Category Archives: Military

Sun never sets on Canadian military

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Most Canadians would be surprised to learn that the sun never sets on the military their taxes pay for.

This country is not formally at war yet more than 2,100 Canadian troops are sprinkled across the globe. According to the Armed Forces, these soldiers are involved in 28 international missions.

There are 850 Canadian troops in Iraq and its environs. Two hundred highly skilled special forces have provided training and combat support to Kurdish forces often accused of ethnic cleansing areas of Iraq they captured. A tactical helicopter detachment, intelligence officers and a combat hospital, as well as 200 Canadians at a base in Kuwait, support the special forces in Iraq.

Alongside the special forces mission, Canada commands the NATO mission in Iraq. Canadian Brigadier General Jennifer Carrigan commands nearly 600 NATO troops, including 250 Canadians.

A comparable number of troops are stationed on Russia’s borders. About 600 Canadians are part of a Canadian-led NATO mission in Latvia while 200 troops are part of a training effort in the Ukraine. Seventy-five Canadian Air Force personnel are currently in Romania.

Some of the smaller operations are also highly political. Through Operation Proteus a dozen troops contribute to the Office of the United States Security Coordinator, which is supporting a security apparatus to protect the Palestinian Authority from popular disgust over its compliance in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement building.

Through Operation Foundation 15 troops are contributing to a US counter-terrorism effort in the Middle East, North Africa and Southwest Asia. As part of Operation Foundation General A. R. DAY, for instance, Directsthe Combined Aerospace Operations Center at the US military’s Al Udeid base in Qatar.

The 2,100 number offered up by the military doesn’t count the hundreds, maybe a thousand, naval personnelpatrolling hotspots across the globe. Recently one or two Canadian naval vessels — with about 200 personnel each — has patrolled in East Asia. The ships are helping the US-led campaign to isolate North Korea and enforce UN sanctions. These Canadian vessels have also been involved in belligerent “freedom of navigation” exercises through international waters that Beijing claims in the South China Sea, Strait of Taiwan and East China Sea.

A Canadian vessel is also patrolling in the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea. Recently Canadian vessels have also entered the Black Sea, which borders Russia. And Canadian vessels regularly deploy to the Caribbean.

Nor does the 2,100 number count thecolonels supported by sergeants and sometimes a second officerwho are defence attachés based in 30 diplomatic posts around the world (with cross-accreditation to neighbouring countries). Another 150 Canadian military personnel are stationed at the North American Aerospace Defense Command headquarters in Colorado and a smaller number at NORAD’s hub near Tampa Bay, Florida. These bases assist US airstrikes in a number of places.

Dozens of Canadian soldiers are also stationed at NATO headquarters in Brussels. They assist that organization in its international deployments.

There may be other deployments not listed here. Dozens of Canadian soldiers are on exchange programs with the US and other militaries and some of them may be part of deployments abroad.Additionally, Canadian Special forces can be deployed without public announcement, which has taken place on numerous occasions.

The scope of the military’s international footprint is hard to square with the idea of a force defending Canada. That’s why military types promote the importance of “forward defence”. The government’s 2017 “Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy” claims Canada has to “actively address threats abroad for stability at home” and that “defending Canada and Canadian interests … requires active engagement abroad.”

That logic, of course, can be used to justify participating in endless US-led military endeavors. That is the real reason the sun never sets on the Canadian military.

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Exoneration of Poundmaker great, but also draw links to our colonial military

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Pitikwahanapiwiyin, chief Poundmaker

Good on Justin Trudeau for apologizing to an indigenous leader, but the prime minister ought not ignore the ‘father’ of the Canadian army’s contribution to this injustice.

On Thursday the Prime Minister is expected to exonerate Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker) who was convicted of treason after being attacked by Canadian Forces in 1885.

In response to the North-West Rebellion, 5,000 Canadian/British troops and militiamen were deployed to Saskatchewan and Alberta to subjugate the Metis and plains First Nations. With much of their land taken by treaty and the bison decimated, the Cree, Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan and Saulteaux were under pressure from settlers’ farms, towns and railways. Métis fur traders faced similar pressures though they also worried about whether the federal government would respect their river-lot homesteads and farms.

Hundreds of Métis and Indigenous people were killed by the military in a bid to enforce Ottawa’s control of the West.

In Canada’s largest mass hanging, eight Indigenous men were publicly executed at Battleford.

The North-West Rebellion lead to a tightening of the reserve system, including the infamous pass system that required individuals to receive permission to leave their reserve from the local Indian Agent. Completely illegal, the pass system would remain in place for six decades.

Lieutenant-Colonel William D. Otter was part of the military force dispatched to suppress the Louis Riel led rebellion. The Canadian-born son of English settlers led a force that attacked Cree and Assiniboine warriors near Battleford, Saskatchewan. Without orders to do so, the ‘father’ of Canada’s army sought to “punish Poundmaker.” Otter failed miserably. Despite employing a rapid-fire Gatling gun, his men were forced to retreat. They only survived because an overly conciliatory Poundmaker stopped his warriors from pursuing Otter’s retreating soldiers. But, the attack pushed the neutral Cree leader towards Riel and when the Metis leader was defeated Poundmaker surrendered.

Otter was hugely influential in Canadian military history. The Montreal Daily Star coined the term “Otterism” as a “synonym for merciless repression.” In 1890 he established the Royal Canadian Military Institute, which still operates in Toronto. Three years later he was made the first commanding officer of the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry. Otter commanded that force in the 1899-1902 Boer War. About 7,000 Canadians participated in this brutal conflict to strengthen British colonial authority in Africa, ultimately leading to racial apartheid.

In 1908 the Upper Canada College graduate was the first Canadian appointed Chief of the General Staff. (British officers dominated the Canadian Forces leadership in the decades before and after Otter’s appointment.) During World War I Otter came out of retirement to oversee the internment of 8,500, mostly Ukrainian, individuals living in Canada from countries that were part of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. Their wealth was largely stolen and they were turned into quasi-slaves with Otter noting, how the “system proved a great advantage to the organization short of labor.”

Exonerating Pitikwahanapiwiyin is a welcome step in the reconciliation process. But, Trudeau should also discuss Otter’s role in Poundmaker’s persecution. It is time for a discussion about the Canadian military’s roots in a force that conquered much of Turtle Island and the world.

To achieve reconciliation the truth must be told about the repressive, colonial, origins of the Canadian Armed Forces.

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