Saturday, December 5, 2015

Canada in Iraq: RCAF Strike Two ISIS Positions Near Sinjar

Posted on it's OP IMPACT page, DND announced that on 5 December 2015, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck two ISIS fighting positions south-southwest of Sinjar using precision guided munitions.

Canada in Iraq: RCAF Strikes ISIS N.East of Mosul

In press release on its OP IMPACT webpage, the RCAF announced that on 4 December 2015, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position northeast of Mosul using precision guided munitions.

This is the third strike by the RCAF in December. The US led-coalition has been increasing in the number of participants, and active airstrikes since the Paris Attack. The Official Opposition in Canada will push to keep the CF-18s involved in the air campaign.

A CF-18 Hornet escorts a CC-150 Polaris after being refueled during Operation IMPACT on February 4, 2015.

Photo: Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND

Un CF-18 Hornet escorte un CC-150 Polaris après avoir été ravitaillé pendant l’opération Impact, le 4 février 2015.

Photo : Caméra de combat des Forces canadiennes, MDN

However, with the Liberal Majority, the likely hood is that Canada's 6 CF-18s will be withdrawn before the March 2016 end date of the current mandate. It is speculated that the Polaris and Aurora aircraft will remain active parts of the air campaign; providing intelligence and areal refueling capabilities.

Friday, December 4, 2015

HMCS Athabaskan Sexual Assault Investigation

Written by: Elizabeth Chiu, CBC News

Military police are investigating the alleged sexual assault of a sailor, by another sailor, on board HMCS Athabaskan, CBC News has learned.

The incident happened Nov. 10 and was reported that same day by the alleged victim, military police said Thursday. They also said the alleged attacker is a sailor.

The warship had been deployed since September and was on its way home to Halifax after participating in Trident Juncture, a NATO exercise off the coast of western Europe, when the sexual assault allegedly occurred.

HMCS Athabaskan deployed on Sept. 8 and returned to Halifax on Nov. 20, said the Royal Canadian Navy.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, a special unit of military police, is handling the file.

The investigation includes interviews with shipmates. Some 300 crew serve aboard the Athabaskan.

No charges have been laid.

A military police spokesperson says information about counselling has been provided to the complainant, but did not say if he has used the help.

The sexual assault allegation arises months after a scathing report by a former supreme court justice that called sexual misconduct in the military "endemic."

It also follows the military strategy Op Honour. Its mission is to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour within the Armed Forces.

Navy brass declined to be interviewed, and have not responded to a question about what's happening to the alleged attacker.

Hillier: Airstrikes Are Making a Difference

It was one year ago that I left Canada and boarded a plane for the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.

After completing five years in the Canadian Forces and serving a tour in Afghanistan, I decided to embark on a personal mission to fight against the Islamic State.

My plane landed in the city of Sulimaneyah and within one week I was on the front lines alongside Kurdish Peshmerga forces battling jihadists fighters.

In the months prior to my arrival, ISIS had stormed out of their Syrian strongholds and routed the Iraqi National Army at Mosul, capturing nearly half of the country in the process. Were it not for coalition air strikes against ISIS in the late summer and autumn of 2014, the Kurdistan region would have likely been overrun by the forces of the caliphate and the black-and-white flag of jihad would be flying over the cities of that nation.

Thankfully, Kurdish forces held out while the rest of the Iraqi army fled and managed to roll back some of the gains made by the Islamic State. I saw first hand that the success of the Kurdish Peshmerga in their fight against evil can be attributed to two things: Their superior training and the help of Western air power.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks of the ineffectiveness of air power in the war against ISIS, I cannot help but shake my head at his ignorance.

During my time at the front, I witnessed on multiple occasions the effectiveness of coalition air strikes. At small towns and villages like Tal al-Ward and Rashad, where fighting on the ground was fierce, I saw Western air strikes brutalize and punish ISIS fighters when they were in the open and reduce their strongholds to rubble.

On another instance, my unit was made ready for battle late one January night because ISIS was launching a massive offensive on our position. However, the arrival of just two coalition jets destroyed the enemy attack and we were able to stand down without firing a shot.

Western air power has allowed Kurdish forces to liberate cities, towns and vast tracts of territory that were once under ISIS control. These are places where women and girls are no longer gang-raped by ISIS fighters, children no longer conscripted into the jihadist ranks, and men no longer summarily shot.

In a sense, civilization has returned to these places, but as long as the flags of the Islamic State fly on the horizon, the country and the world will never be safe.

Pulling Canada’s fighter jets from this war is a severe tactical mistake. Canadian sorties have made a difference; they have saved lives and prevented countless atrocities.

Air power alone isn’t going to win the war in Iraq and Syria, but we sure as hell aren’t going to win the war without it. Our allies are counting on us to continue the fight. The world needs us and now is not the time to run.

Trudeau talks about compassion and saving 25,000 refugees. But it’s a token gesture in the grand scheme of things. Keeping our CF-18 fighter jets in the skies above Iraq, Kurdistan and Syria will not only save thousands of lives, it will save millions and help end the war.

I stay in touch with the Kurdish fighters I met while in Iraq. They put their lives on the line not just for Kurdistan, but for civilization itself. These brave soldiers have asked me to pass a message to Canadians: Thank you for your help in this war. And please, keep the CF-18s in the air.

— Dillon Hillier is Canadian Forces veteran of Afghanistan and served alongside Kurdish forces in the war against ISIS.


Canada in Iraq: RCAF Strike ISIS Near Mosul

In a statement on its OP IMPACT page, the RCAF announced that on 3 December 2015, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position northwest of Mosul using precision guided munitions. 

No further details were released. 

Canadian NORAD Region Names Santa's Fighter Escort Team

Captain Andrew Jakubaitis and Corporal Steeven Cantin. 
PHOTO: Leading Seaman Alex Roy
This year NORAD celebrates 60 years of tracking Old Saint Nicholas

From Royal Canadian Air Force Public Affairs

The Canadian NORAD Region kicks off the 60th anniversary of tracking Santa’s yuletide journey from the North Pole with the naming of his escort pilots and tracking crews for the important job.

Santa’s escort pilots from 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec, are Captain Andrew Jakubaitis, and Captain Pierre-David Boivin. The CF-188 Hornet crew chiefs supporting them are Master Corporal Marc-André David and Corporal Steeven Cantin.

Santa’s escort pilots from 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, are Lieutenant-Colonel William Radiff, and United States Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Bortnem. Their CF-188 Hornet crew chiefs are Corporal Sean Adel and Aviator Laurie Dunbar.

Santa Trackers from 21 Aerospace Control and Warning Squadron at 22 Wing North Bay, Ontario, include RCAF Major Darren Reck and Captain Pierre Grignon, and United States Air Force Technical Sergeant Amanda Pascoe. The team’s duty it is to maintain radio contact with Santa and his escort pilots.

“The men and women of the Canadian NORAD Region keep watchful eyes over North American airspace 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” says Major-General David Wheeler, Commander Canadian NORAD Region. “It’s a great responsibility to ensure Santa’s safe passage around North America so that he can continue his journey of goodwill and cheer. We’re honoured to celebrate 60 successful years of this gratifying mission.”

The NORAD Tracks Santa website:, now live and available in eight languages, features Santa’s North Pole Village, including a holiday countdown, games, activities, and more.

Starting at 12:01 a.m. MST on Dec. 24, website visitors can watch Santa make preparations for his flight. NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will stream videos on the website as Santa makes his way over various locations. Then, at 4 a.m. MST (6 a.m. EST), trackers worldwide can speak with a live phone operator to inquire as to Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to

Any time on Dec. 24, Windows Phone users can ask Cortana for Santa’s location, and OnStar subscribers can press the OnStar button in their vehicles to find Santa.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ambrose: Opposition will Push to Keep CF-18s in Fight against ISIS

Written by: Ryan Maloney, Huffington Post 
Rona Ambrose spoke in personal terms about the fight against terrorism in her first speech to the Conservative caucus as interim leader.

And she signaled Wednesday that her official Opposition Tories will push the new Liberal government to reverse its plans to withdraw Canadian jets from combat against ISIL.

Ambrose harkened back to a comment Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made in 2013 just after the Boston marathon bombing, later featured in Tory attack ads.

"The Liberals told Canadians that we should be examining the root causes of terrorism," she said.

Terrorism, she said, is bred from a hatred of "our values" and freedom.

"A hatred of my rights as a woman," Ambrose said. "And my ability to live freely."

Ambrose accused Liberals of seeing the contributions of Canada's air force as a "token effort worthy of a tasteless joke." The jab referenced an incident in October 2014, just before Parliament voted to send the jets to Iraq, in which Trudeau accused then prime minister-Stephen Harper of wanting to "whip out our CF-18s and show them how big they are."

Her quip sparked a few shouts of "shame" from Tory MPs.

"And so the prime minister's first phone call with another world leader was to tell our closest ally that Canada would be diminishing our fight against ISIS and withdrawing our air force, leaving our allies to do the heavy lifting," she said of Trudeau's first conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama.

As Ambrose spoke to her party, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion was in Brussels for a meeting with his NATO counterparts.

Dion suggested Tuesday that the Liberal plan to withdraw jets from the ISIL fight and ramp up training would be a better contribution to the campaign.

"There are a lot of things where Canada may be a great supporter, instead of delivering two per cent of the airstrikes," Dion said.

According to The Canadian Press, as of Nov. 19, Canada has carried out 199 airstrikes out of a total of 8,289 coalition aids — or 2.4 per cent. The RCAF is now over 200 with strikes at the end of November, and 1 in December.

The foreign affairs minister said Canada's position is "well understood" by NATO allies.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a blunt message at the NATO summit, calling on allies to "step up" in the fight against Daesh — the Arabic reference for the Islamic State.

Kerry said he was "very gratified" allies were bringing more to the effort or planned to increase contributions. He also lauded the leadership of British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose Parliament is set to vote to expand airstrikes into Syria.

However, he also said contributions didn't have to include "troops engaged in kinetic action."

Canadian Surface Combatant Fleet - Is the Program Salvageable?

New questions are being asked about the Canadian National Shipbuilding Program that was instituted by the previous Conservative government.

For years public servants, outside contractors, auditors (including the Auditor General Michael Ferguson) have said that the $26 Billion earmarked for the program would not be enough. Ferguson called the funding, "insufficient" in a 2013 report.

Yesterday, Vice Admiral Mark Norman, head of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) told CBC that the warnings from industries about the lack of funding were accurate.

To put it simply - the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC)  Fleet will cost well above the $26 Billion budget.

The CSC fleet is supposed to be the back bone of the RCN from 2025 to 2035; replacing the Halifax-Class frigates and the Iroquois-class destroyers. The $26 Billion was to build "up to 15" new warships according to the former Harper Government.

During the 2015 election campaign, Stephen Harper continued to dismiss claims that the CSC Fleet could not be built with the $26 Billion. He said the Navy would adjust. A few insiders claimed that as few as 8 or 10 CSC vessels could be built with the $26 billion.

The question now is, under a new government can the CSC Fleet be salvaged?

During the election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that any savings from withdrawing from the F-35 program would be directed to the RCN to ensure it gets the ships it needs.

According to the RCN - it NEEDS at least 15 ships - so if the total number of CSC gets cut, it would dramatically harm its operational capabilities. Although some independent analysts say the RCN will either have to accept fewer ships or the government will need to pony up more money.

Some are saying the RCN should do without an area air defence variant CSC, and settle on a more basic design. Both are a possibility. But, so is asking for more money from the new Liberal government for the CSC is another. It will be a test for the Liberals who promised during the election campaign to ensure that the RCN gets the ships it needs.

According to CBC, to build the proposed 15 ships - it will cost upwards of $42 Billion. 

Fighting ISIS: Britain Expands Air Campaign into Syria

As Canada prepares to withdraw its CF-18 fighter jets from the fight against ISIS sometime during the winter of 2016 - the US Led Coalition is gaining more strength this morning - The British Parliament voted yesterday to expand its mission from Iraq into Syria.

British fighter jets based out of Cyprus are already flying past Syria to bomb ISIS targets in Iraq - and by a vote of 397 to 223; the Parliament votes to allow the RAF to begin targeting ISIS in Syria. It did not take long for the RAF to begin its newly mandated mission - striking ISIS in Syria last night.

An RAF Tornado Fighter takes off from Cyprus on its way to Iraq. Photo BBC 

Below is the article written by  Michele Kambas and Guy Faulconbridge of Reuters

AKROTIRI, Cyprus/LONDON - British bombers made their first strikes on Syria on Thursday, just hours after Britain's parliament voted to target Islamic State targets in Syria, a government source said.

Tornado bombers took off from the RAF Akrotiri air base in Cyprus and made strikes on targets in Syria, the source said. The bombers were back at base.

"A strike was made from over Syria," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The source declined to give further operational information about the targets or the number of aircraft involved, citing national security.

A Reuters witness in Cyprus saw four jets leaving in pairs from the air base within an hour of each other. All four had since returned.

RAF Akrotiri has been used as a launchpad for attacks on Islamic State targets in Iraq for just over a year, and late on Wednesday Britain's parliament broadened its scope for targets within Syria.

After more than 10 hours of tense debate, members of parliament voted in favour of the air strikes by 397 to 223.

Addressing parliament on Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron said high-precision, laser-guided Brimstone missiles attached to the Tornado GR4 bombers would help to make a real difference by hitting the de facto Islamic State capital of Raqqa and its oil-trading business.

France and the United States are already bombing Islamist militants in Syria, while Russia has bombed mainly other rebels, according to conflict monitors and Western officials, in an intervention launched on Sept. 30 to bolster its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The West says Assad must go.

Cyprus, 100 km (60 miles) from Syria, is the closest European Union member state to turmoil in the Middle East.

In October, two boatloads of Middle Eastern migrants, including Syrian refugees, washed ashore at Akrotiri, a jutting peninsula on Cyprus's southern coast.

Britain, a former colonial power, retains two sovereign military bases in Cyprus.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Canada in Iraq: CAF Could be Joined by Police for Larger Training Mission

Written by: Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press

BRUSSELS -- The scope of the Trudeau government's reconfigured mission in Iraq will be broader than just the military and could include a sizable police training contingent, Canada's foreign affairs minister said Wednesday.

Stephane Dion found himself repeatedly buttonholed in the polished hallways of NATO headquarters over the last two days, sometimes by countries eager for Canada to join their endeavours, as the United States made clear it expects allies to do more in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

"It's more than just military, but it's always about security," Dion told The Canadian Press in an interview.

"You can't have security only with military. You have security when people feel secure with their institutions and they believe in them."

One of his nine bilateral meetings included the Italian foreign minister and the possibility of Canada joining Italy in Iraq's Kurdish north. More than 100 Carabinieri -- Italy's national police force -- are training local police in areas recaptured from ISIL.

"Is it an area where we may have a contribution that would be welcome? It is something we have to discuss with the Americans, with the Italians and others," said Dion.

He added that Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is leading the drive to recraft the mission following the withdrawal of CF-18 jetfighters from combat, which is expected to happen sometime this winter.

During the election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a beefed-up mission to train local forces in Iraq, over and above the existing 69 special forces instructors working the Kurdish peshmerga in the north of the country. The government has yet to provide details on what the mission would look like.

The pressure is not only on Canada, but all NATO allies. Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a tough, unambiguous message, saying the United States expects them to do more in the war against ISIL.

He told his 27 other counterparts that the international coalition "must strike at the core" of ISIL and strangle its efforts to set up networks elsewhere.

"I called on every NATO ally to step up its fight against Daesh," Kerry said, using the Arabic acronym for the militant group, also known as ISIL and ISIS.

"I was very gratified that a number of allies are already bringing more to this battle -- or are planning to increase their contributions."

He praised British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose Parliament is poised to vote on expanding airstrikes into Syria and Germany, which plans to deploy ships and surveillance aircraft to support operations against ISIL.

"It's a very important step, we applaud his leadership on it," said Kerry, who met with Dion one-on-one. "It is important for the world to join together in this initiative and we welcome Germany's efforts."

Although he didn't reference the Canadian combat withdrawal, Kerry did give the Liberal government an opening by saying that there are a number of countries willing to step up and the contributions don't necessarily "have to be troops engaged in kinetic action."

Kerry said the U.S. has specifically asked for special forces instructors, police trainers and so-called "enablers," such as transport and medical facilities.

As a further reminder that Washington isn't prepared to let allies off the hook, he said the U.S. government will follow up with each country on a military-to-military basis as well as a diplomatic basis "in order to secure additional help."

Also Wednesday, NATO foreign ministers formally invited the tiny Adriatic nation of Montenegro to join the alliance, despite opposition from Moscow. There was also discussion about fully reactivating the NATO-Russia Council, which, prior to the annexation of Crimea, had been a forum for dialogue between the former Cold War adversaries.

"I will now explore how we can use the council as a tool for political engagement," said secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, noting that the recent downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey along with other border incidents makes dialogue important.

He insisted it is not a sign of weakening resolve in the face of the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine and for the moment the embattled country's foreign minister seemed prepared to accept the shifting position.

Pavlo Klimkin, Ukraine's minister for foreign affairs, said he was for the moment satisfied that it "would not be a return to business as usual."

Dion said there must be constructive engagement with Moscow, but added that Canada will insist that the situation in Ukraine be put on the agenda of any future council meeting.

Ottawa to Track Veteran Suicides

Ever since the Globe and Mail investigation; The Unremembered which conclusively showed that 54 CAF members committed suicide following deployments to Afghanistan, nearly 1/3 of all combat related deaths within Afghanistan - there has been a greater call for Veterans Affairs to take a closer look at Veterans and current serving CAF members following deployments.

The Globe and Mail released today that Ottawa will now regularly track veteran suicides.

Here is the article written by RENATA D’ALIESIO

Veterans Affairs is taking steps to solve a crucial statistical gap by planning to report on suicides of former military members annually starting in late 2017 – a move that will disclose, for the first time, how many vets are taking their lives each year in Canada.

While the coming change is taking too long for some veterans advocates, it will mark a milestone when implemented: Suicides of released military members have never been regularly tracked in Canada, even after intense combat missions, such as the Second World War and Korea.

The Unremembered

158 Canadian soldiers died in the Afghanistan mission. But the losses did not end there. A Globe and Mail investigation reveals a disturbing number the military has kept secret: that at least 54 soldiers and vets killed themselves after they returned from war

In a statement Tuesday, Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr said that “better tracking and reporting on suicides will help inform our suicide prevention actions.” He added that the Canadian Forces and Veterans Affairs must continue to address the stigma of mental health and encourage those in need to seek treatment.

“Even one soldier, sailor, airmen or women suffering from the invisible wounds of a mental health injury or committing suicide, is one too many,” Mr. Hehr said.

The lack of monitoring was one of several failings highlighted in a Globe and Mail investigation of suicides of soldiers who died after serving in the 13-year Afghanistan war. Through an Access to Information request to National Defence and poring over more than a decade’s worth of death notices, The Globe found that at least 48 active-duty soldiers and six veterans had taken their lives after returning from the Afghanistan operation.

The Canadian Forces released an updated number soon after The Globe’s investigation was published in late October, raising the suicide count to at least 59 military members and veterans – more than one-third of the number of soldiers who died in the war. There were 158 Canadian military deaths in theatre during the NATO-led combat operation that began in 2001 and ended last year.

Since The Globe’s series of stories, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has instructed the ministers of Veterans Affairs and National Defence to make a new suicide-prevention strategy a priority. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, has directed the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, to examine the military’s mental-health services and efforts to reduce suicides.

The Globe’s series also drew attention to the fact that soldiers who died by suicide after returning from Afghanistan are not recognized in the same way as those who perished in the mission, even when their suicides were deemed attributable to military service. On Remembrance Day, Mr. Hehr, who is also associate minister of national defence, told The Globe he wants to ensure these soldiers and vets are commemorated.

The minister is meeting with representatives of about 30 stakeholder groups in Ottawa on Wednesday. The groups have been asked to provide him with feedback on priorities outlined in Mr. Trudeau’s mandate letter.

Gen. Vance applauded the department’s plans to improve the monitoring of former military members. In a statement, he said: “I remain committed to ensuring the well-being of all members of the Canadian Armed Forces, whether they are currently serving or veterans.”

Veterans advocates have long vented frustration at Canada’s lack of suicide tracking of former soldiers. The Canadian Forces keeps tabs on the number of active-duty military members who kill themselves, although its data on reservists are incomplete. A recent report released by the military’s surgeon-general revealed that suicides have increased in the army in recent years and the impact of overseas deployment may be emerging as a risk factor.

Canada’s only comprehensive look at veterans’ suicides showed that former members make up the lion’s share of military suicides in Canada. The Canadian Forces Cancer and Mortality Study, released in 2011, was done in partnership with Statistics Canada, National Defence and Veterans Affairs. It revealed that 78 per cent of 934 military suicides documented from 1972 to the end of 2006 involved vets. Male veterans were 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than Canadian men of the same age – an increased risk that translated into 231 more vet deaths than expected.

David Pedlar, director of research for Veterans Affairs, said the department will be watching to see if vet suicides remain elevated. Officially known as the Veteran Suicide Mortality Study, the examination will involve linking National Defence data – which includes whether a member was released from the military – with Statistics Canada’s database of deaths from all provinces and territories. (Names of military members will be removed after the data are linked.)

Dr. Pedlar, who is leading the project that began late last year, said the methodology is still being ironed out. At the moment, it’s unclear how far back the first annual suicide report will go. Initial analysis will not include deployment history, Dr. Pedlar said, but both vets who were clients of Veterans Affairs and those who were not will be captured in the study.

“Right now the focus is on being able to get a high-quality suicide number and rate for release to Canadians on an annual basis,” Dr. Pedlar said. The study, he added, will give “us trends over time, which is something we don’t have right now. … That will be important information for us.”

The study has taken a lot of time to put together because it involves two departments and a federal agency, Dr. Pedlar said. Data quality has been an issue, too. The 2011 study that showed an increased suicide risk among veterans relied on National Defence human-resources information that did not accurately capture deployment history, said Elizabeth Rolland-Harris, a senior epidemiologist with the military’s directorate of force health protection.

“It was clear that we needed to find better data,” she said in an interview at a military health-research conference in Quebec City last week.

Dr. Rolland-Harris is leading the second run of the Canadian Forces Cancer and Mortality Study, which will produce a separate report from the veteran suicide study. She said the new examination will use member pay data, which is more reliable, and include those who enrolled in the military between January, 1976, and mid-2015.

The pay data will allow researchers to look at deployment and occupational history and to include Class C reservists who served full-time at some point during the nearly 40-year period. Class C designations are applied when reservists deploy to missions such as Afghanistan. Reservists were excluded in the 2011 study.

Initial results from the new cancer and mortality study are expected in 2017. Dr. Rolland-Harris said the examination will be one of the most comprehensive military suicide studies ever done in the world.

Still, former veterans ombudsman Pat Stogran is frustrated that the public will have to wait another two years to get a clearer picture on how many vets are taking their lives annually. He believes regular tracking of vet suicides could already be happening, if there had been a will to do so.

“This is a demographic that the federal government has complete control over,” said Mr. Stogran, a retired colonel. “We got to start demanding transparency and accountability and value for money.”

Follow Renata D’Aliesio on Twitter: @renatadaliesio 

(The Above was Written by RENATA D’ALIESIO, of The Globe and Mail) 

Canada in Iraq: RCAF Makes First Airstrike in December

In a press release on its OP IMPACT page, DND announced, that on 1 December 2015, while taking part in coalition airstrikes in support of Iraqi security forces, two CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position southwest of Sinjar using precision guided munitions.
A RCAF CF-18 flies over Iraq on a mission on November 7, 2015. Photo; CAF Combat Camera

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Defence Minister Visits CAF in Kuwait

Press Release: Government of Canada

OTTAWA – Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan today wrapped up a successful visit to Kuwait where he met with Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel currently deployed in the region as part of Canada’s contribution to the multinational Coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Minister Sajjan used the occasion to pay tribute to the troops, thanking them for their dedication and service.

While in Kuwait, Minister Sajjan also met with his counterpart, His Excellency, Sheikh Khaled Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah, and other senior officials. During their discussions, the Minister underscored Canada’s ongoing commitment to working with allies and partners to counter global terrorism, and expressed his appreciation to Kuwait for hosting Canadian Armed Forces personnel engaged in the campaign. This support is vital to the mission. 

CAF Members pause to remember WO. Patrice Vincent - in Kuwait, October 20, 2015. The CAF Camp is named in his honor. Photo: CAF Combat Camera 

Canada to lead Multinational Force and Observers until 2017

DND Press Release
November  2015

OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan announced  that Canadian Major-General Denis Thompson will continue to serve as Force Commander for the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) for an additional year, until March 2017. He assumed command of the MFO in March 2014.

The MFO is an independent international organization whose mandate is to supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Treaty for Peace. The deployment of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel to strategic positions within the MFO is part of Canada’s broader engagement in support of peace efforts in the Middle East.

Quick Facts
The MFO was established in 1981 and is comprised of over 1600 personnel, consisting of army, air and naval components from 13 countries; including CAF personnel currently deployed on Operation CALUMET, Canada’s contribution to the MFO. Canada has maintained a contingent in the MFO since September 1985.

Since March 2015, the Canadian contingent has included Military Police officers who conduct police and security duties in the North and South camps of the multinational peacekeeping force. These duties include traffic control, patrols, investigations, inspections, and searches. They are also responsible for crime prevention programs.

Major-General Thompson is a graduate of the Royal Military College and has served in all three Battalions of the Royal Canadian Regiment as well as Joint Task Force 2. His operational deployments include command appointments in Cyprus, Germany and Bosnia (twice). He was NATO's Commander of Task Force Kandahar in 2008.

“The extension of Major-General Thompson’s mandate as Force Commander of the Multinational Force and Observers is a reflection of his professionalism and dedication to carrying out the MFO’s important mandate of promoting peace and security in the Sinai and the region. I am confident that the MFO will continue to be well served under his leadership‎."
--- The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence

CAF Donates Mine Clearing Equipment to Ukraine

As part of the training mission in Ukraine, OP UNIFIER; Canada has provided Ukraine with demining equipment worth $2.5 million, Ukraine’s defence ministry announced.

On November 28, the Canadian military attache’s representative delivered $2.5-million worth of mine clearance equipment to the Ukrainian military, the statement from the ministry noted.

Canada in Iraq: Stephane Dion: Canada Can Do More in ISIS Fight, than 2% of Airstrikes

Written by the Canadian Press

Other countries, including North Atlantic allies, understand the warplanes have played only a small part in the effort, and that Canada will be more effective in a training role, Dion said on his way into a meeting of foreign ministers.

“There are a lot of things where Canada may be a great supporter, instead of delivering two per cent of the airstrikes,” the global affairs minister said.

Dion also indicated the signals he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have received at other international conferences is that Canada’s new policy is “well understood.”

It remains unclear when the jets will be coming home — or what a beefed-up training commitment would look like — but Dion could see a menu of opportunities before him during the two-day ministerial meeting.

The war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL or ISIS, is not a NATO mission, but almost all members contribute in one form or another to the U.S. coalition.

The alliance announced last summer it was embarking on a “capacity-building” training program for the Iraqi military, but gave no timelines for the training at sites in Turkey and Jordan. It was looking at a wide series of measures, including countering improvised explosive devices, bomb disposal, de-mining, civil-military planning, cyberdefence, military medicine and medical assistance.

How far along the plans might be and whether the contingents are fully staffed is uncertain, but what is clear is that the Trudeau government is more prepared to embrace the alliance initiatives than the Harper government had been over the last few years.

Under the Conservatives, Canada was pulled more tightly into a U.S. orbit with a series of policy changes and agreements, and was more willing to act in ad-hoc coalitions, like the one bombing ISIL.

“Canada will be a positive partner,” Dion said. “We want to re-engage Canada in multilateralism and NATO is at the core of that.”

The alliance conducted a military training mission in Iraq, but it was shut down when the U.S. withdrew its forces in 2011.

The reconstituted undertaking bears a passing resemblance to what NATO has been doing in Afghanistan with some success — a mission that included nearly 900 Canadians for three years. Afghan forces, despite taking a pounding from a renewed insurgency, have largely held their ground, whereas Iraqi forces melted away in the face of last year’s ISIL onslaught.

NATO’s future role in Afghanistan and how to fund the country’s fledgling security forces was up for debate Tuesday among foreign ministers.

“Afghan forces have faced great challenges but they have shown tremendous courage and determination,” said NATO secretary general Jen Stoltenberg.

“This has been a year of challenges, but it also been a year of progress…. Supporting a stable Afghanistan is in the interest of our own security.”

The ministers will approve a continued deployment of roughly 12,000 trainers and advisers to mirror a recent U.S. decision to extend its presence in the war-torn country past 2016. Canada no longer has training troops in Afghanistan.

They were also asked to approve a plan to raise $4 billion per year from the international community to fund Afghan security forces up to 2020. Stoltenberg said the matter will be discussed when leaders meet in Warsaw next year, and he declined to provide a provide a specific figure after the meeting.

Donor countries began paying the bills for Afghan troops and police following the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago. The Harper government made a $330 million commitment up to 2017.

Despite a nearly decade-long NATO combat mission, which included the deaths of 158 Canadian soldiers, the Taliban and other extremist groups remain a persistent and lethal threat in Afghanistan — something that was evident a few weeks ago when the northern city of Kunduz fell to insurgents.

It was eventually recaptured by Afghan forces with the help of U.S. air support, but it raised fresh questions about the readiness of local forces to carry on the fight without western help.

The Obama administration recently reversed a plan to entirely withdraw American forces. On Monday, Doug Lute, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, underlined that Washington expects allies to match the commitment to keep 10,000 troops in the country through next year.

A senior NATO official, speaking on background Tuesday, said the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan is strictly an advisory and training commitment and that no one anticipates a return to a combat mission.

The official described the effort to secure the initial round of commitments as “a demanding ask” for western countries that were still limping out of the global financial collapse.

The upcoming request could also be challenging, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

“I hesitate to say whether in 2011 the global financial situation was more or less difficult than now, but we will again have to make the case for the connection between the security of Afghanistan and our own security.

“We will be making that argument in the coming months.”

(the above was written by the Canadian Press)

Project Resolve: Liberal Government OK's Davie Deal for iAOR

Published by: The National Post - Canadian Press

LEVIS, Que. — After putting the project on hold, the federal government announced Monday the Chantier Davie Shipyard in Quebec will be granted the sole-source contract to provide a temporary supply ship for the navy.

Procurement Minister Judy Foote said the contract, which is valued at up to $587 million, will be given to the shipyard to upgrade a civilian tanker to act as a military replenishment ship while the navy’s long-delayed, joint support ships are built as part of the national shipbuilding program.

“After amassing the facts and carefully deliberating, the Government of Canada determined that proceeding with (Davie) is the most viable course of action to provide the navy’s (temporary) at-sea oil replenishment capacity,” she said in a statement.

The Conservative government had arranged for Davie to retrofit the ship through a sole-source process rather than a competitive one after it was forced to retire its two, 45-year-old replenishment vessels.

At the time the Harper government’s move was unprecedented.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press revealed a line was added to contracting regulations giving cabinet authority to award a deal to a single company if there are urgent “operational reasons” and it fulfils an interim requirement.

Defence sources had told The Canadian Press that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put the plan on hold because his government was uncomfortable with the sole-source nature of the arrangement.

The Liberals also faced pressure from the two companies that received contracts in the national shipbuilding program — Irving Shipbuilding, in Halifax, and Seaspan, in Vancouver. Both wrote letters protesting the deal with Davie.

Trudeau’s decision sparked a strong rebuke from Quebec politicians who pointed out the ship was already purchased and in the Davie yard and that hundreds of workers had already been hired.

Foote noted in her statement that the agreement signed by the Conservatives required the government to pay Davie $89 million should the project not proceed.

The minister said the government will “undertake a review of the process” for sole-source contracts for military procurement.

Davie’s work should be completed within two years and the ship is contracted to serve the navy for a period of five years, with an option to renew for up to another five.

The Quebec shipyard estimated the government contract will create 1,100 jobs with the yard, and another 400 with sub-contractors.

Opposition Parti Quebecois member Martine Ouellet said Davie deserved the contract because the yard was left out of the national shipbuilding program.

Without replenishment ships, the navy’s frigates are forced to rely on other nations for ammunition, fuel and food while on long overseas deployments.

It also affects the navy’s ability to deploy more than one warship at a time.

Davie is located in Levis, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City

RCN Sailors Serve on ESPS Cantabria

By Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill McClung

Five time zones and half a world away we arrived at our destination of El Ferrol Naval Base in northern Spain, home of the Spanish auxiliary oil replenishment (AOR) vessel, ESPS Cantabria, on October 18, 2015. Twenty-eight Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) sailors of different ranks, trades and experience levels then embarked on an adventure that would prove both challenging and extremely rewarding at the same time. Our mission was to observe, gather information and ultimately integrate within the ship’s company of ESPS Cantabria in order to maintain skill sets and return with best practices for replenishment-at-sea (RAS) operations, while attached to an allied navy.

With ESPS Cantabria taking part in Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE shortly after we arrived, Canadian sailors worked hard to ensure they had a solid understanding of Spanish equipment, methodology and procedures. The lessons learned from this experience will help the RCN build a solid knowledge base within which to design training packages for future exchanges.

During the introduction to the ship by Commander Francisco Javier Roca, ESPS Cantabria’s Commanding Officer, he stated that the Canadian contingent should not look upon themselves as onlookers or “riders”, but as a welcome addition to the Cantabria team. His goals for the exercise were parallel with ours – to fully integrate the Canadian team and conduct seamless replenishment operations within the task group. His crew, including Canadian sailors, took this direction to heart and accepted the challenge – no small feat when you consider the language and cultural differences between the personnel of the two navies. However, the challenge was not only accepted, but overcome, due in no small part to the enthusiasm shown by Canadian and Spanish sailors alike.

While there are some differences between the practices of the Canadian and Spanish navies, the main concept of operations is shared and many of the equivalent trades were able to discuss and exchange ideas on how we each carry out our tasks. As with most militaries today, secondary duties are the norm as bunk numbers decrease and the use of training hours must be maximized. ESPS Cantabria is no exception. For example, the supply officer on board doubles as the ship’s boarding officer and as the landing safety officer during helicopter operations.

Lieutenant-Commander Jason Walsh, our mission Officer in Command, guided us through the tough times and the rewarding times, ensuring interoperability was constantly the watchword of the day. Following direction from both Canadian leadership and ESPS Cantabria’s Commanding Officer, LCdr Walsh ensured that no opportunities were missed during RAS operations, damage control scenarios and daily routine.

Canadian sailors were employed as bridge watch keepers, helmsmen, RAS deck members and small boat operators. LCdr Cindy Hawkins, second-in-command of the mission, as well as head of the engineering sections, ensured that the embarked engineering personnel gathered information on all aspects of liquid cargo management, bunkering and fueling operations, as well as automated damage control systems. Ensuring marine engineers, marine electricians and hull technicians were swept up on all aspects of RAS operations, as well as routine maintenance required on the platform, was of critical importance.

Another facet of this fact-finding mission was to study the training requirements throughout the various trades. This duty was charged to Lieutenant (Navy) Chris White, representing the Naval Personnel Training Group, but involved all sailors studying the trade progression in each section, both technical and operational. Comparing notes with allies is a continuous process the RCN utilizes in order to ensure Canadian sailors maximize their training opportunities and to provide feedback as to how the RCN can move forward in developing future training for our sailors. The Spanish model, although slightly different than the progression plan that we know and understand, has many benefits that could be adapted within our Canadian training models.

One of the main goals for this current mission was to see the Spanish ship manned by Canadian sailors while fueling the Canadian-led task group. From RAS deck personnel to cage operators, as well as communicators and bridge watch keepers, the aim was to safely fill as many of the positions on board as possible with Canadian personnel during a RAS. This aim was accomplished, speaking volumes to the determination, drive and effort exerted by both Canadian and Spanish sailors throughout the exercise.

Afghanistan: NATO to ask Canada and Allies for More Money

Written by Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press - CTVNews

BRUSSELS -- NATO's future role in Afghanistan and how to fund the country's fledgling security forces is up for debate Tuesday among the military alliance's foreign ministers meeting.

It's expected they will approve an extended deployment of roughly 12,000 trainers and advisers to mirror a recent U.S. decision to extend its presence in the war-torn country past 2016.

The ministers, including Canada's Stephane Dion, are also being asked to approve a plan to raise $4 billion per year from the international community to fund Afghan security forces up to 2020. Canada no longer has training troops in Afghanistan.

Donor countries began paying the bills for Afghan troops and police following the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago and the Harper government made a $330 million commitment up to 2017.

"Supporting a stable Afghanistan is in the interest of our own security," Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg said at the opening of the meeting. "Afghanistan is important to NATO. We have been focused on Afghanistan for several years and we remain focused on Afghanistan."

Despite a nearly decade long NATO combat mission, which included the deaths of 158 Canadian soldiers, the Taliban and other extremist groups remain a persistent and lethal threat -- something that was evident a few weeks ago when the northern city of Kunduz fell to insurgents.

It was eventually recaptured by Afghan forces with the help of U.S. air support, but it raised fresh questions about the readiness of local forces to carry on the fight without western help.

The Obama administration recently reversed a plan to entirely withdraw American forces and the U.S. ambassador to NATO Doug Lute underlined on Monday that Washington expects allies to match the commitment to keep 10,000 troops in the country through next year.

A senior NATO official, speaking on background Tuesday, said the alliance's mission in Afghanistan is strictly an advisory and training commitment and no one anticipates a return to a combat mission.

The official described the effort to secure the initial round of commitments as "a demanding ask" for western countries that were still limping out of the global financial collapse.

The official conceded the upcoming request could also be challenging.

"This time around it will be a demanding ask again,"

"I hesitate to say whether in 2011 the global financial situation was more or less difficult than now, but we will again have to make the case for the connection between the security of Afghanistan and our own security. We will be making that argument in the coming months."

The current funding deal runs out in 2017 and it's unclear what the Trudeau government intends to do. Stoltenberg says Tuesday will mark the beginning of the campaign to raise funds.

Monday, November 30, 2015

OP PROVISION: CAF Aid in the Resettlement of Syrian Refugees

A Canadian Armed Forces CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft departed Trenton in the early morning on November 28 with equipment and personnel as part of OP PROVISION, the CAF’s support to the Government of Canada’s effort to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.

Canadian Forces personnel deploying on Operation PROVISION will assist Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada with the administrative processing of applications including medical screening and the collection of biometric data, as well as providing a military command and control element for Canadian Forces members.‎

Members of the CAF and the Government of Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Board Civil Servants on board a CC-177 Globemaster III en route to Jordan for OP PROVISION. Photo: CF Combat Camera

The Canadian Press wrote this article below about the situation:

A trickle of Syrian refugees seeking to leave Jordan flowed into Canada’s processing centre in Amman on Sunday, the first day of operations at what will eventually become the hub of much of the Syrian refugee resettlement program.

Ninety people were put through a multi-step process, some under the eye of three federal cabinet ministers who travelled to the Jordanian capital to see first hand how their plan to bring 25,000 Syrians to Canada by the end of February actually looks.

“We have learned also there is positive things to report in terms of progress,” said Immigration Minister John McCallum as he stood in the cavernous military exhibition facility now being leased to Canada by the Jordanian government.

“The processing centre had its first day of operation today, that will ramp up over time and get more intense. We also heard the good news that exit permits are not an issue in Jordan, so that’s positive.”

McCallum was joined by Health Minister Jane Philpott and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. They flew to Amman late Saturday, spending the day meeting international aid and UN officials and Jordanian leaders on Sunday and then flying straight back to Ottawa.

Canadian reporters were not permitted to report on their visit until they left the country, for what officials said were security reasons, but both the UN and Jordan’s King Abudllah II posted word and photos of the trip on Twitter during the day.

Refugees whose cases are being processed at the Jordanian facility represent only some of the 15,000 Syrians the government is seeking to resettle itself. Applicants are being told to expect travel by the end of February, the deadline the government has set.

McCallum said it’s still an achievable goal.

“Let’s be optimistic,” he said.

Flights will depart from a civilian airport across the way from the centre carrying not just Syrians from Jordan, but also those from Lebanon.

But all the final details of how many and when are still being hammered out, he said.

“This being the first day there are a few kinks to work out and we also want to look at how to improve things,” he said.

An immigration official who briefed the ministers repeatedly noted how plans continued to change and develop, suggesting that while the centre’s goal is to process 500 people a day, that workload will be a challenge.

The reception point is ready, lined with rows upon rows of grey plastic chairs. The interview booths are set up with white tables and blue banquet chairs flecked with gold. The military has 10 biometric machines ready to go, though on day one only four were in operation.

But one key problem right now is capacity for medical screenings.

Officials are currently only scheduling medical appointments elsewhere until they can beef up availability of services on site. One option is getting the International Organization for Migration or the Red Cross to run clinics; the other is to have the military deploy a field hospital.

Privately-sponsored refugees — who make up the majority of the 10,000 people the government says it will resettle by year’s end — will not have their cases flow through the registration centre but are likely to depart on flights from the same airport. Those planes could begin leaving as soon as next week.

Those whose cases are being handled by the hundreds of Canadian civil servants and soldiers now in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, are refugees selected by the United Nations refugee agency from a pool the international body is actively looking to resettle. An estimated 4 million people have been declared refugees from the Syrian war.

Some will come from the Zaatari refugee camp, which the ministers visited earlier Sunday. They were briefed by the camp manager and aid organizations on the challenges at hand, including ensuring adequate water supplies and food for the camp’s 80,000 residents.

Philpott said she was struck by the scope of the issue.

“While obviously we’re all thinking about 25,000 who will come to Canada, we need to remember there are more than a million refugees living here in the country,” she said.

She’ll have a personal reminder to take back — both Philpott and Sajjan purchased paintings created by children at the camp.

The one Philpott chose was painted by a 13-year-old boy named Hamza and depicts a woman trudging up a set of stairs, with a yellow sun setting against a blood red sky.

On her back, a burden in the shape of Syria.

Philpott asked Hamza whom the woman represented, and he said no one in particular, just all women.

“Because women do carry countries on their backs,” Philipott said.

Many of the refugees Canada will resettle will be women, some alone, some heads of families.

The ministers observed several families being processed through the system Sunday, telling them through translators that Canada is excited to welcome them but didn’t have time to speak with them in depth.

One surprise confronting Canadians is that the families being referred by the UN are larger than expected. Rather than four or five people, it’s often eight or nine.

McCallum said he viewed that as a positive.

“I think given Canada’s aging population, not only are the children sweet-looking but they’re very good for Canada more generally speaking,” he said.

Since Nov. 4, 153 Syrian refugees have come and another 928 have been issued visas, according to the government.

(The article above was written by the Canadian Press)

Members of the Liberal Cabinet meet with UNICEF Staff at the Refugee Center in Jordan. Photo: CF Combat Camera
CAF Members Brief before deploying on OP PROVISION. CAF Members will aid Citizenship and Immigration Civil Servants in vetting Refugees before being granted access to Canada.  Photo: CF Combat Camera

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Australian F-35 in Jeopardy? Senate to Vote on Program after Canada's Withdrawal

By Daniel Flitton 

A push to examine the wisdom of Australia's planned $24 billion fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters - ranking as the nation's largest ever defence purchase - is underway in the Senate.

Greens defence spokesman Peter Whish-Wilson on Friday has urged the Senate's standing committee on foreign affairs and trade to inquire into the suitability of the stealth jet for Australia's strategic interests.

The move comes after the election last month of new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on a promise to abandon plans to purchase the troubled fighter.

Officials from Australia's Defence Department told a Senate hearing a Canadian withdrawal from the F-35 project would not have a cost to Australia, only for US Air Force Lieutenant-General Chris Bogdan to soon afterwards estimate the price of each aircraft would likely increase by up to US$1 million.

"This is about the public's right to know how their money is being spent and if we are getting value for money," Senator Whish-Wilson said.

"I would like to see many of the criticisms levelled at this procurement answered by a wide range of experts and discussed in detail at this inquiry."

The F-35 project - which began as a collaboration between the US and eight other nations, including Australia - has been beset by delays, cost overruns and technical difficulties.

The latest concern is a pilot's neck could be snapped by the ejector seat on the warplane.

Australia was forced to purchase additional FA/18 Hornets in 2012 to cover a perceived gap after the expected F-35 delivery date was again delayed.

But in August the US marines announced the first combat ready F-35s would be deployed, and Britain last week committed to buy 24 of the jump-jet variety by 2023 to launch from aircraft carriers.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott was reported to have favoured Australia also acquiring the jump-jet variety of the jet, but this was abandoned in favour of the traditional take-off version.

Senator Whish-Wilson urged the Senate to examine the delays in acquiring the fighters and the cost of the program, and the "air defence needs that the aircraft is intended to fulfil". He also urged potential alternative jets to be considered.

A vote on the proposed inquiry will be held Monday.