Blackwater trained Canadian soldiers without U.S. permission
Published Wednesday, August 8, 2012 3:45PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 8, 2012 11:27PM EDT
U.S. court documents reveal that members of the Canadian armed forces and police were trained for two years by the international security company formerly known as Blackwater without the permission of the U.S. State Department.
News of the training -- which occurred between 2006 and 2008 -- was revealed after U.S. federal court records pertaining to a $7.5-million settlement in a criminal lawsuit against the company were unsealed in North Carolina. The company is now called Academi LLC.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Defence Minister Peter MacKay confirmed Wednesday that members of the RCMP and the military received training by the firm, but would not say when that training took place.
A statement from Toews’s office said: “The RCMP has, in the past, used this company to provide training for Emergency Response Teams. This company offered unique training that was not available elsewhere.”
MacKay’s office also issued a statement: "Our government secured the appropriate training for our men and women in uniform to ensure they had the skills required to survive a very difficult military mission in Afghanistan."
Neither statement disclosed details on how many personnel were involved.
This is the second time Canada’s association with the company has been revealed, as a legal case against the firm proceeds.
In August 2010, the security company was cited for the unauthorized export of data containing technical information to the Canadian military.
Since 2008, the Harper government has had an untendered contract with the firm, though the company has been paid millions since 2006 to provide training for specialized Canadian troops and select police officers.
Now, in light of these newest revelations, the NDP is calling for an investigation into the government’s connection with the firm.
NDP defence critic and MP Jack Harris said his party has opposed the training for some time.
"What else don't we know that's going on without the knowledge or consent of the Canadian people?" Harris asked.
U.S. prosecutors said that Blackwater did not request the necessary permission under American law to provide instruction to Canadian troops.
Prosecutors said the illegal instruction included training in skills such as marksmanship, defensive driving and close combat skills.
According to the court documents, the Blackwater subsidiary Terrorism Research Centre taught the Canadian military its “Mirror Image” course.
The course mimics the conditions of an al Qaeda cell, so training students can gain a better understanding of the mentality of al Qaeda members.
The Blackwater brochure describes the course as “a classroom and field training program designed to simulate terrorist recruitment, training, techniques and operational tactics.”
In addition to the course, the Terrorism Research Centre provided intelligence-gathering advice to governments and U.S. cities. The centre has since been shut down by its owners.
Blackwater became the focus of the world’s scrutiny after 17 Iraqi civilians died during a 2007 attack on a diplomatic convoy in Baghdad. The convoy was under the protection of Blackwater guards.
However, over the last few years, the company has been embroiled in scandal as more information is revealed about its role in the intelligence gathering industry.
Over the years, the Department of National Defence and the government have defended their dealings with Blackwater, claiming that the courses and instruction are necessary and only available through the firm.
Dave Perry of Carleton University's Centre for Security and Defence Studies told the Canadian Press that in the past, the firm has always stated it was conducting business in full observance with U.S. foreign policy.
Now with Wednesday’s news, the firm’s claims appear dubious, said Perry.
"It potentially brings into question whether they were actually doing that, if they weren't going through the formal channels to get approval for something as relatively mundane as training," Perry said.
With files from The Canadian Press