Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Canada and piracy

After a very long absence caused by various travels and more work on my new book about piracy, yours truly has returned. Many thanks to those who have written me and I hope to be able to update you on some of what I've been privy to these last few months.

By sheer coincidence, I'm back on the same day that the Canadian government has announced the dispatching of a naval frigate to the waters off the Horn of Africa, in order to help safeguard the delivery of United Nations food aid to Somalia, aid which has been targeted by pirates in recent years.

The Canadian Navy will be sending the HMCS Ville de Québec to the region because, in the words of Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay, "Food supplies are urgently needed in Somalia but deteriorating security has made delivery difficult by land and sea."

HMCS Ville de Québec (DND photo)

MacKay went on to add that, "Canada is stepping up to the plate by tasking Ville de Québec with the role of escorting World Food Programme ships to ensure their safe arrival at designated ports."

Canada is a major contributor to the UN World Food Programme, so the threat of pirate attacks on vessels carrying that aid represents a clear security issue. About a year ago I interviewed Rear-Admiral Dean McFadden, then commander of Canada's Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic about the issue of piracy and he was unequivocal in his views on the issue:

"Why should Canadians be concerned about piracy? Because it truly does affect all of us, even if we think otherwise. When aid that has been donated by the people of Canada is intercepted by pirates in, say, Somalia, that's an issue. That aid is vital to the lives of people in the region and if they go hungry, if they become angry, if instability is allowed to continue as a result of those actions, it will become something important here.

"As the make-up of the population in Canada changes, as more people arrive from areas of the world where piracy exists, those immigrants will have an impact on government policy - by taking part in our democratic process and making their voices heard and asking that we do something about these maritime criminals. So what has been an external issue will become a domestic issue."

HMCS Ville de Québec is expected to spend about a month in the region before returning to her homeport of Halifax. On May 2 of this year, RAdm McFadden was replaced as commander of Canada's Atlantic Fleet by Rear-Admiral P.A. Maddison.

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