Canada will commit a contingent of soldiers to the British Army’s ambitious program to turn Ukrainian civilians into fighting troops, Defence Minister Anita Anand said Thursday.
She made the announcement in Toronto, confirming what multiple sources told CBC News.
Outgoing British prime minister Boris Johnson committed to the training plan in mid-June while meeting with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
Up to 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers are expected to fly to the U.K. for basic and specialist military in courses that last five weeks. The first tranche of Ukrainian recruits arrived and instruction began in early July.
The plan amounts to the restart of Operation Unifier, the long-standing training mission which saw —until its suspension last winter — more than 33,000 Ukrainian soldiers given advanced combat instruction by Canadian soldiers.
That mission, conducted on Ukrainian soil, was halted and the troops pulled out of the eastern European country in mid-February on the eve of the full-scale Russian invasion.
The new iteration involves up to 225 personnel, the majority of whom will work as trainers, supported by a command and control element, Anand said.
The initial deployment is expected four months.
“When we paused training in Ukraine this past winter, we said clearly that we would resume the training whenever and wherever the opportunity arose,” said the minister.
“By working with the United Kingdom, we will continue to make good on that promise. Canada salutes the courage and bravery of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and we will continue to help empower them with the skills that they need to defend their nation’s freedom and independence.”
The first Canadian-led courses will take place at a military base located in South East England, and Anand said they will teach a flexible curriculum focused on individual skills required for front-line combat, including weapons handling, battlefield first aid, fieldcraft, patrol tactics and the Law of Armed Conflict.
The Ukrainian government has repeatedly pressed Canada to restart the training in a third country, said diplomatic sources, who spoke separately to CBC News and were granted anonymity because of the sensitivity of the file.
The Liberal government made the training mission, which began under the former Conservative government, a point of pride, and was often pointed to as proof of Canada’s commitment to Ukraine’s security.
During the press conference following her announcement, Anand was asked why the government didn’t relaunch the training mission sooner.
Anand defended the timing of the decision by pointing to other military supports Canada has providing, including a number of M777 howitzers and training on how to use the artillery guns.
Trudeau left door open to particpating in U.K. effort
Asked about Johnson’s training plan at the end of the NATO Summit in June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau left the door open to participating.
“Canada will continue to look for opportunities to continue to support Ukraine in a range of ways,” he said. “We have actively done training on the howitzers which we did in Latvia [and] we’re looking for other ways as well to be helpful.”
The prime minister was referring to the training that took place last spring after Canada donated four of the army’s 155-millimetre M-777 howitzers to Ukraine.
Before the eruption of full-scale war in Ukraine, Britain separately helped train Ukrainian forces between 2015 and 2022 under the banner of Operation Orbital, putting approximately 22,000 troops through their program.
It also withdrew when Moscow launched its so-called special military operation to overthrow the government in Kyiv.
When the U.K. inaugurated its new training program in early July, it invited allies to participate. In addition to Canada stepping forward, one other unidentified Commonwealth country is expected to join the effort.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visited one of the training areas after the first recruits arrived and lauded the initiative.
“Using the world-class expertise of the British army we will help Ukraine to rebuild its forces and scale up its resistance as they defend their country’s sovereignty and their right to choose their own future,” Wallace was quoted as saying by the British media.
Joly to raise abortion, sexual violence in closing UN speech
OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is urging countries to uphold women’s rights and abortion access while rooting out sexual violence, as the United Nations General Assembly comes to a close.
In a speech today in New York, Joly will summarize Canada’s priorities and concerns in foreign relations.
That includes being part of “a global coalition in support of equality” that will “defend against the growing attacks on women’s rights and freedoms,” according to drafted remarks in French.
“Sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls are being rolled back or denied in too many countries,” Joly’s drafted remarks say.
“Canada will always stand up for your right to choose.”
Though the drafted section on women’s rights does not mention the United States, Joly’s comments come after months of backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court allowing states to ban abortions, with some seeking to prosecute those who help women end their pregnancies in other jurisdictions.
Joly’s remarks instead mention women targeted by autocratic governments, such as the Taliban preventing Afghan girls from attending school. She calls out Myanmar’s military junta imprisoning female democracy activists and sexually assaulting Rohingya women.
The speech cites Iran’s crackdown on protesters seeking accountability after the death of Mahsa Amini, when morality police arrested her for “unsuitable attire” in allegedly wearing a hijab improperly. Joly also notes Ukrainian women have been subjected to sexual violence by occupying Russian forces.
Joly argues deliberate policy choices are resulting in rising violence against women, who are excluded from “the negotiating table, the boardroom, the classroom.”
The speech is likely to take place around noon local time, and will include some of the themes raised last week in New York by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His remarks surrounded climate change and international development.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press
Military en route to assist with recovery efforts
Residents of Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec are coming to terms with the full scope of the damage left behind after post-tropical storm Fiona tore through the region over the weekend as one of the strongest storms Canada’s East Coast has ever faced.
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are being deployed to help with recovery efforts, with federal Defence Minister Anita Anand saying Sunday that about 100 troops a piece were either in place or en route to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. to provide assistance with the cleanup effort.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the immediate need is to provide food and shelter for those displaced by the storm, which is why the federal government is matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross.
However, he added that Ottawa will work with provinces to determine what is needed for recovery from a financial perspective, especially for Canadians who have lost everything. He said the first priority is the restoration of power and utilities, as well as clearing roadways to get essential supplies to those who need them.
At Fiona’s peak on Saturday, more than 500,000 customers across Atlantic Canada were without power, but by early Monday morning that number had been lowered to less than 300,000, with the vast majority in Nova Scotia. But even as crews workaround the clock to repair downed lines, some utility companies warned it could be days before the power is back on for everyone.
Authorities in western Newfoundland confirmed Fiona’s first Canadian fatality on Sunday. RCMP said a 73-year-old woman’s body was recovered from the water more than 24 hours after a massive wave struck her home, tearing away part of the basement. Her name was not immediately released.
The cause of death of a second person on P.E.I. has yet to be determined, but the Island’s acting director of public safety told a news conference that preliminary findings pointed towards “generator use.” No further details were provided.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.
The Canadian Press
Industry minister to represent Canada at former Japanese PM’s funeral
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to visit Japan and attend Tuesday’s funeral, but cancelled those plans to oversee recovery efforts after post-tropical storm Fiona ravaged much of eastern Canada and parts of Quebec.
Describing Abe as a friend and ally of Canada, Champagne says the former Japanese prime minister played an important role bringing the two countries closer together.
Trudeau was slated to meet current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as Japan prepares to take over as president of the G7 and the Liberal government finalizes its new Indo-Pacific strategy.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Champagne says he doesn’t know if he will meet Kishida on behalf of Trudeau.
But he says in addition to paying respects to Abe, he expects to meet Japanese officials to discuss the bilateral relationship and areas of mutual co-operation.
“Certainly, I think Prime Minister Kishida knows how deeply engaged we have been, certainly on the industrial, commercial and economic front,” he said.
“And we’ll be meeting with a number of people. I just don’t know if the meeting with the prime minister will still be happening.”
Champagne was in Japan delivering a speech to business representatives in Tokyo when Abe was assassinated by a gunman in July.
The industry minister says it was a surreal moment when he learned the former Japanese prime minister had been killed.
“I was literally giving a speech,” Champagne said. “I was like three-quarters into it and suddenly I started to see people looking at their phones. And someone came to the podium and advised me that something very tragic had happened.”
Abe’s state funeral is a sensitive topic in Japan, where such memorials are uncommon and the late leader’s legacy remains disputed.
Abe, a conservative nationalist in a country that embraced pacifism after the Second World War, was assassinated with a homemade firearm nearly three months ago.
In a reflection of deep divisions, an elderly man reportedly set himself on fire to protest the funeral, and more demonstrations are expected in the coming days.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.
— With files from The Associated Press.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
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