MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 Nov 11

  • 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.
  • Scumbags, continued.  A recently restored First World War memorial that stands outside an east end high school has been vandalized. Neighbours of Malvern Collegiate, near Victoria Park Avenue and Kingston Road, awoke Sunday morning to find the granite statue wrapped in blue duct tape. With the help of about $44,000 in donations and grants, the statue had been restored and rededicated days before, just in time for Remembrance Day ….”
  • Remembrance Day (1)  Veterans’ Ombudsman on Veteran’s Week.
  • 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).
  • Libya Mission  How intelligence from HMCS Vancouver helped in the battle for Sirte (via the CF Info-Machine).
  • Afghanistan  Author/blogger Terry Glavin reminds us that it’s Pakistan, the puppetmaster, that should be talked to, not the puppets.
  • CF testing new helmets (via Army News)
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Technical help in improving how explosives are detected via electronic beams (more details in excerpt from bid documents – PDF – here), and VICTORIA-class sub periscope simulators.
  • 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 ….”
  • Canada and Foreign Intelligence (2)  Why blogger/info curator Mark Collins is underwhelmed with the above-mentioned idea.
  • Unlike how media treat reporters being kidnapped, right?  “Former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, whose kidnapping by al-Qaida made international headlines, says media “blackouts” of such events can prevent ransom demands from escalating to the point where they cannot be met. Fowler, then a United Nations special envoy in Niger, was abducted Dec. 14, 2008 on a highway outside the country’s capital, Niamey. He spent the next 130 days in the Sahara Desert with his captors, members of a shadowy jihadist group known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Fowler told the Ottawa Citizen’s editorial board Monday that his web-savvy captors viewed media coverage of his kidnapping on laptop computers and Nokia cellphones. From it, he said, they came to believe he was on a “secret mission” in Niger, a suggestion reported in the Globe and Mail. “Was it harmful to me? Yes, likely,” he said. “The idea that you can write things here that won’t impact there is just — in this globalized world — crazy.” ….” 
  • 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 ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 18 Oct 11

  • The military’s second-in-command has defended the size of the bureaucracy in the Canadian Forces, including the large number of civilians and executives who have been become a veritable army at National Defence headquarters. And while acknowledging reductions will be necessary in light of planned budget cuts and the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson told members of the Senate defence committee Monday that across-the-board slashing would be unrealistic. “I agree that we need to reduce it,” said Donaldson, the vice-chief of defence staff. “It’s just very difficult sometimes to know what it is that can be reduced.” ….”
  • Libya  U.S. and Italian defense chiefs on Oct. 17 said they examined prospects for ending the allied air campaign over Libya and how to support the country’s post-Gadhafi transition in talks at the Pentagon. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who expressed thanks for Italy’s role in the NATO-led operation, said alliance commanders favored pressing on with bombing raids as Moammar Gadhafi’s loyalists were still putting up resistance in Sirte. “We are looking for our commanders to… recommend when they believe that the mission comes to an end,” Panetta told reporters after meeting his Italian counterpart, Ignazio La Russa. “As you know, there’s still fighting going on in Sirte. And as long as that continues to be the case, our commanders feel the need for us to maintain our presence.” ….”  More details of Canada’s assets in the air (and sea) fight there here.
  • CF visits Africa for communications exercise“Africa Endeavor is the largest communications interoperability exercise on the African continent. Held this year from 7 July to 12 July, it’s an annual “Command, Control, Communications and Computer” — C4 — integration exercise sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to foster interoperability between Canada, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States and 35 African countries. Africa Endeavor comes together over the course of three conferences hosted by participant countries throughout the year, and culminates in a two-week exercise. This year, the Canadian delegation was led by Colonel Pierre Lamontagne, the Canadian Forces Liaison Officer at AFRICOM Headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, and included communication specialists Master Warrant Officer Serge Boily, Warrant Officer François Pitre and Sergeant Eric Viau of 3 ASG Signals Squadron in Gagetown, and Warrant Officer Pierre Paradis from CEFCOM Headquarters in Ottawa ….”
  • Worries in the home of Veterans Affairs Canada about coming cuts. “The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to cut over $222 million from its budget over the next two years, a move that some believe will have a huge impact on employees in Charlottetown. The cuts are outlined in the department’s plans and priorities report, which details spending and programming plans up to 2014 ….”
  • New B.C. group pushing for better compensation for Canada’s wounded. “They sat quietly in the corner of a room that overflowed with more than 250 supporters of Equitas Society and considered the levels of justice, fairness and equity that injured soldiers like them experience. Formed just three weeks ago, the Equitas Society was holding its first fundraiser Friday at Hazelmere Golf Club, MC’d by Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg. While the evening was considered a financial success, it was a rude awakening for some just learning about financial compensation for wounded members of Canada’s military. Lawyer Don Sorochan was quick to put a fine point on the disparity between settlements in civil cases and the level of financial support afforded soldiers ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1a)  Stand by for Big Honkin’ Ship contracts soon“It is Ottawa’s best-kept secret but the biggest defence procurement contract since World War II is expected to be unveiled as soon as this week, according to a government source. In the coming days, about $35 billion worth of shipbuilding contracts will be announced. There are two deals to be handed out and three shipyards battling for the contracts. The contenders include Nova Scotia’s Halifax Shipyard, British Columbia’s Seaspan Marine Corp. and the Davie shipyard of Levis, Que. The largest contract is worth $25-billion and will be spent on combat vessels for the navy. The other contract is worth $8 billion and will go towards building non-combat ships, including a new Arctic icebreaker. The shipyard which loses out on the big contracts can make a bid for smaller contract of about $2 billion ….”  More on Ottawa’s bracing for blowback from the award here and here.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1b)  “…. The (Big Honkin’ Ship contract) selection is being overseen by a panel of deputy ministers, and KPMG will vet the final decision. Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose says the decision will be 100 per cent on merit and is “completely at arm’s length of politics.’’ But in Ottawa, there is no such thing as politics at an arm’s length.”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  “…. The Department of National Defence (DND), requires the purchase and delivery of miscellaneous inert weapon simulation supplies for CFB Wainwright, Alberta. Items are required in support of LFWA training centre courses and will only be used in a training environment ….”  More in the list of (mostly bad-guy) goodies from the bid document (PDF) here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  Canadian fighter pilots selected to fly the new F-35 could find themselves trained by either the Americans or a private contractor, according to internal air force documents. The staggering multibillion-dollar purchase price means the Conservative government can only afford 65 of the multi-role stealth fighters. The number — Canada currently has 79 aging CF-18s — stretches the ability of the air force to meet its commitments, says a series of briefings given to the air force chief last year. Internal air force memos from the fall of 2010 lay out the “potential for NO pilot training in Canada.” ….”  No indication of Canadian Press sharing the documents for you to see.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Aussie DefMin still mulling F-35 vs. upgraded F-18s.
  • Alexander Johnston, 1885-1918, R.I.P  For 90 years, his final resting place was unknown. His service, however was commemorated on the Vimy Memorial near Arras, France, where the names of more than 11,000 other Canadians who have no known grave also appear. But next week, the remains of Pte. Alexander Johnston, which surfaced when a First World War battlefield became an industrial construction site in 2008, will be buried, with full military honours, at Le Cantimpre Canadian Cemetery in Sailly, France. And his Ottawa-based next of kin will be on hand to see it. Indeed his great grand-niece, Ann Gregory, who is a bugler with the Governor General’s Foot Guards, will play The Last Post as part of the ceremony. She’s travelling as part of the National Defence delegation and her father, Don Gregory, and brother, David, will also be on hand thanks to Veterans Affairs, which is providing funding for two family members to attend. In addition, three of Johnston’s relatives who live in Scotland, where he was born, will also travel to France for the ceremony ….”
  • War of 1812 (1)  The Americans got Wayne Gretzky ­and Pamela Anderson ­— but we won the War of 1812, right? I mean, that’s what we were taught. Damn Yankees declared war on us for no good reason. Plain greed. Some piddling trade dispute. And, sure, our British masters kept snatching sailors off American ships. But nothing serious. Deep down, they just lusted after our fish, trees and future hockey players. So they attacked like star-spangled skunks in the night. Lucky for us, they didn’t count on Sir Isaac Brock and Tecumseh and Laura Secord joining forces to whip their Yankee doodle derrieres. We even got some lovely chocolates out of the deal. Damn straight, we won. So why do many Americans call it their Second War of Independence — and insist they won ….”
  • War of 1812 (2)  Remembering the Aboriginal contribution to the fight.  “The Friends of Tecumseh Monument will soon have an opportunity to expand on their dream of telling Chief Tecumseh’s legacy and the events occurring in Chatham-Kent during the War of 1812. An announcement delivered from members of parliament Dave Van Kestern and Bev Shipley Friday, told the crowd gathered at Chief Tecumseh’s monument on Longwoods Road, near Thamesville, of available funding for the Canadian Heritage’s Celebration and Commemoration Program. $28 million will be available to communities to promote a greater awareness of Canada’s importance in the war and to aide with bi-centennial celebrations. A feasibility study, costing $49,500 from the $28 million, was completed last week to determine how to improve the site and how the changes can benefit the community as a whole ….”
  • War of 1812 (3)  Columnist on Ottawa’s spending plans to commemorate the war:  “…. I would have a greater measure of respect for the government if it spent our money strengthening the friendship between Canada and the U.S., rather than glorifying a war that ended with neither side richer in land or in purpose. The boundaries remained what they were before 1812. I await the influx of American tourists in the summer of 2012 who will be surprised to learn they are the bad guys in Canada’s so-called “most important war.” “