October 25th, Robert Westbrook, a freelance photographer, came across what is believed to be a CANSOFCOM training evolution in an old call centre in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. The old call centre is 2 blocks away from his house, and as he saw activity he went to investigate. After a few minutes, he was asked if he was patriotic or even part of an anti-government movement. All that because he was taking pictures in a public place.

Westbrook was an American who married a Canadian woman and became a citizen last August.

Since it was a CANSOFCOM training evolution, nothing was said to the population of Port Hawkesbury. Recently, it is believed that they are doing a lot more “secret” training in civilians sectors.

The question is simple here: should the people living around those “secret” emplacements be warned about future trainings and asked politely not to come loitering? Well, the answer is pretty obvious. Of course they should be warned, but a large security perimeter should also be established to prevent accessibility! By doing so, situations like the one Westbrook went through could be avoided. The RCMP was aware of the training as well, they could have had someone there to deal with the civilians. It is the duty of the police to deal with them, if you ask me. That way, there would be no direct contact between the soldiers and the civilians.

Even if this is an isolated situation, Westbrook has been trying to get his 15 minutes of fame on different media about the whole situation. He also published a video on Youtube about it. This is not the type of attention CANSOFCOM needs, especially with the Defence budget cuts.


The real problem here is with the attitude of both Westbrook and a soldier named “Adam.” Westbrook was using the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to defend his rights to take pictures, and Adam was asking if he was patriotic or from an anti-government movement. Where does taking pictures mean you are not patriotic? Even if he was a part of an anti-government movement, why was is that easy to walk right to the training site?

By using civilians sectors, CANSOFCOM will clearly need to deal with these types of situations in the future. There could always be a public affairs officer present to answer the questions or, like I said earlier, let the population know about the possible usage of abandoned buildings by the Canadian military and politely ask them not to come on-site by having a good security perimeter around the training area. There is no need to specify what unit and what type of training, only that the Canadian military will be conducting training. That could also help with the OPSEC / PERSEC issues.