Canadian Armed Forces soldier with alleged neo-Nazi ties relieved of duties, weapons seized
A soldier with alleged links to a neo-Nazi group has been relieved of his duties, according to the Canadian Armed Forces.
According to a spokesperson with the Department of National Defence, Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews was relieved as apart of necessary action due to the severity of the allegations.
Last year, the academics Michael Byers of UBC and Nicole Covey of University of Manitoba published an article in the International Journal, in which they lay out the potential path for the maintenance of security of Canada’s Arctic region.
Their work received rather significant attention by the Canadian media and was publicised by the National Post and the CBC. Byers and Covey argue that the Arctic should remain demilitarised and that the Royal Canadian Navy should be kept out of the region lest we contribute to the security dilemma–provoking another state (in this case, Russia) into a military buildup by our own actions, which could lead us into an arms race or military confrontation.
They advocate for the increased use of search-and-rescue ships and aircraft for their direct purposes, and for law enforcement against non-state actors, like smugglers and illegal fishers. The authors believe that it is in Canada’s interest to avoid any kind of militarization of the Arctic for fear of agitating Russia and forcing it to escalate the tensions between our countries in the region. However, the authors of the article grossly misrepresent the geopolitical and military evidence at hand to make their conclusions, and should their recommendations be taken seriously they will do serious damage to our security and interests in the Arctic.
Russia is the most militarily active state in the region, and has undertaken a massive expansion of its Arctic military capabilities. Since the mid-nineties, the country has been concentrating a great deal of its military capabilities in the region. It has re-established the border guard units in locations where they existed before the collapse of the USSR.
This act alone merits attention–why would Russia need border guard units in remote northern locations where there are no actual international borders? The answer is twofold. One–it is the show of force, a statement to audiences foreign and domestic that Russia is a major Arctic power. The second answer is more disconcerting–in case of a military confrontation between Russian and NATO these units can act as advanced guard for the Russian Armed Forces in the North and be rapidly expanded and beefed up with both regular forces and reservists.
These units have a naval component. The return of the border guards to the Russian Arctic was not provoked by any direct act by the NATO power–it was the action that Russians undertook independently, and it should be treated as a component of potentially aggressive defence policy in the region.
Since 2013 the Russians have built seven new military bases in the region along the Northern Sea Route from Europe to Asia. These bases will allow the Russians to expand their power projection in the region to potential potentially encompass the entire Arctic Ocean should they so desire, while Canada and the U.S. will have little capability to counteract such an expansion regionally. In total, the Russians now possess two mechanised brigades, one which is trained and equipped specifically for Arctic operations, which have tanks, armoured personnel carriers and multirole helicopters and artillery, one brigade of marines, 14 new airfields, 16 deepwater ports and 36 icebreakers, some of them nuclear-powered, with additional nine vessels to be added before 2024.
The most serious cause for concern, meanwhile, should be the Russian Northern Fleet–the only major naval force specifically dedicated to operations in the northern seas and the Arctic. Headquartered in Severomorsk, at the edge of the Barents Sea, it has bases in multiple locations of the Russian Eastern Arctic, and one can draw an almost straight line from each of those bases to the Canadian Arctic shore. It is the most powerful fleet of the Russian Navy, with 84 ships. Forty-three are surface combatants, which include Russia’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and heavy anti-ship missile cruiser, Peter the Great, the fleet’s flagship, as well as multiple destroyers, anti-submarine warfare ships and amphibious assault ships, designed to transport troops to the enemy’s shore. Forty-one are submarines, including eight ballistic missile submarines. The Fleet also includes the abovementioned land troops and the air and anti-aircraft defence army, all under one unified command structure. The presence of this armada in the Arctic openly signals the Russian intent that the Arctic is its area of influence, and that its defensive capabilities in the region can be turned into offensive rather quickly in order to project Russian power.
In practice, that will mean the extension of the area in which the Russians can develop the Arctic seafloor’s resources. The fact that the Russian claims on the extended portion of the Arctic seabed will most likely have no grounding in international law, as was the case with the Lomonosov Ridge, which both Russia and Canada claim as an extension of their respective continental shelves, will mean little–the evidence supporting the claim will promptly be manufactured, whilst the claim will be enforced by the Russian Armed Forces. International law did not stop Russia from performing military landgrabs in Ukraine and Georgia. Byers and Covey’s claim that Russia already possesses half of the Arctic and has no wish to acquire more is plainly incorrect–the Russian military buildup demonstrates that it views the Arctic as its sphere of influence and can assert its power throughout the region if it wishes to. Its icebreaker fleet allows the Northern Fleet to navigate the region reasonably well, and it will become easier as the Arctic ice melts due to global warming, and the Northern Fleet is a formidable tool of power projection.
This bodes ill for Canada. The presence of large Russian military force in the region is a source of strategic volatility that gives the Russians a practically unrestricted freedom of action in the region. This, and not the Canadian Armed Forces in the Arctic, is a source of uncertainty, as one power has clear dominance and the other Arctic nations consider that a threat to their security.
By introducing a significant military force to the Canadian Arctic, Canada will not be walking into a security dilemma–it will be responding to a clear increase of offensive military capabilities by the hostile power in the region of key strategic importance to Canada. We shall also avoid an appeasement dilemma. Reneging on our commitment to preserve Canadian Arctic sovereignty, if necessary, by force, and our Arctic ambitions, which will eventually be necessary to keep the Arctic demilitarised, will not induce Russia to respect Canada’s Arctic sovereignty. It is more likely that it will have the opposite effect–in both Georgia and Ukraine, Putin saw weak opponents, unable to offer resistance, and pounced at the opportune moment. Why should the same thinking not apply to Canada, particularly if our refusal to engage in the region militarily provides such an inviting target for imperial expansion?
Canada’s faith in the Article 5 of NATO and American military aid can no longer be absolute. Will the Americans engage in conflict with Russia over a chunk of sea if the American interests, as defined by the administration currently in office, are not directly threatened? Will the Europeans? The answer to these questions is, “We do not know.”
It is an uncomfortable uncertainty. On the other hand, by increasing our military capacity in the region, we will be providing deterrence against the Russian ambitions. The Russians will know that we possess sufficient capability to prevent them from achieving their goals and will thus conclude that the Arctic expansion enforced by the military is inadvisable. By doing so, we will be also practicing defence against help–we will be defending ourselves so that the Americans will not have to do it for us in case the Russians directly threaten our security.
Successful deterrence will require significant investment by Canada into its military capacity in the region. It should establish permanent air bases in the North-Western Territories and Nunavut, equipped with fighter aircraft to intercept strategic bombers, and naval warfare planes, particularly anti-submarine ones that can, if necessary, detect and destroy Russian submarines. The Navy should also establish a permanent presence in the Arctic Ocean and have a base that allows it access to the Ocean (Churchill can be used as one). The Army ought to establish a regular Brigade that can be based in Nunavut or North-Western Territories, tasked specifically with defending the Arctic frontier on land and trained and equipped accordingly. Further measures should be taken to increase the region’s population by internal migration and immigration from overseas and the development of the Arctic’s resources.
Canada may have taken the Arctic for granted and treated it as unimportant in practice since its inception as a country, but the days of this approach are numbered. Canada needs to decide what sort of role it wants to play in the Arctic, how it is going to play it, and whether it wants to have the Arctic at all and how it is going to defend it.
If Canada wishes to solidify its Arctic sovereignty and protect itself against future threats, it needs to accept that the Arctic is a militarily important region and adapt its military and economic policies accordingly, and form a coherent, long-term roadmap for the new strategic conditions.
Disclosure: James Bezan is the Conservative Shadow Minister for National Defence and MP of Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman in Manitoba.
If you turn on the news, it is clear that the world is changing and global peace and security are becoming more uncertain. Alliances that have lasted a generation are shifting. Countries such as Russia and China are challenging the international world order. And terrorist groups around the world are growing in strength. In order to tackle these issues Canada needs a bold response from a government willing to take action and stand on principle.
Unfortunately, what this past election showed is that Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are not up to this task, and never were.
During the election campaign the Liberals failed to take the issue of defence and foreign affairs seriously. Trudeau skipped the Munk Foreign Affairs Policy Debate because he didn’t want to defend his disastrous record, his platform commitments on these defence and foreign affairs were almost nowhere to be seen, and he did not spend a single day in the campaign talking about these important issues.
Overall, this was shameful.
In contrast, Andrew Scheer and Canada’s Conservatives made a strong, thoughtful and articulate announcement on defence and foreign affairs, committed to the Munk debate, and put forward a serious plan on these critical issues.
Our commitment to these issues were clearly laid out in our platform.
Canada’s Conservatives promised to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reopen the Office of Religious Freedom, provide military defensive aid to Ukraine, reprioritize foreign aid, combat terrorist fundraising and planning, punish terrorists that travel overseas, depoliticize military procurement, begin discussions with the U.S. on joining the ballistic missile defence shield, quickly replace our CF-18’s, build a second interim supply ship, and begin the process of replacing our submarines.
In an ever-evolving and growing world with threats to Canada, our country needs a strong vison for what role we can play in the defence of our values at home and abroad. The fact is that under Justin Trudeau, Canada was never back and we are falling further behind under his weak leadership. This election campaign proved that the Liberals are not interested in talking about the major issues that will shape the world for future generations. Instead, they spent their time talking about spending money on camping trips.
Canada’s Conservatives will never stop fighting for the things that matter. We will continue to stand up for our military heroes. We will support bold ideas that protect our home and native land. We will demonstrate that strength abroad is the only true course for Canada. And when we re-establish our reputation on the world stage, Canadians are more prosperous and secure.
We will continue to stand up for these things–because that is what Canadians expect us to do.
Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer has taken to social media to honor the anniversary and memory of two Canadian Armed Forces members who were murdered by terrorists in 2014.
Oct. 20 is the five-year anniversary of the death of 53-year-old Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was deliberately run down while on duty in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. Two days later, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was gunned down while standing guard at the National War Memorial by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who was later shot dead while storming the halls of Parliament.
Scheer wrote the following message in a Facebook post and on Twitter: “Five years ago this week, two Canadian heroes were murdered simply for wearing the uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces. This tragic anniversary reminds us that Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism. We must stand vigilant and ensure that we continue the fight against threats to our security. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo.”
The attacks were both immediately deemed terrorism, something relatively uncommon in Canada, and Canadians rallied to give their condolences. The attack on Parliament Hill is still remembered on the anniversary each year to commemorate the deaths of the two Canadian Armed Forces members.
“Warrant Officer Vincent and Cpl. Cirillo both had very important jobs: to defend our rights and our freedoms as a people,” Governor General of Canada David Johnston said in 2015. “They stood up for our democratic values of tolerance, of diversity, of equality, of fairness and of the rule of law, by which I mean the constant, relentless pursuit of justice.
“This is who we are. Our Parliament is a symbol of who we are. It too was attacked last October.”
As of writing, the other federal party leaders have yet to commemorate the fallen soldiers on home soil.
An exclusive report by Global News has revealed that the federal government has decreased the amount of money paid to hospitals to cover the medical expenses of members of the military.
Canada’s constitution requires the federal government to provide basic healthcare to members of the military, while the bills for advance care at civilian hospitals like surgeries is covered by the federal government.
When a member of the Canadian military undergoes such a procedure the army is expected to pay the hospital back for the services. However, recent substantial changes this spring has reduced the amount of money spent on healthcare for Canadians in uniform.
Under the new rules, the military will cover fewer fees meaning that hospitals will have to deal with the losses.
Several hospitals are expecting losses in the millions. For example, hospitals in Ontario could have to pay approximately $10 million without help from the federal government.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott raised concerns with federal Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan about the new changes.
” I was surprised and extremely disappointed to learn that the federal government, through the Canadian Armed Forces, is attempting to unilaterally impose a new fee schedule for the delivery of health care to serving members and veterans. These changes, which were communicated without consultation, could result in either undue burden on hospitals or, worse yet, military members and veterans being charged to access health care services. Neither of these options are acceptable,” wrote Elliott in a letter obtained by Global News.
The changes do not only affect Ontario, but other provinces as well. Alberta is expected to lose $2 million in healthcare revenue.
Critics of the cuts are asking questions about whether the new funding changes will lead to members of the military being denied vital services by Canadian hospitals.