Connect with us
[the_ad id="89560"]

Top Story CP

Feds face calls for inquiry into military’s handling of Iraq war crime reports

Published

6 minute read

OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government is facing calls for an independent inquiry following allegations the military failed to respond to a complaint three years ago that Iraqi forces being trained by Canadian troops had committed war crimes.

NDP defence critic Randall Garrison suggests the complaint and concerns about the vetting of other Iraqi forces working with Canada are part of a disturbing pattern going back at least a decade, which is why he believes an independent probe is needed.

“What I’ve seen over time is that rank and file Canadian troops and lower levels of the officer corps have brought these issues to the attention of senior leaders, and senior leaders appear to have a pattern of telling people just not to pay attention,” he said.

“Why is that happening? I think there needs to be an independent inquiry. Is this the fault of certain senior leaders? Or is there something systemic here that causes us not to uphold international (law) and even our own national law?”

Military police are currently investigating the handling of an incident in September 2018, where Canadian soldiers were helping with the enrolment of 270 Iraqi troops for a U.S.-led training mission near the northern city of Mosul.

An internal report obtained by The Canadian Press and first reported on by Postmedia says the Canadians were shown videos of war crimes and human rights violations being perpetrated by the Iraqi troops they were there to train.

Yet when the Canadians raised the issue with their commanders, according to the report, they were told the matter would be dealt with and that they were to ignore the videos and “carry on.”

One of the soldiers involved said he tried to raise the issue with his commanders on three different occasions, but that he and other members of his unit “remain uncertain whether appropriate action was effectively taken.”

A separate, secret memo obtained by The Canadian Press shows then-defence chief general Jonathan Vance was warned in January 2020 that the vetting of Iraqi security forces with whom Canadian troops might have interacted lacked “sufficient depth.”

Garrison says the recent concerns are a continuation of issues first raised in Afghanistan more than a decade ago, when the military was accused of having transferred detainees to local authorities despite knowing they might be tortured.

That is why he believes the inquiry should also include a fresh look at what happened then. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who previously served in Afghanistan, rebuffed NDP calls in 2016 for such an inquiry into the Afghan detainee affair.

“Things that were war crimes came to the attention of Canadians, were referred up the chain of command, and nothing happened,” Garrison told The Canadian Press.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan in the House of Commons on Thursday questioned the government’s decision to extend Canada’s mission in Iraq given concerns about the Iraqi forces working with Canadian troops.

“Canada is contributing to greater peace and security in the world and remains a strong partner in the fight against (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant),” Sajjan’s parliamentary secretary Anita Vandenbeld told Bezan.

“We are committed to meeting our obligations under international and domestic law. The Canadian Armed Forces is no longer operating with the Iraqi security forces related to these allegations.”

Experts say it is not surprising that Canadian troops found themselves interacting with Iraqi soldiers who may have committed atrocities given the country’s recent history, and that part of their mission is to prevent such behaviour in the future.

“This sounds kind of maybe counterintuitive, but it just reinforces how much we’re needed there,” said Bessma Momani, an expert on Middle Eastern politics at the University of Waterloo.

Yet both Momani and fellow Middle East expert Thomas Juneau from the University of Ottawa said the reports underscore the need for better transparency and accountability when operating in such environments — and with such partners.

“The government should be more transparent with Canadians about the challenges involved in the mission in Iraq, and about what we are trying to accomplish,” Juneau said in an email.

“The government should also specifically be more transparent about what it is doing to make sure that Canadian troops deployed in Iraq, or in other comparable missions, comply with international law on these matters (and also on what happens if or when troops fail to comply with international law).”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2021.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Storytelling is in our DNA. We provide credible, compelling multimedia storytelling and services in English and French to help captivate your digital, broadcast and print audiences. As Canada’s national news agency for 100 years, we give Canadians an unbiased news source, driven by truth, accuracy and timeliness.

Follow Author

Top Story CP

CP NewsAlert: Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet accused of sexual assault

Published on

Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet is being accused of sexual assault in a class-action lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec.

In court documents introduced today in Superior Court, an unnamed woman accuses the prominent cleric of kissing her at a cocktail reception in 2008 and sliding his hand down her back and touching her buttocks.

More coming.

The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

Energy

Green Canadian hydrogen not an immediate solution to Germany’s energy worries

Published on

OTTAWA — Some energy experts warn a deal to sell Canadian hydrogen to Germany will serve as only a small, far-off and expensive part of the solution to Europe’s energy crisis.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are set to sign a hydrogen agreement in Stephenville, N.L. next week, during Scholz’s official visit to Canada.

A government official speaking on the condition they not be identified confirmed there will be a hydrogen accord signed that is the culmination of months of talks between the two countries.

Stephenville, a port town an hour south of Corner Brook on Newfoundland’s west shore, is the planned home for a zero-emission energy plant where wind power will be used to produce hydrogen and ammonia for export.

The deal between Canada and Germany is expected to make fuel-hungry Germany the first big customer for a first-of-its-kind project in Canada.

Germany was already looking to hydrogen as an energy solution in its climate plan before Russia invaded Ukraine last February. But since that invasion, as Russia attempts to push back against punishing economic sanctions, it has repeatedly threatened Germany’s energy supply.

Germany typically gets about half of its natural gas from Russia and is looking for both short and long-term solutions to wean itself from Russian exports.

Proponents say the hydrogen deal comes at a pivotal time for Canada’s green hydrogen industry, which is still in its infancy.

But some experts also say the fledgling product carries a big price tag and won’t be able to help Germany in the near term. Canada doesn’t yet have the infrastructure to produce large quantities of green hydrogen, or export it great distances.

“The key is you need a lot of associated infrastructure to be built before we can do a large scale export of hydrogen into other countries,” said Amit Kumar, the industrial research chair of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

In order to be shipped, the hydrogen would likely need to be cooled into a liquid, loaded into a specially adapted pipeline or tanker, and warmed again when it reached its destination.

The process and infrastructure is expensive, and so is production.

Most hydrogen production globally comes from converting natural gas to hydrogen and carbon dioxide. If the latter is emitted into the atmosphere, the hydrogen is referred to as “grey.” In Canada, the goal is to capture those emissions with carbon capture and storage, which would make the hydrogen “blue.”

Canada has to date been talking up plans to help Germany with new natural gas projects in Atlantic Canada that could one day be converted to blue hydrogen facilities.

But Germany is looking mainly for “green hydrogen,” which is made through splitting water molecules using renewable energy like wind or solar power. That comes at a much higher price.

“You’re looking at anywhere between three to four fold increase in costs,” said Kumar, a faculty of engineering professor at University of Alberta, who was consulted on the drafting of Alberta’s hydrogen strategy.

He said the technology needs to improve and more investment needs to be made before the cost is even relatively comparable with it’s natural-gas derived alternative.

The company behind the Newfoundland project, World Energy GH2, said the first phase of its Newfoundland project should see up to 164 onshore wind turbines built to power a hydrogen production facility. Long-term plans call for tripling the size of the project.

In its proposal, World Energy GH2 said it is on the cutting edge of a new, green industry.

Construction on the first wind farm is supposed to begin next year. That means hydrogen production is still far off, said Paul Martin, chemical engineer and co-founder of the Hydrogen Science Coalition.

“It’ll take years and years and years,” he said. “And then you’ve got the infrastructure problem.”

Martin says the infrastructure costs of producing and transporting green hydrogen don’t add up.

“Honestly looking at it the green hydrogen pitch in Canada for export, it’s disingenuous,” he said.

That’s partially why Canada’s hydrogen strategy involves moving toward “blue hydrogen” before eventually converting to green, Kumar said.

Germany’s strategy, however, clearly favours green hydrogen while the role of blue hydrogen is uncertain, an analysis by Centre for Strategic and International Studies fellow Isabelle Huber shows.

Trudeau and Scholz, who became Germany’s chancellor in December, first discussed hydrogen and Canadian energy exports when Trudeau visited Berlin in March.

At the G7 leaders’ summit in the Bavarian Alps in June, Trudeau spoke at length with other world leaders about how Canada could offer alternatives to nations dependent on Russian oil and gas.

At a press conference at the conclusion of the summit, Trudeau suggested infrastructure used to carry liquefied natural gas could be adapted to carry hydrogen, as one example of how Canada could help.

“We’re also looking medium term at expanding some infrastructure,” Trudeau said, “but in a way that hits that medium-term and long-term goal of accelerating transition — not just off Russian oil and gas — but off of our own dependence on fossil fuels.”

Canadian hydrogen might be just one piece of Germany’s plan to transition off of German gas in a very difficult situation, said Sara Hastings-Simon, who directs the masters of science in sustainable energy development at the University of Calgary.

“It’s not the be all end all, it’s neither going to fix it completely or be the single answer,” she said in an interview.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2022.

— With files from Mia Rabson

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

Continue Reading

Trending

X