Militia lobby says Canada unprepared for terrorists
By DAWN WALTON, The Globe and Mail
Thursday, September 20, 2001
CALGARY -- A military group supported in part by a reclusive Calgary multimillionaire says Canada may not be prepared to deal with the kind of terrorist attacks that hit the United States.
"We have been complacent about our defence for too long," the Alberta Militia Society said in an advertisement, which appeared in national newspapers this week in response to the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
The society, which was founded in the mid-1990s, lobbies for stronger armed forces and reserves, spokesman Bob Millar said. He refused to discuss its members, but the retired reserve brigadier-general said it includes soldiers, former soldiers and military theorists.
A Department of National Defence source described the group as "not officially affiliated" and "unknown" to the department.
Fred Mannix, a member of one of Canada's wealthiest yet media-shy families, helped pay for the ad, the group's ad agency said.
He could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Millar, who with Mr. Mannix is on the advisory council at the University of Calgary's Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, wouldn't comment on the link.
"There's a bunch of names, none of which necessarily want their name in print. . . . We have some influential businessman that are part of our organization that believe in a strong Canada," Mr. Millar said.
David Bercuson, a renowned military historian and director of the centre, helped write the ad. He said he agrees with the group's objectives, although he isn't a member and doesn't have a membership list.
In the ad, the society suggests the government isn't spending enough on defence. It also questions the impact on trade and tourism if Canadians don't do "our very best to create a secure perimeter around North America."
"At this stage in our history, with something as significant as last week, a lot of us believe that we're ill-prepared for the future if this [terrorism] is part of the future. So we need the government to get a little more serious about assessing the risks and coming up with the programs," Mr. Millar said.
Despite the implication in its name, the society isn't building up arsenals or mobilizing to form militias in Canada.
"Let's make a strong distinction in the use of militia in this context versus anything silly that might occur south of the border like the [antigovernment] Montana militia," Mr. Millar said.
The group aims for stronger reserve units to help when there are disasters.
Canadian Alliance MP Rob Anders, a deputy defence critic, said he has met with members of the society and supports their aim to beef up national defence.