, mindful of Quebec’s painful history with the murderous Front de libération du Québec. But Provost says his group operates in a defensive mode only, “to protect the people of Quebec.” “The only entity able to protect Quebecers now is the Canadian army,” says Provost, 42. “So, the only ones who can help us are our adversaries.” ….” A bit more on this group from a previous MILNEWS.ca summary here.
To space, and beyond!“Canada has the technological capacity to build its own rocket to launch small satellites, officials and documents have revealed, highlighting a top priority for future research at the Defence Department as well as something that’s being studied at the Canadian Space Agency. Canada relies on other countries, such as the United States, India and Russia, to launch its spacecraft into orbit, but both the Defence Department and the space agency are looking at the option of constructing a Canadian-made launcher. The Defence Department’s science organization, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), is examining what would be needed for a small rocket as well as looking at different potential mission scenarios ….”