Saturday, March 26, 2016

Brean: War, Declare Yourself

Written by: Joseph Brean, National Post 

The immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack seems an odd time for a civics lesson. But that is just what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Foreign Affairs Minister, Stéphane Dion, seemed to offer in response to French Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ announcement that his country is at war with ISIL, whose terrorists targeted Brussels this week after Paris last year.

Speak for yourself, said the Canadians. Canadian warplanes may have been bombing ISIL targets until last month, and Canadian special forces are indeed in the northern Iraq war zone today, but what they are engaged in is a “fight,” according to Canada’s government, not a war.

“A war is something that can be won by one side or the other and there is no path for ISIL to actually win against the West,” Trudeau said. “They want to destabilize, they want to strike fear. They need to be stamped out.”

THE CANADIAN PRESS/The National Archives of Canada, Claude P. DettloffThe photo "Wait for me, Daddy" shows Private Jack Bernard, B.C. Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own Rifles) saying goodbye to his five-year-old son Warren Bernard as he leaves for the Second World War in New Westminster, B.C., 1940.

“If you use the terminology ‘war,’ in international law it will mean two armies with respecting rules and it’s not the case at all,” added Dion. “You have terrorist groups that respect nothing. So we prefer to say that it’s a fight.”

They are technically correct, says Jack Granatstein, a military historian and fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, but the curiosity of their comments reflects a major historical trend, away from wars that begin with legal agreements between sovereign states, toward the modern scenario of military conflict among non-state actors like terrorist groups, insurgencies, and subnational ethnic groups.

“I don’t think people do it anymore,” Granatstein said of the formal declaration of war, pointing to recent military conflicts such as Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

In Canada, he notes, only one war has ever been formally declared, the Second World War. More commonly, war has been justified either by Canada’s colonial duties, or by a simple vote of Parliament to send troops somewhere.

In Canada’s first military action, against the Red River Rebellion a few years after Confederation, troops were dispatched by a vote of Parliament, just as they were in the North-West Rebellion of 1885.

Canada went to the Boer War without a formal declaration, and joined the Great War in 1914 as a colony of Britain. It was not until war broke out against the German Reich that Canada passed a throne speech and had King George VI formally declare war on its behalf, first against Germany, later against Finland, Hungary, Romania and Japan.

STF/AFP/Getty ImagesCanadian soldiers land on Courseulles beach in Normandy, 06 June 1944 as Allied forces storm the Normandy beaches on D-Day.

“To my mind that suggests what a colonial remnant this country is, that we couldn’t even go to war on our own,” said Granatstein. “That’s our last declaration of war in the formal sense.”

But of course Canada has fought in many wars, no less real for having never been declared. Korea, for example, was famously described by U.S. President Harry S. Truman as a “police action.” Afghanistan was always a security mission, not a war.

One of the best illustrations of the legalities of declaring war in Canada, and how it relates to the Charter and international law, came in 2003, when Canada was caught by the dilemma of Iraq and whether to join the looming American invasion.

Lt. H.G. Aikman/DND/Library and Archives Canada/PA-129128Ranville France, 18 July 1944 -- Personnel of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade taking part in advance around Caen.

Several people brought legal action in an attempt to block a Canadian declaration of war, which in the end was made moot by Jean Chrétien’s decision not to join. In court, Canada argued that any decision to declare war “arises from the prerogative powers of the Crown and is not justiciable in any event,” according to one ruling. In siding with Canada and dismissing the action, a judge found that declaring war, like signing a treaty, is a matter of “high policy,” quite different from the kind of government action that can be rightly reviewed by a court, such as refusal of a passport.

“Where matters of high policy are concerned, public policy and public interest considerations far outweigh the rights of individuals or their legitimate expectations. In my view, apart from Charter claims, these decisions are not judicially reviewable.”

War is as old as society, and the question of when it formally begins has changed in lockstep with history. One constant theme has been a sense of chivalry and honour, in which sneak attacks are frowned on, and noble victory is possible only by declaring one’s intentions and fighting in the clear light of day.

Homer’s epic poetry, for example, is at root a series of tales about how the heroic ideal is expressed in war. Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher, thought the true nature of the universe is war and strife, and that justice arose from the equilibrium in this turmoil. “War is father and kin of all,” he wrote, an idea that simmered in the background of philosophy and showed itself centuries later in Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous quip: “Out of life’s school of war: Whatever does not destroy me, makes me stronger.”

The themes are timeless. The Peloponnesian War, which started without a formal declaration, influenced Plato’s low opinion of Athenian democracy, just as the English Civil War inspired Thomas Hobbes’ dismal view of the state of nature — “a war of all against all” — and the need for a strong social contract under a powerful state.

Saint Augustine was one of the first thinkers to write about the idea of a just war, partly in response to the sacking of Rome by Alaric the Visigoth. His ideas guided Christianity as it came to dominate Europe, and the Christian reluctance to fight gave way to the pressures of statecraft and crusade. From his writings grew the legal doctrine of jus ad bellum, or when it is right to go to war, with typical criteria including a formal declaration by a legitimate authority, for a just cause, as a last resort, with a reasonable prospect of success.

Ken Bell / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-162651Canadian infantry walking through rubble

Modern versions of this thinking have focused on war as a response to aggression, which gave rise to the notion of declaring war by ultimatum — basically, retreat or suffer the consequences. But formal declarations were more the exception than the rule, with some historical analyses suggesting only about 10 per cent of wars in 18th century Europe were formally declared.

The Hague Conventions aimed to change that when they came into force in 1910.

“The Contracting Powers recognize that hostilities between themselves must not commence without previous and explicit warning, in the form either of a reasoned declaration of war or of an ultimatum with conditional declaration of war,” they read. “The existence of a state of war must be notified to the neutral Powers without delay, and shall not take effect in regard to them until after the receipt of a notification, which may, however, be given by telegraph.”

In the decades since, however, as the Cold War gave way to the War on Terror, the old formalities looked ever more archaic, such that Canada today is in the strange position of fighting a fight while its allies wage a war.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Den Tandt: War Of Words over "War"

Written by Michael Den Tandt, The National Post 

Canada is not at war with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Of course not. It’s a police action. A lawenforcement and publicsafety issue, to address a pernicious threat, one being met with utmost seriousness by the federal government, which has applied a range of remedies across the span of policy, without resorting to fearmongering that would … where was I?

“A war is something that can be won by one side or the other and there is no path for ISIL to actually win against the West,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the CBC Wednesday. “They want to destabilize, they want to strike fear. They need to be stamped out.” Stamped out! Excellent wording, that. Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion calls it a fight. This is progress.

But they’re both wrong, demonstrably and clearly wrong, in saying it’s not war. It is precisely that.

Let’s dispense first with the too-easy cliché that Trudeau and his Liberals are “soft on terror.” They’re not. No government in its right mind would be or could be, given events. This is why, as reported by the Ottawa Citizen’s Ian MacLeod, it is moving on several fronts behind the scenes to block terrorists before they strike again in Canada, including via information-sharing enabled by the former government’s Bill C-51. Good. That much is reassuring.

Trudeau’s contention that the new anti-ISIL mission launched by his government, even sans CF-18 fighters, can provide invaluable help to the U.S.-led coalition, is well taken. It’s true that other countries, especially the United States, have a corner on air power. It’s also true that Canadian soldiers are good at training allied ground forces in hostile environments, having acquired this skill in Afghanistan. And it’s equally true that military power alone cannot “defeat” an enemy such as ISIL in a 21st-century, asymmetrical insurgent conflict that collapses and conflates previous categories of warfare. OK. But no one ever said otherwise, that I know of.

And it’s all beside the point on the question of what is, and is not, war.

The conflict with ISIL is war in the sense that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls used the term after Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels. Valls said this: “We are at war.”

France is not at war in a Napoleonic sense. There are no clear battle lines. The French Foreign Legion is not (yet) poised to move in great numbers into northern Iraq. Yet France is at war, because the seat of its society and one of the shining beacons of global society, Paris, was attacked and is under threat of further attack. Brussels has been attacked, no doubt because of its symbolic heft as the European capital. Europe — the very idea of a free society, multilingual, multicultural and borderless — is shaken to its foundations by the inflow of refugees, partially (though only partially) caused by ISIL. All that makes this a war.

Ah, but ISIL is a non-state actor, says the technician. It’s not “war” because one side can never win. Calling it war gives ISIL too much credit! They’re unhinged, degenerates and sociopaths to be viewed with contempt, not elevated to the status of combatants. And that’s true, as far as it goes. Of course they’re unhinged. Based on a literal reading of ancient prophecy, these men seek to catalyze a global conflagration that will bring about their own mass death and ultimately Armageddon. To say they’re unhinged really doesn’t cover it.

But let us be clear about a couple of things. First, ISIL holds territory. It has a capital city, Raqqa. That makes it different from al- Qaida, which never did that, rather choosing to infest failed states and cling to them parasitically. As I and many others have written, the fact of ISIL’s holding land and administering institutions of government, albeit in demented and criminal fashion, is its principal drawing card. Land gives the selfanointed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, legitimacy, by radical Islamist lights.

Therefore the land he controls must be taken back. The peshmerga and Iraqi ground forces doing that, at great cost to themselves, believe they’re at war, one suspects. It would be astonishing, indeed, if Canadian special forces risking their lives to help them don’t feel the same way.

In 2002, the Liberal government launched the Afghan mission against a ragtag band of illiterate opium farmers who fought with looped-up Soviet-era artillery shells buried in roadways. Yet most Canadians, particularly the estimated 30,000 soldiers who served there, likely now consider that to have been war.

It’s an absurd descent into technocracy for the PM and his top foreign policy hand to suggest the conflict with ISIL, which poses a far greater threat to Canadian citizens than the Taliban ever did, is anything but.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Canada not at war with ISIL, says Trudeau and Dion

Written by: Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Liberal government says Canada is not at war with Islamic militants — a view not shared by ally France.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion rejected the "at war" label just one day after the bombings in Brussels that killed more than 30 people and injured 270.

After the attacks, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls used the term Tuesday following a crisis meeting called by French President Francois Hollande.

"We are at war," said Valls. "We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war." Added Hollande: "This war will be long."

The bombings in Brussels came four months after the attacks in Paris that left 130 dead.

The militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has claimed responsibility for both incidents.

Trudeau, who made his comments during a CBC Radio interview, and Dion — speaking Wednesday in the House of Commons foyer — both said the conflict with ISIL does not fit the true definition of war.

"A war is something that can be won by one side or the other and there is no path for ISIL to actually win against the West," Trudeau said.

"They want to destabilize, they want to strike fear. They need to be stamped out."

Dion suggested the notion of labelling the fight against extremists as an actual war might simply be outdated.

"If you use the terminology 'war,' in international law it will mean two armies with respecting rules and it's not the case at all," Dion said.

"You have terrorist groups that respect nothing. So we prefer to say that it's a fight."

A fight, Dion added, that the West is determined to win. "Each of the attacks will only strengthen our resolve."

Last month, Canada withdrew its fighter jets from the American-led coalition that is bombing ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

But it tripled the number of Canadian special forces trainers in northern Iraq, buttressed intelligence gathering assets and also increased federal spending on efforts to help displaced civilians.

"That's why our new mission, which is much more focused on empowering locals on the ground on a military level, on a humanitarian level, on a refugee level, is going to be an extraordinarily strong piece of the coalition's fight against ISIL," Trudeau said.

CAF to Mali? Background Information

Earlier this week I published a post about the possibility of the Canadian Armed Forces heading to Africa with a list of possible destinations, for both UN or NATO missions. One of those regions was Mali.

What is going on in Mali you ask? Here is a little bit of a background on MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali)

(From the United Nations MINUSMA Webpage)

In mid-January 2012, a Tuareg movement known as the Mouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), along with Islamic armed groups including Ansar Dine, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Mouvement pour l’unicité et le jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO), in addition to deserters from the Malian armed forces, initiated a series of attacks against Government forces in the north of the country. The Tuareg rebellion was emboldened by the presence of well-equipped combatants returning from Libya in the wake of the fall of the regime there.

On 22 March, a mutiny by disaffected soldiers from the units defeated by the armed groups in the north resulted in a military coup d’état. A military junta, the Comité national pour le redressement de la démocratie et la restauration de l’Etat, led by Captain Amadou Sanogo, took power, suspended the Constitution and dissolved the Government institutions. The coup accelerated the collapse of the State in the north, allowing MNLA to easily overrun Government forces in the regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu and proclaim an independent State of Azawad on 6 April. Shortly thereafter, tensions emerged among the armed groups in the north and, by 18 November, Ansar Dine and MUJAO had driven MNLA out of the main towns of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.

Immediately after the coup, on 27 March, the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) appointed the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, to mediate in the crisis. On 6 April, the military junta and ECOWAS signed a framework agreement that led to the resignation of the then President, Amadou Toumani Touré, on 8 April and the appointment of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dioncounda Traoré, as interim President on 12 April. The agreement provided for the establishment of a transitional Government, headed by a prime minister with executive powers. On 17 April, Cheick Modibo Diarra was appointed interim Prime Minister. On 20 August, the Prime Minister announced the formation of a Government of national unity.

Following the coup d’état, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, offered the support of the United Nations to the Malian authorities. As a result, the Mali interim authorities requested United Nations assistance to build the capacity of the Malian transitional authorities in the areas of political negotiation, elections, governance, security sector reform and humanitarian assistance.

Further consultations led to the deployment in mid-January 2013 of the United Nations Missions in Mali – a multidisciplinary United Nations presence which was authorized by Security Council resolution 2085 of 20 December 2012 in order to provide coordinated and coherent support to (i) the on-going political process and (ii) the security process, including support to the planning, deployment and operations of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali.

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established by Security Council resolution 2100 of 25 April 2013. Under the terms of the resolution, the mission would support the political process and carry out a number of security-related stabilization tasks, with a focus on major population centres and lines of communication, protecting civilians, human rights monitoring, the creation of conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance and the return of displaced persons, the extension of State authority and the preparation of free, inclusive and peaceful elections.

The Mission would operate under robust rules of engagement with a mandate to use all necessary means to address threats to the implementation of its mandate, which would include protection of civilians under imminent threat of physical violence and protection of United Nations personnel from residual threats, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment. This could include the conduct of operations on its own or in cooperation with the Malian defence and security forces. French forces deployed in Mali were also authorized to intervene in support of MINUSMA when under imminent and serious threat upon request of the Secretary-General.


Authorized strength
12,680 total uniformed personnel, including
11,240 military personnel, including 40 military observers
1,440 police (including formed units)
An appropriate civilian component

Current strength (29 February 2016)
11,781 total uniformed personnel
10,684 military personnel
1,097 police (including formed units)
585 international civilian personnel
661 local civilian staff
143 United Nations Volunteers

*NB: Statistics for international and local civilians are as of 31 July 2015

Has Canada Been Previously Involved? 

The answer to this question is fairly complex - but yes. At the request of the French Government, the Canadian Government authorized the strategic lift capabilities of the RCAF to help the French Forces reach Mali in a timely manner. 

In 2013, Frontline Defence ran the following article about Canada's involvement. 


Jihadists are on the move in the sub-Sahara. The land-locked, developing country of Mali witnessed political deterioration that climaxed with a military coup in March 2012, and has remained in turmoil ever since. Former Libyan mercenaries and Al-Qaeda rebels exacerbated the crisis by capturing the country’s Tuareg region in the North, an area rich in uranium, gold and possibly oil. They were well armed, extolled a radical vision of Islam, and rapidly overcame the Malian army and the civilian population, imposing Sharia law.

Seeing Al-Qaeda’s rise in wealth and fortitude as a threat to their national security, Mali’s neighbours swiftly appealed to the international community for help. The response came in the form of UN Security Council Resolution 2085 permitting international intervention and “Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Mali.”
On 14 January 2013, following a request from the French Government, Canada committed one CC-177 transport aircraft, in a non-combat role, to transport equipment into the Malian capital of Bamako. Here, a Canadian Loadmaster and Traffic Technician load a French military fuel truck for delivery to Mali. (Photo: Sgt Matthew McGregor, CF Combat Camera)
Canada has been stepping up, in partnership with other Western and African allies to contribute equipment, skills and technology to help Mali persevere.

Canada committed one of its four CC-177 Globemaster transport planes in support of a French-led coalition mission in the West African country of Mali. Operation Serval is now in action.

The mandate of Canadian Air Task Force Mali specifically excludes combat and is limited to airlifting equipment and personnel. Since contracted for this mission two months ago, this C-17 and its 35-member crew have been working on a 24-hour work cycle. DND reports that, as of 15 March 2013, Air Task Force Mali had conducted 37 flights to deliver about 1,184,000 kilograms (2,605,000 pounds) of much-needed cargo.

During his first official visit, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault thanked the Canadian government for the loan of its transport plane and Canada’s ongoing support. “[France] considers Canada an ally that is always there in the most difficult ­circumstances,” he said in a written response to the Globe and Mail. “In the case of our intervention in Mali, we asked [Canada] for logistic support and the response was in line with our friendship.”

Canada’s contribution of the CC-177 has been extended indefinitely. “It will remain there as long as we feel there is a need,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper ­confirmed at a joint press conference with Ayrault. Harper remains firm that Canada is not willing to commit troops to a combat mission in Mali, although a Canadian contribution to a UN-led peacekeeping force has not been ruled out entirely.

“In terms of our longer term engagement, I think you know well we are not looking to have a combat, military mission there. We will certainly be providing development and humanitarian assistance. But the details of what our long-term engagement may be are still the subject of discussions we’re having among our ministerial colleagues, our caucus, and as well obviously we’re talking to the opposition parties about their preferences as well,” said Harper.

Canada has a pre-existing, decades-long relationship with Mali. Most recently, members of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) travelled to Africa in 2011 to provide training to members of Mali’s special forces, as the country faced threats from Al-Qaeda insurgents.

Canada has approved an extra $13 million to the $70 million already being contributed to ongoing humanitarian and development assistance. Have we opened the door to ever-greater expectations? Will additional requests soon be forthcoming?

If a UN call to put boots on the ground goes out, how will we respond? Now is the time to be having those difficult policy discussions.

Bethan Nodwell is a military spouse with a passion for politics, international relations and the defense industry.
© FrontLine Defence 2013
While it seems that Nodwell indicated in 2013, that the Canadian Government should begin discussing the possibility of sending the CAF to Mali; well it hasn't happened yet (at least publicly) and now, in 2016, it seems to be a big possibility as the Liberal Government seeks to "reengage" Canada internationally at the UN. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Budget 2016: Defence Takes a Hit

Written by JDM - CAFDispatch Author
Quotes from Dave Perry supplied by the Huffington Post
Published March 23, 2016

While I will boldly admit, I tend to lean fiscally conservative on a number of issues; I have no issue with running deficits. Especially in times of economic uncertainty, to help our economy, and to create jobs. So the infrastructure spending, first nations, or old age security spending does not bother me. However, it is the indefinite delay in close to $4 billion in defence procurement that does.

During the 2015 Election, the Liberals promised to re-outfit the Canadian Forces; while ensuring "More Bite, less Tail" for its command and operation structure...well not it seems that will not be the case.

In the 2016 Budget announced yesterday on Parliament Hill, the Finance Minister Morneau announced that the re-equipping of the Canadian Armed Forces will be delayed until after the next election. (For those who don't know the Canadian System - that is not until at least 2020 or later)

This delay is post-poining $3.7 Billion in already planned purchases - New Ships for the Navy, New Aircraft for the RCAF, and new vehicles for the entire CAF. However, Minister Morneau insists it’s not a cut to military funding, which the Liberals promised to maintain during the last election. Which in part is true; as they have pledged to maintain the 3% increase annually to keep up with really it means no extra money.

The Liberals are not the first government to do this. The Conservatives did the same thing in two previous budgets; defence analyst Dave Perry of the Canadian Gobal Affairs Institute says the cumulative total of postponed defence purchases has now reached $10.4 billion! For the previous government, the postponement had a lot to do with the balancing the budget, Perry indicated.

What is the reasoning behind these dalays? The Liberal promise of a new Canadian Defence Review; or White Paper as they have been called. Morneau said the Liberals need a year to figure out Canada's defence priorities. "In order to make sure we have the funds available at the time when they need those funds, we've reprofiled some in the fiscal framework," he told a news conference prior to tabling the budget in the House of Commons."So, when we need the money, the money will be in the fiscal framework. So, we believe that is the appropriate action to take to ensure our military has the appropriate equipment, the planes and the ships they need."

The political significance of this delay, according to Perry, is that National Defence will be expecting its money at time when the Liberals will likely have to get serious about cutting the deficit, which is projected this year at $29.4 billion, and a plan to have it falling to $14.4 billion by 2020-21.

"They're literally going to have an issue five years from now because that's when the bill arrives," said Perry, who indicated that the military is at the point where it needs concrete guarantees that the money will be spent.

The CAF is facing a huge "rusting-out" issue. The RCN is already without AOR Vessels, and its fleet is aging and is not expected to be replaced before the mid-2020s. The RCAF CF-18's have already had their life expanded twice; and will need to be retired by 2025, unless billions more is spent retrofitting them a third time. The Army is looking for new troop transports as it retires it fleet of LAVs and just finished retrofitting its fleet of Leopart-2 Tanks for the war in Afghanistan.

"I think if I was National Defence, I would hope you'd already have the money in the bank, instead of having to rely on a promise of some year, some time in the future they'll be able to acquire this stuff," concluded Perry. 

All this at a time when the Government plans to redeploy the CAF on UN Peacekeeping missions around the world; where equipment will take on more damage, and require replacements even sooner. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Montreal Law Professor Sues Liberal Government Over Conservative Vehicle Sale to Saudi Arabia

Written by: Steven Chase, The Globe and Mail 

Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion is acting illegally by issuing permits to allow the export of combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a lawsuit filed in Federal Court on Monday alleges.

Opponents of Canada’s $15-billion arms deal with the Saudis are taking the Trudeau government to court in an attempt to block shipments of the fighting vehicles to Riyadh.

A group led by Daniel Turp, a professor of international and constitutional law at the University of Montreal, filed a notice of application for judicial review on Monday.

The Liberals have repeatedly refused to cancel the contract, but Dr. Turp argues this isn’t about whether a deal should be abrogated. According to Dr. Turp, the question at hand is whether the Liberals are fulfilling their legal obligations to properly implement Canadian restrictions on weapons exports – both under Canadian export rules and the Geneva Conventions Act.

He says Mr. Dion’s responsibility to carefully police exports of arms to countries with poor human-rights records isn’t extinguished simply because Ottawa doesn’t want to cancel a business deal.

The legal action may force the Liberals to explain how they justify these exports to a human-rights pariah despite Canadian rules that place restrictions on weapons shipments to countries where civilians are abused or where conflict is taking place.

“Saudi Arabia is a country ruled by a dictatorship supported by a powerful army,” the Turp application says. “Saudi Arabia is … a state which consistently, severely and systematically violates its citizens’ human rights.”

Dr. Turp has taken Ottawa to court before, including in 2012, when he challenged the Harper government’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.

The Canadian government is the prime contractor in a deal to supply the Saudi monarchy with $15-billion of armoured vehicles that will be equipped with machine guns or anti-tank weapons. The manufacturer, supporting 3,000 jobs in Canada, is General Dynamics Land Systems Canada in London, Ont.

“The armoured vehicles to be delivered by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada to Saudi Arabia may be used against the civilian population and therefore, the issuance of export permits … would not respect the guidelines Canada imposed on itself and would be contrary to the Geneva Conventions Act,” Dr. Turp’s application says. “For those reasons, issuing those permits would be illegal.”

The Trudeau government did not immediately respond when asked for comment. A spokesman for Mr. Dion left it to bureaucrats at Global Affairs Canada to answer the media query.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stood by the massive contract, which was signed by the former Harper government, saying Canada’s reputation as a fair dealer would be injured if Ottawa walked away from a signed deal. Mr. Dion has also warned that abrogating the deal could incur big financial penalties for Ottawa – however, he refuses to elaborate on the size of the liability Canada would face.

Dr. Turp, supported by students at the University of Montreal and Montreal law firm Trudel Johnston & Lespérance, argues Mr. Dion’s responsibility to properly police arms exports is unaffected by who signed the deal or what legal consequences might follow from blocked shipments.

The former Bloc Québécois MP, who later served as a Parti Québécois MNA, said he finds it hard to believe Mr. Dion, once a professor at the University of Montreal himself, really believes the Saudi deal is appropriate.

Mr. Dion, as Foreign Minister, is responsible for signing export permits to allow the light-armoured vehicles (LAVs) to leave Canada for Saudi Arabia. Dr. Turp said the guidelines followed by cabinet stipulate that “Canada will not allow the export of military equipment to countries whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of human rights of their citizens – unless it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.”

Dr. Turp’s legal action argues it is impossible for the Saudis to guarantee they won’t use armoured vehicles against civilians.

The war Saudi Arabia is currently waging in neighbouring Yemen has already drawn serious accusations of human-rights violations from a United Nations panel. A UN report earlier this year blamed the Saudi-led coalition of Arab states fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen for “widespread and systematic” air-strike attacks on civilian targets.

The Globe and Mail reported last month that Canadian-made armoured vehicles manufactured by General Dynamics appear to be embroiled in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen– caught up in cross-border hostilities.

The Saudi Arabian National Guard, a buyer of many Canadian-made LAVs in the past decade, has published photos on its official Twitter account showing how, in late 2015, it moved columns of combat vehicles to Najran, a southwestern Saudi town near the border with Yemen that is in the thick of the conflict.

A significant number of vehicles in these photos have the triangular front corners, the eight wheels and the headlamps fixed above these triangles that are familiar features in earlier LAV models made in Canada.

CAF Preparing for Possible UN Mission to Burundi, Mali, Niger, or Burkina Faso and NATO Mission in Libya

Published today in the National Post, Matthew Fisher outlines where the Canadian Forces could possibly be deployed next.

When the Trudeau Government was elected in November of 2015, they indicated that they would return Canada to a Peacekeeping role internationally; and while I will not debate the notion of Peacekeeping here, it seems that at some point in the near future (believed to be in the mid-late 2016 calendar year) the Liberals will announce that the Canadian Armed Forces will deploy on at least one UN Peacekeeping Mission in Africa; despite the regions high risk, and the budget cuts to DND that are expected in today's 2016 Budget.

Matthew Fisher writes that the CAF could possibly see itself in Burundi, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, or Libya. Is there a possibility that the CAF could end up in more than one of these positions? Yes it is highly likely. While Minister of Foreign Affairs Dion has said the CAF will not enter Libya unless there is one Government; Minister of Defence Sajjan has indicated that as long as NATO has a long-term plan in Libya he would consider a training mission to help stop ISIS' advance in the country. Especially as  reports indicate support for the Government of National Accord (GNA), Libya's U.N.-backed unity government, is growing. However, opposition does still remain.

A Canadian Armed Forces Tactical Aircraft Security Officer provides a ring of security around a Canadian Armed Forces CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft at the airport in Bamako, Mali. (February 2013: CAF Combat Camera)

Here is Matthew Fisher's article:

There is no clear consensus in the military community about how the biggest spending ministry in the federal government — the Department of National Defence — will fare Tuesday when the Trudeau government unveils its first budget.

But there is agreement that Ottawa soon will commit the armed forces to a hazardous UN peacemaking mission in Africa. It is unlikely that funding for such an undertaking would be included in any calculations announced in the budget. If such a project is announced during the next 12 months, it probably will be taken, to use military parlance, “out of hide.” That is, from existing military spending.

The mission almost certainly will involve a country in French West Africa that many Canadians will never have had heard of, let alone know where it is on a map. It will be regarded in New York as the opening shot in Canada’s declared bid for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2021.

Many of those who serve reckon that after only five months in power it is too early for the Liberals to have figured out what military programs they intend to slash, delay, realign or cancel. But there may be news about spending on new navy ships and hints about creating what the government has described as a more agile force, which is widely regarded as code for downsizing.

The senior brass has been tightlipped about this. The official and unofficial line is that all is well between National Defence headquarters and the new leadership on Parliament Hill. That seems to be the case, notwithstanding disappointment over the withdrawal of RCAF warplanes from the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the dubious declared logic behind it.

Conversations over the past few months with scores of soldiers outside the senior ranks and with those who served until recently indicate a widespread dread that serious cuts are likely in next year’s budget. And that by then, it will have become obvious that to pay for other government priorities, defence spending in Canada will be in retreat at a time when allies such as Britain and Australia — which face different but serious political and economic problems — have jacked up defence spending to deal with emerging threats to western security from Russia, China and ISIL.

The upshot, which will become known following a pending defence review, is a force intentionally designed to be less combat capable.

Of equal concern is how the government intends to pay for its pledge to return Canada to peacekeeping and establish closer relations with the UN. My experience with the UN in Africa, the Middle East and Asia is that it does a good (and thankless) job of providing food and humanitarian aid to those afflicted by war and natural calamities. But its peacekeeping operations have been a shambles.

Nowhere is this more true than in Africa. It is not only the rampant allegations of rape and corruption that have undermined UN peacekeeping operations there. It is that almost all of the troops are from Third World countries such as Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Togo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Nepal, Thailand, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe. They are ill-equipped and most of them are poorly led and woefully unprepared to fight wars.

UN troops in Africa have either tended to stay in their barracks while collecting what for them are princely UN wages or have gone out into hazardous situations with bravado but not much else.

More than 1,300 peacekeepers have died worldwide since 2002 with more than 100 a year since 2008. About 40 per cent of the deaths have been in Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Mali and the Ivory Coast.

A mission in Burundi has been touted by some peacekeeping advocates in Canada. But even the African Union has refused to contribute troops to such a UN mission because the regime still in power has said any blue berets would be regarded as an invasion force.

The preferred option, given the growing danger posed by Islamic extremists in North Africa, is to be part of a UN or UN-approved mission in Libya. But Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, who seems to have the lead on defence decision-making for the government, has said Canada will not go unless Libya has only one government. Right now there are two and they detest each other.

A safer bet would be to fold Canadian troops into existing French missions in Mali, Niger or Burkina Faso. It is something France would heartily welcome.

With France committing more resources to fighting ISIL in the Middle East, the Germans, Belgians and Swedes are helping Paris out in Mali against ISIL’s new affiliate, al-Mourabitoun, and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

Wherever the Trudeau government sends its troops in Africa, and however it eventually plans to pay for them, it will be a difficult, inevitably hazardous undertaking.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Tories urge Liberals to reconsider unsolicited icebreaker bid

Written by Murray Brewster, CTV-News

OTTAWA -- Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Steven Blaney says the Trudeau government was too hasty in dismissing a pair of unsolicited bids from the Davie Shipyard, which offered to pad out existing plans to rebuild the coast guard's icebreaker fleet.

The company, in Levis, Que., is located in Blaney's riding.

"It is irresponsible not to consider a competitive offer that would provide additional, much needed ships," he said.

He said he supports the national shipbuilding program conceived under the Conservative government, but there is nothing stopping the federal Liberals from adding ships to the plan outside of the existing framework.

Blaney says the rapidly aging fleet of federal civilian ships, particularly the heavy icebreaker Louis St. Laurent, needs replacements right away -- or at least faster than the existing plan can produce them.

"Let's be clear. We are expecting the shipyards to deliver the ships awarded under (the national shipbuilding plan) on time and on cost," Blaney told The Canadian Press. "But what are the needs of the navy and the coast guard? They have huge needs and if there is room for additional ships, well, this should be seriously looked into."

The shipbuilding program, announced five years ago, has yet to see any vessels constructed because the winning yards -- in Halifax and Vancouver -- have gone through hundreds of millions of dollars in modernization and planning.

Davie offered to rebuild -- or construct from scratch -- seven icebreakers and support ships at a cost between $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion, in a bid that officials said would not be answered.

"(Procurement Canada) does not comment on or respond to unsolicited proposals," said department spokeswoman Michele LaRose.

The Canadian Press outlined details of the bids last week, but the department did not issue a firm denial until late Friday, a hesitation that stoked uncertainty in both Nova Scotia and B.C., which are heavily invested in the success of the existing program. Premiers Stephen McNeil and Christie Clark condemned the Davie offers.

The Davie proposals were seen as a deliberate attempt to undermine Seaspan shipyards in Vancouver, which is gearing up to build many of the vessels offered in the unsolicited bids. The shipbuilding program establishes both Seaspan and Irving Shipbuilding Inc., in Halifax, as the go-to yards for federal work.

Blaney says both of those facilities, which he has visited, are at capacity and still years away from producing the planned ships.

He noted that the civilian shipbuilding program -- depending on class and size -- has ordered fewer vessels than needed for replacements.

Asked why the Conservatives didn't order more ships up front -- or move the process along faster -- Blaney said that the government was working within a tight fiscal envelope and did what it thought best.

Canadian Navy's New Fleet to Cost an Estimated $104 Billion over 30 years

Written by Murray Brewster, CTVNews

OTTAWA -- The federal cabinet will soon be asked to make an initial down payment on the navy's $104-billion frigate replacement program with an approval that will lay the groundwork for the new fleet, The Canadian Press has learned.

It will be asked not only to approve requirements for the new warships and cost tradeoffs, but also first-stage funding, which will allow defence planners to get the ball rolling.

But getting a revised cost estimate before the Liberal government has proven to be a painful exercise and budget planners at National Defence and the Finance Department engaged in a tug-of-war over projections ahead of Tuesday's federal budget, say several defence and government sources.

But defence officials have been reluctant to be pegged down because of the complex variables and that means they're only able to project numbers into the future with "about 80 per cent certainty," said one source with knowledge of the discussions.The sources, who cannot be named because of the sensitivity of the discussions, say Finance Minister Bill Morneau's office has been anxious for military planners to produce numbers on the Canadian Surface Combatant program for the last couple of months.

Since the political fiasco over cost estimates for the F-35 jet fighters a few years ago, there's a desire to get the numbers as close to 100 per cent as possible, said the source.

The former Conservative government was hammered by the auditor general and the parliamentary budget officer for not including the full cost of buying and operating a fleet of 65 stealth fighters.

Internal documents and presentations leaked to The Canadian Press show that the federal cabinet was to receive an update this month on the frigate project, "including high-level requirements and cost-capability tradeoffs and the plan forward."

The November 2015 presentation said "funding decisions for the budget 2016" would be made, followed by a request to approve initial funding.

The estimated construction cost for 15 warships was originally pegged at $26 billion, but officials have long indicated privately -- and sometimes publicly -- that the price tag is outdated and will go higher.

One defence source said it could be "north of $40 billion" and the leaked documents warned cabinet soon after the Liberals were sworn in that "potential additional funding" for the navy's frigate replacements would have to be considered over the next few months.

Those figures do not include the lifetime maintenance and operating costs.

A separate presentation to defence contractors, on Feb. 23-24, 2015, said there is an "early projected estimate of $64 billion for the personnel, operations and maintenance costs over 30 years."

The eye-watering $104 billion total figure is an estimate that strictly depends on decisions the Trudeau government makes over the next six months, most importantly on the number of ships to be constructed.

What defence officials are hoping will come out of the internal debate over the next few months is "a solid commitment on how many ships the navy will get."

The Liberals have already taken preliminary steps to mitigate the enormous cost by proposing that the navy accept an existing warship design, rather than start from scratch. They are also proposing that the procurement of the warships be handled in one process, rather than through two tenders.

Retired colonel George Petrolekas, of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, said taken together both measures will save an enormous amount of money and time.

But he says it will be up to the navy to exercise restraint in the kinds of high-tech equipment it wants to see on the ships.

"There's going to be sticker shock no matter what you do, but I think the navy is going to have to demonstrate a certain amount of financial prudence," Petrolekas said.

The practical example he uses is crew size, which on Canadian frigates runs over 200 per vessel. Many other nations, including the U.S., are reducing the number of sailors on each warship through heavier use of automation. Petrolekas says smaller crews mean less long-term costs.

Some defence analysts have said the navy cannot afford to get bogged down in an F-35-style debate over cost because unlike fighter jets, it takes a decade -- or more -- to get warships into the water and operating.