August 9, 2012. David Pugliese - Defence Watch
As outlined in an article I did for the Citizen Wednesday, a controversial American private military firm will have to pay $7.5 million in fines for breaking U.S. laws when it trained Canadian and other troops, sold equipment to Sudan and illegally kept machine guns at its facilities in North Carolina.
Details about Blackwater’s violations, including the training of Canadian soldiers from 2006 to 2008 without approval of the U.S. government, were revealed in court records unsealed Tuesday.
Since the initial training provided to Canadian troops in 2006, the Canadian military has expanded its relationship with Blackwater, now know as Academi.
Documents tabled in the House of Commons in March noted that 605 Canadian soldiers have received training at the company’s North Carolina complex since 2006, as well as an unspecified number of special forces personnel.
The documents showed the firm was paid nearly $2.4 million to train Canadian soldiers in 2011.
So why do Canadian Forces personnel need to be trained by Academi, aka Blackwater, aka Xe?
Military officers privately say they aren’t troubled by the firm’s controversial past as they believe CF personnel won’t be “influenced” by any bad elements in the company (Individuals working for the company have been involved in the killings of unarmed civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In a 2007 incident in Baghdad, 17 people, including a couple and their infant, were killed during a wild shootout, which Iraqi officials blamed on the company’s private soldiers.)
The main reason for the CF to work with the firm, according to officers, is the specialized nature of the training -Canadian soldiers had been sent to Blackwater U.S.A. in North Carolina for specialized training in bodyguard and shooting skills and evasive/counter-terrorism-related driving.
In addition, there is the attraction of the superior training facilities (well set-up ranges that can be used year-round), officers add.
Still, with the increase in the number of other specialized private training facilities – combined with the ongoing bad publicity surrounding Blackwater/Xe/Academi – it will be interesting to see whether the Canadian Forces continues to utilize the company in the future.