Sunday, December 1, 2013

How to correct a huge mistake?

Word today that authorities have arrested a Canadian, suspected of passing information to China about the current Canadian shipbuilding programme, which includes new vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard.  Given the small maritime footprint Canada has, this seems a bit odd, eh? Yes, we should have a far bigger coastal and overseas presence, but no one's tried to invade our waters since the Second World War, so our marine capabilities have decreased quite a bit over the last half century over many governments of several different political stripes.

If one wonders why the Chinese would allegedly be interested in us Canadians, well maybe it's for the same reason we're interested in them. And the Russians, Brazilians, British, French and Americans. Cause that's what we all do: spy on each other.

But since Canada is not developing cutting-edge naval technology (to my knowledge), why has this become headline news up here? Maybe because of the tale of a certain Canadian naval Sub-Lieutenant who spied for the Russians? A case which embarrassed various Canadian security establishments to their allies. (You could honestly get more intel about the Canadian shipbuilding programme by buying rounds in Halifax bars for a few weeks.)

National security should be based on real and certain threats, not what appears to this observer to be - in this instance - merely a means of showing our partners we're on top of things. We aren't if we miss someone working with classified info in naval intelligence, but then notice a Lloyd's Register engineer. C'mon folks.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The return of the prodigal son..and Britney Spears

I'm back...For those who've wondered, the last couple of years I've been wandering the North American continent from coast to coast, from sea to sea, looking at a variety of security issues, and how regular people - including mariners - have been affected. Made a documentary film about what's happening to the Canada-US border. Spent a lot of time up close and personal seeing how fishermen work off Canada's East Coast. And watched as the issue of maritime crime (including piracy) has faded from the headlines. But it hasn't faded for those still affected by things. Just ask the families of all those still being held captive in Somalia or Nigeria.

Now, on the bizarre upside, look at this odd news item about how some are dealing with Somali pirates. I wish I'd made this up. And, as a colleague said to me today: "I had no idea Somali pirates had such good taste." Go figure, and read this:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Vimy Ridge 95 years on...

It is one of the most beautiful memorials to The Great War, The War To End All Wars. I say this clouded by being a descendant of those who fought in the trenches of WW1 France, has travelled to more modern warzones, and seen the way others commemorate the past.

Exactly 95 years ago, on Easter Monday, 1917 - April 9 - an assault began on German positions in northwestern France that had previously proven unassailable by Allied forces. This time it would be led by Canadian troops, under Canadian commanders (not British), and it would succeed beyond anyone's expectations.
We Canadians - and many others - often forget we can a tenacious bunch of SOBs, your best friends, and worst enemy. Canadians put on a good show of civility. But trust me, there's a hornest nest we'll unveil if needed. What came from the Boer War, WW1, Ortona, Normandy or Bihac were the product of a nation created by so many people who had to live with war. We know it. Don't like it. But sometimes have to deal with it. Pacem ad omnes...

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Perils Of Canadian Submariners

Oh, if only this was the problem.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is today reporting that one of our submarines had an unfortunate encounter with the seabed last summer. HMCS Corner Brook apparently ran into the ground while on manoeuvres in the Pacific last June, just off British Columbia. As the photos obtained by the CBC show, the damage was severe. Or, as Canadian Senator Colin Kennedy put it, "horrific".

Corner Brook is one of four Victoria-class subs the now Royal Canadian Navy purchased from Great Britain back in 1998. All were used (or previously-owned, if you'd prefer), and the deal was sen by many observers - including myself - as bad. Think about getting an old AMC Gremlin or Hyundai Pony: cheap to buy, hell to maintain.

To date, none of the RCNs subs have been deemed combat-ready for deep water patrols, the only thing that makes them an effective part of Canada's maritime defence apparatus. HMCS Chicoutimi caught fire while transiting to Canada from the UK, killing an officer, and remains in dry dock in Halifax. The Victoria has a dented hull, with her sailing operations restricted. And HMCS Windsor entered dry dock in Halifax in 2007, where she still remains. As the CBC report states, "Not one submarine is capable of firing a torpedo."

You really do get what you pay for with these marine versions of the Iltis jeep that once plagued the Canadian Army. And the fact that the Department of National Defence and the RCN have been so quiet about the problems with these vessels makes one think they are taking the term 'silent service' to a new level.

Cut and run, suits and stripes. And do it right now, because this current situation does a great disservice to the lengthy experience Canadian submariners have acquired over at least the last half century.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Insights On Somali Piracy

There's a new book now out in North America, the UK, Australia and the Netherlands that provides one of the most detailed looks ever presented into how piracy operates in the seas off Somalia. "The Pirates Of Somalia" is the result of several years of meticulous research by Canadian journalist Jay Bahadur, who has gone where few others have to explore the issues by immersing himself in things the hard way: He traveled throughout the Horn of Africa. At great risk to himself, Bahadur ventured into coastal communities, met with pirates, their leaders, supporters and those struggling with this nefarious threat. As I wrote in a review for The Globe & Mail newspaper this weekend (read it here), Bahadur manages to get to the core of piracy - the money angle - by using his contacts and research to break down the financial aspects of this criminal enterprise, positing that some of those on the low end of the hierarchical ladder of a gang make less than $11.00 an hour for all their efforts. The book is a fascinating read and a well-needed look into the ongoing problems, well worth checking out.

I've added a link at right (under Horn Of Africa Piracy) to Bahadur's blog, The Pirates Of Puntland, where he has more information about the book, and himself.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Working together

Almost sixty years ago, as the world was being turned upside down in what we now call the Second World War, Canada and the United States of America created one of the best trans-national fighting forces seen in modern times. The First Special Force, or Devil's Brigade as it became known, embodied the best aspects of each nations warriors - and our mutual desires for peace in the face of injustice and anarchy. Two nations that once warred each have become the strongest of friends. Let us argue, amuse and enlighten one another. To my many American friends: Happy 4th of July.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bonne fĂȘte Canada

For those who have missed me, I'm back in my native land. Thoughts and insights will resume shortly. In the meantime, I've my grandfather's old ensign laid out on my deck in honour of our nation's birthday, and a beer in hand. Cheers!