A review into how Canada approves the foreign military personnel its trains should be ready by early next year but parts of the study will need to remain secret.
A review into how Canada approves the foreign military personnel it trains should be ready by early next year, but parts of the study will need to remain secret, according to the Department of National Defence.
The review follows concerns raised by Jewish groups of the alleged involvement of Canadian troops in training neo-Nazis in Ukraine as well as warnings by soldiers last year that some Iraqis who have received instruction from Canada were involved in torture and rape.
DND spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier said the review was started in late October. “This review will look holistically at all missions where the CAF conducts mentoring or capacity building functions with the armed forces of another nation,” he noted.
But Le Bouthillier indicated that some details of the review will remain secret as “the specifics of the process by which the CAF verifies the suitability of training candidates is subject to operational security restrictions.”
But critics point out the Canadian Forces does not actually conduct vetting of those foreign troops that it trains, which is at the heart of the problem. It leaves such vetting up to the nation providing the troops to be trained.
The review comes as a Jewish group in Ukraine is highlighting a new video of Ukrainian paratroopers singing a song to honour Stepan Bandera. Bandera was a anti-Semite and Nazi collaborator whose organization is linked to the murder of more than 100,000 Jews and Poles during the Second World War. He is revered in Ukrainian nationalist and far-right circles.
The Canadian military was warned in 2015 before starting its Ukraine training mission about the dangers of the far-right within the Ukrainian military ranks, but the senior leadership largely ignored those concerns.
On Monday, this newspaper revealed that in 2018 Canadian officials met with members of the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian unit linked to neo-Nazis. The officers and diplomats didn’t denounce the unit but were instead concerned the media would expose details of the get-together. The Canadians allowed themselves to be photographed with battalion members, which the Azov Battalion then used for its propaganda purposes.
In September a report from an institute at George Washington University in the United States revealed that Ukrainian soldiers with links to neo-Nazi movements, such as Azov, boasted they received training from Canada and other NATO countries.
In the past, senior defence and Canadian Forces leaders have been reluctant to condemn the glorification of Nazi collaborators in both Latvia and Ukraine, two countries where Canadian troops are conducting training.
In September 2019 Latvian Minister of Defence Artis Pabriks publicly praised members of the Latvian SS who fought for the Nazis, pointing out they are “the pride of the Latvian people and of the state” and Latvia would not “allow anyone to discredit their memory.”
Then-defence minister Harjit Sajjan, a close friend of Pabriks, refused to condemn the glorification of the SS unit and Canadian generals remained silent. The Latvian SS included those who had been involved in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust. In addition, members of the unit were among the last holdouts in defending the Nazi regime in Berlin.
Jewish groups, however, condemned Pabriks comments. “Given the fact that the (Latvian SS) fought for a victory of the Third Reich, the most genocidal regime in history, and that among those serving in it were active participants in the mass murder of Latvian Jewry, as well as of German and Austrian Jews deported by the Nazis to Riga, such comments are incomprehensible, let alone deeply offensive, coming from a senior minister of a country with full membership in the European Union and NATO,” Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center noted in his protest letter to the Latvian government.
Canada’s training mission to Iraq has also faced problems. Earlier this year this newspaper revealed that Canadian soldiers complained in 2018 to their commanders that the Iraqi troops they were training were war criminals who liked to show videos of their atrocities, including executing prisoners and raping a woman to death.
But, after reporting their concerns to the Canadian military leadership, the soldiers were told to continue the training and avoid watching the videos the Iraqis wanted to share with them, according to Canadian Forces documents.