Atlantic Canada

An Inadvertent Confession?

By Tony Seed

Homecomings of ships to their home ports after long voyages at sea are a traditional and poignant affair, both for the families of the seamen and the ship's owners and ship's agents looking to count their profits from the expedition.

But those of today's Canadian warships are made even more tearjerking by embedded media journalists assembled by the information flacks of the Department of National Defence exploiting the understandable concern of families.

The demands of justifying the "war on terrorism" is such that the DND is creating multiple "home ports" for the return of the warships from the Arabian Gulf. The HMCS Fredericton, for instance, steamed into the port of St. John's, Newfoundland on August 25 for what the St. John's Telegram dutifully headlined on its front page a "Tearful Homecoming". The home port of the frigate is actually Halifax, Nova Scotia -- headquarters of Maritime Command -- hundreds of miles from St. John's.

After the requisite interviews with some of the thirty concerned Newfoundland families, HMCS Fredericton Commanding Officer Cmdr. Harry Harsch said the Fredericton had not taken part in the actual war against Iraq, yet had patrolled the Gulf of Oman, the Strait of Hormuz and the southern Arabian Gulf.

No one asked him about the glaring contradiction, or precisely what is our navy doing in the Arabian Sea thousands of miles away "defending" Canada in the first place.

"Canada didn't participate in the war, as you know," Harsch tried to explain. "We weren't part of the actual war, but supported it by patrolling the area, investigating people coming in and out, and going on board sometimes to check out the cargo and to make sure they had the proper documentation and things.

"Still, the war was right there to the north of us so things were pretty tense in the region."

As the Commander describes it, "supporting the war" which he equates with ""Canada didn't participate in the war, as you know" pretty much sounds like being "part of the actual war".

Defence Minister McCallum would be pleased with the double-talk. In February he suggested that "those ships could be double-hatted for both the war against terrorism and a war on Iraq." [1]

The HMCS Calgary has taken over as Canada's only navy ship currently involved in Operation Apollo.


[1] "Canadian ships could do double-duty: McCallum," February 4, 2003. CTV news staff