Out of two hundred warplanes that took part in Exercise Maple Flag 2005 in Cold Lake, Alberta in May, only ten were Israeli F-16s. It would be easy to miss their significance. Yet, when Canadian forces extended an invitation to the Israeli Air Force for the first time in thirty-eight meetings of the Maple Flag war games, it signalled, according to military planners, a marked shift in Canadian military and political policy in the twenty-first century: good night Battle of Britain, good morning Gaza.
What is also significant is that once again First Nations people were displaced under the Federal Government, to expand the use of this 'empty frontier' by the Department of Defense. It was the Cold War and the era of the Dew Line, and the expansion of NATO literally cold war excercises in Northern Canada, both in Goosebay Labrador and Cold Lake, Alberta. Lands of the Dene and Cree.
What is ironic is that our treatment of First Nations peoples historically is the model used by South Africa for its Aparthied regime and that Israel uses for its model for Occupied Palistine. So I guess the Isreali airforce felt right at home at Cold Lake.
The dense forest and running streams tamed by this feat of engineering were the prodigious trapping, hunting and fishing lands of the Dene Suline, now known under the federal government's band council system as the Cold Lake First Nations. In 1952, the Dene were cut off from their traditional lands and the population ultimately expelled. The nearby Canoe Lake Cree Nation faired little better, losing seventy-five percent of their homelands to the weapons range.
Some fifty years after the land grab, the Canadian government settled claim with the Cold Lake First Nations, paying out a total of $2500 to each band member and $7000 to each elder, with an additional twenty million dollars put in a development trust fund. That settlement amounts to about nine dollars per acre (roughly $22 a hectare), and not more than $150 per person for each year of their displacement. Such is the stage for Exercise Maple Flag, a six-week set of war games designed to provide training in the context of hyper-realistic simulations of aerial combat operations abroad.