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Canada launches multibillion-dollar bidding process for 88 new fighter jets


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fighter jets

OTTAWA — Canada has formally asked four companies to submit bids to supply a new fleet of state-of-the-art fighter jets, the latest step in the country’s almost decade-long quest to upgrade its air force.

The federal department responsible for procurement said Tuesday that Saab, Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Boeing have until next spring to present initial proposals to provide 88 advanced fighters for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The jets — part of a procurement package worth about $19 billion — are to replace the country’s aging CF-18s, which have been in service for more than 35 years.

A winning bidder will be chosen in 2022, with the first plane scheduled to arrive “as early as 2025,” the government said.

“This is the most significant investment in the Royal Canadian Air Force in more than 30 years,” said a statement by Public Services and Procurement Canada. “With it, the government will deliver the aircraft that meet Canada’s needs, while ensuring good value for Canadians.”

Canada’s efforts to buy new fighter jets have crawled along for close to a decade.

The previous Conservative government announced in 2010 it would buy 65 F-35s, which are built by Lockheed Martin, without a competition, The first one was to be delivered in 2015.

The Conservatives later backed off their plan over concerns about the price and the Defence Department’s tactics in getting government approval for the deal.

During the 2015 federal election campaign, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals vowed to launch a competition immediately to replace the CF-18s — but not to buy the F-35. The Trudeau government, which replaced the Conservatives in 2015, later said the Lockheed Martin would be allowed to compete for the contract with its F-35 after all.

The Liberals launched the current procurement in 2016 and have been working on the details ever since.

Until the new jets arrive, the Liberal government has announced plans to upgrade Canada’s CF-18s. It has also signed a contract to buy 18 second-hand jets from Australia, a deal that officials have pegged at around $500 million.

Conservative MP James Bezan, the party’s critic for defence, criticized the Liberal government for delays in replacing the fighter jets. Other countries, he said in a statement Tuesday, chose their new jets in under two years.

“It is inexcusable that Justin Trudeau spent the past four years dithering on the fighter-jet file,” Bezan said.

He added, without providing details about how this would work, that if the Conservatives win October’s federal election they will “immediately select a new fighter jet through a fair and transparent competition.”

The F-35 will be up against Airbus’s Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab’s Gripen and Boeing’s Super Hornet. French company Dassault pulled its Rafale from contention late last year.

The big-ticket purchase is expected to provide a boost to the country’s economy.

On Tuesday, the government said the investment will provide decades of support to Canada’s aerospace and defence industries.

The government points out the bidders will have to show they have plans to invest as much in economic benefits for Canada as the eventual contract is worth.

The proposals will be evaluated on technical merit (60 per cent), cost (20 per cent) and economic benefits (20 per cent), the statement said.

The suppliers have until this fall to demonstrate that they can meet requirements for security and interoperability with allied countries’ forces, and until spring 2020 to make what the government calls “initial proposals.”

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Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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Canada signs $20B compensation agreement on First Nations child welfare

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OTTAWA — The federal government says it has signed a $20-billion final settlement agreement to compensate First Nations children and families harmed by chronic underfunding of child welfare.

The Assembly of First Nations and plaintiffs in two class-action lawsuits agreed to the deal, which also accounts for the government’s narrow definition of Jordan’s Principle.

Indigenous Services Canada says the settlement is the largest in Canadian history.

The $20 billion accounts for half of an overall $40-billion deal that aims to reform the child-welfare system, including five-year funding for the First Nations Child and Family Services program.

The deal must still be approved by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and Federal Court.

The court had dismissed Canada’s application to review two human-rights tribunal orders around child welfare and Jordan’s Principle, which is meant to eliminate jurisdictional squabbles in paying for services for First Nations kids.

AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse says in a statement she is proud of this “historic milestone” for First Nations children and their families.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 4, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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People planning to attend AIDS conference in Montreal still struggling to get visas

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MONTREAL — International AIDS organizations say people from Africa, South America and Asia who are planning to attend a major AIDS conference in Montreal are still struggling to get visas from the Canadian government.

The groups say a growing number of activists — including some who were scheduled to speak at the conference which begins at the end of the month — are having their visa applications denied, often on the grounds that the Canadian government doesn’t believe they’ll return home after the event.

Tinashe Rufurwadzo, the director of programs, management and governance at Y+ Global, an international organization of HIV+ youth, said the chair of his organization’s board and another of its employees, who are based in Malawi and Kenya, are among the young activists who have been denied visas to attend the conference.

He said both have travelled extensively to speak at AIDS-related events.

“Personally, I’m sick and tired of seeing young people from Africa mostly portrayed on PowerPoint slides as pictures, as photos on banners, as footnotes on case studies. Why can we not have them at conferences to share their lived experiences of what exactly is happening?” he said in an interview Friday.

Rufurwadzo said representatives of populations most at risk of HIV — such as people who inject drugs, transgender women, sex workers and gay men — need to be able to participate, as do adolescent girls, who are increasingly affected by HIV.

If people from the most affected countries aren’t able to attend, he said he doesn’t know how realistic the learning at the conference will be.

While those whose applications are denied will be able to attend the conference virtually, Rufurwadzo said that won’t allow the same level of participation. He also said young people, especially those from rural areas, may not have consistent access to the internet.

Last week, almost 250 organizations from around the world sent a joint letter to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser calling on him to take action to ensure participants can attend the International AIDS conference.

Aidan Strickland, a spokesman for Fraser, said in response to earlier questions from The Canadian Press that the department has been working closely with event organizers and that applications “have been assessed in a timely manner.”

“While we cannot comment on the admissibility of any particular individual, we can say that, in general, all visitors to Canada must meet the requirements for temporary residence in Canada, as set out in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” Strickland said in an email. “All applications from around the world are assessed equally against the same criteria.”

Javier Bellocq, an Argentine who runs a community journalism project called the Key Correspondent Team which focuses on people living with HIV and high-risk groups, said from the stories he’s heard, it seems like each Canadian consulate is applying different rules.

In some places, he said, applicants have been required to pay for medical examinations as part of the visa process.

“The conference, in theory, arranged with the Canadian government that there will not be medical examinations, but there are, there are many medical examinations.”

Of a group of 40 Argentines, including Bellocq, who are planning to participate in pre-conference activities, only two have received visas so far, he said.

Tumie Komanyane, who runs programs for international NGO Frontline AIDS in South Africa, said groups she works with were planning to help more than a dozen young people attend the conference, but decided not to even bother applying for 10 visas after the first four applications were rejected.

Komanyane said she’s aware of other young people from the region, including some who had scholarships to attend the conference funded by the Canadian government, who have had their visa applications denied.

“It’s incoherent,” she said in an interview Saturday. “With the strides that Africa is making in the HIV field, all the lessons and evidence that could be coming from the beneficiaries directly is going to be lost.”

While she works with young people, she said, she doesn’t want to speak for them.

“They have agency, they have voice, and they shouldn’t be represented by people like me. They should be able to go and share what this work means for them,” she said.

Bellocq said he’s not worried about himself, noting the Argentine passport is relatively powerful and he’s a professional who has been travelling internationally form more than 30 years. But he worries about people  from countries with less passport privilege and members of marginalized groups who are at high risk of HIV.

With pre-conference events starting in just over three weeks, he said, “time is not on our side.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2022.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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