Friday, October 28, 2016

1 CMBG Headed to Brazil for Ex.STEELE LEOPARDO

BY: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen 

Soldiers from Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), an armoured unit within 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, will take part in an exercise in Brazil starting Oct. 30, the Canadian Army says. The unit, based in Edmonton, will be participating in Exercise STEELE LEOPARDO 2016. That exercise runs until November 12.

“During the Exercise, participants will be focusing on information and knowledge exchange with their counterparts from the Brazilian Army Armoured Corps,” the Canadian Forces noted in a news release. “Armoured training techniques include performing direct fire and surveillance tasks, as well as target acquisition and reconnaissance.”
A gunner from 4th Canadian Division loads a shell into the C3 105mm Howitzer during Exercise STALWART GUARDIAN 16 on August 19, 2016 at Garrison Petawawa, Ontario.
A gunner from 4th Canadian Division loads a shell into the C3 105mm Howitzer during Exercise STALWART GUARDIAN 16 on August 19, 2016 at Garrison Petawawa, Ontario.

Government Backtracks on Demand that Firms Stay Silent on Canadian Surface Combatant Bid

By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen 

Industry representatives were stunned by a new decree from Public Services and Procurement Canada that would have prevented any communication to the public about the Canadian Surface Combatant program. No advertising. No press releases issued announcing that a firm was even interested in bidding on the program. No discussions about what a company could offer and the jobs it could provide to Canadians.

“Neither the bidders, nor any of their respective subcontractors, employees or representatives shall make any public comment, respond to questions in a public forum or carry out any activities to either criticize another bidder or any bid — or publicly advertise their qualifications,” noted the order to industry.

Why put a clause like that in the bidding package? Sources say the Canadian Surface Combatant process has major problems. There are concerns in some quarters the outcome of the program has already been determined. And the Canadian government doesn’t want industry talking about such concerns – or anything related to the procurement, sources say. It just wants to spend tens of billions of dollars without any pesky questions from opposition MPs, the media and taxpayers, some industry representatives worry.

After details about the order were made public, Procurement Canada issued this statement: “A clause in the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Canadian Surface Combatant has raised questions about restrictions on communications activities, such as advertising, of participating bidders. Public Services and Procurement Canada would like to clarify that industry is free to communicate as it sees fit. The intent of the clause is simply to encourage bidders to respect and preserve the integrity of the solicitation process and focus on the content of their proposals. Companies are free to promote their products and services, but the RFP asks that they not do so in a way that would discredit the procurement process or other bidders.”

U.S. Again Pitches F-35 jet to Ottawa as Liberals aim to Replace CF-18

By: Daniel Leblanc, The Globe and Mail 

The U.S. Air Force made a last-minute pitch to the federal government in favour of the Lockheed-Martin F-35, hoping to reassure officials about the long-term viability of the stealth fighter jet that the Liberals promised not to buy in the past election, sources said.

A top American officer who leads the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, based in Virginia, travelled to Ottawa on Oct. 14 to meet with Canadian officials who are working on the purchase of Canada’s next fleet of fighter jets. Lieutenant-General Christopher Bogdan discussed the ongoing development of the state-of-the-art fighter jet, which has clients around the world but is still facing a series of technological problems, officials said.

The visit from Lt.-Gen. Bogdan came at a crucial time, as a small team of Liberal ministers are set to choose one of three options to replace Canada’s fleet of CF-18s: launch a full and open competition; buy a small number of fighter jets for an interim fleet; or purchase an entire fleet of jets through a sole-sourced acquisition.

Defence-industry officials expect the cabinet committee on defence procurement to meet on this matter next week. Federal officials declined to comment on the timing of the coming meeting, but said the government does not plan to let the complex file drag on.

There are widespread concerns in the Liberal government about the short-term risks associated with the acquisition of the F-35, which is still in development.

Explainer: Breaking down the dogfight over Canada's next fighter jet

In September, 15 F-35s were grounded over the discovery of faulty insulation in avionics cooling lines in the aircraft’s wings, an issue that should be be fixed by the end of the year.

On a broader level, some Canadian officials were preoccupied by a recent report that raised a number of questions about the ability of the F-35 to achieve its promised capabilities.

Leaked to Bloomberg News over the summer, the report from the U.S. government’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation warned that the F-35 program was “not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver” full capabilities by the scheduled end of its development in 2018.

Lt.-Gen. Bogdan was in Ottawa earlier this month specifically to discuss the Canadian government’s plans to buy new fighter jets.

“The general provided an update on the status of the program and answered questions to help ensure officials had as complete information as possible on the F-35 program, as the Government of Canada considers all of its options to replace their legacy CF-18 fighter fleet,” said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for Lt.-Gen. Bogdan.

Mr. DellaVedova would not give details of what was discussed at the meeting, but provided a statement by Lt.-Gen. Bogdan to dissipate concerns over the report from the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.

“All of the issues mentioned are well-known to the F-35 Joint Program Office, the U.S. services, international partners and our industry team. … While nearing completion, the F-35 is still in development and technical challenges are to be expected. The program has a proven track record of solving technical issues and we’re confident we’ll continue to do so,” Lt.-Gen. Bogdan said.

There was no similar visit to Ottawa by American officials in charge of the Boeing Super Hornet, which is seen as the main rival to the F-35 in the race to replace Canada’s CF-18s.

Defence-industry sources said the U.S. Air Force is more supportive of the F-35 than the Super Hornet, which is operated by the U.S. Navy. Still, the Super Hornet program has had the opportunity to provide detailed information on its aircraft to Canadian officials, sources said.

During the past federal election, the Liberal Party said: “We will not buy the F-35 stealth fighter-bomber.” The Liberals promised an “open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft,” leading to the “purchase [of] one of the many, lower-priced options that better match Canada’s defence needs.”

Soldier's Mental Health A Serious Concern for African Mission

By: Matthew Fisher, The National Post 

A soldier who served with Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire during the Rwandan genocide is deeply worried the Trudeau government is about to embark on another UN peacekeeping quagmire in Africa that could have grave consequences for the mental health of troops sent there.

“We have historically made the same mistakes again and again,” says Stéphane Grenier, who founded Mental Health Innovations Consulting after retiring from the Canadian Forces four years ago as a lieutenant-colonel. His retirement followed deployments to Rwanda, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Kuwait, Lebanon and Haiti.

“History will repeat itself because people will not be properly prepared to go overseas,” Grenier predicted.

Compounding the problem in past doomed missions was that the UN did not provide strong support for troops in the field, he added.
(Matthew Fisher/Postmedia) Retired Lt.-Col. Stephane Grenier says Canadian soldiers aren't trained to deal with the different standards of morality in Africa.
Most troops face trauma but few suffer from PTSD, study of active soldiers finds
John Ivison: Canadian military quick to leave behind soldiers suffering from PTSD

“Is there any indication the UN is better equipped today to govern military forces trying to implement what are impossible mandates?” he asked. “I don’t think so. Until that is fixed, history will repeat itself.”

Grenier became a passionate advocate for mental health after witnessing shocking barbarism when more than one million Rwandans were slaughtered in the genocide in that country in 1994.

What Canada was most lacking, he said, was training for soldiers, diplomats and other government workers to deal with what he called the moral conflicts that arise on such missions.

“Because our soldiers are Canadian, and mostly raised in Canada, they live their lives according to a moral compass that is calibrated to Canadian values, to a sense of what Canadians think is right or wrong. When you put them in another country which has a very different perception of what is right or wrong, there is an issue.

“There is no way right now to adjust our moral compass to that other reality. The principles that we establish for our missions don’t apply there. It becomes a real challenge to maintain your moral compass.”

Grenier spoke of standing beside a boy as the youngster was shot by the Interahamwe (a Hutu paramilitary organization) in Rwanda, and the mental anguish that some Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan suffered after hearing the cries of young boys who were being abused by Afghan troops on a joint base.

“All the resiliency training and briefings in the world do not to this date help us to recalibrate our compass for things like that,” he said.

“Something gets lost in translation between the air base at Trenton (Ontario) and wherever it is that Canadians land. That is the starting point for understanding the challenge to successfully prosecute a mission in a place like Africa and to get everyone back home safe and sane, not only from the battlefield but the mental battlefield.”

The African mission now being drawn up in offices in Ottawa would create unrealistic demands because the discussion is taking place in a vacuum with a poor understanding of the true situation on the far side of the world, the former armoured corps and public affairs officer said.

“I don’t want to play with words such as peacekeeping, peacemaking or peace-enforcing but I think that it is very naive to think that the peacekeeping concept can be implemented in 2016 and going forward,” he said. “The Kumbaya thing will not work, especially in Africa.

“Given the volatility of these countries, why do we think that our human kindness will work over there? Maybe niceness will work if it is backed up with some real teeth and a line in the sand.”

Grenier recalled what a fellow blue beret from Senegal told him early in his UN tour in Rwanda.

“‘When an African shows you his fist, you show him your knife’,” the officer said. “‘When an African shows you his knife, you show him your gun. You never show weakness’.”
(Marianne Helm/Postmedia) Retired Lt.-Gen Romeo Dallaire, shown in 2004, was haunted by the atrocities he witnessed while leading Canadian forces in Rwanda.
Grenier said: “What we do is create complex mandates with the best intentions in the world, but in a context that is completely different than where the mandate has to be executed. It is as if politicians and bureaucrats have skipped a series of chapters that have been written since the end of the Cold War.”

Nor do governments calculate the true cost of these missions, he added. “We do the simple math of fuel, beans, boots and bullets and are satisfied with that answer. The cost in the mental health of the troops only becomes obvious 20 years later. We have never grasped that.”

Grenier’s new battle space is mental health in the workplace. He works with police and paramedics to combat the on-the-job stresses they face every day.

And although he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder himself, Grenier said the number of Canadian troops who have been diagnosed as having PTSD after serving in such places as Rwanda and Afghanistan has been greatly exaggerated.

“There is a national obsession with PTSD that I despise,” he said. “The fact that you are injured in the mind does not always mean that you have PTSD.”

Although Grenier has great respect for Dallaire, he feels the general’s fame sometimes diverts attention from the problems of other troops who witnessed murder and mayhem.

“With the general, Canadians are a bit star-struck,” Grenier said. “It is a phenomena that is not good or bad. Countries need heroes and he became one. But all the attention that he has had, had the perverse effect of taking attention from the issue.

“The mistake that is made is that people listen to General Dallaire, when people like him have no trouble getting a psychiatrist to support and treat them. That is not the case for soldiers at the bottom of the chain.”

Grenier added: “The American Psychiatry Association and Veterans Affairs want to hear the general’s views, and he certainly deserves to be heard. But his experiences are not representative of what the masses experienced. That is not his fault. He has tried to include others and has invited them to speak in Ottawa, but people there would rather hear from a celebrity.”

RCAF Prepares to Support French Mali Mission

By: Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA—As the Liberal government contemplates which United Nations peacekeeping mission to join, the Canadian military is gearing up to support a major French counterterrorism operation in northern Africa for the fifth time since 2013.

Defence officials say planning is underway for Canada to send military transport aircraft to help France in its fight against Islamic militant groups in five countries: Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

About 3,000 heavily armed French troops have been hunting al Qaeda-linked fighters in the region, called the Sahel, since August 2014. Code-named Operation Barkhane, the mission has also been recently tasked with supporting UN peacekeepers in Mali if required.

National Defence spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said plans have not been finalized, but Canadian transport planes are expected to move French troops and equipment into the region.

Canadian military aircraft carried nearly 40 tonnes of equipment between France and Africa with three different flights last year. They also flew French armoured vehicles, medical supplies and ammunition into Mali in early 2013. French officials have repeatedly praised Canada’s assistance.

The difference this time is that the Liberal government is considering whether to send Canadian peacekeepers to Mali, where the UN has been conducting a peacekeeping mission in parallel with the French counterterrorism operations.

The peacekeeping mission is intended to stabilize the country after the Malian government and Tuareg rebels signed a peace agreement last year. The Tuaregs, a traditionally nomadic people who live in the north of Mali, had launched an uprising in 2012 aimed at gaining independence.

But the peace deal has been marred by fighting between competing Tuareg groups and by the presence of several Islamist militant groups, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the related Ansar Dine. Complicating matters is the fact that drug trafficking to Europe is the only source of income for many locals.

The UN Security Council at the end of June agreed to beef up the peacekeeping mission’s mandate to better protect its blue helmets in Mali, where more than 100 have died since 2013. It also opened the door to French forces from Operation Barkhane helping peacekeepers if they find themselves in trouble.

The Liberal government has said it will commit up to 600 troops to UN peacekeeping operations. It has not said where they will be deployed, though officials from National Defence, Global Affairs and the RCMP conducted a “reconnaissance mission” to Mali last month.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan would not say Thursday when the government will make a decision on where to send peacekeepers, but he said addressing terrorism is one aspect of bringing peace and stability to a region like the Sahel.

“If you want to try to bring peace into an area, we can’t have a terrorist organization and radical groups undermining some of those efforts as we try to ease the tensions for various other conflicts as well,” he said. “It has to be addressed.”

Some of the other UN missions that Canada could join are in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Colombia.

Conservatives accuse Liberals of concealing extent of Iraq mission

By: Janice Dickson, iPolitics 

Conservative Interim Leader Rona Ambrose alleged today that the Liberals are no longer briefing the media on Canada’s role in its anti-ISIS mission in Iraq.

Ambrose said Trudeau “is not being transparent with Canadians about our role in these combat operations. He called it a training mission, but we have learned through social media that our troops on the front lines and engaging the enemy. This is serious.”

In question period today, she accused the Liberals’ of changing the communications policy to eliminate technical briefings for media “for political reasons.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replied by insisting his government remains open and transparent about the mission — “but we will not compromise their safety for a communications exercise here at home.”

While the Canadian Forces and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan continue to update the media on Canada’s mission in Iraq, media were told earlier this month that the Canadian Forces will no longer disclose details when Canadian troops come under fire from ISIS militants while advising and assisting Kurdish fighters on the front lines in Iraq.

But the government hasn’t stopped the briefings altogether, as Ambrose and other Conservative MPs claimed today. Sajjan took questions from reporters for nearly 40 minutes this week; the Canadian Forces updated reporters earlier this month on the ISIS mission and will update them again next month.

Conservative MP James Bezan called on Trudeau to apologize to the Canadian Forces for signalling he didn’t trust them to provide briefings. Sajjan’s parliamentary secretary John McKay assured Bezan that the CF is pursuing its Iraq mandate — to advise and assist — and their role has not gone beyond that.

Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus raised an additional issue related to recent media reports that CF soldiers have gone beyond the limits of advise-and-assist and are taking part in skirmishes against ISIS militants.

“We learned last month the mission changed … but this was hidden from Canadians,” he said. “There are rumours they are doing more than advising. When we were in power we were more transparent about what our soldiers were doing.”

Bezan, jumping in for a second time, pointed to Sajjan’s refusal Tuesday to rule out expanding the mission to Syria.

“Is the minister aware he has contradicted the prime minister?” he asked.

McKay said that the government will assess the needs of the coalition, but right now the mission is focused on Iraq. McKay did not answer an additional question from Paul-Hus about whether an extended mission in Syria would be put to a vote in Parliament.

Admit it. Canadian troops in Iraq aren’t just advising. They’re fighting

By: Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star

It has always been a myth that Canada’s soldiers in Iraq don’t do combat. Now the myth is even harder to sustain.

On Thursday, a senior general acknowledged that, over the last few months, Canadian special forces operating in northern Iraq have become increasingly involved in front-line skirmishes against Daesh fighters.
Canadian special operations forces soldiers working in northern Iraq in April teach local Peshmerga soldiers in how to deal with casualties after a simulated mortar attack. The exercise was done at the Canadian base west of Erbil.
Canadian special operations forces soldiers working in northern Iraq in April teach local Peshmerga soldiers in how to deal with casualties after a simulated mortar attack. The exercise was done at the Canadian base west of Erbil. (MICHELLE CLELAND / TORONTO STAR)
“The mission has changed,” said Brig.-Gen. Peter Dawe. “We are more engaged on the line … the risk has increased.”

There are roughly 200 Canadian special-forces troops operating in Iraq. Ostensibly, their role is to train Kurdish troops.

In military bureaucratese, this is known as an “advise and assist” mission, as opposed to an “advise, assist and accompany” mission — which is what Canadian soldiers did when they were supporting local troops during the Afghan War.

Both the current Liberal government and the Conservative one it replaced have gone to great lengths to assure Canadians that Iraq is not another Afghanistan. So these semantic debates over the definition of word “combat” have taken on great political meaning.

The Conservatives used to say shooting in self-defence was not real combat.

Under the Liberals, the military brass is engaging in similar linguistic contortions to avoid the dreaded word.

According to one, Canadian troops have to be the “principal combatants” to engage in combat. According to another, combat only occurs once soldiers have crossed an imaginary line on the battlefield.

But in the real world of war, the differences become blurred — particularly when the battle lines are fluid.

It’s hard to advise and assist Kurdish troops when they are going into battle, unless you accompany them.

And when you do that — whoops — sometimes you are shot at.

What can you do then but shoot back?

None of this would matter if the war against Daesh, sometimes known as ISIS, were a set-piece conflict. But it is not.

In both Iraq and Syria, the war is unnervingly complicated and factional.

Mercifully, Canada is no longer involved in bombing Syria where, with the U.S. and Russia rattling sabres at one another, even the air war has become more dangerous.

But Iraq is bad enough. Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish forces don’t trust one another. Moreover, as the Financial Times reported last week, the fissures that have always existed within these three major groups are beginning to widen.

It’s not that long ago that rival Kurdish parties in northern Iraq were involved in a murderous shooting war with one another.

When Canada’s Liberals were in opposition, their approach to the Iraq war appeared to make sense — at least in the abstract,

Party leader Justin Trudeau said then that he opposed involving Canada in a combat role but was happy to send Canadian troops to Iraq as advisers and trainers.

Once he became prime minister, Trudeau ended Canada’s role in the bombing war in Iraq and Syria to keep his no-combat promise.

But at the same time, he tripled the number of Canadian ground troops in Iraq in order to keep his training promise.

The net result has been less combat in the air and more on the ground.

And, as Dawe acknowledged last week, the risk of Canadian casualties is growing

Is this really where the Liberals want to be on this issue?

In devising the current scheme, Trudeau and his advisers were searching for that classic middle ground between what they viewed as Conservative hawks and New Democrat doves.

What they came up with, however, was a mission that poses more danger to Canadian soldiers in Iraq than anything the Conservatives ever devised.

If that’s what Canadians want, I suppose this is fine. But the least the government could do is admit that our troops there aren’t just advising. They’re fighting.

I’vewritten in the past on Bill C-246, the attempt by Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith to make badly needed reforms to animal cruelty laws.

I predicted then that his private member’s bill was doomed because of opposition from the so-called animal use lobby, such as the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

Alas, I was right. Bill C-246 was defeated in the Commons last week by a vote of 198 to 84. Most New Democrats voted for the bill. Most Conservatives and Liberals — including Trudeau and his cabinet — did not.

Four countries promise to join Canadian-led battle group in Latvia

By: Lee Berthiaume, The Globe and Mail 

Canadian troops will not face Russia alone when they begin to arrive in Latvia early next year.

Four countries — Albania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia — have promised to contribute troops and equipment to a Canadian-led NATO force that is being organized in Latvia in response to recent Russian actions in Eastern Europe.

“As Canada takes a leadership role as a NATO framework nation, I look forward to working with our partners from Latvia, Albania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia as we stand together to enhance our collective security,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement.
Image result for OP REASSURANCE in Latvia
CAF Members train with Polish Military members in a recent exercise during OP REASSURANCE in Poland. (CAF/Flickr) 
The Liberal government announced in July that Canada would lead one of four multinational NATO forces in Eastern Europe, where the military alliance has been beefing up its presence in response to recent Russian actions.

Germany, the United States and Britain are leading similar forces in Lithuania, Poland and Estonia, respectively.

Eastern Europe allies had asked NATO to bolster its footprint in the region as a deterrent against Russia trying to destabilize them in the same way it did in Ukraine — with cyberattacks and by crossing into their territory and inciting Russian speakers within their borders.

Russia has denied any such intentions, and instead accused NATO of instigating the current standoff by expanding into former Soviet territory and trying to undermine its sphere of influence. It has also warned against any military build-up on its borders.

Canada will provide 450 troops as well as light armoured vehicles and other military equipment to the force; Italy has said it will send 140 soldiers.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the other countries will contribute, though media reports have indicated the Polish contribution will include tanks.

The Canadians will form the “nucleus” of the battle group, which will be based at the Adazi military base, about half an hour northeast of the capital Riga.

The first troops will arrive in the spring, but the bulk won’t touch down until fall. They will stay six months before being replaced by another group of Canadians.

Officials have said the four battle groups are intended to make Russia think twice before taking any aggressive action. But they are also being kept small to prevent any provocation or escalation in tensions between Russia and NATO.

BC to expand job protection for Canadian military reservists

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

British Columbia’s government says it has expanded job-protected leave for Canadian military reserve forces in the province to cover leave for military training.

The leave expansion was announced Thursday by BC Premier Christy Clark at Canadian Forces Base Comox on Vancouver Island.

The change will allow reservists unpaid leave from their civilian jobs for up to 20 days-per-year for training activities, according to BC’s government. The government noted that unpaid leave for reservists is already provided for, if:
  • reservists are deployed outside of Canada;
  • engaged in pre- or post- deployment activities either inside or outside Canada, or
  • deployed to a domestic operation dealing with an emergency.

Canadian Surface Combatant Project Starts with Numerous Uncertainties

By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

The Canadian Surface Combatant project has officially kicked off with the request for proposals sent out to industry. The winning ship design is expected to be selected by summer 2017, the government says.

But federal officials still have no clue how many ships will be built. Originally the program was to produce 15 or 16 vessels. That was changed. The phrase now used by government is “up to 15.”

Construction of the first Canadian Surface Combatant is to begin in the early 2020s. But no one knows how exactly many ships will be built….nor do government officials seem too concerned. “One of the things we need not do right now is decide the number of ships,” said Patrick Finn, assistant deputy minister, materiel, at the Department of National Defence.

The cost of the project is also not being released….at least for now. It was originally estimated that the surface combatant program would cost $26 billion but that was way off and the Royal Canadian Navy later figured the final tally would be more than $40 billion. But who knows if that cost estimate will further change? $45 billion? $50 billion? If the number of ships to be built could be reduced then the government could bring its costs down….but then the Royal Canadian Navy might not get enough warships for its missions.

The Canadian Press has written on some of the other issues affecting the Canadian Surface Combatant program. Here is what CP writes:

Scratch building from scratch. The Liberal government announced in June that Canada would buy a pre-existing warship design from a foreign company rather than designing one from scratch in Canada. The new approach is designed to save time and money. But it has opened up other problems, including how to ensure Canadian industry benefits from the project. Companies have also pushed back against the government’s demands that it be given unlimited access to the blueprints of whatever design wins. That sets up an important debate between national security and intellectual property rights, which still hasn’t been fully resolved.

Rules of the game. The competition to choose a warship design is actually being run by Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, which is responsible for ultimately building the vessels. Some potential bidders have quietly alleged that Irving will stack the deck in favour of British company BAE. The fact BAE will be allowed to enter its Type 26 frigate into the competition despite the ship still only being in development has not helped matters. But Irving and the government have pushed back on suggestions they will favour BAE or any other competitor. They say an independent fairness monitor has approved the bidding process, and that the navy will be watching over Irving’s shoulder every step of the way.

Canadian veterans say anti-malaria drug prescribed in Somalia ruined lives

By: GLORIA GALLOWAY, The Globe and Mail
Veterans who took part in the Somalia mission of the 1990s, which ended after the murder of a local teenager, blame the anti-malarial drug mefloquine for psychological damage that may have caused the tragedy and say Ottawa should reach out to others who have been affected.

A House of Commons committee heard from veterans on Thursday who say their lives have been permanently altered, and in some cases destroyed, by the pills they were required to take as part of a clinical trial involving members of the Canadian Forces who were deployed on the Somalia mission.

All of the men urged the government to create an outreach program that would educate both current and former military personnel, as well as civilian consumers, about the drug’s potential side effects.

Claude Lalancette was one of paratroopers with the Canadian Airborne Regiment who was sent to Somalia.

“This is where I can retrace the route of my mental-health issues,” Mr. Lalancette told the MPs on the committee. “We were young and so well-trained for this mission. But the intensity of our aggression and psychoses led to the closure of Canada’s elite – the Canadian Airborne Regiment.”

The regiment was disbanded in 1995 after what was known as the Somalia Affair. Master Corporal Clayton Matchee and Private Kyle Brown were charged in the beating death of Shidane Arone, a 16-year-old Somali.

“Clayton Matchee and Kyle Brown, they are victims,” said Mr. Lalancette, who blamed mefloquine for their actions. Mr. Brown was convicted of manslaughter in the teenager’s death and served a third of his five-year sentence. Mr. Matchee suffered brain damage when he tried to hang himself and was found unfit to stand trial.

Mefloquine is also sold under the brand name Lariam. A spokeswoman for the Department of National Defence has said it was given to 15,677 Canadian soldiers between 2001 and 2012.

Mr. Lalancette said his own symptoms include depression, irritability, hyper-vigilance, sleep disorders and aggression. “My temper goes from zero to 1,000 in an instant,” he told the committee.

He said he has given up driving because he cannot control his road rage. The drug, he added, has cost him his relationship with his children, his military job, pushed him into a life of poverty and prompted him to contemplate suicide.

All of the men talked about being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which they say has similar symptoms of mefloquine toxicity.

But the treatments for PTSD do not work for those whose brains have been damaged by the drug, said John Dowe, who was also in Somalia and now works with the International Mefloquine Veterans’ Alliance.

“In the absence of national action to identify and alarm soldiers and consumers of the latest knowledge about mefloquine,” Mr. Dowe said, “we are left to remember psychosis, murder, violence and suicide.”

In 1999, the federal Auditor-General said the drug had been improperly prescribed during the Somalia mission. “National Defence did not keep essential records or follow required procedures required to fulfill its obligations as a participant in clinical study,” that report said.

Different drugs that have fewer side effects than mefloquine are now more commonly prescribed to soldiers. But Canadian troops are still given mefloquine far more often that it is prescribed for troops in the United States.

The British military allows it only as a last resort after a report earlier this year cited the risk of severe psychological side effects.

Dave Bona of Saskatchewan, a former member of the Canadian Airborne, said he took the drug during the Somalia mission and again in Rwanda a couple years later, and the psychological effects have been profound.

Mr. Bona told the committee that he has tried to track down the 28 men who deployed in his platoon to Somalia and has been able to account for 10 of them. “Two have committed suicide, six have attempted it and there’s only one soldier that is actually doing well,” Mr. Bona said, “and that’s the one guy that I know did not take the drug.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sajjan stays mum on role of Canadian soldiers in Mosul offensive

By: Bruce Champion-Smith, Toronto Star

OTTAWA—Photos have emerged that apparently show Canadian special forces soldiers near front-line action in northern Iraq, even as Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan stays mum about their involvement in the ongoing offensive against Daesh extremists.

One photo shows Canadians in what appear to be heavily-armed Humvees. Another shows soldiers setting up a heavy anti-armour weapon atop an armoured vehicle, a Canadian flag is clearly visible on the uniform of one of them.

This photo allegedly shows Canadian special forces setting up an anti-tank weapon atop an armored vehicle east of Mosul, Iraq. Defence department officials do not comment on the ongoing operations of Canadian troops. The Star could not verify when or where the image was taken.
This photo allegedly shows Canadian special forces setting up an anti-tank weapon atop an armored vehicle east of Mosul, Iraq. Defence department officials do not comment on the ongoing operations of Canadian troops. The Star could not verify when or where the image was taken.
The Star could not independently verify the photos or when they were taken. The defence department said it does not comment on ongoing operations but did not dispute the authenticity of the pictures.

The Canadian military has become more guarded in recent months about the work of some 200 soldiers deployed in northern Iraq to help train and advise Kurdish peshmerga forces, a mission that is supposed be non-combat.

It’s believed the photos show troops operating in an area east of Mosul, where peshmerga forces have been reclaiming territory that had been held by Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Sajjan was asked about the photos, including one that shows Canadian soldiers setting up the heavy weapon.

Sajjan also did not question the photos, but said any weapons the Canadians have would be for their own self-defence and protection of the Kurdish peshmerga troops they are advising.

“Our troops have all the necessary equipment to be able to apply the rules of engagement if necessary,” Sajjan said, adding that their arsenal now includes anti-armour weapons.

“I want to make sure that our troops have the necessary equipment in place to mitigate any threat,” Sajjan said.

Earlier this month, Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, backed by coalition militaries, launched a long-awaited offensive against Daesh fighters holed up in Mosul.

Yet Sajjan and the military have refused to provide any details about the role Canadian forces are playing as the Kurdish forces they are mentoring try to clear territory around Mosul.

Sajjan offered few clues Tuesday during a conference call with reporters from Paris, where he had attended a meeting of nations involved in the fight against Daesh.

“In terms of their role and exactly what’s happening, for operational security and force protection reason, I can’t give you the details,” Sajjan said.

“When the time is right I will be providing details . . . but right now these are the absolute early stages of the operation,” the minister said.

“Absolutely, Canadians deserve to know how the mission is going, what our troops are doing,” he said.

In the Commons Tuesday, the Conservatives ridiculed the secrecy and questioned why Canadians are being kept in the dark.

“Images of Canadian troops operating Iraqi vehicles, sighting targets with sniper rifles, and painting targets near Mosul have emerged on social media,” Conservative MP James Bezan said.

“Why should Canadians have to learn on Twitter what our troops are doing to defeat ISIS rather than from the government,” he said.

In an interview later, Bezan, who served as parliamentary secretary to the defence minister in the previous government, accused the Liberals of hiding “behind a curtain of secrecy.”

Even allowing for security concerns, he said there is ample room for more “transparency” about military operations.

He said the photos show Canadian soldiers “painting targets”— using a laser to mark targets for air strikes by coalition aircraft.

“This is definitely part of the support for combat operations and the offensive that is taking place to liberate Mosul,” Bezan said.

“They’re right at the front line and we know that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sajjan revealed that a Canada-led hospital — meant to be ready to treat casualties from the Mosul fight — is still not up and running.

“There was some delays from the Iraqi government side in terms of getting all the resources. . . . That has been dealt with and things are moving along,” Sajjan said.

The hospital will have two operating rooms staffed by some 50 personnel — doctors, nurses, medics and support staff. According to the armed forces, it will be able to provide triage, resuscitation and emergency surgery.

Given that the Mosul offensive is still in its early stages, Sajjan said the hospital will still be “timely and needed.”

In a statement, the defence department said the hospital should be operating within “several weeks.” In the meantime, the department said it was working with its partners to ensure that there were no gaps in medical care because of the delay.

Former General Romeo Dallaire backs Canadian missions to Africa

By: Peter Goffin, Toronto Star

Former General Romeo Dallaire has written a new book called 'First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD' about the mental demons he has faced since his time in Africa as head of the UN peacekeeping mission.
Former General Romeo Dallaire has written a new book called 'First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD' about the mental demons he has faced since his time in Africa as head of the UN peacekeeping mission. (RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR)

General, who witnessed Rwandan genocide, cautions that modern peacekeeping requires more than military force.

Lieut.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire is welcoming Canada’s military commitment to peacekeeping missions in Africa.

“They should have never left,” said Dallaire, who was commander of UN forces in Rwanda in 1994, when more than 800,000 people, most of them members the Tutsi ethnic minority, were murdered by ethnic Hutu extremists.

“The idea to start earning our spurs again in Africa, in a deliberate fashion to build capacity, to me, is probably one of the wisest decisions,” he said.

The Liberal government has pledged up to 600 troops and $450 million to UN peacekeeping missions, likely in Mali, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo or the Central African Republic.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has said Canadian forces will use force on these missions if necessary.

Dallaire, who served in the Canadian senate from 2005 to 2014, said Canada has an important role to play in bringing peace to foreign countries, but that it will require far more than blunt military might.

“There’s no such thing as simply bringing in a military solution to any conflict anymore. That’s over,” Dallaire said.

“We’re into imploding nations and failing states, and, because of that, you concurrently have got to bring in a security sector, a development sector, a humanitarian sector, a nation-building sector, and all these disciplines have got to learn how to work together.”

Dallaire’s new memoir Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle With PTSD, released Tuesday, deals primarily with the mental and emotional anguish he experienced in the years after leaving Rwanda, a path that led him to alcohol abuse, overeating and many suicide attempts.

In portions of the book, Dallaire rebukes the UN for not allowing him to intervene in Rwanda as tensions rose. And he criticizes Canadian government and military leaders for sending soldiers on increasingly complex missions in the 1990s with outdated strategies and inadequate preparation.

“We had stumbled unprepared into a series of missions in . . . Iraq, Kuwait, Cambodia, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Rwanda, each with racial, ethnic and religious complexities we had no concept of,” wrote Dallaire. “Our troops had witnessed — were still witnessing — previously unimagined, massive abuses of human rights . . . . We had trained them for none of it.”

The retired lieutenant-general told the Star that the Canadian Forces have gained plenty of experience since then, due, in large part, to deployment in Afghanistan, but that UN peacekeeping will be different than the NATO-commanded mission in Afghanistan.

“NATO is not UN,” Dallaire said. “Getting (soldiers) to adapt to a whole different chain of command, to a different modus operandi, to mandates that are far more complex and ambiguous — that is a learning curve that still has to be worked on.”

Since the 1990s, Canadian Forces personnel have served in advisory, training and logistics capacities and contributed equipment to UN and African Union missions in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Rwanda, Darfur, South Sudan and others.

Missions recently announced represent a significant renewal of Canada’s role in UN peacekeeping

Dallaire said it was a “cop out” for Canada to downshift its peacekeeping commitments during the war in Afghanistan.

“It was a limitation that has been created by budget cuts and deliberate reduction of the capability of the Forces,” he said. “I truly believe that returning to these missions means returning to Forces that use all its assets, including reservists, to be prepared to deploy reasonable numbers of troops.”

The Canadian Forces have the capacity and experience to make a significant contribution in Africa, Dallaire said.

As for what that contribution could look like, the general spoke of a broad scope. “I see not only troops, but equipment. I see development (workers) linking in to places that may be falling into conflict,” he said. “There’s a whole spectrum of stuff to be done.”

Frigate replacement program kicks off with design competition

By: Murray Brewster, CBC News

The Trudeau government is now ready to solicit bids from defence contractors interested in designing and equipping Canada's next generation of combat ships.

And it is demanding an extraordinary amount of detail and data from those companies, some of which have waited years for the program to get underway.

Even before the ink is dry on the proposal request, there are concerns among some bidders about how much Canadian content will end up in the new surface combat ships.

Warship design requests delayed for national shipbuilding program
Liberals give shipbuilding contractors a peek at future frigate plans

The federal cabinet has given the green light to release a long-anticipated request for proposals for an off-the-shelf warship design and combat systems.

Pre-qualified defence companies are expected to receive their packages on Thursday and the government is anticipated to follow up with a technical briefing to explain the details to the public.

The bidders have until April 27 to submit their plans to Irving Shipbuilding Inc., which was selected in 2015 as the prime contractor.

The Halifax-based company is the federal government's go-to yard for combat ships under the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

CBC News has obtained partial extracts of the draft request for proposal, which has been the subject of intense backroom debate among potential bidders.

The document — dated Oct. 9, 2016 — asks for an exceptional amount of detail and clearly displays the amount of control Irving is exercising over the bidders and potential subcontractors.
High stakes for taxpayers

The stakes for Canadian taxpayers are enormous and the Liberal government has wrestled, since coming to power a year ago, to get a handle on the project, expected to be the most expensive under the umbrella of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

Internal estimates produced last year in the transition between the Conservative and Liberal governments suggest the construction cost for 15 warships could exceed $40 billion. In addition, another $60 billion — or more — could be added to the price tag when lifetime maintenance and staffing requirements going decades into the future are considered, as the auditor general has insisted.
Judy Foote, minister of public works and procurement, addresses members of the defence and security industries at the CANSEC 2016 expo in Ottawa last May. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)
Public Works Minister Judy Foote said last May the government won't release a cost estimate until there is a signed contract in the program, which is expected to be the largest procurement in Canadian history.

The cone of silence also extends to the draft request for proposals, which prohibits bidders and their subcontractors from talking to the media about the project, unless they receive written approval from Irving.

There's also an attempt to keep a lid on the cutthroat competition.

"Neither the bidders, nor any of their respective subcontractors, employees or representatives shall make any public comment, respond to questions in a public forum or carry out any activities to either criticize another bidder or any bid — or publicly advertise their qualifications," said the proposal, obtained by CBC News.

The navy is looking for a warship with the capability of hunting submarines, but also defending against enemy aircraft and missiles. It is expected to be swift enough to keep up with U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups and be armed with both a single 127-millimetre gun and surface-to-surface missiles of its own.

The new surface combatants will also carry up to 200 sailors and have the deck space available to allow for the conduct of humanitarian missions, such as the at-sea rescue of migrants.

The Liberals, like the Conservatives before them, have also not committed to building a specific number of warships, which are not expected to enter service until the mid-2020s.

Rather than designing a replacement for the navy's patrol frigates from scratch, the government chose last spring to go with a proven warship design from another country.

Expected bidders include:
  • Alion-JJMA Corp. (U.S.).
  • Lockheed Martin (U.S.). 
  • BAE Systems Surface Ships Ltd. (Britain). 
  • DCNS (France). 
  • Fincantieri (Italy). 
  • Navantia (Spain). 
  • Odense Maritime Technology (Denmark). 
  • ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (Germany).
Some are ship designers, while other build electronics.

Backroom battles

There have been numerous backroom brawls leading up to the release of the request for proposals, including concerns about how much high-end Canadian-made electronics — known as systems integration — will go into the new warships.
HMCS St. John's, a Halifax-class frigate, heads from berth in Halifax in April 2008. The federal government has issued a tender call to companies interested in designing replacements for the frigates. (Andrew Vaughn/Canadian Press)
Sources, who are close to the file but only able to speak on background, tell CBC News that L-3 Communications Canada has written a letter, supported by some of the other bidders, warning the government no significant Canadian content — radar, sonar and communications — will end up in the surface combatants unless the foreign designers are forced to work with a company from this country.

The evaluation process, however, gives points to companies with higher Canadian content.

The request for proposals demands that each bidder supply an eye-watering amount of detail, including the number of "fasteners" that would be used to build each ship, including all anchors, bolts, nails, nuts, rivets and rods. The government also wants part numbers and descriptions about what tools will be used.

Some contractors see it as "an utterly incredible request," according to sources, who say "a lot of trees will die" in order to supply paper for the presentation. Some of the companies that bid on the air force's fixed-wing search and rescue plane program last January faced similar demands for detail, to the point where two bidders hired moving vans just to deliver their presentations to Public Works.

But officials working on the warship program insist — since it is an off-the-shelf design — each bidder should have all of that detailed information at their fingertips and it helps refine cost projections.

There has been a bruising fight over the federal government's demand that each contractor hand over intellectual property rights or all of the foreground and background data that goes into each design. An earlier draft of the plan said bidders would be disqualified if they failed to do so, but federal officials have agreed to a compromise.

The issue is of enormous importance because of the lucrative long-term maintenance contracts that will follow the construction.

If the government doesn't get the right deal, it could cost taxpayers untold hundreds of millions of dollars down the road in licensing fees, and might even restrict the military's ability to update and use its own equipment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Video Appears to Show Canadian Special Forces in Battle Against ISIL Near Mosul

By: Ben Makuch, Vice News

New video released last week shows Canadian special forces setting up a mobile anti-tank rocket atop a Kurdish armoured vehicle, in one of the clearest pictures yet showcasing Canada's role on the frontlines of the war to retake Mosul from the Islamic State.

Screen grabs of the footage, broadcast by Kurdish news station Rudaw and posted to Twitter and Instagram, show several special forces, in desert fatigues with Canadian flag patches, helping set up what appears to be an anti-tank missile launcher. A cropped version of the footage—without the Canadian soldier—appeared in a nightly newscast.

Canadian SOF (CSOR) in — Abraxas Spa (@AbraxasSpa) October 24, 2016

New video appears to clearly show  a Canadian commando sets up an ATGM atop an armoured vehicle, with the Canadian flag patch visible on his left arm. Screenshot.
In recent months, Ottawa has become cagey in giving details about special forces operations in northern Iraq, especially when it comes to the battle to retake Mosul.

Recently, military brass has admitted that their special forces have been increasingly on the front lines—but only under an 'advise and assist' mandate

But the video, which shows the special forces setting up the missile for what appears to be an offensive attack against an Islamic State position in the distance, shows just how integrated Canadian personnel are to the fight.

Other sections of the video shows the special forces peering through what seems to be a Canadian-made scope, sitting on the armoured vehicle's machine gun.

The video appears to be from the Hamdaniya region, east of Mosul, where had been held by the Islamic State until recent days, when the Iraqi and Kurdish fighters pushed the terrorist group out of several towns in the area.

When asked about the photos, Defense Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan told VICE Canada from a defense ministers meeting in Paris that while Canada has brought heavy anti-armour weaponry to Iraq, it's intended for self-defense.

"There is no secret here," Sajjan said in response. "Our troops have all the necessary equipment to be able to apply the rules of engagement, if necessary.

"I was actually very upfront from last year, when I visited the troops on the ground, that we need to bring some anti-armour capability in, where the previous government did not have this. So we brought the right resources in for our troops, in making sure that they could protect themselves, the partners they're working with, and other coalition partners as well."

A spokesperson from the Department of National Defence wouldn't comment on the Rudaw video featuring Canadian special operations forces.

"To ensure the safety and protection of our deployed personnel, the exact details of ongoing operations will not be disclosed," DND spokesperson Dan Lebouthillier told VICE Canada. "Our mandate has not changed. We are there to train, advise, and assist the Iraqi security forces and it is important at this time to let them do their work."

The covert role Canada's special operations forces play in the fight against ISIS in Iraq has been questioned in recent weeks, just as international forces ramp up an assault on Mosul. Both of Canada's elite soldier units, the Canadian Special Operations Regiment and Joint Task Force 2, are deployed in Iraq as part of the training mission.Media in Canada is particularly interested in the operations of special operations soldiers in Iraq since they were deployed in 2014, some calling for the Trudeau government to simply admit the country is serving in a combat role and directly engaging ISIS forces.

In an early October news conference, the Justin Trudeau government conceded Canadian special forces previously came under direct ISIS attack and returned fire, but that these occurrences were "sporadic in nature and have not resulted in any Canadian injuries." But in March 2015, a Canadian special forces member died in a frontline Peshmerga controlled position in what was deemed to be a friendly-fire incident.

At the same news conference earlier in the month, defence officials maintained the mission in Iraq was swiftly transforming into a more offensive engagement demanding Canadian troops travel to the frontlines with their Peshmerga counterparts. The Rudaw footage confirms just that: the Peshmerga forces on camera clearly show an entrenched frontline position, with heavy fighting and a large Kurdish force within direct sight of IS fighters.

Canada currently has 200-plus special forces stationed in Iraq advising Kurdish forces and calling in airstrikes.

Parliamentarians spend 24 hours under the waves with HMCS Windsor

Navy News / October 25, 2016

By Ryan Melanson, Trident Military Newspaper

A 24-hour stint under the waves in Her Majesty’s Canadian Submarine (HMCS) Windsor, one of Canada’s four Victoria-class submarines, was the highlight of a visit to the East Coast by four parliamentarians from October 12 to 13, 2016.

Chandra Arya, Marwan Tabbara, Pierre Paul-Hus and Cheryl Gallant
Members of Parliament Chandra Arya, Marwan Tabbara, Pierre Paul-Hus and Cheryl Gallant suit up for their Canadian Leaders at Sea program at Canadian Forces Base Halifax on October 11, 2016.
The politicians made the trip as part of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Canadian Leaders at Sea (CLaS) Program. For nearly a decade, CLaS has been embarking government officials, community and business leaders, and other strategic stakeholders on board HMC ships and submarines to showcase the skill sets and equipment that the navy employs in defence of Canada. The program also provides valuable insight into the day-to-day life of sailors and submariners, and the living and working conditions inside their temporary homes at sea.

The guests included Liberal Members of Parliament Marwan Tabbara and Chandra Arya, as well as opposition Members Pierre Paul-Hus and Cheryl Gallant, both of whom sit on the House Standing Committee on National Defence. They were accompanied by Rear-Admiral John Newton, Commander Maritime Forces Atlantic.

CLaS is meant to be an intensive and immersive experience, and a Victoria-class submarine was the right place to fulfill that goal. The guests were submerged more than 100 metres under water, dined in the boat’s small messes alongside personnel, and slept on metal racks alongside submarine trainees and Mark 48 heavy torpedoes.

The MPs also got a small taste of the slow-moving game of hide and seek that is submarine warfare, with Halifax-class frigate HMCS St. John’s and a CH-124 Sea King helicopter participating in a short exercise about 20 kilometres offshore.

Windsor closed within 2,000 yards of the warship at periscope depth, giving everyone a chance to observe the “adversaries” from the search periscope, before the participants took turns listening to St. John’s acoustic signature through the boat’s newly advanced AN/BQQ10 sonar, the same system employed by the newest submarines in the U.S. fleet.

Sitting at the fire control system, they then learned how visual, acoustic and other points of data are combined to accurately track nearby vessels and plot possible attacks.

As part of the simulation, Windsor fired off a green flare, a signal indicating a torpedo attack against St. John’s. There was no harm done, but in reality, the boat’s torpedoes would have no issue breaking the back of a frigate.

“The torpedo will find and sink whatever is out there, guaranteed. It’s been proven time and time again,” said Lieutenant-Commander Peter Chu, Windsor’s Commanding Officer.

Later, the visitors witnessed the crew run through a comprehensive set of pre-diving checks before plunging below into their natural hidden state below the waves.

“It becomes incredibly calm,” observed Mr. Tabbara while the submarine was submerged, compared to the way Windsor rolls with the waves at periscope depth.

It’s one of the many reasons submariners prefer to stealthily submerge as much as possible, though the boat did surface again in the evening so their guests could experience a “snort”, drawing in air and recharging the battery while running the diesel engines.

Windsor’s crew members each performed their designated tasks with precision, but for Mr. Paul-Hus, a first-time MP elected to Parliament last year, the biggest takeaway was the confidence the submariners have in the Victoria-class boat and the state-of-the-art technology found inside it.

“In the end, to have a successful crew, we also need the crew to have good equipment. I think we see that here with a submarine with its new sonar and other upgrades that are working so well,” Mr. Paul-Hus said.

The crew was upbeat, welcoming to guests and enthusiastic to chat about their jobs, but leadership is well aware of the heavy workload placed upon the submariners, and that it’s important not to burn them out. The boat spent nearly 200 days at sea over the past year, recently tackling an extended three weeks of deployment following Exercise DYNAMIC MONGOOSE 2016, cutting short a much-deserved summer break.

The MPs pressed LCdr Chu on his secrets for keeping up morale through long stretches of slow-paced, but demanding work. He said it boils down to communication – speaking with his personnel in small groups to explain the tasks at hand and the importance of the work, and giving extra attention to crew with family concerns at home or other stresses.

It helps that his crew has grown so close and supportive of each other, a necessity with 48 men and women working in such close quarters. The nature of submarine life and duty watch means submariners spend countless hours learning about each other’s lives, families and hometowns.

“It becomes part of our entertainment, but it also builds a cohesiveness within the crew. From a captain’s perspective, it’s extremely important to build that cohesiveness. When the team gets together, starts to trust each other and learn they can rely on each other, that’s when you build that true Windsor spirit,” LCdr Chu said.

There’s also immense pride in the work, and the lack of outside communications or missed family moments can be accepted more easily when working in support of real NATO operations, as Windsor did in summer 2015 and again this year. Having the boat and crew prepared to answer those calls for support is also significant in showcasing RCN capability, RAdm Newton said. “It shows that it doesn’t take a large submarine fleet to have trained submariners and be an undersea nation. In the international community, there’s no doubt Canada is at the table.”

Before leaving the boat to continue their tour of CFB Halifax sites, each visitor was presented with an Honorary Submariner card, an HMCS Windsor coin, and even a dolphin badge like the ones worn proudly by submariners around the world.

“I really encourage them all to carry these with pride and to show them off whenever they can,” LCdr Chu said. “It’s an experience they’ll remember for the rest of their lives, no doubt.”

The parliamentarians’ time at CFB Halifax also included a number of other stops to help illustrate the full picture of Maritime Forces Atlantic. These included glimpses into the navy’s future, like a static tour of the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter at 12 Wing Shearwater, N.S., as well as a walkthrough of Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard where work on the first Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel is well under way.

“They’ve seen some very important work happening,” said RAdm Newton. “So hopefully they’ll go back and tell their fellow parliamentarians about what the navy does and what our submariners do. They can help tell our story through their own lens, whether it’s to the defence committee or within government. We can’t ask for much more than that.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sajjan Traveling to Paris, Eastern Europe

DND Press Release

Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan will travel to Central and Eastern Europe between October 24 and 29 to attend key international meetings including with the Counter-ISIL Ministerial Meeting of the Global Coalition against Daesh in Paris, and NATO Defence Ministers’ in Brussels. He will continue to Riga, Latvia, and speak at the Riga Conference which is known as a unique venue for dialogue on international security issues between leading global decision makers.

Canada is committed, active and engaged in addressing the evolving international security environment with allied and partner nations globally.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Airdrie Legion set to unveil 1st Light Armoured Vehicle Monument in Canada

By: Ryan Rumbolt, The Calgary Herald

Once a part of Canada’s military might, a light armoured vehicle is patiently waiting for its debut as a monument.

Part of the Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) III Program, the decommissioned LAV is the first of its kind in Western Canada. The LAV was delivered to Airdrie’s Nosecreek Valley Museum on Oct. 19 and will serve as a memorial to veterans who served in Afghanistan.

A Canadian LAV (light armoured vehicle) arrives to escort a convoy at a forward operating base near Panjwaii, Afghanistan at sunrise on Nov.26, 2006. The Canadian Press has learned that Canada's foreign ministry is closely monitoring all of the country's military exports, but won't revisit the controversial decision to allow the sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland

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A Canadian LAV (light armoured vehicle) arrives to escort a convoy at a forward operating base near Panjwaii, Afghanistan at sunrise on Nov.26, 2006. The Canadian Press has learned that Canada's foreign ministry is closely monitoring all of the country's military exports, but won't revisit the controversial decision to allow the sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland 
The LAV III Program recognizes the service and sacrifice of the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan by providing a full-sized, demilitarized replica of the LAV III to qualified, deserving communities throughout Canada.

A veteran of peacekeeping missions in Egypt and Cyprus, retired Canadian Forces Sgt. Bob McNevin led the Airdrie LAV committee. McNevin said it is time for Canadians to start honouring the younger generation of veterans and their families, and the LAV monument is a way for the older generation to pass the torch of remembrance to veterans of more recent conflicts, such as Afghanistan and Bosnia.

“It’s these young men and women — that’s what it’s all about,” McNevin said. “I did not realize how many veterans we have in the city of Airdrie.”

Retired British Armed Forces Sgt. Bill Drummond is also with the Airdrie LAV Committee, and said many people only associate the Legion with veterans of the First and Second World Wars, and echoed McNevin’s wish to honour younger veterans.

“I think it’s a fitting tribute for the young fellas and women who put their lives on the line for world peace,” Drummond said. “To them, it means that they are being recognized — especially someone who has any kind of PTSD problems.”

The LAV III is a versatile fighting vehicle, able to reach speeds of more than 100 km/h. Drummond said Canadians were “seen as the envy of all of the United Nations troops” because the LAV is “so adaptable.”

“They were used as ambulances, they were used as mobile offices, they were used for taking troops out to advanced outposts,” Drummond said. “And they were taken there in relative safety.”

Drummond said the project to bring the LAV to Airdrie was estimated to cost around $70,000, butlocal businesses took the brunt of the financial load by donating money, transporting the LAV from Ontario and even pouring the concrete pad for the monument.

McNevin said he was stunned to see so many members of the community show their support for the LAV project by donating time, money and supplies to bring the monument to Airdrie.

“I want (veterans and their families) to see what we’ve done for them as a community,” McNevin said. “I’ve been involved in a lot of things and this is the largest rally I’ve ever seen of the community coming together.”

Currently sitting under camouflage netting, the LAV III monument will be unveiled during a ceremony Nov. 6 at the Nosecreek Valley Museum at 1 p.m.

CH-148 Cyclone Involved in Its First RCN Exercise

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

SPARTAN WARRIOR 2016, a Canadian-led military training event, started today and will run until November 16, the Canadian Forces says.

It will take place off the east coast of Nova Scotia and along the eastern seaboard of North America, going as far south as the Bahamas.

Participants include Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Fredericton, St John’s, Athabaskan, Montreal, and Spanish replenishment ship (ESPS) Patino, with embarked Royal Canadian Navy personnel, the CF noted in its news release. Additional participating units include a destroyer, replenishment vessel, and submarines from the United States Navy. Aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force and USN will also participate. The ships will transit down the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and will end their training in the Caribbean Sea.

In addition, a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter will be involved in its first RCN exercise, continuing to test and evaluate its operational capability, the Canadian Forces noted.

A CH-148 Cyclone helicopter moves into position over the flight deck of Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Montreal, for deck evolutions on April 20, 2016 off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Photo: Leading Seaman Dan Bard, Formation Imaging Services, Halifax, Nova Scotia
A CH-148 Cyclone helicopter moves into position over the flight deck of Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Montreal, for deck evolutions on April 20, 2016 off the coast of Nova Scotia. Photo: Leading Seaman Dan Bard, Formation Imaging Services, Halifax, Nova Scotia HS2016-0332-048

Too fat to fight? CAF considering tougher fitness standards for African Deployment

By: Amanda Conolly, iPolitics

Military also considering tying promotion opportunities to physical fitness levels

Soldiers deploying for an upcoming Canadian peace operation in Africa may be subject to physical testing beyond the baseline tests given to members of the Canadian Forces — and there is a “valid concern” about whether soldiers are fit enough now to meet those requirements, iPolitics has learned.

According to a senior Canadian Armed Forces official, the military is considering whether to impose battle fitness testing for soldiers preparing to head to Africa on one of the UN peace operations underway there. But in light of a new report that found 75 per cent of regular force members had a Body Mass Index that put them in the ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ categories, questions are being asked about whether Canadian troops are fit enough for a high-risk mission such as the one in Mali.

“I think it’s going to be something that is looked at and looked at seriously,” the official said.

A similar test was used to assess battle fitness prior to deployments to Afghanistan. It measures physical fitness above and beyond the baseline testing soldiers are required to undergo in the Canadian Forces and includes tests — like carrying sandbags — that simulate the physical environment of combat.

Image result for CAf on patrol in Afghanistan
Canadian Forces members take a break while on patrol in Afghanistan (file photo - Hill Times)
The official said that there shouldn’t be an issue with frontline units that would be tapped first to deploy, since they’re generally in peak physical shape.

However, there could be a problem with certain specialized trades that also may need to deploy to support the main force.

The challenge is twofold: The Canadian Forces have been getting recruits who are less physically fit than in past years — but at the same time, existing CF members are also becoming increasingly sedentary.

Unlike the American military culture, where there is little tolerance for members who do not maintain peak physical fitness, the Canadian military is more forgiving and less inclined to force members to get back in shape.

That needs to change, the official said, and the Canadian Forces are now exploring the idea of tying physical fitness to promotion opportunities to encourage members to stay in shape.

“It speaks to that the institution is starting to realize this is a problem,” the official said. “We recognize the trend is going the wrong way.”

According to the new CF fitness report, 49 per cent of Canadian Forces regular force personnel were classed as overweight based on their self-reported BMI, while another 25 per cent fell into the category of ‘obese’.

Just over six per cent of regular force members were also rated ‘morbidly obese’ in the latest report, compared to just 3.6 per cent in 2004.

One of the criticisms often leveled at the use of BMI statistics to gauge individual fitness is that it’s an over-broad measure that may not be accurate for every individual.

BMI statistics also can’t tell the difference between high muscle mass and body fat; a BMI rating can put people who are very thin but heavily muscled higher on the scale than someone who carries more body fat and less muscle since fat weighs less than muscle.

In the American military, soldiers who are flagged as falling into the overweight BMI categories are called in for a second round of testing that can capture muscle mass. From there, military officials can assess whether there is actually a problem with the soldier’s fitness level.

Going beyond the “quick and easy” BMI testing takes resources, though — resources the Canadian Forces don’t have.

And in any case, BMI inaccuracies are not the driving issue behind the trends this report portrayed, as was noted within the document itself.

“The vast majority of males and females with an obese BMI perceived themselves as carrying excess body fat,” the report said. “High muscle mass could, therefore, explain some cases of overweightedness in males, but is unlikely to account for many cases of obesity in either males or females.”

Is Mali the right job for the Canadian Forces?

By: Amanda Connolly, iPolitics

The UN mission is extremely dangerous — but it may play to the CAF’s skill set

The UN mission in Mali is the world’s most dangerous.

Sixty nine peacekeepers have been killed in attacks there since the mission started in 2013. The dynamics on the ground are complex to say the least, with a fledgling peace process being propped up by the blue helmets. A broader French counterterrorism mission across the Sahel is fighting to keep Islamist terrorists from again seizing control of Mali’s north as they did in 2012 amid the chaos of an army coup in the capital. And the country is ground zero for a network of criminal drug and people-smuggling rings that stretch across the region.

That’s the bad news. The good news — at least from Canada’s perspective — is that a Canadian peacekeeping mission in Mali could actually help the situation on the ground.

As speculation mounts across the defence industry that Canada will soon announce a contribution to the mission in Mali, experts say it’s worth considering the ways in which, despite the risk, the mission could benefit from the unique capabilities of Canada’s military.

“Mali has a legitimate peace process ongoing and it needs to be fostered in order for the country not to break out into war again,” said Walter Dorn, a professor of defence studies at the Canadian Forces College and chair of the Master of Defence Studies program at the Royal Military College. He studies peace operations.

“I think that the mission is proving quite successful at stabilizing the situation in Mali and that it’s indispensable for the peace process to move forward. So supporting the mission in Mali would make a key contribution to Africa.”

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in August that Canada will commit 600 troops and about 150 police officers to UN peace support operations. Since then, there has been no specific commitment from the government to any particular mission, beyond an acknowledgement that the mission will be in Africa, that it will be a long deployment — and that it will be dangerous.

But as General Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff, told the Senate defence and security committee last month, the fact that a mission is dangerous doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

“A risky mission that has great potential for success may be a mission that you want to invest in, and in the military, we do risk,” said Vance on September 21. “We’re good at that, if we can mitigate it. If the risk is not mitigatable and is out of all proportion and at the same time there’s no hope of moving forward, then it’s probably the wrong mandate and it would very likely be a mandate on which I would advise the government that it would need to do more work with the UN before you would commit troops.”

And as Senator Mobina Jaffer pointed out in the same meeting, Mali is no Afghanistan.

Canada lost 158 members of the Canadian Forces during that nine-year war but developed extensive expertise in managing insurgent warfare. That knowledge could be useful in supporting allies already on the ground in Mali, given heightened recent tensions there due to terrorist attacks and social unrest.

“Mali fits the capabilities of the Canadian Armed Forces quite well,” said Dorn. “Because of our Afghanistan expertise, we can operate in areas where there are IEDs and we’re well aware of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. So the peace operation there, although it’s a different mode of operation … we still have the expertise in those kinds of environments from Afghanistan.”

Responding to recent attacks, the Mali mission recently expanded by an additional 2,500 troops, bringing the total number of international troops stationed there to just over 15,000.

Most of those soldiers come from African or non-Western nations like Bangladesh and China. Germany maintains a force of 570 soldiers, the largest Western contingent in the UN mission.

The mission now faces a critical equipment gap: The Dutch, citing operational strain, are scaling down and preparing to pull out their Apache attack choppers and Chinook transport helicopters early next year.

Given statements from Canadian officials in the past about the need to identify gaps in existing missions, that raises the question of whether Canada could fill at least part of that operational gap by providing Chinooks to assist with troop transport as it did with the French counterterrorism mission in 2014, when Canada sent Globemaster III strategic lifters.

Canada has 15 brand-new Chinooks, delivered in 2014 at a cost of some $4 billion and currently stationed out of CFB Petawawa, as well as Griffon helicopters mounted with machine guns during the war in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referenced that contribution of Globemasters during a press conference last week with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. He was responding to a question about whether the subject of Mali came up during his talks with Valls. Asked whether that suggests the government sees the looming helicopter gap as an opportunity for Canada to fill an operational gap, a spokesperson for Sajjan said it’s still too early to say exactly what the mission will be.
(Credit: United Nations – Department of Field Support. Cartohraphic section)
“As the government looks to re-engage in peace support operations, we are looking at ‎all the ways in which Canada can contribute. As you saw with our expanded mission in Iraq, one of the things we look to do is find gaps in existing missions and look to filling them,” said Jordan Owens, press secretary for Sajjan. “But still too soon for me to confirm a location or specific contribution.”

Three other missions also come up frequently in discussions about a Canadian contribution: the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

And while iPolitics has reported in the past that South Sudan is not being considered by the government, both the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo present challenges that might suggest they wouldn’t be the best fit for a government looking to make a specific, focused impact.

“(Mali) is clearly one of the more difficult in a certain way, but it’s also one of the more clear-cut missions at the same time in the sense that South Sudan … Central African Republic, you’re wading into in essence a civil war (there) as opposed to a counterterrorist operation, which is really what’s happening in Mali,” said George Petrolekas, who served with the military in Bosnia, Afghanistan and NATO and is a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“The Congo is the largest, best-financed and most enduring UN mission in Africa and it still hasn’t brought resolution to anything. South Sudan and Central African Republic are difficult for me because in a sense they’re civil wars going on and it’s not as clear-cut.

“Mali has its own difficulties, just because of the fact that it’s more of a fight as opposed to classical peacekeeping. So in the Congo, because of its size, we would just be a drop in a bucket of water. The presence wouldn’t necessarily be felt.”

Petrolekas also pointed to the recent increases in allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic and hinted at the negative impact those could have on Canada’s international reputation.

There were 69 allegations made in 2015 against UN peacekeepers — an increase from 52 in 2014 and 66 in 2013 — roughly one-third of that number against peacekeepers in the Central African Republic and 16 against peacekeepers in the DRC.

“When you think of allegations that have been made against UN troops in other peacekeeping missions like in the Congo and the Central African Republic … it doesn’t mean that you’d be doing the same things but you’d be tarnished by the actions of others. There’s less of a chance of that, I think, in Mali,” Petrolekas said.

It’s also possible the mission will be a joint one, with Canadian troops split between several missions in Africa, Dorn suggested. He cautioned, however, that with the DRC being so far behind in development and basic infrastructure, the difficulties in measuring firm progress there might see a smaller contingent of troops deployed there, with a main force in Mali.

“In terms of meaningful impact, both missions would give great opportunities, so it’s quite possible that we’ll make a contribution to both missions,” he said. “I think the main effort will be in Mali.”

HMCS Preserver paid off after 46 years of service

DND Press Release

HMCS Preserver concluded its service to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) on Friday. The Auxiliary Oilier Replenishment (AOR) was officially "paid off", receiving a final salute from current and former sailors, soldiers, airmen, and airwomen during a ceremony at HMC Dockyard Halifax. The paying-off ceremony signals the end of the ship’s service to the Royal Canadian Navy.

According to RAdm J. Newton, Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, the Protecteur-class ships set the standard in modern navies for safe and expedient replenishment at sea. The essential but inherently difficult and dangerous task of resupplying ships at sea with food, fuel, munitions, and spare parts was executed by Preserver, and sister ship Protecteur, for 46 years. To accomplish this task, the ships travelled in the North Atlantic, across the wide Pacific, and into Canada’s Arctic waters.

First of class, HMCS Protecteur was commissioned in 1969, and HMCS Preserver was commissioned a year later in August 1970. The RCN intended to operate the ships until 2017. Protecteur suffered a serious engine room fire in 2014 and was sold for scrap metal in 2015, and corrosion problems were identified on Preserver, which contributed to her early retirement and today's paying off ceremony.

Canada intends to build two new auxilliary vessels, the Queenston-class joint support ship, at Seaspan shipyards in the Vancouver area, however, those will not be complete before 2019.

In a stop-gap measure, the RCN’s replenishment requirements are currently being addressed through leasing arrangements with Spain and Chile. The Spanish replenishment ship ESPS Patino is currently supporting the Atlantic Fleet.

In another answer to the serious capability gap left by the Protecteur-class AORs, the Government of Canada signed a contract in August 2015 (Project Resolve) with Davie Shipyard of Quebec to convert a German commercial container ship (built in 2010) to take on the resupply role for the RCN. The conversion was expected to be completed and the ship active in service by 2017.

Quick Facts

The term “paying off” refers to the British age-of-sail practice of paying a crew their wages once a ship has completed its voyage. In the RCN, the tradition continues with the term paying off referring to the formal ceremony where the naval jack, ensign, and commissioning pennant are hauled down, the crew departs a ship for the last time, and the ship is then no longer referred to as HMCS (Her Majesty's Canadian Ship).

HMCS Preserver has participated in numerous missions and operations, including the United Nations peacekeeping effort in Cyprus and the enforcing of sanctions on the former Yugoslavia, as well as Operations DELIVERANCE, APPOLLO, CARIBBE, among others.

Over the course of HMCS Preserver’s 46 years of service, it is estimated that more than 8,000 sailors have been part of its crew.

Over the course of its lifespan, Preserver has used/delivered over 800,000,000 litres of fuel since commissioning or 800,000 m3. This is equal to filling up a standard car 13.5 million times.

HMCS Preserver is 546 feet long, 76 feet wide, and displaces 22,100 tons. Engine power is 21,000 SHP and the maximum speed is 20 knots. It normally has a complement of 270 officers and non-commissioned members.

The disposal method for HMCS Preserver will be determined in due course, with careful attention paid to environmental, safety, and financial considerations. Disposal options include selling or donating the vessel, or dismantling it for scrap material.