01 August 2013

Stephen Harper's private army

It is known as the Canadian Special Forces Command, or CANSOFCOM. It commands a secret army, comprised of four units: the Joint Task Force-2 (JTF2), the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR), the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit—Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CJIRU-CBRN), and the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron (427 SOAS) which provides support to the other three. This little army is Canadian but it doesn't answer to Parliament, i.e. to the people of Canada. It answers only to the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister. It is, in effect, their army, to be deployed at their pleasure. Or so I read, with no little surprise, in the July/August issue of the CCPA Monitor.

Not only does this force do its nasty business in secret, its budget is secret. We don't even know what it's costing us to put a private military force at the Prime Minister's disposal.

I was aware that we had a special forces unit, the JTF2, but I didn't know that the Conservatives had added three new ones. Frankly, I don't like secrecy in government and don't trust governments when they practice it. If we must have government agencies that operate in the dark, they should at least be subject to Parliamentary oversight.

I would hate to think that our Prime Minister would use this secret army for something like, say, furthering the interests of Canadian companies operating in the Third World. But perhaps that is naive. PM Harper's pet policy is the promotion of resource extraction, including the operations of Canadian mining companies abroad. Not infrequently, these operations meet with opposition from local people, occasionally violent opposition. Is it possible that Mr. Harper might use his special forces to quell that opposition? Not directly, of course, no Canadians shooting at the locals, but rather Canadians training an indigenous special forces to do the dirty work for us, a much cheaper and politically cleaner way to do it.

This would be the suspicion of a cynic if it wasn't for the fact that secret forces—the CIA being an excellent example—often get into devilry the citizenry would not approve but which that citizenry may ultimately have to stand accountable for. In any case, when governments act in secret, citizens are entitled to think rthe worst.

Our spymaster, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), has a parliamentary committee to oversee its behaviour even though, unlike the Special Forces, it doesn't have a licence to kill. If we must have a secret army, it damned well ought to be accountable to Parliament and under its scrutiny. It may have legitimate reasons to act in secrecy but it ought to be accountable to us nonetheless. The need for accountability from a killing agency is obviously much greater than from a spy agency. It is also more important that the public be fully aware we have such an outfit. After all we, the public, will be ultimately held to account for its actions. The government must justify the existence of this agency, if it can, and put it on a parliamentary leash.


  1. With Harper playing Commander in Chief, U.S. style, the evolution of a mini-special forces command was probably inevitable.

    MacKay, before he was ejected, had a constant, raging erection for this sort of thing to facilitate a major and permanent Canadian military presence in south/southeast Asia in support of Obama's "pivot."

    Given how miserably Harper and his generals failed on each and every one of our leader's stated objectives for our war in Afghanistan we can only imagine what he might do in the future.

    And, don't forget, Harper has already introduced a secret police agency in Canada. It comprises officers from the Calgary and Edmonton police, the RCMP and CSIS, to set up a security network for the Northern Gateway pipeline.

  2. Thanks for the post, Bill. I did not know about the three new agencies either. If ever there is a time to be worried about misuse of these secret forces, it would be under Stephen Harper.

    Question though is what can we do about it? Many Canadians are apathetic to what is happening to this country, aren't they?