Canada to set up base in Jamaica
OTTAWA, Canada, CMC – A top Canadian military official says that Ottawa is negotiating an arrangement with Jamaica to allow the Canadian military to stage out of the Caribbean island in the event of trouble or even natural disasters in the region.
Lieutenant General Stuart Beare, who’s in charge of Canada’s overseas military force, said that the two Commonwealth partners have been quietly developing closer ties that recently manifested itself with the deployment of three CH-146 Griffon helicopters to back up the Jamaica Defence Force.
“We have a great partnership in the region,” he told reporters, adding “geographically, it’s in a perfect spot”.
Beare said Jamaica’s position puts it at “an interesting crossroads” in the region, which has suffered its share from disasters ranging from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to repeated hurricane devastation.
He said that Canada’s Defence Department has been quietly scouting locations around the world to establish staging bases, small-scale depots that can be quickly expanded to support operations should the need arise.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Kuwait to create such a hub to support military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, Beare said.
Defence experts have said that, closer to home, Canada’s response to the Haitian disaster was complicated by the absence of such a long-term arrangement.
They cite as an example the fact that military equipment had to be off-loaded in the Dominican Republic and flown into the quake-ravaged nation.
Much like the talks with Kuwait, negotiations over the Jamaican base are running in tandem with talks to expand trade, Beare said.
Military co-operation between the two countries dates back some years, and includes training for Jamaican commandos who helped end a dramatic hijacking a few years ago.
Canada also assisted in the construction and development of the Jamaican Military Aviation School.
Beare said the deployment involving the Griffon helicopters is close to winding down, adding that the majority of the missions have been medical evacuations.
He said Canada was asked to provide the aircraft during hurricane season to replace Jamaica’s search-and-rescue plane while it was put into a major overhaul.
Military experts say the mission allowed the Canadian military to reclaim a “critical skill set that had fallen by the wayside during the Afghan war.”