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MILNEWS.ca 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.” ….”
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MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 30 Jul 11

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  • Libya Mission  Canada has joined an air war of a different kind in the skies over Libya, one where persuasion and sometimes insults are the weapons. Canadian CP-140 Aurora surveillance planes recently started broadcasting propaganda messages aimed at forces loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. “It’s a psychological warfare operation, or PSYOPS, initially started by the Americans but now overseen by NATO _ the kind of mission western militaries are reluctant to talk about openly. The Canadian broadcasts are relatively benign in comparison to some of the harsher messages NATO has aimed at Gadhafi’s troops, in which women’s voices are telling them to stop “killing the children.” The Canadian messages, in English, are read hourly during patrols along the Libyan coast over AM/FM frequencies that Libyans usually monitor. “For your safety return to your family and your home,” says the message, which can be heard over unencrypted frequencies the military uses to broadcast basic information. “The Gadhafi regime forces are violating United Nations resolution 1973.” The message goes on to urge Gadhafi’s troops not to take part in further hostilities and not to harm their fellow countrymen …. ”
  • Afghanistan (1)  CF Info-Machine is starting to share more info on the new mission.  “In every practical sense, the Consolidated Fielding Centre (CFC) is the birthplace of the Afghan National Army. Located in the expansive Pol-e-Charki military reserve in Kabul’s eastern outskirts, the CFC is where the ANA forms its units, equips and trains them, and then validates that training before deploying them to operational corps. More than 100 Canadian Forces members deployed in the Kabul area on Operation ATTENTION serve at CFC. Most of them are advisors to the experienced Afghan soldiers of the CFC training staff ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  More from the CF Info-Machine on the training mission (video transcript). 
  • Afghanistan (3)  It’s not just military folks leaving Afghanistan.  “A contractor for the Canadian military will be bringing its 370 employees home from Afghanistan as the Canadian mission there winds down. More than 60% of those employees call eastern Ontario home. “I would be lying if I said a lot of our folks weren’t looking for jobs online, even though they’re stationed in Afghanistan,” Derek Wills said from his Inverary home yesterday. Wills is a human resources manager with SNC-Lavalin PAE Inc. — the company with a $600- million contract to support Canadian Forces missions overseas. The company started with an office in Kingston in 2003. Since then, it has expanded from a one-person operation on Queen Street to the main civilian support system for the Canadian mission in Kandahar. Wills said employees in Afghanistan know their jobs will be terminated, but they don’t know when ….”
  • Canada’s military police received 784 complaints of physical and sexual assault, death and other incidents causing physical harm in 2010 — more than in any of the past four years, according to the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal’s annual report. The force received 176 reports of sexual assault and 518 of assault during the year — numbers one military expert says are worrisome. “Here, we have individuals who are well-paid, disciplined and operating within a hierarchical system,” said Michel Drapeau, a retired colonel who now practises and teaches military law. The numbers are up from 2009, when the police force received 166 reports of sexual assault and 514 of assault, according to the report. “Forces are there to protect Canadians and Canada . . . . Men and women are working alongside each other. There’s cause for alarm there.” ….”  The latest annual report is accessible here.
  • A Congolese man accused by the Canadian government of being complicit in war crimes, and facing deportation, says he’s never so much as killed a cat. Abraham Bahaty Bayavuge says he was a simple computer technician in his native land and has denied any wrongdoing during a detention review Friday before the Immigration and Refugee Board. Bayavuge is the fifth person arrested from a list of 30 alleged war criminals publicly posted last week by the Conservative government. But he scoffed at the attempt to depict him as a threat to society. In the seven years he lived here, openly and freely between 2000 and 2007, he said the worst thing he ever did was get parking tickets for failing to move his car. “Not yesterday, not today, not tomorrow, can anyone prove that I killed even one cat, one cat, he told the hearing. “I wouldn’t take a human life, I respect human beings” ….”
  • Chilling admissions of machine-gunning villages, assisting in torture and throwing bodies from a helicopter were made by one man on the government’s recently released list of most-wanted suspected war criminals. And he’s still at large in Canada. “In November 1987 I was part of a helicopter crew involved in the murder of two civilians. They were shot in my helicopter, in my presence, by army personnel on suspicion of being terrorists,” Jose Domingo Malaga Arica admitted to immigration officials. “Their bodies were weighted down with rocks and pushed out of the aircraft into a river.” Malaga, a former soldier in the Peruvian army, described his years of service in a written statement to a Convention Refugee Determination Division board ….”
  • Niiiiiiiice….Emotions are running high in Forest Lawn where a group with ties to known white supremacists seems intent on recruiting like-minded people through a poster campaign. The black-and-white posters, with statements like “Immigration costs Canadian taxpayers $23 billion annually” coupled with statistics purporting to reflect Canadian immigration and unemployment, have been glued to bus stations, light standards and telephone poles throughout the southeast neighbourhood. At the bottom, the words “Does this seem right to you?” are followed by “If not, contact.” A phone number and e-mail address are printed, along with the website to the international white supremacist group known as Blood and Honour ….”
  • A watchdog has given Canada’s overseas eavesdropping agency a good report card, but has hinted that the secretive organization may occasionally push the boundaries when it comes to collecting information on Canadians. Communications Security Establishment Canada collects foreign intelligence for Ottawa, but is not allowed to spy on Canadians, whether they’re living at home or abroad. But an annual report by CSEC commissioner Robert Decary suggests the agency “may use information about Canadians” when seeking new sources of foreign intelligence. Decary says CSEC only pursues such methods “when other means have been exhausted” and when it believes they are likely to turn up new sources of information. “CSEC conducts these activities infrequently, but they can be a valuable tool in meeting Government of Canada intelligence priorities,” Decary writes in his latest report, which was released last week ….”  Full report available here.
  • Canada’s ability to comply with its international obligations could be compromised if a decision staying the extradition of Abdullah Khadr is allowed to stand, the federal government said Friday. In asking the Supreme Court of Canada to take up the case, Ottawa argues the lower courts were wrong to prevent an “admitted” terrorist from facing trial in the U.S. “This case raises issues of national importance that require consideration by this court,” Ottawa states in its leave-to-appeal request obtained by The Canadian Press. Principles of fundamental justice “should not be used to impose the technicalities of our criminal law on a foreign partner.” ….”  More on this here.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 13 Dec 10

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  • Canada is apparently continuing to use a controversial Afghan security company to help protect a big dam project in Afghanistan. “Canada is standing by a controversial Afghan security firm that’s controlled by Afghanistan’s ruling Karzai family despite a U.S. military decision to sever ties with it, The Star has learned.  The Watan Group, which safeguards Canada’s signature Dahla Dam restoration project in Kandahar, was blacklisted this week as part of a U.S. effort to stop aid dollars slipping into the hands of corrupt officials and Taliban commanders.  But Watan Risk Management, the specific subsidiary facing intense American scrutiny, will remain Canada’s security partner on the ground, according to Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, the lead partner in the project.  “For the moment, we have no plans to replace Watan. Until or unless we have evidence that these contractors have done something illegal we will continue to employ them,” SNC-Lavalin spokesman Leslie Quintan confirmed in an email to The Star.  “Our primary concern is, as always, the safety and security of our people and we will do nothing to put them in jeopardy.” ….” Meanwhile, the U.S. military is apparently blacklisting said security firm “to clean up a contracting process in Afghanistan that has been riddled with corruption and allowed U.S. funds to pass to insurgents.” A bit of the rocky history of the company protecting Canada’s signature dam project here at Army.ca.
  • The past (Canadian) chair of Afghanistan’s Electoral Complaints Commission says some progress is being made, and Canada can still help make the voting process there better. “…. Now is the precisely the time for Canada to renew and redouble our efforts in this area by working with Afghans as they continue to build their nascent democracy. Let’s use the momentum that the IEC has created so that the next elections are less fraudulent, more inclusive, credible and transparent than has been the case to date.”
  • Meanwhile, John Manley (of the 2008 Manley team report on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan) also says Canada can still help out there. “…. Afghanistan has surely taught us that there are limits to what can be achieved through traditional military/ civilian approaches to state-building. Canadians who have grown weary of the war in Afghanistan will welcome the shift to a new, less dangerous role for Canadian troops in that country — a role that will mean fewer ramp ceremonies and solemn processions along the Highway of Heroes in southern Ontario. So Afghanistan will fade from the daily news. But the chilling era of terror that we entered unexpectedly in 2001 will still be with us. We must be intelligent about how we deal with these risks. And we must not allow our will to weaken, nor our determination to flag.”
  • A number of authors and analysts have signed this open letter to U.S. President Obama, calling for the United States to “sanction and support a direct dialogue and negotiation with the Afghan Taliban leadership residing in Pakistan”. From the letter:  “The Taliban’s leadership has indicated its willingness to negotiate”.  Who put up the letter?  Good question, considering Alexa.com shows no stats or information to track for the address, and the URL is registered with a company that hosts addresses.  While I understand that public statements only show part of the picture, the public statements I’ve read all seem to say “no talks until foreign soldiers leave” (check here, here, here and here for some of the latest variations on the “you go, we talk” theme).  I’ve asked signers of the open letter for open source information showing the willingness mentioned in the letter – I’ll share that information as soon as I get it.  Meanwhile, a tidbit from a Taliban statement just posted this morning (links to Scribd.com):  “(The Taliban) is determined that it would never show its readiness for negotiation in conditions that the foreign forces are stationing in the country.”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban claims to have destroyed a new U.S. base in Kandahar.
  • More “Question the F-35 Purchase” copy from the Ottawa Citizen here, here and here.  Some supporting commentary here, and more partisan “Attack the F-35 Purchase” copy here.
  • More on Canada’s JTF-2:  they’re more likely to nab bad guys than nail them. “Canadian special forces in Afghanistan capture more insurgents than they kill.  Surprised?  Well it’s true.  Like most issues surrounding the secretive Canadian special operations community, the truth is more nuanced and complex than the myth.  Contrary to popular belief, Joint Task Force Two (JTF2) is not Canada’s only special operations unit, nor does it spend most of its time shooting.  “You can’t kill your way to victory,” says Brig.-Gen. Michael Day, commander of Canadian Special Operations Command (CANSOFCOM).  Day shatters the shoot-’em-up, cowboy special forces image of popular culture.  Apparently, Canada’s elite commandos don’t go around kicking down doors and shooting up insurgent compounds.  Canadian special operations forces (known as SOF) “pull the trigger less than a quarter of the time,” Day explains ….” The information seems to come from a conference in Kingston last week (information on conference here and here, both via Google’s web cache, or here at Scribd.com of those links no longer work), where the author, Mercedes Stephenson, participated in a media panel.  An interesting message at the end of the column:  “…. This column isn’t long enough to smash every special operations myth, but there’s one more worth mentioning: SOF are expensive. The entire budget for Canadian special operations this year is $205 million. A number that small is peanuts in the defence budget. Now that’s value for money.” Out of a total budget of about $22 billion (according to Treasury Board budget documents), that’s just under 1%.
  • The Toronto Star uses the story of one Canadian military officer to seque into lamenting the loss of Canada’s “peacekeepers” “Unlike most other Canadian soldiers, Lt.-Col. Dalton Cote doesn’t carry a gun. He is a peacekeeper, one of 27 left in a military that used to be defined by that role.  For the past six months, while his comrades in arms were patrolling through Kandahar and sidestepping IEDs, Cote left his guns at home, donned a blue beret, climbed into a UN truck and negotiated his way through checkpoints in an effort to observe troop movements, monitor weapon stashes and investigate violent attacks on both sides of the makeshift border that could next month become the official partition between north and south Sudan.  As the leader of 20 Canadian peacekeepers sprinkled across the Sudanese countryside, Cote, a 45-year-old father of two, was, until five weeks ago, leading the largest Canadian peacekeeping contingent currently deployed ….” More on Canada’s mission in Sudan here, and how the CF’s helping out in Darfur here.
  • Oopsie at Veterans Affairs Canada or the Canadian Forces. ” The Department of Defence has launched an investigation after a former member of the Canadian Forces found sensitive health and personal information about other military personnel in his medical file. Wayne Finn said he was stunned to discover everything from other service members’ social insurance numbers, blood test results, X-ray reports to dates of birth mixed in with his military medical file. The 49-year-old Nova Scotia man said he still has information referring to about 20 people in his file, even after returning the files of eight others to the base in Halifax where he was serving ….”
  • Canada willing to help Haiti (but nobody’s asked for more troops at this point)“Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says Canada is ready to do whatever it is asked to help maintain order in Haiti, but doubts that will mean sending more troops to the troubled Caribbean nation. Cannon told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday that Canadian soldiers and police officers are already part of a UN-led security force in Haiti, and Canada has not been asked to send more …” More on Canada’s military presence still in Haiti working under a U.N. mandate, and more on the current unpleasantness there here.
  • What’s Canada Buying? A review of a big plane contract review, and starches in pouches