Canada Corner

Afghanistan goes to the Taliban
Canada Corner, Home Front

Afghanistan goes to the Taliban

Is this the end of nation-building wars?  The 20-year war to eliminate the Taliban that had sheltered and assisted Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida terrorist organization he led has come to an end.  After the stunning attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, America’s call for vengeance was immediate and strong. The Taliban was quickly driven from power thanks to U.S. support for the Northern Alliance that had been fighting the Islamist regime. Badly battered, the Taliban was relatively quiet for three or four years.  But by 2006, it was mounting large-scale attacks in Helmand Province, where British troops had the lead, and in Kandahar Province, where Canadians led operations. The Taliban lost heavily.  Canadian troops won in combat but then lacked sufficient numbers to...
Sub vs Schooner
Canada Corner, Home Front

Sub vs Schooner

In a U-boat rampage off the East Coast in 1918, the schooner Dornfontein was captured and burned On Aug. 3, 1918, a small boat carrying nine sailors arrived at Gannet Rock in the Bay of Fundy. They had a tale to tell.  The previous day, a submarine had stopped their schooner—looted it, and took the crew as prisoners. Then the raiders set the schooner on fire and turned its crew loose in their small boat. It had taken more than 12 hours to row to shore. It was not supposed to happen.  When the First World War started in 1914, submarines were a novelty weapon. Their range was short and everyone expected them to operate inshore, fully submerged and, in accordance with international law, to sink only warships. After all, submarines did not have enough crew to take ships as prizes, or spac...
Road to Confederation
Canada Corner, O Canada

Road to Confederation

In 1866, the Fathers of Confederation—among them John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, Alexander Galt and George Brown—were in London, staying at the Westminster Palace Hotel. They were fine-tuning the British North America Act which, when passed, would create the Dominion of Canada. At a different hotel was Joseph Howe, who was trying to get Nova Scotia out of Confederation, waving a petition with 30,000 signatures. “Macdonald was the ruling genius and spokesman,” according to Sir Frederic Rogers, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. But there were a few non-genius moments. Macdonald woke up in the middle of the night to find that both he and his bed were on fire. His hair and hands were singed and his shoulder was burned—but he carried on.    The road...
Enough ships?
Canada Corner, Home Front

Enough ships?

What kind of navy should Canada have? With just 8,300 regulars, the Royal Canadian Navy is the smallest branch of the Canadian Armed Forces. This has been reflected in the RCN’s inability to produce officers to fill the highest post in the Canadian Armed Forces: chief of the defence staff.  Since the brief appointment of Admiral John R. Anderson in 1993, the RCN has had only two such officers—Vice-Admiral Larry Murray, who was interim CDS in 1996-97 during the turmoil of the Somalia Affair, and Admiral Art McDonald, who was appointed in January 2021. McDonald stepped down after 41 days in the post and is the subject of an ongoing investigation after allegations of misconduct were raised against him.    The apparent lack of highly qualified naval officers to fill the top position...
Walk in the park
Canada Corner, O Canada

Walk in the park

It began, as so many things did in this country, with John A. Macdonald.  In November 1885, he declared that 26 square kilometres on Sulphur Mountain overlooking Banff, Alta., would be designated for the public. It contained the Cave and Basin hot springs, which had been used by Indigenous peoples for centuries but had recently been discovered by railway workers. Macdonald had an ulterior motive. The hot springs could become a tourist attraction and help make his beloved railway economically viable. The following year, a legal survey of the area declared that “a large tract of country lying outside of the original reservation presented features of the greatest beauty, and was admirably adapted for a national park.” In 1887, the Rocky Mountains Park Act created what is now Banff Nationa...
Britain’s defence
Canada Corner

Britain’s defence

While facing hard times, the United Kingdom is also increasing defence spending Speaking to the British Parliament in late November 2020, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said his country faced its worst recession in 300 years (!) and an 11.3 per cent drop in gross domestic product. Worse yet, those numbers did not include the economic effects of Britain’s departure from the European Union, which was expected to add another two per cent to the decline in GDP.  The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the British economy have been devastating, and the pandemic has not yet run its course. Even Britain’s much-boasted contribution to foreign aid, pledged by the government during the 2019 election to remain at 0.7 per cent of gross national income, was chopped to 0.5 per cent. Despi...

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