By Charlie Gillis - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 0 Comments
The muted response to Israel’s strike on Syria is just one more sign of a troubling new Middle East reality
The mission went off with surprising ease. In separate sorties over the weekend, Israeli warplanes slipped unopposed into Syrian airspace, wiping out missile sites and destroying a major military research centre near Damascus. In past years, it might have been enough to trigger a full-blown crisis—Syria answering with a tit-for-tat strike; Israel pressing the U.S. and other allies for support; the entire Midle East watching helplessly as the cycle escalated. And there was certainly no lack of fuel for outrage: on Monday, Syria’s Arab-language news agency circulated pictures showing the smoking expanses where the bombs had landed, killing as many as 42 people.
But this time, the fallout was strangely muted. Yes, the crippled regime of Bashar al-Assad mustered a pro forma protest, decrying the attacks as a “declaration of war,” and threatened unspecified acts of retribution. But Israel seemed unworried about the prospect of immediate retaliation. Even as images of the wreckage flashed across TV screens around the globe, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu jetted off to China for a long-planned trade trip, while a close political ally, Tzachi Hanegbi, declared the government had returned to “business as usual.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 10, 2012 at 11:33 AM - 0 Comments
When the reporters accompanying the prime minister on the visit asked for his response to the news, his advisors said that it was Netanyahu who had last called Canadian PM Harper – not the other way around – in order to thank him for voting against the Palestinian bid at the UN last month.
Netanyahu’s entourage said that the conversation between the two did not deal at all with the E-1 question, and that Netanyahu “does not remember” that he spoke with Harper about the settlement issue.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 9:57 AM - 0 Comments
After the Harper government declined to explicitly criticize Israel’s latest settlements and refused to say whether the Prime Minister discussed the matter with Benjamin Netanyahu during their call on Saturday, John Baird now directly criticizes the settlements and says Mr. Harper conveyed the government’s concerns to Mr. Netanyahu.
The Prime Minister believes the settlements would further impair efforts to achieve peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples – a message he conveyed directly to the Israeli Prime Minister during a phone call Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told The Globe and Mail…
“The Palestinians’ actions last week were very unhelpful to the cause of peace, and the Israeli response of settlement expansion is very unhelpful to the cause of peace,” Mr. Baird said.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 3, 2012 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
Bob Rae laments for the Harper government’s approach.
Canada is in the process of isolating itself — and only putting forward monologues that are fuelled by polls and short-sighted partisanship, and which abandon our basic values of dialogue, peace and unity.
This is not where most Canadians want us to be as a country. David Cameron and President Obama were on the phone with President Abbas, and are reaching out to Arab and Israeli leaders in the hopes of finding a solution. Canada should be picking up the phone as well, but it may be a while before we get an answer. It’s not always what you do, it’s the way that you do it.
The chief negotiator for the Palestinians says Canada has disqualified itself from the peace process. And while Britain and others react strongly to news of new Israeli settlements, the Globe reports a more muted response from the Harper government.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 7:53 PM - 0 Comments
The UN voted 138-9 this evening to give the Palestinians non-member observer status. Canada joined the United States, Israel, the Czech Republic, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama in opposing the move. Forty-one countries abstained, including the United Kingdom. Here apparently is the official roll call.
Here is the text of John Baird’s speech at the UN today.
This resolution will not advance the cause of peace or spur a return to negotiations. Will the Palestinian people be better off as a result? No. On the contrary, this unilateral step will harden positions and raise unrealistic expectations while doing nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinian people.
A government official is suggesting “thoughtful and deliberate” action will be taken as a result.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 1:44 PM - 0 Comments
Accordingly, only an immediate return to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians – and one based on the principle of mutual recognition of two states for two peoples – will invite the establishment of the just and lasting peace that we all seek. Indeed, it would be the supreme irony if the UN General Assembly were to circumvent the legal and political imperatives of direct negotiations leading to such an outcome precisely on the 65th anniversary of its earlier UN partition resolution, which the Arab leadership rejected then, and the Palestinian leadership, regrettably, is undermining now.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 9:17 AM - 0 Comments
John Baird is in New York today to vote against a resolution that would recognize Palestine as a non-voting observer state at the United Nations. The Prime Minister referred to the resolution as a “shortcut” yesterday and has reportedly pressured Mahmoud Abbas to drop the bid. Campbell Clark now considers what Canada might do in response to the resolution passing.
Michael Petrou makes the case that Canada should support Palestinian membership.
After QP yesterday, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler explained why he doesn’t support the resolution.
This démarche by the Palestinians, I’ve said this to Mr. Abbas, I’m not saying anything to [you], ’ve not said to him, I met with him over the past year several times and the Palestinians leaders and I said that this is a breach of Israel-Palestinian agreement. It’s a breach of international agreements, UN Security Council resolutions, etc., calling for direct negotiations between the parties as a basis for just and lasting peace. It’s a breach of a whole series of bilateral agreements with as a result of this mega-rupture, so I think it’s a mistake as a matter of law, as a matter of policy and a mistake in terms of seeking, on the 65th anniversary of that initial resolution, the same two states for two peoples…
Our position should be to bring the parties together for direct negotiations without preconditions, with a view to addressing all of the standing issues that remain on the agenda and with a view to securing, as I say, a just and lasting peace. I think that should be our approach. I think that the extent that we object, our objection should be that this unilateral initiative is in breach of the UN’s own resolutions and in breach of Israeli-Palestinian bilateral agreements and international agreements.
The NDP questioned Mr. Baird on the government’s approach during QP yesterday.
By The Canadian Press - Friday, November 16, 2012 at 2:01 PM - 0 Comments
QUEBEC CITY, Que. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper condemned the continuing rocket attacks against…
QUEBEC CITY, Que. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper condemned the continuing rocket attacks against Israel as tensions continued to rise in the Middle East.
His remarks, in Quebec, came as the Israeli military prepared for a possible ground incursion into the Palestinian-controlled Gaza region, which observers say could lead to a dramatic escalation of the conflict.
Rockets fired by Hamas militants were aimed at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem — two targets previously thought out of range of missiles from Gaza.
There is speculation in the defence community that militants are using Iranian-made Fajr-5 missiles.
Harper says Canada supports Israel’s right to defend itself, but urged all sides to take every precaution to spare innocent lives.
Three Israelis were killed in the bombardment Thursday, while published reports in the Middle East claim the death toll among Palestinians has hit 22.
By Emily Senger - Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 10:27 AM - 0 Comments
Using the digital front to win hearts and minds
By Emily Senger - Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 12:09 PM - 0 Comments
An early-morning decision by Turkey to escort a plane bound for Syria to the…
An early-morning decision by Turkey to escort a plane bound for Syria to the ground is escalating already high tensions between the neighbouring nations.
According to the BBC, the Syrian passenger plane left from Russia Wednesday and was headed to Syria when it was intercepted and forced to make a landing in the Turkish capital of Ankara.
Turkish officials searched the plane, saying they had suspicious that the aircraft may have been carrying weapons. They removed some cargo and let the plane resume travelling to its final destination.
Syrian officials, however, called the move “hostile and reprehensible,” reports Voice of America, saying that it amounted to air piracy. Russia also demanded Turkey explain its actions.
The plane’s grounding comes a week after a Syrian mortar attack killed five Turks near the border between the two countries.
The mounting tensions could soon cause the need for real action that would likely draw NATO countries into the conflict, points out the Christian Science Monitor’s Ian O. Lesser. “Given the animosity between both Ankara and Damascus, and the substantial military forces arrayed on either side of the border—Turkey has NATO’s second largest military after the United States—a Turkish-Syrian conflict would represent a dramatic development,” Lesser writes.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 11:59 AM - 0 Comments
Maclean’s journalist describes fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan Northern Alliance, one month after 9/11
Maclean’s senior writer Michael Petrou has travelled to the Middle East multiple times, many of them to report for the magazine. In this excerpt from Is This Your First War? Travels Through the Post-9/11 Islamic World (Dundurn), Petrou describes fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan Northern Alliance, one month after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The first hint that B-52 bombers were circling overhead came from glints of sunlight. The lumbering planes were too high to be properly seen, but as they banked in their slow, graceful arcs, their silver wings caught the sun and sent it into our eyes as we sheltered in Northern Alliance trenches 10,000 m below.
I had awoken that morning, in October 2001, on the ground inside a mud-walled compound run by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance militia, who controlled a small corner of northeastern Afghanistan and whose fortunes were about to change because of those B-52s and the unseen Americans on the ground directing their bombs. Graham Uden, a British photographer with whom I was travelling, and I then hired a driver with access to one of the jeeps the Russians had left behind during an earlier war. We trundled westward out of Khoja Bahuddin, the small village where we slept, toward the front lines about 15 km away. We passed below Ai-Khanoum, the ruins of a hilltop city once known as Alexandria on the Oxus, where Alexander the Great had established an outpost of his globe-spanning empire 2,300 years ago. Alexander’s empire slowly disintegrated and his city on the Oxus was sacked, leaving pottery shards and marble column pediments scattered among the shell casings and gun emplacements of the Northern Alliance. When we reached the Kocha River, we left the jeep and hired horses from the wranglers who worked its banks. Their animals were skinny but strong, and while saddles could usually be found, none had stirrups, and my legs ached from hanging loosely against the horse’s flanks after a kilometre or two.
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 21, 2012 at 3:42 PM - 0 Comments
Pakistan is the latest country to erupt over the portrayal of the prophet Muhammad…
Pakistan is the latest country to erupt over the portrayal of the prophet Muhammad in an amateur American film. At least 15 people were killed on Friday, a Muslim day of prayer, as protests in other Islamic countries remained peaceful, Reuters reports.
In France, the government has gone as far as to ban all protests over the movie, or recent cartoons of the Prophet which were published in France.
Across Pakistan, tens of thousands of people in several cities were encouraged to protest by their government. The bloodiest unrest erupted in Karachi, where 10 people were killed, and more than 100 wounded as protesters rioted, and set buildings on fire. In the city of Mardan, police said a Christian church was targeted and set on fire, although no one was killed.
The U.S. embassy in Pakistan has been under tight surveillance, and they have run television ads clarifying that the American government had nothing to do with the film about Mohammad.
By Scaachi Koul - Friday, September 14, 2012 at 12:31 PM - 0 Comments
The violent protests in the Middle East, fuelled by an anti-Muslim movie, have spread…
The violent protests in the Middle East, fuelled by an anti-Muslim movie, have spread with thousands of protesters storming the German embassy in Sudan on Friday. They attacked the facade and tore the flag down to replace it with a black Islamist flag.
In Tunis, protesters jumped the wall of the U.S. embassy, breaking windows and setting trees on fire. A large fire was seen burning inside the compound while police fired tear gas at the hundreds who were demonstrating.
Earlier this week, the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya, as protesters attacked the American consulate. The U.S. embassy in Egypt was also stormed on Thursday. A crowd of 300 set fire to a KFC in Tripoli.
By Scaachi Koul - Friday, September 14, 2012 at 11:44 AM - 0 Comments
U.S. authorities have identified the man who was behind the California-made, ardently anti-Muslim film,…
U.S. authorities have identified the man who was behind the California-made, ardently anti-Muslim film, Innocence of Muslims, which has incited protests throughout the Middle East.
Authorities say that 55-year-old Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is the filmmaker.
Nakoula is a Coptic Christian in southern California on probation after a conviction for financial crimes. He is also linked to the Sam Bacile persona initially believed to be behind the film, but turned out to be a false identity.
Federal court papers filed against him in a 2010 criminal prosecution show that he has many other aliases such as Nicola Bacily, Robert Bacily, and Erwin Salameh among others. In 2010, Nakoula pleaded no contest to federal bank fraud charges in California and was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution. He was also to serve 21 months in federal jail and wasn’t allowed to use computers or the web or five years without his probation officer’s approval.
In an interview with AP, Nakoula said he managed logistics for the film, and denied he was Bacile. He did, however, claim to know him.
Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Church, however, has publicly said the church doesn’t support the views shown in the film. Google Inc. has since pulled the film off YouTube in Egypt.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 4:48 PM - 0 Comments
David Akin reports details of the conversation between the Prime Minister and Vladimir Putin during last weekend’s summit.
But none of this will surprise Russian President Vladimir Putin who as much warned Prime Minister Stephen Harper during their one-on-one meeting in Vladivostok on the weekend that the West should expect this kind of thing for “instigating” mobs in Egypt and Libya. According to officials in the room with the two men, Putin said Harper and other Western leaders are acting like “Trotskyites” – that was Putin’s line — for exporting revolution and promoting instability.
I’m not sure how Putin connects the dots between Stephen Harper and Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, but Putin’s basic point to Harper was that Western leaders were being dangerously naive by meddling in the affairs of the dictators of the Middle East.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 5:24 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon departed for Iran on Tuesday, apparently…
OTTAWA – United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon departed for Iran on Tuesday, apparently oblivious to the objections of Canada’s outspoken foreign affairs minister.
John Baird’s office released a strongly worded letter it sent to Ban last week imploring him to stay away from the summit of the 120 Non Aligned Movement countries being held in Tehran.
Canada joined the U.S. and Israel in publicly condemning Ban’s decision to attend the Iranian gathering, saying it would further the regime’s “hateful purposes.”
While many experts were unanimous in criticizing Ban for what they said was a bad political decision, others questioned whether Baird’s stinging criticism had any impact at all.
Baird said Tehran will use Ban’s presence at the meeting of more than 100 countries for its own propaganda.
“I just think they’re going to exploit his presence there for nefarious purposes,” Baird said Tuesday.
“We’re concerned that his presence there will be used to bolster the regime politically. Obviously we wrote in strong terms to encourage him, like a number of our allies did, to reflect on that before he goes.”
The minister noted Iran has pledged to destroy Israel and has an abysmal human-rights record.
Baird’s letter to Ban last week outlined his concerns, which mirror those of Israel.
“Iran’s current rulers will use your presence to further their own, hateful purposes. Such a visit would serve only to legitimize and condone the record of this regime, which Canada views as the single most significant risk to global peace and security today,” says the Aug. 23 letter.
The West believes Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but Tehran denies the charge. It says it only wants to develop peaceful nuclear energy.
There has been growing speculation lately about a possible pre-emptive Israeli military strike that would target Iran’s nuclear program.
The non-aligned movement is widely viewed as a Cold War anachronism, but Iran is playing up the gathering to elevate its battered, pariah-state image. Its foreign minister opened the week-long gathering with an appeal to rid to the world of nuclear weapons, despite concerns by the West that it is using peaceful nuclear technology as a cover to build weapons of mass destruction.
In addition to Ban, other high-profile attendees will include Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose country buys Iranian oil, and Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi.
“No one should lend any legitimacy to a gathering convened in Tehran by this Iranian leadership in the name of non-alignment,” Richard Haas, the president of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, argued in an analysis released Tuesday.
“It sends exactly the wrong message. We should be doing everything possible to isolate this Iranian leadership for its nuclear program, but also for what it’s doing in Syria to facilitate the repression there.”
Markus Gehring, a University of Ottawa international law expert, concurred, but was also critical of Baird’s letter.
“It’s pretty useless if it’s a single country doing that. He would have done better co-ordinating his efforts with lots and lots of other countries.”
Fen Hampson, director of Global Security of the Waterloo, Ont., Centre for International Governance Innovation, called Baird’s letter “frothy” and questioned its effectiveness in light of Canada’s historic loss of a temporary seat on the UN Security Council two years ago.
“It might have more bite had we been on that Security Council, quite frankly. We are an important donor to the organization but there’d be better vehicles for expressing that, on the Security Council.”
Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based non-governmental agency UN Watch, applauded Baird’s initiative.
“It’s not one of the great powers, but it is a moral voice. People listen to Canada,” Neuer said in an interview from Geneva.
As Ban departed Tuesday, his office made no mention of Canada’s objections, but noted the calls “from Israel and the U.S.” to boycott the Tehran meeting. Ban pledged to talk to his hosts about terrorism, human rights, the crisis in Syria and Iran’s nuclear program.
A spokesman said Ban would use his trip to convey the “clear concerns and expectations of the international community on the issues for which co-operation and progress are urgent for both regional stability and the welfare of the Iranian people.”
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 3:17 PM - 0 Comments
The instability that follows Assad’s fall will be felt far beyond Syria
The brazen, mid-morning bombing that struck Syria’s military command on July 18, taking the lives of several of Bashar al-Assad’s top advisers, may not have killed the Syrian president himself, but it is hard to believe he will survive the fallout. That stunning blow was quickly followed by a massive rebel assault on the capital, Damascus, the defections of several key generals and, this week, even the prime minister.
If Assad is toppled, his demise will be roundly cheered. But the consequences will be profound, and will echo beyond Syria, affecting the region’s volatile conflicts, those involving al-Qaeda—whose jihadists are now converging on Damascus—Lebanon, Palestine and Iran.
Sectarian bloodletting is possible in Syria. Lebanon and Iraq, with their complex divides—which know no borders—could easily be sucked in. Violence could drag in Israel.
That makes this Arab Spring revolt so different from Tunisia, Libya, even Egypt. The fight is not playing out in some corner of North Africa but in the heart of the Middle East. Syria’s revolt could be a game-changer. Syria, for decades a key player in the region’s geopolitical games, now finds itself a staging point for the ancient struggle between Sunni and Shia Islam, a fight currently playing out in Aleppo in northwestern Syria between Assad’s Shia loyalists and the Saudi-backed Sunni opposition.
Syria may be on the brink—Assad can no longer trust even his closest advisers. But the real fight has only just begun.
Here’s our nifty infographic that illustrates the ripple effects of instability in Syria in the Middle East and beyond. Click on the image below to open up the full-size graphic:
By Alex Ballingall, Tamsin McMahon, and Richard Warnica - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 9:34 AM - 0 Comments
North America may be an emerging oil superpower, but gas prices are only going up
Rising gas prices have long been a rite of spring. We drive more as the weather improves and prices go up. But this year, there is a little extra frustration in the air.
As gas prices topped $1.40 a litre last week—reaching records not seen since 2008—a gas station in Oromocto, N.B., decided to drop its prices to 92.3 cents a litre as part of a promotion with a local radio station. It took minutes for anxious motorists to flock to the station, which went through 3,000 litres of gas before ending the sale after just 30 minutes. In Miami Beach, Fla., an impatient driver tried to beat one gas station’s traffic snarl and ended up slamming her SUV into the pump, setting it on fire. High prices have sparked an angry backlash among motorists. Police in Ontario have reported an increase in gas-and-dash thievery, while several campaigns on Facebook and across social media platforms are calling for nationwide gas boycotts.
The frenzy over fuel prices isn’t just a North American phenomenon, either. Fears of fuel shortages and price spikes in recent weeks have sparked riots in Indonesia and protests in the streets of Britain and Pakistan.
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
On becoming the Wal-mart of security, and what exactly Garda is doing in the middle east
Stephan Crétier stumbled into the security industry in 1994. Five years later, with a $25,000 second mortgage on his home, he bought and radically revamped the Montreal-based security firm Garda, best known for its armoured trucks and pistol-packing guards. Today, the company is one of the largest of its kind in the world with revenues last year of over $1.1 billion. Roughly a year after moving into the fraught security industry in the Middle East, four employees of GardaWorld, Garda’s global security wing, and Peter Moore, the man they were protecting, were kidnapped in Baghdad. Only Moore survived.
Q: You were actually on track to become a baseball umpire. Why the career change?
A: I was doing some minor league baseball in the U.S. It was really a question of looking down the road and asking, “Am I going to make it?” It’s a long road, and at the same time your friends are out of university and getting real jobs. One day, I decided it was enough, and I went back to Montreal. I worked for a small mom-and-pop [security] operation, and after five years I decided to start my own. The rest is history.
Q: You acquired Garda in 1999. What were the dynamics of the security services industry at the time that led you to believe you could make a serious go of this thing?
A: When I started the business—I don’t want to insult anyone, but it was security people in business instead of business people in security. We had security people trying to build a police-type model. We tried to replicate a model that existed in Europe in the early ’70s. Those companies really accelerated their growth when Europe discovered terrorism; [Europe] needed the help of a more modern and professional private sector to help take care of national security.
Q: In 2002, you said that you wanted Garda to become the “Wal-Mart of security.” What exactly does that mean?
A: It’s what I would call a one-stop shop. Before, the model was, when you wanted a security guard, you’d call one company. When you want an investigation or an armoured truck, you’d call another. I wanted a model where you call one number and find everything without having to pay a premium.
Q: You bought Garda in 1999 and 9/11 happened two years later. Your entry into the business couldn’t have been better timed, it seems.
A: I said, in an article six months before 9/11, that if I had a department that could put trouble in the world, I’d be a millionaire. Unfortunately, 9/11 has been good to us, not necessarily in adding more business, but it forced the industry to become more professionalized in North America.
Q: In 2006, after decrying the lack of security in Canada’s corporate headquarters, you bought Intertec Security, which specialized in office protection. How much do you think Canadian corporate security has improved since?
A: Corporate security is better. People at least think about it. But if you go in any building in Boston, Chicago or New York, there’s screening done at the lobby level. Today, in many Bay Street offices, you can practically go directly up to the office of a CEO. We like this image that nothing will happen in Canada, and I hope nothing does. But I think it’s a question of when, not if.
Q: It almost sounds like you need some sort of calamity to happen to get people to react.
A: We don’t wish that. But I don’t think people understand that there are things happening in the world, and that Canada could be a target.
Q: Between 2005 and 2006, Garda spent roughly $250 million acquiring various security firms in America and the Middle East. Why was everybody selling at that point?
A: Most of those acquisitions were in the cash and armoured car business. The reason for that is because the barrier for entry is quite difficult. You can’t just buy a few trucks, buy a vault and call Jamie Dimon at J.P. Morgan Chase and say, “Mr. Dimon, I’m going to start transporting your money.” These acquisitions were key to competing against Brinks. As far as the Middle East, we got into the region by acquiring a company in 2006 that was providing security to an oil and gas team in Kurdistan. It went from three to 1,300 employees covering the oil and gas sector there. We needed more support, and saw the potential because the industry wasn’t very professional there.
Q: Why the Middle East, given that it’s so fraught with danger and potential PR disasters?
A: You’re right, but at the same time you can have a PR disaster at Toronto Pearson, you can have a PR disaster in the shooting of armoured trucks. We’ve been extremely selective. People say, well, you’re just another Blackwater. But companies like Blackwater and Triple Canopy work as subcontractors to the U.S. government and army. We don’t. We work for NGOs in dangerous areas—oil and gas companies, reconstruction companies. We don’t work in war zones. When Iraq was at war, we weren’t there. We were in Kurdistan. We came in with the reconstruction of Iraq. In Afghanistan we are working almost exclusively with NGOs. We’re very specific about the type of business we want to do. We could do the same business as Blackwater, but it’s not the kind of culture we are looking at.
Q: The company made news again with the hostage situation in which four GardaWorld employees were killed in 2007. The man they were protecting, computer consultant Peter Moore, has been fairly critical of the company. He said that the four men hadn’t been killed by gunshots to the head as you alleged. For the record, what exactly happened?
A: This was a very unfortunate event, and we respect Mr. Moore’s opinion, but we need to remind everyone that he’s publicly praised our four men for help during his captivity. I think he was upset about things that were said, and he’s gone through a rough time. It’s a terrible incident, but unfortunately things like that do happen. We’re not necessarily in contact with Mr. Moore. As I said, it’s unfortunate what he went through, but the good news is: he was released, thanks to efforts from the British government, the U.S. government. We’ve respected the families by not commenting on the situation.
Q: According to an article published in the Independent, the British Foreign Office was surprised to find out that Garda didn’t have kidnap insurance at the time of the kidnapping. Is that indeed the case?
A: I would say that kidnap and ransom [K&R]insurance is not relevant in this situation. We have K&R insurance that is related to our business, and we’ve got an undertaking with the insurance company never to comment on the kind of insurance that we have. Sometimes there are statements that come out of government that are misleading. I wouldn’t say this one is misleading, but I wouldn’t comment more than that.
Q: But is the $100-million contract you have with the British Foreign Office still in effect?
A: Yes, this is in Iraq, for diplomatic protection in Baghdad and Basra and Irbil. It’s going very well.
Q: It also came to light that Garda was hired to guard Saadi Gadhafi during his visit to Canada. I realize you had nothing to do with him coming here, but from a PR perspective how much damage does it do to your image when incidents like this come to light?
A: First of all, we work for clients. Sometimes we protect VIPs that are in-country—the Saudi [royal] family in America. For Gadhafi, we worked four days for a client [SNC-Lavalin] to offer driver services. This client decided to take things internally. We didn’t work a lot with Gadhafi while he was in Canada. We can’t always be worrying about the PR risk. We are in a high-profile business. There was a labour disruption at Garda in Toronto, and we were top news for two days across Canada. We had an employee killed a few weeks ago in the U.S. in a shooting. It’s quite unfortunate, but it’s part of the business. We were working with a publicly traded company [SNC-Lavalin] which had, and still has, an excellent brand in Canada, and it’s not for us to judge the government that let him into the country.
Q: You also recently hired Daniel Ménard, the Canadian general who resigned in disgrace in 2010 following an intimate relationship with a subordinate. What does Mr. Ménard bring to the table?
A: Unfortunately, I would say that Mr. Ménard screwed up. I think he had a great career in the military here, and was probably one of the top soldiers in Canada before he really screwed up. I would say that, in my personal view, I think he’s a talented expert with tremendous expertise, and he’s helping our operation in Afghanistan.
Q: The stereotype of Quebec is that’s it’s a government-heavy entrepreneurial graveyard, and you seemed to have bucked that with Garda. Given this, how much truth is there to that cliché?
A: It is very difficult to do business in Quebec. We never got grants, we never got equity. The U.S. and certain parts of Canada are easier. And it’s tough when you’re as labour intensive as we are. I’m a big promoter of Montreal and Quebec, but if we want entrepreneurs to continue growing businesses, we need some major changes. There should be many other stories like Garda coming out of Quebec.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 9:33 AM - 0 Comments
But a lengthy paragraph that expressed positive Canadian sentiments toward the Palestinians was eventually trimmed over the course of a handful of early revisions and was eventually cut altogether. ”Canada is a leading supporter of the Palestinian people, having committed $300 million over five years to assist the Palestinian Authority to build capacity in the key areas of justice sector reform, security, and sustainable economic growth, as well as providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza, including refugees,” the first draft stated.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Ottawa next week to meet with Mr. Harper. The Star suggests Mr. Harper might subsequently announce a trip to Israel.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 6, 2012 at 9:55 AM - 0 Comments
Roland Paris considers the Harper government’s rhetoric on Iran.
Yet it is also a position that most experts on Iran would judge as dubious at best. This may be the reason why no NATO country other than Canada, to my knowledge, has made such a bold and questionable assertion. Indeed, it is especially jarring at a moment when our closest ally, the United States, is counseling restraint.
I know the prime minister does not care that Canada is out of step with its allies – that he takes pride in taking stands on principle, and in the fact that his government will not “go along to get along.” In this case, however, his “principle” is really just idiosyncratic speculation—and dangerously provocative speculation at that.
On Friday, the Prime Minister said that, “for the first time in history, we are facing a regime that not only wants to attain nuclear weapons but a regime that has, compared to virtually all other holders of nuclear weapons in the past, far less fear of using them.” On Sunday, John Baird invoked Hitler.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
“Mr. Harper wants us to believe that grandstanding is more important than being an honest broker,” said Dewar. “His unbalanced approach to the Middle East is harmful to the prospect of peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians…
“The government’s approach is unbalanced when it’s equating a request from Palestinians through legitimate diplomatic channels with Israel’s settlement policy, which is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” said Dewar. “The government is now calling for negotiations, but in May it did everything it could to undermine consensus for President Obama’s peace initiative.”
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Baird urges Palestinian leaders to restart direct talks with Israel
As one Palestinian official noted Monday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird can be a frank, straight talking man. “There’s no mistaking where he stands,” he told the Globe and Mail.
No kidding. Baird and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty are currently touring Israel and the West Bank. On Monday, the duo met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other senior Palestinian officials, where they expressed Canada’s opposition to their bid for recognition as a sovereign state by the UN. Baird reportedly called it “profoundly wrong.”
The foreign minister also lined up in support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling the Palestinian leadership he believes they should return to peace negotiations with Israel without any preconditions. For months, Palestinian leaders have refused to hold direct talks, pointing to the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. According to the organization Peace Now Israel, the rate of settlement construction in the West Bank jumped 20 per cent in 2011.
Baird added Monday that, “whether it is rockets raining down on Israeli schools, or the constant barrage of rhetorical demonization, double standards and delegitimization, Israel is under attack.” He went on to frame Canada’s unequivocal support for Israel as a brave move that flies in the face of dominant anti-Israeli sentiment amongst the international community. Clearly, Baird is working to entrench Canada as one of the world’s most unbending supporters of the Israeli government.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 23, 2012 at 11:42 AM - 0 Comments
Roland Paris worries about the Prime Minister’s rhetoric on Iran.
If Harper is correct, virtually all measures, up to and including a military attack on Iran, might be warranted, or perhaps even required, to prevent that country from building such weapons. The problem, however, is that the prime minister’s assessment flies in the face of what we know about the behaviour of the Iranian regime. For all their revolutionary jihadist talk, Iran’s ruling mullahs have consistently worked to realize one goal above all others: keeping themselves in power.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 1:25 PM - 8 Comments
Speaking with reporters after QP yesterday, John Baird explained the Harper government’s response to UNESCO’s decision to accept Palestine as a member.
Canada is deeply disappointed by the decision taken by UNESCO. Canada believes the only solution to this issue is a negotiated settlement between the two parties. Under no circumstances will Canada cover the budgeting shortfall as a result of this decision and Canada has decided to freeze all further voluntary contributions to UNESCO …
We believe that statehood is the product of peace negotiations. And a significant number of UN Security Council resolutions have said that. The last peace accord said that. We believe the two parties should negotiate a peace agreement and not seek unilateral action at multilateral institutions. We think that is the wrong way to go and we cast our vote against and we’ve signalled our disappointment and our displeasure by the two actions we’re taking.
Campbell Clark explains the math.