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Mistral Misunderstandings

Have you seen the reports that Canada is thinking about purchasing one or both of the Mistral-class warships that France has been building for Russia? They are almost certainly false.

The latest version of this story was published by the National Post in an article titled “Canada emerges as potential buyer of French-built Mistral-class warships.” The article cites the International Business Times, an online news publication, as the source of this information.

Okay, then. Let’s look at the IB Times story, published yesterday. Sure enough, it reports that “Canadian military has emerged as a potential destination for the controversial French-built Mistral helicopter carrier ships.” But the source of this information, we are told, is another news article — in the French daily, Le Monde.

None of the stories offers any evidence that the Canadian government is giving serious thought to buying France’s Mistral warships.

Click, click, click. There it is: an article published by Le Monde on Monday under the headline (in French) “Mistral Might Interest Ottawa.” Unfortunately, only the first two paragraphs are available if you don’t have a subscription, but here’s the gist of it: The article begins by discussing French President Hollande’s visit to Canada, notes that Canada is planning to renew its fleet of warships, and asks the question of whether Canada might be interested in the Mistral. The article concludes by noting that, in May, then-Senator Hugh Segal “publicly” suggested that Canada should look into buying the French warship.

I was at the event in Ottawa when Hugh Segal made this remark, and it was clear to all present that Mr. Segal was speaking for himself — very eloquently, I should add — rather than on behalf of the Canadian government.

Yet, here we are. Through repetition, an idle question posed by a French journalist has turned into an international news story in which Canada has “emerged” as a possible buyer of the Mistrals.

There is one problem: None of the stories offers any evidence that the Canadian government is giving serious thought to this purchase.

The saying “nothing begets nothing” doesn’t apply in this case. Sometimes, it seems, nothing begets something.


POSTSCRIPT, Nov. 7

David Pugliese, the author of the National Post article I mentioned, has replied to this post, writing that members of the French delegation visiting Ottawa “did indeed try to interest Canada in Mistral-class ships,” according to his sources. That may be true, but my own sources tell me that rumours of Canada as a “potential buyer” of the Mistral have no basis in fact. Canada is not interested. Musings in Le Monde about Canada’s possible interest were baseless from the start.

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