Putting Canadian and Quebec territory and public space in service of aggressive military alliances

October 30, 2004. Demonstration in opposition to the presence of warships in Montreal.

By Christine Dandenault and Claude Brunelle

Canada is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) established on April 4, 1949. It has also been a member of the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) since May 12, 1958. The integration of the Canadian military into the U.S. military has been one of the characteristics of Canada’s membership in these military alliances. Despite the determined and continued opposition of the Quebec, Canadian and Indigenous peoples to any participation of Canada in such alliances and wars of aggression and occupation under the helm of the U.S. imperialists, the Canadian government continues its interventions against the peoples of the world. This translates into putting the territory, public space and public funds at the disposal of these alliances.

La Presse reported on October 21, that the Canadian government will be increasing the federal budget allocation for war based on its commitment as a member of NATO. “NATO figures show that Canada is on the verge of committing 1.45 per cent of its GDP to the military this year. This not only represents a significant hike from last year’s 1.29 per cent, but the largest share of the GDP for defence in a decade.[1]

“It also exceeds the Liberal government’s original provisions, set out in the 2017 defence policy, to spend 1.4 per cent of the GDP on the military by 2024-2025 – the year NATO members were to reach the two per cent target.”[2]

Pretext of protecting populations and countering threats from abroad

Fifty years after the implementation of the War Measures Act and the military occupation of Quebec by the Trudeau government, Canadian military training activities continue in the name of protecting the population.

The military occupation of Quebec was used to crush the struggle of the Quebec people in the late 1960s for the affirmation of their rights, under the pretext of an apprehended armed insurrection, which was later revealed as pure fabrication on the government’s part. Shortly before the 50th anniversary of that occupation, October 31, Canadian Special Operations Forces held a military exercise at the Farnham military base during the night of October 20-21. CH-146 Griffon and CH-147 Chinook aircraft flew over the municipalities of Farnham, Chambly and the surrounding towns en route to the Saint-Hubert airport. It was reported that the sky was full of helicopters and that shots were fired. Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) is a high-readiness organization, able to deploy special operations forces on very short notice, purportedly to protect the Canadian population against threats at home and abroad.

Ian Grant, the captain in charge of the command, says: “The training included extensive air support from the Royal Canadian Air Force. This exercise was regular training for Canadian Special Operations Forces Command that helps maintain the skills that may be required for overseas deployments, and provides an opportunity to build the skills needed to protect Canadians here at home.[3]

In August, a military training exercise was held in the Arctic, called Operation NANOOK, a mainstay of the Canadian Armed Forces since 2007. The exercise lasted three weeks and was led by Canada and, for the first time, joined by allies the United States, France and Denmark.

A report on the naval exercise in the Arctic says that it was intended to send a message of unity against potential adversaries in the north – who are identified as Russia or China. Three Canadian Navy warships and four allied warships participated in the exercise, conducting most of their activities in the Davis Strait between Baffin Island and Greenland, which is considered part of the Northwest Passage.

“The message is that the Arctic is strategically important. It’s becoming increasingly important for our collective national security,” said Vice Admiral Steven Poulin, Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Atlantic area [our emphasis].[4]

In July 2020, the 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron travelled to 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta to participate in Gander Gunner 2020, a week-long aerial gunnery exercise for the squadron’s newly-assigned aircrew. CH-146 Griffon helicopters flew over the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, each equipped with two lateral C6 machine guns to learn new skills.

The Gander Gunner exercise focused on door gunner accuracy, effective attack patterns and realistic tactical scenarios, to maintain the high standard of training for all aircrew. Missions used night vision goggle technology to allow attack teams to conduct fire missions even through the darkest nights.[5]

In October, soldiers from the Canadian Army participated in a military exercise in Kuwait with the U.S. military. Canadian Forces members in Kuwait were trained in special operations weapons at the Udairi Range complex with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Forces Support Detachment in Kuwait (JSSD-K), led by the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia.[6]

Members of JSSD-K brought together soldiers from the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron, 387 Air Expeditionary Squadron, Camp Canada and Camp Moreell for a day of Special Operations – Weapons (SOF) training.[7]

Militarization of police forces

One of the aspects of life today is the bankruptcy of democratic institutions and the violent response of governments to contain the popular will that demands control over all decisions affecting the lives of the people. The use of police powers takes many forms, including the militarization of police forces. For example, war weaponry is now purchased by various municipalities and made available to their police forces. In February 2018, the City of Laval entered into a $168,000 private contract with Colt for the purchase of long guns and powerful ammunition. The assault rifles are not intended for use by special forces, but for patrol officers.

The justification was provided in the call for tenders: “It is imperative for the Laval Police Service to acquire adequate, effective and precise patrol rifles so that police officers can neutralize the threat in a minimum amount of time and with maximum precision.” The rifles are to be made available to patrol officers and carried in the trunks of patrol cars so that they can react in the event of an attack or killing. What is the threat? It did not say.

In 2018, the Chateauguay Police Department took steps to equip its patrol officers with 5.56 mm calibre weapons. These weapons are to be used under two circumstances: in the presence of an active shooter or a barricaded suspect. Patrol officers can intervene in high-risk situations without waiting for the arrival of the intervention team.

In November 2019, the media announced that members of the City of Montreal Police Service (SPVM) Emergency Response Team (ERT) will soon carry assault rifles with an even greater strike force than those already in their possession. The police force has issued a call for tender to acquire weapons comparable to the mythical AK-47, capable of stopping a pickup truck or piercing light armor.

In 2018, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), the provincial police force, received 230 Colt C8 rifles from the Canadian Forces. One hundred and fifty patrol officers are to be trained “on budget.” One hundred have already taken the course and some forty weapons are already circulating in as many patrol units across Quebec. In November 2019, the SQ also signed a $153,000 contract to purchase semi-automatic long guns and 300 Blackout ammunition from the MD Charlton Company.

During 2017, the City of Longueuil signed at least 11 contracts for a total of $751,000. A dozen assault rifles were purchased for the tactical teams, as well as accessories such as silencers, and optical equipment.

In addition, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition have been ordered for patrol officers’ long guns. Patrol officers will use C8 assault rifles supplied by the Canadian Army. “All of our patrol officers who will be using long guns have undergone rigorous training,” the City of Longueuil Police Service said.[8]

Militarization of life and public space

More recently, within in the context of the pandemic, the federal government deployed the Canadian Armed Forces to “assist” public authorities. Among other things, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s refusal to allow the Cuban Henry Reeve Brigades to provide assistance to the Anishinaabe and Dakota communities in Manitoba at their request is a case in point. Instead, the next day, the Deputy Prime Minister called on the Canadian Armed Forces to assist them.

In Quebec, more than 1,400 members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) were mobilized by civilian authorities in 47 residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs). Operation LASER – the deployment of Canadian Forces members to seniors’ residences in Quebec and Ontario in the spring to combat COVID-19 – was carried out gradually, beginning on April 22. The Legault government even intervened to request that the armed forces remain until September, saying it was an essential service.

The government refused and continues to refuse to listen to and apply the proposals of workers and professionals in the field who have the experience and know-how to save lives. Instead of responding to the pressing demands of health care workers in terms of equipment, masks, human and material resources and ending the anti-social offensive with large investments in health care, the government has turned to the armed forces. COVID-19 becomes the pretext. In actual fact, this becomes a military exercise in the public domain, right in the heart of health care facilities.

Natural resources deemed in the national interest

Another aspect of the use of our national territory for military and aggressive NATO and U.S. Command purposes is their strong interest in our natural resources that can be used for military purposes. The October 24, 2020 issue of TML Weekly points to the minerals of interest:

“Of the 35 critical minerals, many others are also extracted in Canada, such as cobalt (in Ontario), niobium, scandium and titanium (in Quebec). Plans are in place for others to be mined, such as chromium (Ontario’s Ring of Fire), vanadium (from the tar sands in Alberta and Quebec’s Lac Doré complex), lithium (in the James Bay area, Quebec) and rare earth elements (REEs) (in northern Saskatchewan). In all these cases, Quebec and provincial governments across Canada are providing all sorts of handouts to the rich in the form of infrastructure projects (building of roads, railways, power lines, and research and development facilities) and bailouts. […]

“As indicated in the 2018 United States Geological Survey document on critical minerals, many of the elements found in Canada have military and civilian applications. Aluminum is used in many civilian and military ground, marine and aerospace applications such as vehicles, naval vessels, airframes and plane and rocket fuselages. Cesium and rubidium are indispensable elements in global positioning satellites (GPS), rocket guidance systems, military infrared devices (night vision), cellular phones and fibre optics, to name just a few.

“Indium is used for aircraft windshields, military infrared imaging, flat panel displays for computer and TV screens and for nuclear applications, amongst many other uses. Various REEs are used in jet engines; in military guidance, laser, radar and sonar systems; and to make permanent magnets. Tellurium has military applications in infrared devices (night vision) and semiconductors for telecommunication and electronic devices. Uranium has many applications for space missions, nuclear propulsion of military vessels and nuclear power stations.”

Make Canada a Zone for Peace

In these military activities and the occupation of public space and territory, the peoples of Canada, Quebec, the First Nations and even the peoples of the world and their objective movement to be able to decide upon all matters of concern to them are not part of the equation. Yet, the reality is that only the peoples of the world in their struggle for justice, dignity, emancipation, peace and security are capable of achieving peace. 

For decades Canadians and Quebeckers have expressed their opposition to any participation by Canada in aggressive alliances that seek to crush and subjugate other peoples and nations that refuse to submit to imperialist dictate. Demonstrations, petitions, and public statements are now part of their DNA. Not a single NATO warship can dock in a Quebec port, or anywhere else in the country, without being met by demonstrators. The Canadian, Quebec and Indigenous peoples are actively demonstrating their desire for a Canada that is a zone of peace, for an anti-war Canada that it is so urgent to build.

Notes

1. “Le Canada augmente nettement sa part en défense, selon l’OTAN,” La Presse, October 21, 2020.

2. Ibid.

3. “Des aéronets survolent la région en plein nuit,” Journal de Chambly, October 21, 2020.

4. “Le Canada mène un exercice militaire dans l’Arctique,” La Presse, August 4, 2020.

5. “Exercise Grander Gunner 2020,” Canadian Armed Forces, September 16, 2020.

6. 45e Nord, Armes d’opérations spéciales: les Canadiens s’entraînent au Koweit avec les Américains, October 23, 2020.

7. Ibid.

8. “Vague d’achats de fusils d’assaut au sein des corps policiers du Québec,” Radio-Canada, May 15, 2018.

TML Weekly, No. 45. November 21, 2020. Supplement

1 Comment

Filed under Canada, Canadian Forces, Indigenous Peoples

One response to “Putting Canadian and Quebec territory and public space in service of aggressive military alliances

  1. Pingback: Major NATO military provocation in Halifax on Labour Day: No Harbour for War! | Tony Seed's Weblog

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