Canada's top commando unit is being counted on to play a security role at the G-8 summit at Kananaskis in June, internal documents obtained Tuesday suggest.
Canada's top general decided late last year that it would be "extremely beneficial" for key federal cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats to have an understanding of Joint Task Force 2's capabilities in advance of the G-8 gathering.
So, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Raymond Henault organized a JTF-2 demonstration in November for John Manley, then foreign affairs minister and now deputy prime minister, as well as other ministers, top bureaucrats and the heads of the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
"The recent terrorist attacks against the United States and experiences from activities leading up to the Summit of the Americas in Quebec . . . have revealed a need to familiarize government decision-makers with the role, capabilities and limitations of Joint Task Force 2," Henault wrote in his invitation to ministers.
"I recommend key ministers and officials be invited to attend this event, as an understanding of Joint Task Force 2 will prove extremely beneficial in preparing for the upcoming G-8 summit."
The summit, a meeting of the seven major industrialized nations and Russia, will take place June 26 and 27.
In an internal memo, Vice-Admiral Greg Maddison, deputy chief of defence staff, added the demonstration could "serve to dispel any myths that might be associated with JTF-2's capabilities."
The various references to JTF-2's possible role at Kananaskis, released through Access to Information, come from a department dedicated to preventing any public discussion of the unit's specific activities.
The only major recent exception to that policy involved the government's acknowledgement that 40 of JTF-2's 250 to 300 commandos are in Afghanistan.
Defence Department spokesman Conrad Bellehumeur refused Tuesday to discuss JTF-2's possible involvement at the G-8, and said he couldn't discuss what "myths" surround Canada's only special forces unit.
"We cannot comment on the activities or the capability of the unit," Bellehumeur said.
Canada's Secret Commandos, a recent book by Ottawa Citizen reporter David Pugliese, says JTF-2 was also secretly involved in security at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Vancouver in 1997, and the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria.
The JTF-2 "Dynamic Demonstration Day" was scheduled to take place Nov. 15 at the unit's Dwyer Hill Training Centre near Ottawa.
John Thompson, a terrorism expert at the MacKenzie Institute in Toronto, said the generals likely want to ensure that decision-makers don't have an exaggerated sense of JTF-2's skills.
"The reputation (of special forces units) is often generated more by Hollywood than history," Thompson said.
"They're very, very fit and very well-trained men, but they're not supermen."
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