Back to the future all over again – ‘urban winter warfare training’ of Canadian Forces in Laval, Quebec

Canadian soldiers take over the streets of Montreal following the invocation of the War Measures Act, October 1970.

Canadian soldiers take over the streets of Montreal following the invocation of the War Measures Act, October 1970.

Forty-five years after the proclamation of the War Measures Act and the military occupation of Quebec by the Trudeau government, 600 reservists of the Montreal Territorial Battalion Group of the 34 Canadian Brigade Group (34 CBG) are exercising this weekend in “aid of the civil power” “for the purpose of territorial defence in the event of a crisis.” Exercise QUORUM NORDIQUE 2016 (Ex QN 16) is “urban winter warfare training” in Laval.

Reservists in action in an industrial sector of Laval during exercise QUORUM NORDIQUE 2016, January 24, 2016. (Canadian Army)

Reservists in action in an industrial sector of Laval during exercise QUORUM NORDIQUE 2016, January 24, 2016. (Canadian Army)

Laval Quebec_location_mapLaval is located in southwestern Quebec, north of Montreal. It forms its own administrative region of Quebec. It is the largest suburb of Montreal, the third largest municipality in the province of Quebec, and the thirteenth largest city in Canada with a population of 401,553 in 2011.

Reservists in action in an industrial sector of Laval during exercise QUORUM NORDIQUE 2016 (Canadian Army)

Reservists in action in an industrial sector of Laval during exercise QUORUM NORDIQUE 2016 (Canadian Army)

34 Canadian Brigade Group (34 CBG) is an Army Reserve Formation of 2nd Canadian Division, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec and composed of 2,000 Reservists. The militia has its origins in the British colonial period. The Montreal Territorial Battalion Group was created through a restructuring following a November 1996 decision by the Harper government.

The three districts that existed in Quebec at the time were reorganized into 34 Canadian Brigade Group (34 CBG) in Montreal and 35 Canadian Brigade Group (35 CBG) in Quebec City, effective 1 April 1997. According to its website, 34 Canadian Brigade Group is made up of 15 units, nine of which are based on the island of Montreal. They include armoured, artillery, engineer, infantry, signals and medical units. There is also an armoured unit in Hull, an engineer squadron in Rouyn-Noranda, an infantry unit in Laval, a service battalion in Saint-Hubert and an infantry unit in Saint-Hyacinthe/Drummondville.

Fortress America Security Perimeter

The stated aim of the military exercise is “defence of territorial defence,” but the vague and ambiguous description begs the question: what territory is being defended, and from whom?

050319windsor-antiwar6aThe Canadian government has always used “territorial integrity” as a legal and constitutional club against the right of self-determination of the people and nation of Quebec even as it tramples over the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Syria, etc. In the name of “territorial integrity,” it calls on Canadians to support a fascist regime in Kiev and the massacres of the people in Eastern Ukraine. In a very concentrated and brutal way, “territorial defence in the event of a crisis” is being used as the credo and doctrine for the disinformation that presents state terrorism as anti-terrorism, violation rights as an exceptional circumstance to be accepted, military annexation as “inter-operability,” and military intervention as “responsibility to protect.” It can also be shown that as annexation over the past two decade deepened and broadened in economic, cultural, and military spheres and these politicians could no longer keep their credentials by merely repeating that annexation was not sell-out because it is they who were selling out, they are turning to “defence of territorial defence,” “defence of North America, ” “hemispheric security,” and other buzz phrases as their new credo.

Further, the Harper government’s anti-terrorism Bill C-51 deems “any activity, including any of the [activities listed], if it undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada.” There are an infinite number of offences captured by the terms “any activity.” Numerous experts and activists testified in parliamentary hearings in 2015 that the bill targets environmentalists and Indigenous people along with workers and political activists who defend the natural and social environment. It also targets the nation of Quebec and the right of secession and the Indigenous people and their national rights. It has been called “the broadest concept of security that we have ever seen codified into law in Canada” by national security scholars Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, who also point out that it is one of many aspects of Bill C-51 that are unrelated to terrorism.

In late September, CBC reported on a “Canada-U.S. Integrated Forces program.” This consisted of secret discussions held in 2013 and “led at the highest levels, with then Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson and the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey (now retired), meeting on ‘several occasions’ to hash out a plan that included an option for ‘fully integrated forces’.

“The planning was deliberate and sustained, and it happened at the highest levels of both forces.”

Ostensibly, “efforts were ultimately shut down and refocused on improving interoperability between the forces.”

A soldier from 34 Canadian Brigade group takes part in Exercise NOBLE GUERRIER 2013, an intensive training exercise held in Fort Pickett, Virginia.

A soldier from 34 Canadian Brigade group takes part in Exercise NOBLE GUERRIER 2013 (Noble Warrior), a training exercise held in Fort Pickett, Virginia, U.S.

As the photo and descriptive text at right illustrates, the Montreal reservists receive training from the United States, of which the commanders of the Brigade are very proud. It is the lead photo prominently featured on the Brigade’s website. The army describes Exercise NOBLE GUERRIER (Noble Warrior), a training exercise held at Fort Pickett, Virginia from January 2 to 9 involving 1500 Reservists from 34 and 35 Brigade, as follows:

“During this challenging, eight-day exercise, soldiers participated in various scenarios and intense combat simulations.

“One scenario involved both brigades practising advance-to-contact and company attacks, fighting in built-up areas and house-clearing. The field engineers also contributed by setting up obstacles to counter enemy movements and blowing up strategic points.

“Assisting the combat arms, the military police were fully integrated in the exercise. They patrolled with the infantry, provided mentoring on prisoner treatment and performed security tasks.”

The Canadian Forces highlights the significance of the deployment to the United States in a separate release:

“Exercise Noble Guerrier 13 is the culmination of the year’s training for Quebec’s reservists. Fort Pickett offers them the opportunity to maintain and develop skills and knowledge in a new environment, which is essential for reserve force training.” (emphasis added)

Training by the U.S. armed forces on U.S. territory is shamelessly described as “essential for reserve force training” of the militia from Quebec, which otherwise trains in “territorial defence in the event of a crisis” in the streets of Laval.

The deployment of troops to the USA and to Canada is not a reciprocal arrangement. It is hard to find one day in the year when U.S. troops are not exercising in Canada. While the United States does bring Canadian Forces to the U.S. for “urban warfare, closed quarters combat” training, thry do not exercise on American soil along the US-Canada border nor “in urban and semi-urban areas”, but at specialized and isolated southern bases such as Fort Benning in Georgia, headquarters of the infamous School of the Americas; the main U.S. Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, at which Exercise NOBLE GUERRIER was held until 2013; and increasingly at Fort Pickett, located near the town of Blackstone, Virginia (near Richmond) and home of the Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center.

According to Wikipedia, Fort Pickett, is a Virginia Army National Guard installation.:

“Fort Pickett is also the home of an annual exercise with elements of 36 Canadian Brigade Group, located in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Exercise ‘Southbound Trooper’ is a joint exercise between the Canadian Forces Primary Reserves and Virginia National Guard that helps forge solid NATO doctrine between the two militaries. Soldiers from 37 Canadian Brigade, located in New Brunswick and Newfoundland also hold an annual exercise ‘Maritime Raider’, usually shortly after Southbound Trooper.

“While the facilities at Pickett are geared to train military personnel and units, non-military organizations use them too. These include the United States Marshals Service, FBI, ATF, the Virginia Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, Virginia State Police and local law enforcement agencies.

“Today Fort Pickett has 42,000 acres of Maneuver areas and provides many state of the art facilities such as Live Fire Range, a Forward Operation Base, Urban Assault, Training Villages, EST 2000 and several other training facilities.” (emphasis added)

It seems that when the website of Fort Pickett declares “Our goal is to make Fort Pickett the ‘Training Center of Excellence’ for the East Coast,” the “East Coast” extends to Atlantic Canada – Quebec, the Maritime provinces and Newfoundland.

This not only demonstrates the actual integration of the Canadian Forces by the Pentagon under the U.S. Northcom (Northern Command), it gives a new meaning and geography to the concept and practice of “territorial defence in the event of a crisis” being implemented under successive Conservative and Liberal governments and being rehearsed this weekend in Laval.

Exercise QUORUM NORDIQUE 2016 (Ex QN 16) is not an isolated event but the latest in a series of “urban warfare” exercises being staged in the industrial heartland of Canada.

American soldiers form a fire-base to cover the rest of 32 Territorial Battalion Group (32 TBG) ‘F’ and ‘G’ companies assault on the Niagara Central Airport during EXERCISE STALWART GUARDIAN held in the Niagara Region, Ontario, on August 19, 2014. Photo by: Cpl D. Salisbury, 4 CDSB Ops Svcs © 2014 DND-MDN Canada

American soldiers form a fire-base to cover the rest of 32 Territorial Battalion Group (32 TBG) ‘F’ and ‘G’ companies assault on the Niagara Central Airport during EXERCISE STALWART GUARDIAN held in the Niagara Region, Ontario, on August 19, 2014. Photo by: Cpl D. Salisbury, 4 CDSB Ops Svcs © 2014 DND-MDN Canada

For example, from August 13–26, 2014 an unprecedented, two-week, major military Exercise Stalwart Guardian was held in the highly industrialized Niagara Peninsula region from August 13–26, 2014. Organized by the 4th Canadian Division (4 Cdn Div), responsible for all Army Regular and Reserve Force elements in Ontario, it involved over 2,000 soldiers from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, all means of heavy armament such as the Coyote armoured vehicles moving through city streets, and static displays of weapons aimed at the public.

The staging ground for this major military exercise was the National Exhibition Fairgrounds in Welland. Involving over 2,000 Canadian Army soldiers, it was organized by the 4th Canadian Division (4 Cdn Div), responsible for all Army Regular and Reserve Force elements in Ontario. 4 Cdn Div is spread across 46 Ontario communities and comprises more than 13,000 personnel. Its sphere of operations roughly mirror that of the province of Ontario. According to a report by veteran military reporter David Pugliese in the Ottawa Citizen,

“This exercise will practice operations in urban and semi-urban areas, defence of vital points and resources, and the complex operating requirements of facing an opposing force ranging in scope from combat elements to aggressive protesters.”

Exercise QUORUM NORDIQUE 2016 (Ex QN 16) is a deliberate provocation against the people and nation of Quebec. Such large-scale “urban warfare” exercises are carried out not in the defence of Canada but in the defence of the imperialist interests of the union of big North American monopolies that the Justin Trudeau government represents. What Canadians want is an end to the integration of Canada into the U.S. military and security apparatus.

For an Anti-War Government — Sovereignty Yes! Annexation No!


An abbreviated version of this article was published in Chantier Politique, Journal of Quebec Political Affairs, February 2, 2016, English Edition, No. 2

* * *

Here is the full text of the media release of the Department of National (sic) Defence issued yesterday:

January 21, 2016

OTTAWA – Exercise QUORUM NORDIQUE 2016 (Ex QN 16) is urban winter warfare training involving 600 reservists of the Montreal Territorial Battalion Group from January 22 to 24, 2016. The exercise will take place in an urban setting, in Laval, Quebec.

data=RfCSdfNZ0LFPrHSm0ublXdzhdrDFhtmHhN1u-gM,It9HB2XtakU4zt1d45NOK2bnR5vh1AlQUm4IvnKWTA1NN5BXP7iyAkvOk6IsHsIkorQAw_EQ1IyMfdCMn_LX76Cl8gAWPnNkSWOKAvu5rseS0riYt0X1e0bHjY0nDZA77sfOLu7oCgq9_xQnV968RzITVHGP4q7piXFR50WE5dHGcjNZHyGZP30BxL_bw3Cs7C-K3ar-7Ao1xThe Montreal Territorial Battalion Group is a team largely made up of reservists from 34 Canadian Brigade Group (34 CBG) units. This multidisciplinary team is responsible for supporting national operations in urban settings for the purpose of territorial defence in the event of a crisis.

Quick Facts
· Over the weekend, soldiers will practice military manoeuvres and combat procedures related to defence scenarios. Soldiers will have a chance to work as a team with units from Western Quebec. This combined arms training will help the units to enhance their ability to conduct operations.

· This urban military exercise aims to hone the skills of participating soldiers by exposing them to varying environments and training conditions. These conditions ensure that Army members are flexible and ready for deployment at the request of the Government of Canada.
· The reservists take active part in these kinds of activities to prepare for every eventuality. They contribute to Canada’s defence and security and provide vital support for the regular forces.
· 34 CBG is an army reserve formation of 2nd Canadian Division, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec. The reservists are part-time soldiers from diverse professional and academic backgrounds. Owing to the variety of their experience and skills, they enhance the professionalism and versatility of the Canadian Army. Ex QN 16 provides an additional opportunity to put their know-how to use.
COMMUNIQUÉ
600 réservistes du Groupe-bataillon territorial – Montréal s’entraîneront à Laval du 22 au 24 janvier 2016
Le 21 janvier 2016
OTTAWA – L’exercice QUORUM NORDIQUE 2016 (Ex QN 16) est un entraînement en milieu urbain dans des conditions hivernales qui impliquera 600 réservistes du Groupe-bataillon territorial – Montréal qui aura lieu du 22 au 24 janvier 2016. L’exercice se déroulera en milieu urbain sur le territoire de la ville de Laval (Québec).
Le Groupe-bataillon territorial – Montréal est une équipe composée majoritairement de réservistes en provenance des unités du 34e Groupe brigade du Canada (34 GBC). Cette équipe multidisciplinaire a pour responsabilité d’appuyer les opérations nationales en milieu urbain pour la défense du territoire en cas de crise.
Quelques faits
· Au cours de la fin de semaine, les soldats pratiqueront des manœuvres militaires et des procédures de combat liées à des scénarios de défense. Les soldats auront l’opportunité d’intégrer le travail d’équipe avec les unités réunies du Nord-ouest du Québec. Cet entraînement interarmes permettra aux unités de raffiner leur capacité à conduire des opérations.
· Cet exercice militaire en milieu urbain vise à raffiner les compétences des militaires qui y participeront en les exposant à différents milieux et à différentes conditions d’entraînement. Ces conditions assurent que les membres de l’Armée font preuve de souplesse et sont prêts à être déployés à la demande du gouvernement du Canada.
· Les réservistes participent activement aux activités de ce genre afin de se préparer à toute éventualité. Ils contribuent ainsi à la défense et à la sécurité du Canada et assurent un support essentiel aux forces régulières.
· Le 34e Groupe brigade du Canada est une formation de la Réserve de l’Armée canadienne de la 2e Division du Canada dont le quartier général est situé à Montréal (Québec). Les réservistes sont des militaires à temps partiel provenant d’horizons variés tant professionnels qu’académiques. La diversité de leurs expériences et aptitudes contribuent grandement au professionnalisme et la polyvalence de l’Armée canadienne. L’exercice QUORUM NORDIQUE 2016 est une autre occasion de mettre leur savoir-faire à contribution.
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