F-35 Tug o’ War Academic commentary on extending the useful life of Canada’s CF-18’s“…. What is interesting is that the longer life of these planes will allow the Conservative government to delay making a decision on the F-35s. They can say: we don’t need to be rushed, as our current fighters will last longer. This is good for the Conservatives since it allows them to kick the can down the road a wee bit further…. past the 2015 election. This program has been a major political challenge for the government, one where the NDP demonstrated a real competence on defence. Well, on this one area. Of course, this is not fooling anyone. It does not take a year plus for Harper to figure out what he wants to do with the F-35/alternatives. He has had the report since spring, and he is not spending night and day pondering the RCAF’s future. He is deferring because it is politically expedient ….”
More academic commentary on how the Tories are treating the CF“…. Harper almost certainly understands what he is doing is not good for the military or good for Canada, but it may get him re-elected. Ah, the joy of democracy–short term incentives win out.”
Afghanistan(2) “The international community’s 2014 exit strategy from Afghanistan rests on two pillars: training an Afghan security force that can stand on its own feet, and fostering regional co-operation on a conflict that defies borders. Forging a political settlement with the Taliban is considered by most to be the indispensable third pillar of this strategy, even if U.S. and NATO officials are reticent to recognize it as such. Unfortunately, an assessment of progress in all three areas gives cause for serious concern ….”
What’s Canada Buying? (1) East coast firm to get some work if their partners get the Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle (TAPV) contract. “L-3 Electronic Systems has teamed up with Elbit Systems Land in a bid to bring portions of two large military projects to Nova Scotia. L-3, which has about 170 employees in this province, could add another 30 people to the roster at its Enfield plant if it is successful in its bid to help put together and maintain the army’s new tactical armoured patrol vehicles. “We’re in the hundreds of millions of dollars for the total contract of dual (remote weapons systems),” Gerry Morey, a former air force officer who now works for L-3 in Nova Scotia, said Wednesday. “And then there’s the export options as well that we’re obviously interested in.” L-3, a subsidiary of New York City’s L-3 Communications, and Israel’s Elbit — working together as Canterra Solutions — are hoping to supply weapon systems for Force Protection’s contender in the race to provide the army with about $1 billion worth of new armoured vehicles. “Basically it’s a dual remote weapons system, which means it’s two guns, a 40-millimetre gun and a 12.76-(millimetre) gun with camera systems and laser-warning systems and 40-millimetre smoke grenades on it,” Morey said. “It’s remotely controllable from inside the cabin without any external exposure of personnel.” The work here would largely involve maintaining the weapons and then handing them over to an assembler in New Brunswick, he said. “A lot of the supply chain might be outside the province.” In September, Dieppe’s Malley Industries Inc. announced it could be adding 120 new manufacturing jobs if Ottawa picks Force Protection’s Timberwolf as the army’s new vehicle. Other companies competing to build Canada’s new tactical armoured patrol vehicles include Oshkosh, BAE Systems and Textron Marine & Land Systems ….” More info on the TAPV project here.
Permieter Security Deal (1) How this new deal is going to help Canada, via the Government of Canada Info-Machine (LOADS of backgrounders on various elements of the deal at the link, too): “…. “Billions of dollars worth of goods and hundreds of thousands of people cross our shared border every day,” said Prime Minister Harper. “Moving security to the perimeter of our continent will transform our border and create jobs and growth in Canada by improving the flow of goods and people between our two countries.” ….” More here, here,
Permieter Security Deal (2) How it’s helping U.S. President Obama: “…. Canada is going to help him achieve his political objectives thanks to the $1 billion border perimeter deal aimed at streamlining trade while protecting the continent from the type of terrorist attacks that still haunt Americans 10 years after Sept. 11, 2001. The deal will not only improve screening procedures for travellers and passengers before they arrive in North America, it will also create domestic jobs, the president said. “Canada is key to achieving my goal of doubling American exports and putting folks back to work,” Obama said. “Put simply, we’re going to make it easier to conduct the trade and travel that creates jobs, and we’re going to make it harder for those who would do us harm and threaten our security.” ….”
Afghanistan Canadian General now second-in-command of NATO’s Afghan training effort.“Canada’s senior general in Afghanistan has been given a much bigger assignment in a reshuffle of NATO’s top command in Kabul. Maj.-Gen. Mike Day was named deputy commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan (NTM-A) last week. Five American generals, a British general and three police generals now report to Day, who will be responsible for the training of hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops and police officers. “Form needed to follow function,” Day said in explaining the changes to the NTM-A, which were made by U.S. army Lt.-Gen Daniel Bolger to streamline the training command in Afghanistan by eliminating a large number of senior staff positions ….”
“The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, congratulates the crews of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships St. John’s, Athabaskan, Algonquin, and the submarine HMCS Corner Brook, and those of the ship-borne CH-124 Sea King helicopters and the CP-140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft, for their outstanding contributions to Operation Caribbe …. Op Caribbe is the standing US-led multinational counter-drug surveillance and law enforcement interdiction operation in the international waters of the Caribbean Basin and Eastern Pacific ….” Well done, folks!
For some reason, it appears to be difficult (if not impossible) to get poppies on NHL jerseys as a symbol of remembrance. A wide-ranging discussion on Army.ca here on what should be done (and through who) to get this to change.
War of 1812 “A Newfoundland soldier who died almost 200 years ago and is interred on a remote Ohio island has been remembered. In late October, Lt.-Col. Alex Brennan, commander of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, laid a wreath at the monument where Lt. James Garden rests with other officers who died during the Battle of Lake Erie. “There was a great sense of pride knowing that a generation of soldiers lost 200 years ago has not been forgotten,” Brennan said of the experience. Garden was a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, which fought for the British during the War of 1812. The Battle of Lake Erie took place Sept. 10, 1813 as part of the conflict between the Brits and the Americans ….”
Remembering (1) Different generations remember different things (but aren’t entirely different). “Gus MacGillivray spent four years on Canadian and British ships in the North Atlantic during the Second World War, hunting submarines and fighting off the navy of one of the world’s most powerful militaries. Mat Belear served two tours of duty in the desert of Afghanistan, trying to push back the Taliban’s guerrilla army and give the Afghans a fighting chance at establishing a democratic government. The experiences of these two men illustrate just how much warfare has changed over the decades and the extent to which the notion of veteranhood is being steadily redefined. But when they met for the first time, at the Amherstview Legion near Kingston, they had a lot of things in common ….”
Remembrance (3) What happens down the road?“Approximately 10 per cent of the one million Canadians who fought in the Second World War are alive today, and according to Veterans Affairs Canada, they’re dying at a rate of about 50 every day. Factor in their average age of 87 years old — which tops the average Canadian’s life expectancy of 79 years for men and 83 for women — and at that rate, the numbers suggest the 125,000 surviving Second World War veterans will be gone soon — very soon. When the “Greatest Generation,” as they are known, has disappeared Canadians will lose the faces and voices most closely associated with Remembrance Day ….”
Afghanistan (3) More from the CF Info-Machine on packing up in Kandahar. “In October 2011, the Mission Transition Task Force (MTTF) fielded a team of specialist technicians to service the airfield lights on the civilian side of Kandahar International Airport. Mounted on poles in banks soaring to 75 feet, the lights help ensure safe landings for aircraft and their crews and passengers. None had seen any maintenance in more than a year ….”
More on Cherry & RMC. “…. One teacher is not the principal villain here. The fault lies with RMC’s leadership for not rallying with a fighting spirit to defend its decision. One hopes that RMC has sufficient battlefield courage to see off the fabrications of a lowly French teacher. It was likely the motion of the faculty board, comprising all the professors and chaired by the principal, which cowed the administration. That poses a rather more disturbing question. Does the faculty board motion accurately express the professoriate at RMC? If so, our future officers are being trained by those significantly out of step with the Canadian people and the rank-and-file members of the armed forces ….” Good questions.
Libya Mission (2) PM Harper on Libya’s opposition claiming “liberation”:“Today, Canadians join with the Libyan people in celebrating the liberation of their country. “The Libyan people have courageously risen up against decades of tyranny. Canada’s involvement, as sanctioned by the United Nations and led by NATO, has supported their aspirations for the future. “We join Libyans in welcoming the post-Gaddafi era and the transition of the country to a democratic society – one that respects human rights and the rule of law ….”
Libya Mission (3) Meanwhile, on that respecting human rights and rule of law thing…. “…. An official who opened the ceremony at Freedom Square in Benghazi said, “We declare to the whole world that we have liberated our beloved country, with its cities, villages, hill-tops, mountains, deserts and skies.” …. Another formal declaration was made by NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who saluted all the martyrs who died in search of this day. He also thanked the Arab League, the UN and the EU. During his speech, delivered to tens of thousands in festival mood, he said that Islamic law, including polygamy, would be upheld in Libya. “We as a Muslim nation have taken Islamic sharia as the source of legislation, therefore any law that contradicts the principles of Islam is legally nullified,” he said, according to Reuters Africa. He called on Libyans to follow the law and not to use force anymore. He asked for tolerance and patience from people as they enter a new era ….”
Libya Mission (4) “The day of reckoning for Moammar Gadhafi — what would be the last day of his life — was in the mission commander’s crosshairs. Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard could have watched, in real time, as the deposed dictator was run to ground in a sewer, yanked bloody but alive from his hidey-hole, and set upon by revolutionary fighters. It was the bloody climax to a long, often second-guessed, campaign. Yet the Operation Unified Protector boss from Chicoutimi took his eyes off the drama, visible to him by sophisticated surveillance technology …. “Was I watching? No, I wasn’t. If I had, then I’m not looking at the whole country,’’ Bouchard told the Star by telephone Sunday from his NATO headquarters in Naples. “The death of Gadhafi was not something that I had included in my strategic planning. To be honest, I was surprised that he was still in Sirte. I thought he was probably somewhere in the southern Libyan desert.’’ ….” More on this here.
F-35 Tug o’ War “Canada’s new multibillion-dollar stealth fighters are expected to arrive without the built-in capacity to communicate from the country’s most northerly regions — a gap the air force is trying to close. A series of briefings given to the country’s top air force commander last year expressed concern that the F-35’s radio and satellite communications gear may not be as capable as that of the current CF-18s, which recently went through an extensive modernization. Military aircraft operating in the high Arctic rely almost exclusively on satellite communications, where a pilot’s signal is beamed into space and bounced back down to a ground station. The F-35 Lightning will eventually have the ability to communicate with satellites, but the software will not be available in the initial production run, said a senior Lockheed Martin official, who spoke on background. It is expected to be added to the aircraft when production reaches its fourth phase in 2019, but that is not guaranteed because research is still underway. “That hasn’t all been nailed down yet,” said the official. “As you can imagine there are a lot of science projects going on, exploring what is the best . . . capability, what satellites will be available.” ….”
German POW internal justice while interred in Canada. “The order filtered down in the summer of 1944: Karl Lehmann was a traitor who had to die. Like other prisoner of war camps in Canada, Medicine Hat, Alta. camp No. 132 had its own internal police force, its own hierarchies and government, its own systems of discipline. Though the camp was guarded on the outside by Canadian soldiers, daily life inside the wire was entirely dictated by the German inmates themselves. After an attempt was made on Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s life that July at his field headquarters in East Prussia, rumours circulated that a revolutionary movement was planning to take over the Medicine Hat camp by force. Canada’s highest-ranking prisoner of war decreed from Ontario that anyone suspected of traitorous activities against the German army was to be identified and killed in a way that looked like a suicide. One of those suspected traitors was Karl Lehmann ….”
Theatre review: “Billy Bishop Goes to War is a 100 percent, pure maple leaf saga. It is the colourful and sometimes controversial story of how an unlikely young man from Owen Sound, Ontario, became Canada’s most famed First World War flying ace after flunking out of Royal Military College of Canada for cheating. The Toronto City Airport on Toronto Island is now named for him ….”
Libya Mission Latest ROTO takes first flight downrange. “The CP 140 Aurora aircraft continued to add to an impressive list of firsts, flying its first mission over Libya and its first strike coordination and armed reconnaissance-coordinator (SCAR-C) mission during Operation MOBILE. On 22 September 2011, crew from 405 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 14 Wing Greenwood, flew its first intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission over Libyan soil ….” (via CEFCOM Info-Machine)
“NATO defense ministers are exploring ways Wednesday of ending the alliance’s aerial campaign in Libya and training Afghan security forces for a larger role in their country’s war. In a speech before the meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged NATO member states to cooperate more closely and pool their resources in order to make up for the shortfalls that have plagued the alliance’s operations in Libya and Afghanistan. “It would be a tragic outcome if the alliance shed the very capabilities that allowed it to successfully conduct these operations,” said Panetta, who is making his first visit to Europe after taking over from Robert Gates as Pentagon chief in July. European members and Canada provided most of the strike aircraft used in the Libya campaign. But the war exposed shortages in their capabilities in strategic transport, aerial surveillance, air refueling, and unmanned drones, most of which had to be supplied by the U.S. ….” More on the U.S. poking allies to crank up the military capabilities here.
Afghanistan (3) Editorial: “Part of the rationale for military intervention in Afghanistan was the deplorable state of women’s rights, and the need to free women from the gender apartheid practised by the Taliban. This was a country where women could not have direct contact with men after the age of eight, could not go to school or work outside the home, visit public baths to stay clean, wear nail polish, high heels or be seen in public without a burqa, or a male relative. As the 10th anniversary of the military invasion approaches on Oct. 7, the hard-won gains that women have made over the past decade must be safeguarded. They cannot be sacrificed for the larger goal of ending Afghanistan’s protracted conflict ….”
Provincial politicians use CF search & rescue as provincial campaign lighting rod. “Newfoundland nd Labrador’s premier and the opposition leader say search and rescue services provided by the federal government must be investigated to see if improvements are necessary. Progressive Conservative Leader Kathy Dunderdale said a recent episode of CBC’s The Fifth Estate on search and rescue has left her with concerns about the military’s service. “It is not satisfactory to the people of this province, to the people who earn their living on the sea, to be at further risk because of a slow response time or policies that affect response time in marine search and rescue,” she said. Dunderdale said she plans to vigorously pursue the issue of search and rescue with the federal government. Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward agreed and went further, calling for a full inquiry into federal search and rescue services. Both Aylward and Dunderdale are campaigning in preparation for the provincial election on Oct. 11 ….”
Wounded Warriors, Mental Health & Suicide (1) “For decades, the issue of suicide in active soldiers and retired veterans was something that no one wanted to talk about. But a number of programs both within and outside the military are finally focusing attention on the issue. How big a problem is suicide in Canada’s military? It’s difficult to say. The Canadian Forces reports that the suicide rate among currently active soldiers is actually lower than that of the general public. But once many of those soldiers are released from the military, research shows their suicide risk can rise to higher levels than that of civilians. Assessing the toll can be difficult, because beyond the clear-cut suicides are the more subtle instances in which soldiers end their own lives. A veteran who drinks heavily to dull mental pain might be engaging in a slow form of suicide. A soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder and anger issues might take reckless risks if he’s lost his will to live. And how about the veteran with depression who ends up homeless and dies far too young? None of these deaths would register on the books as a suicide, but all might well be traced back to the soldier’s time in service ….”
Wounded Warriors, Mental Health & Suicide (2) From Question Period (QP): “Hon. John McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last week, the Minister of National Defence and I, along with others, attended a conference put on by the military called “Caring for our Own”. One of the concerns raised by some of the soldiers was the fear that the military would not be there for them in their hour of need. Specific worries included PTSD, suicide ideation and suicide itself. The next budget will be under severe pressure for cutting these “soft services”. Could the minister give the House assurances that our vulnerable soldiers and their families will be protected from these budgetary pressures? Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, my colleague is correct. My friend was in attendance, along with many members who are specifically tasked with how we deal with the scourge of post-traumatic stress and many of the challenges related to overseas deployments. I am very pleased to report that Canada has in fact become a world leader in fighting the stigmatization and raising awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries. As well, we have increased mental health awareness and we have increased the number of mental health professionals who are dealing specifically with these challenges.”
Wounded Warriors, Mental Health & Suicide (3) More from QP: “Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is a great need to enhance suicide prevention programs in Canada. With respect to our veterans, the data is alarming. The suicide rate in the armed services is nearly three times that of the general population. According to a departmental study of all males who enrolled in the regular forces after 1972 and were released before 2007, a total of 2,620 died and almost 700 of them were suicides. Could the minister outline new steps or strategies that his department is undertaking to tackle this crisis among veterans? Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his important question. While mental health was taboo then, it is a priority for our government now. That is why we have established, in conjunction with the Department of National Defence, 17 operational stress injury clinics that provide services to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress across the country and at various levels that they might experience. This approach is working. As of June, Veterans Affairs Canada is helping more than 14,300 veterans with mental health conditions and their families ….”
New fur hats for the troops (and the animal rights activists are unhappy). “The Department of National Defence has decided to add fur to the winter gear of the Canadian Forces, a move that’s getting a frosty reception from animal-rights advocates. The government says fur is part of Canada’s heritage and the winter tuque currently in use doesn’t stand up to the rigours of the Canadian winter. So it’s buying an initial run of 1,000 fur-trimmed caps at a cost of $65,000, for use by guards of honour and Canadian Forces starting this winter …. “There are synthetics that are just as good and that don’t necessitate the killing of animals,” Elizabeth Sharpe of the World Society for the Protection of Animals said from Toronto. “Killing animals for their fur is completely unnecessary and cruel.” Lesley Fox of the British Columbia-based Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals says muskrats are known to chew off their limbs to free themselves from leg-hold traps ….”
F-35 Tug o’ War (1) Defence Minister Peter MacKay, facing questions from the NDP on the upcoming F-35 buy: “These aircraft, as the House will know, will replace our aging CF-18 fleet of fighter jets. These aircraft, like other aircraft, have served our country extremely well. They are used in Libya today. They have been used in previous missions, but that they aging. As a matter of course we are taking the responsible step of following a procurement process that has been in place for a significant period of time in which a number of countries are participating …. We committed $9 billion for the replacement of the CF-18. In fact, it not only includes the cost of the aircraft, this will include: spares, weapons systems, infrastructure and training simulators as well as the contingency associated with this important procurement. We are purchasing the most cost-effective variant at the prime of peak production when the costs will be at their lowest. Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer has admitted to that. Why are the NDP members constantly against getting the best equipment for the best forces in the world?”
F-35 Tug o’ War (2) The latest from the Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino: “An overall $9 billion cost estimate is more honest than relying on individual plane costs, says the minister handling the purchase of Canada’s new fighter jets. Despite a promise by manufacturer Lockheed Martin that Canada will get its F-35 fighter jets at a cost of $65 million each, Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, says the government’s overall $9 billion estimate is the more honest number. The cost of the F-35 depends on the number of planes ordered by other countries, as well as on how early Canada wants to get its order. The manufacturing cost goes down as more planes come off the assembly line, with Canada expecting the U.S. to absorb the bulk of the F-35’s development costs. “There are just so many variables, and that’s why I think the more honest, ethical response to all these issues is the $9 billion figure, which in fact will be the ceiling that Canada will be investing in these particular aircraft,” Fantino told Evan Solomon, host of CBC’s Power & Politics ….”
Canada’s top military cop to chair NATO committee. “The Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM), Colonel Tim Grubb assumed the post of Chairman of the NATO Nations Military Police (MP) Chiefs’ Committee at a brief ceremony last week in Prague, Czech Republic. The ceremony concluded the committee’s annual meeting …. Colonel Grubb has been the CFPM since 2009 and during his tenure has overseen significant transformation in the Canadian Forces Military Police organization ….”
How some of the Americans are doing the War of 1812 anniversary. “Out of the murk of history and the trough of government funding, here comes the War of 1812 again, 200 years old and as ambiguous as ever on both sides of the Canada-U.S. frontier. “The festivities reach a crescendo!” trumpets the Maryland Bicentennial Commission, as if three years of bombarding, cannonading, spearing, shooting, scalping, burning, sinking, drowning, pillaging, invading, retreating, ambushing, marching, fleeing, starving, freezing, and occupying had been a holiday for all concerned. Undeterred by the carnage – after all, the war didn’t kill THAT many guys, compared to, like, Gettysburg or Hitler or whatever – we are going to have “a Star-Spangled tribute to the defense of America” down here, a display at the U.S. Naval Academy of “the British flag captured at Fort York (Toronto),” plus “a week-long maritime event to kick off the bicentennial celebration.” In other words, there are going to be a lot of people in pantaloons hoisting mainsails and firing muskets before this thing is put away for another century ….”
Afghanistan (1) Troops getting ready in Gagetown to head to Afghanistan. “Efforts are continuing to prepare hundreds of soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown for duty early next year in Afghanistan. Approximately 450 personnel from The Second Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (2RCR) will be joined by another 100 from the greater Land Force Atlantic Area in deploying to the war-torn region for an eight-month training mission. The first group of soldiers will depart Gagetown in mid-February with the process continuing until mid-March. It’s expected to take about a month to get everyone into the Kabul theatre of operations ….”
Veterans Affairs Canada’s Virtual War Memorial web site, listing detailed information about Canada’s fallen, has moved from here to here. Last month, the CF webmeisters moved the “Fallen Canadians” page from here to here.
Trees to honour the fallen. “When Elizabeth Pratt had her first brush with Canadian Forces soldiers four years ago, she couldn’t believe how young the men and women in uniform were. In Halifax, as part of the Royal Nova Scotia Military Tattoo in 2007, the then-Grade 11 student met hundreds of soldiers serving in Afghanistan, many of them only a few years older than she was. “I was so surprised at how close in age they were to me,” she said, “not to mention the fact that they were out there fighting and maybe even sacrificing their lives. That hit home.” Now, the 20-year-old University of B.C. student and her brother, 14-year-old Michael, are launching a project they hope will ensure a lasting memorial for those Canadians who have indeed sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan. The pair have created Langley Youth for the Fallen, a non-profit organization that is raising money to buy 157 trees that will be planted in a commemorative grove at the Derek Doubleday Aboretum in Langley ….”
Libya Mission (1) A columnist shares his perspective of “security”.“How are we doing in the war on terror? Against the terrorists, tolerably well. Against our governments — that’s a different story. As travelers, we’re coping. We can put up with being treated like inmates at Alcatraz. We display our anatomies to the extent requested; take off our shoes like lambs, purge our carry-on bags of liquids and stuff them with photo IDs. We’re a little dismayed, though, that we may have Grandma strip for nothing. Our governments that protect us so brilliantly from our underwear, seem less effective when it comes to protecting us from portable ground-to-air missiles. That’s right. NATO lost sight of about 20,000 of the suckers, each one capable of shooting down a civilian airliner, while helping rebel forces overrun Colonel Muammar Gaddafy’s Libya. This week the White House’s Jay Carney confirmed an initial ABC news report that thousands of the shoulder-fired weapons, ideal for terrorist operations, are missing from the Colonel’s unguarded military warehouses ….”
Libya Mission (2) Another columnist on when we know it’s done. “Last week, the Canadian Parliament briefly debated and then voted to extend our military commitment to the NATO mission in Libya. In announcing the extension, Defence Minister Peter MacKay explained that “Canada was in at the very beginning [and] we should be there until the job is done.” Of course, no one in the Harper government has yet to explain exactly what our “job” is in Libya. Therefore, it remains impossible to determine when or if that task will ever be completed ….”
Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! OK, in this case, piling on the Parliamentary Secretary (not the “Defence Secretary” as the headline writer claims). “Commenting on an investigation that found the minister of national defence racked up nearly $3 million worth of flights aboard federal jets, the minister’s parliamentary secretary reiterated on Sunday that Peter MacKay did not break travel rules. When asked on CTV’s Question Period whether MacKay “at no point” contravened the government’s guidelines for ministerial travel, Chris Alexander said “the short answer is yes,” before adding that members of the Conservative government have “used challenger aircraft three-quarters less” than their predecessors. “This government has been extremely exacting of its ministers and everyone in government by putting in place the toughest measures for accountability, transparency, making sure we know what assets ministers have and making sure we watch like hawks what their means of travel are,” Alexander said. Every ounce of evidence shows MacKay and others members of government have followed the rules.” ….”
“A senior federal cabinet minister breathed a sigh of relief upon word of the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a nod to the late radical cleric’s ability to inspire young westerners — including Canadians — to embrace Islamic extremism. “This is good news not only for the United States and North America, this is making the world a safer place,” said Defence Minister Peter MacKay. The death of the U.S.-born al-Awlaki in Yemen — possibly in an American missile strike — appeared to be the latest in a series of targeted killings of al-Qaida kingpins. The charismatic lecturer spent his early childhood in the United States, moving with his family to Yemen before returning to Colorado to pursue university studies. He become an imam whose pronouncements and dealings drew the attention of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Members of a Toronto-area group implicated five years ago in terrorist plotting had watched one of al-Awlaki’s videos at their makeshift training camp….”
Editorial: history =/=. conspiracy. “…. There is no doubt that Mr. Harper is highly political, maybe too political at times, but the promotion of Canadian history and the symbols of national identity are not evidence of a dastardly plot. The prime minister is reportedly equally interested in the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Selkirk settlers in Manitoba and is considering a visit to Winnipeg next year to help mark the occasion. The fact is that Canadians have demonstrated a greater interest in their history over the years, an evolution that seemed to begin in the 1980s with celebrations of significant military dates from the first and second world wars. In 1994, the city of Winnipeg staged a downtown parade, complete with military vehicles and even a Sherman tank, to mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day, the first such parade since the war ended. Sometimes they are controversial, such as the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, and the upcoming celebration of the War of 1812 (Canada won, didn’t it?), but they have never been seen as part of a political agenda. Unfortunately, significant political events from the past have received less attention, but if Mr. Harper (and the CBC) want to ignite a passion in the broader Canadian story, let’s at least not call it a conspiracy.”
Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1a) PM Stephen Harper continues to back his man (the Minister, anyway). “…. Mr. Harper, however, said all Mr. MacKay’s flights were legitimate. “When he has used them, they’ve been for important government business,” the Prime Minister told the Commons. He invoked fallen soldiers in defending his minister, saying half of Mr. MacKay’s flights were to attend repatriation ceremonies where the remains of dead troopers were returned to Canada. “Half of those flights are for repatriation ceremonies so that he can meet the families of those who have lost their loved ones in the service of this country. He goes there to show that we understand their sacrifice, we share their pain and we care about them,” the Prime Minister said ….” And this was so different from the CDS’s work before the much-maligned, and un-PM-supported, trip to rejoin his family how? More from the guys who started the pile on here.
Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1b) Here’s Hansard’s version of what the PM said in the House of Commons yesterday: “…. the Minister of National Defence has participated in some 55 repatriation ceremonies for over 80 lost Canadian service personnel …. This minister uses government aircraft 70% less than his predecessors. Half the time, he does so to attend repatriation ceremonies for soldiers who gave their lives for our country. That is why we have such great respect for the Minister of National Defence on this side of the House of Commons …. When this minister pays his respects to the families of our fallen soldiers I expect the official opposition to support us and the minister by showing respect for these families.”
On the CDS and plane trips.“…. Tradition suggests Gen. Natynczyk is heading into the final months of his term as Chief of the Defence Staff. He led our Canadian Forces through the successful completion of our combat mission in Afghanistan — one that elevated Canada’s military reputation around the world. We should allow him to bask in the afterglow that follows a job well done.”
Afghanistan (2) NDP MP Anne-Marie Day congratulates ROTO 10 in the House of Commons: “I am deeply honoured today to draw attention to the difficult commitment undertaken by our Canadian troops on Afghan soil during Rotation 10 of Joint Task Force Afghanistan, which took place from October 2010 to July 2011. We ought to commend and applaud the sacrifices and efforts made during this mission. In 2001, when Canada became involved in this mission, Canadians already suspected that our involvement would be long and arduous. In total, 10 years went by before we considered our work to be done. Tomorrow there will be a ceremony at Valcartier to mark our soldiers’ return. They lived up to the Canadian promise. We can all celebrate their work, be proud of it and honoured by it as well.”
Afghanistan (3) U.S. blogger Michael Yon continues to make no friends – this time, assessing Canada’s impact in Kandahar.“…. the history of the Canadian troops is softly being rewritten as successful in Afghanistan. Reality differs. The Canadians troops have an excellent reputation and they served with distinction, but after nearly being swallowed whole, they were ordered to abandon their battlespace. There were many causes. The Canadian combat forces could have prevailed, but Ottawa is weak. The prime cause for the Canadian defeat was that tough men in mud homes without electricity defeated comfortable politicians in Ottawa, who seem to think that manufactured history will make them victorious ….”
Afghanistan (4) Detainee probe by Military Police Complaints Commission plods on, slowly. “The Federal Court has dismissed complaints from military police officers over hearings conducted by the Military Police Complaints Commission into issues relating to the treatment of Afghan detainees. Eight current and former officers with the Canadian military police had argued they were being denied the right to a fair hearing with regard to whether they were at fault in their transfer of detainees to Afghan authorities or for not investigating how they were treated once transferred, given accounts about abuse of such prisoners at the hands of Afghan authorities ….” Federal Court decision here, decision summary here and more media coverage here and here.
On how much veteran families get for funerals: “Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, a Canadian Forces member receives $13,000 for funeral costs. A veteran receives $3,600. Nineteen months ago we raised this issue. The answer we received was that it was under review. Last year we asked the minister again to fix this problem. Even though his own officials raised it with him, he told a Senate hearing that it was not the time to talk about the matter. Yesterday we received another non-answer. Our veterans have done their job. They served and defended Canada. Why will the minister not do his and fix the situation now? Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I am glad to say that on this side of the House we not only speak for veterans, but we act for veterans. As I told the member yesterday, this program is managed by the Last Post Fund. It is doing an outstanding job. We fund the Last Post Fund. We are making sure that every military member who is killed or injured during service, whatever his or her rank, is well-served and will be treated with respect until the last moment of his or her life.”
Whazzup with the General who wrote the transformation/reorganization report that all the reporters got? “CGI Group Inc., a leading provider of information technology and business process services, today announced the opening of a new Canadian Defence, Public Safety and Intelligence business unit based in Ottawa with capabilities to serve the Canadian Armed Forces around the globe. In addition, the Company also announced the appointment of Lieutenant General Andrew Leslie to lead the new Defence, Public Safety and Intelligence unit. The offering will build on the corporation’s global expertise to develop and implement innovative, world-class solutions tailored to specific knowledge and requirements of Canada’s modern-day defence and security challenges ….” A bit more here.
An interesting idea from the Royal Canadian Legion as an alternative to recognizing Afghanistan’s war dead on the national cenotaph in Ottawa.“…. some veterans argue that singling out those who died in Afghanistan for special recognition on the memorial does a disservice to the more than 100 Canadian peacekeepers who have lost their lives in various other conflicts. For that reason, the Royal Canadian Legion said Thursday that, instead of specifically acknowledging the toll in Afghanistan, the monument should be dedicated to all of those who died “In the Service of Canada.” That’s the same inscription that is found in the Seventh Book of Remembrance, which records the names of all of the Canadians who died in military action since the Korean War. “We think that an inscription that covers the sacrifice made in all wars or missions would be acceptable to most people instead of etching the individual wars or missions,” said Patricia Varga, the Legion’s dominion president ….”
The World Socialists’ take on “royalizing” the branches:“…. Though the rose of the Canadian military will smell no sweeter under its new designation, the name change exemplifies the ideological shift pursued by the new Conservative majority government. As the Canadian capitalist class has ever more vigorously asserted its imperialist interests abroad, and employed increasingly anti-democratic methods of rule to enforce its agenda of austerity domestically, its servants in the Harper government have contemptuously discarded the “peaceful” and “liberal- social democratic” Canadian nationalism promoted by the Liberal governments of the 1960s and 1970s and sought to promote the military and the Crown as sacrosanct elements of “what it means to be Canadian.” ….”
They’re not “war resisters”, they’re volunteers who ran away and aren’t brave enough to face the music – this from the House of Commons yesterday. “Mr. Speaker, decorated Iraq war veteran Rodney Watson has lived in limbo for two years in sanctuary at an East Vancouver church with his wife Natasha and young son Jordan, both Canadian citizens. I have come to know Rodney and know him to be strong in his conviction for peace and justice, and brave in his commitment to go up against an illegal war. It has been a tough two years, and the strong support from the war resisters support campaign has been enormously important. If Rodney were to return to the U.S., he would likely be charged, which would make his return to Canada inadmissible, tearing him apart from his family. As many as 40 other war resisters like Rodney are currently fighting to stay in Canada. This Parliament has passed two motions in support of war resisters, yet the government is still trying to deport them. I encourage Canadians to write to the immigration minister and their MPs about Rodney and all war resisters to support the call for their permanent residence in Canada.”
Fence along the Canada-U.S. border? Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?“The United States has distanced itself from its own report that suggested it is considering beefing up its security at the Canadian border — possibly through the construction of “selective fencing” and trenches as well as enhanced electronic surveillance. The proposed options are contained in a detailed draft report released Aug. 31 in Washington, D.C., by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. The proposals will be aired at public meetings in American cities this fall, before the U.S. government considers how to further tighten the border to keep out terrorists and other criminals. But late Thursday afternoon, after reports about the possible fence hit the Canadian media, the U.S. agency released a carefully worded statement. “A border fence along the northern border is not being considered at this time,” it said ….” A summary of the report (PDF) is available here, the news release linked to the report here, and more in the Globe & Mail here.
Meanwhile, the UAV’s drone on looking for bad guys and bad stuff going from Canada to the U.S.“The unmanned planes look north toward the long, lightly defended and admittedly porous Canada-U.S. border – the best route many Americans believe for jihadists seeking to attack the United States to sneak across. Like their missile-carrying military cousins prowling Pakistan’s skies targeting al-Qaeda suspects, the unarmed Predator aircraft that have patrolled the 49th parallel since 2009 are high-tech, sophisticated and little understood. And they are part of the same diffuse and determined effort the Unites States is making to secure its borders and defend itself. “We’re here to protect the nation from bad people doing bad things,” says John Priddy, U.S. National Air Security Operations director for the Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine. He heads the Predator operation guarding American’s northern airspace. “This is the equivalent of the Cold War in terms of a new type of vigilance,” says Mr. Priddy, who has flown everything from Boeing 747 cargo jets to Apache helicopters ….”
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.”
Libya Mission (1a) Three more months?“Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he believes that the Canadian Forces will be able to wrap up their mission in Libya “well before” their next three-month mandate is over. Mr. Harper will ask the House of Commons this week to approve a three-month extension after NATO countries agreed to stay with the mission beyond the Sept. 27 deadline, but he said Canada’s goal is to wipe out the remaining threat of pro-Gadhadi forces and it should be over sooner ….” More from CBC.ca here and The Canadian Press here. The PM’s officialese statements here and here.
Libya Mission (1b) Here’s how the PM’s official statement put it: “Canada has been at the forefront of international efforts to protect civilians in Libya against the oppressive Gaddafi regime and provide them with humanitarian assistance …. Canada will continue to support the people of Libya, standing ready to promote effective governance and institutions, a secure environment founded on the rule of law, economic development and prosperity, and respect for human rights.” More in the “Lookit everything we’ve done” bit here.
Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (2) Opinion, from Senator Colin Kenny: “…. General Walter Natynczyk, Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff, has been skewered by simplistic reporting this week. He is right to be indignant, wrong to be surprised, and out of luck if he thinks many in the media are going to stop and put everything in perspective ….”
Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3) Opinion, from QMI/Sun Media columnist Joe Warmington: “Only in Canada would you see our top soldier sucker-punched in this way. Gen. Walter Natynczyk has looked into the crying eyes of the parents of many of the 157 hero warriors killed in action in Afghanistan, and now the same people who condoned millions for a fake lake and a giant fence are worried about our top soldier’s travel expenses? Only coming out of NDP critics could such hypocrisy reign. It’s funny how we have taxpayers’ money for their leader’s state funeral but we must count every penny for the man leading our troops, not in peace time but in the middle of war ….”
Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3) Opinion, from QMI/Sun Media columnist Charles Adler: “…. So what about this trip to the Caribbean? Natynczyk had spent the previous two Christmases with our troops serving in Afghanistan. He was about to miss a much-deserved holiday with his family in order to pay respects to more of our fallen soldiers at a repatriation ceremony. The minister of defence ordered him to join his family, and approved the use of the jet to get there. It was a classy move on Peter MacKay’s part, and was completely justifiable ….”
“No” to expanding the Mo’?“Canada’s bloated military bureaucracy has consistently defied explicit orders from government ministers to increase the size of the army militia as directed. The accusation is made in a scorching but carefully documented report by pre-eminent military scholar Jack English for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and obtained in advance of its release Wednesday by only a few media outlets, including Postmedia ….”
DND changing how it funds research. “The Department of National Defence is changing how it pays for public research on the military, cutting funding by 80 per cent and moving to a new “agile” model that would mimic private consulting, according to scholars involved. By doing so, many of them charge that the department is squeezing the lifeblood out of almost three-quarters of research centres across Canada that are supported by the program, known as the Security and Defence Forum. DND, however, says it is only acting in the best interests of taxpayers. It says the move will transform the way it interacts with military experts, ultimately providing better value. Directors of the SDF, a decades-long effort by the government to link the military and universities to foster debate and research on security and defence issues, were disappointed to learn in July that their $2.5-million program would be shut down and replaced with a $0.5-million successor. They say DND will likely forge the new program into a system where it can commission work quickly, drawing in expert analysis on current affairs, or on subjects that immediately interest the government ….”
Somalia’s PM, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, is in Canada, asking for help (including military help)“(Q) You spoke of the need for more military and police trainers in Somalia, and suggested this is an area where Canada could specifically contribute. Aren’t there already such trainers in Somalia? (A) No, we don’t have those. Not inside Somalia. The European Union is providing some training for the Somali national army. They are training outside the country but we don’t have American, British or Canadian trainers. We need these because security institutions are essential to law and order. We also need logistical support – communication, transportation, even providing salary in the short term – so that once we have a bigger, broader tax base we will be able to provide salaries for our soldiers. We need a lot of financial help.” More from the Toronto Star here, and Agence France-Presse here. Given Canada’s military track record in the country (let’s also remember this was a case a small number of very, very, very bad apples making the whole group look bad), this might be hard for the government to sell and message – we’ll have to wait and see what unfolds and how.
What’s Canada Buying: Big Honkin’ Ships Edition Getting ready for mo’ shipbuilding work on the east coast.“A baker’s dozen of employers and the Dexter government have contributed more than $400,000 in cash and equipment to double the number of metal fabrication students at the Nova Scotia Community College this fall. An Irving Shipbuilding official said he couldn’t say whether a further expansion would be needed if Irving Shipbuilding wins one of the huge federal government contracts for new combat and non-combat ships, to be announced within weeks. “It’s difficult to say,” Mike Roberts, Irving’s vice-president of corporate development, said after an announcement in Dartmouth ….”