Opposition parties demand answers as Liberals say little about Chinese balloon

Opposition parties say the public deserves an answer about a Chinese balloon entering Canadian territory as Prime Minister Trudeau’s government has largely remained silent about its time in Canada.

The call for answers came Monday as the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command revealed that “flaws” in the continent’s early warning system prevented officials from developing appeared such balloons in the past.

Defense Minister Anita Anand confirmed the balloon had entered Canadian airspace, but the government declined to provide details on when and where the balloon flew in Canada, or whether there were any other incidents. others or not.

That contrasts with Washington, which provided details of the balloon’s flight from Alaska over Canada and into the continental United States, before it was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Sunday.

“The Pentagon and the White House have been much more open to discussing what happened,” defense critic James Bezan said. “As a country whose airspace has been violated by the Chinese Communist Party, we deserve an answer.”

Opposition parties also want to know why the public didn’t spot the balloon until it left Canadian airspace, why it wasn’t intercepted sooner, and what steps are being taken to prevent and punish it. penalize China’s espionage efforts.

“The time has come for the government to take action to counter Chinese influence and modernize Canada’s defenses,” Christine Normandin, defense critic for Bloc Quebecois, said in a statement in French. .

“In addition, this event must come to light and the government must give answers to the people about the impact of this spy balloon.”

‘Domain awareness gap’

The US military first confirmed the presence of the hot air balloon after it was publicly reported in Montana on February 1. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin later revealed that it was being used for the first time. detected entering US airspace over Alaska on January 28.

While Beijing says it was a weather research balloon that was blown up, Ottawa and Washington allege it was used to spy on sensitive military sites.

NORAD commander US General Glen VanHerck told reporters such balloons have evaded detection by North America’s aging early warning systems in the past because of the “domain awareness gap” that has is filled.

“So there’s a potential opportunity for us to gather intelligence that we’ve had holes in the balloons before,” he said. “This gave us the opportunity to assess what they’re really doing, what kind of capabilities exist on the balloon.”

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday that the US military has begun collecting debris from the balloon.

unanswered question

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said Canada should join any investigation into the wreckage.

“People are legitimately worried that Canada’s economic and security advantages could be compromised,” Singh said in a statement. “Canada should play an active role in investigating the vessel’s purpose and pinpointing any intelligence it collects.”

Anand’s office did not respond to repeated questions about when the balloon entered Canadian airspace from Alaska, or how long it stayed in Canada before returning to the United States via Idaho. It also hasn’t said whether there are other balloons.

Defense Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said only that after finding the balloon posed no threat, Canadian and US officials decided to disclose the balloon’s presence “at the appropriate time.” appropriate, taking into account operational security.”

Bezan acknowledged Canada’s partnership with the United States when it comes to defending North America, but said Canadians have a right to know what’s happening in their country.

“It appears to be positioning itself on various military installations in the United States,” he added, noting that Alberta is home to major Canadian military bases at Cold Lake, Edmonton and Wainwright.

“What Canadian secrets are likely to be spied on by the communist regime as they fly over our airspace?”

VanHerck said the US was “taking utmost precautions” to prevent the balloon from collecting information as it passed over the country. He declined to provide details.

US officials said the balloon was 60 meters high and the sensor payload underneath was about the size of a regional jet. They also say it has propellers and rudders to change direction and speed but relies heavily on wind.

Kirby also rejected China’s argument that the balloon was for meteorological purposes, saying “it can be believed that this is some kind of weather balloon floating in the wind.”

The White House said the balloon was an obstacle to an already strained relationship with Beijing. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was supposed to visit China on Monday, but the trip was postponed because of the incident.


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