OTTAWA | March
8, 2002 Like a photo slowly emerging
under a darkroom light, Joint Task Force Two is becoming visible to
the public eye.
The famous photo of JTF2 escorting prisoners in Afghanistan has put the elite
commando unit in the spotlight.
Created in 1993, JTF2 has a reputation for being extraordinarily
secretive, yet its address is plainly listed in a variety of
government documents: Dwyer Hill Training Centre, on
Franktown Road in Richmond, just outside Ottawa.
Encounter at DHTC
I drove out to see the site on Feb. 23.
It's surrounded by farms. A chain-link fence topped with barbed wire encloses a long
row of adjoining buildings and garages. The morning sun shone on
satellite dishes and communications equipment on the balcony of a two-storey building.
I was taking pictures when a corporal got out of an
unmarked Jeep Cherokee and told me he didn't want his picture taken.
He said the area was a no-stopping zone, so I drove off ... with him
and his partner, a master corporal, following me in the Jeep.
I pulled over, and they stopped behind me.
Then I pulled a U-turn, and they did, too.
I pulled over again, and they followed me onto the shoulder.
Finally, the master corporal got out and walked up to my car.
He demanded to know who I was, who I worked for, and why I was
photographing a military installation.
I said I didn't have to tell him anything. He said he'd call the OPP.
When he went back to his SUV, I started to take photos. They pulled down
their sun visors to shield their faces.
I walked back to my car, and the master
corporal followed. I showed him a copy of a new book about JTF2.
"I'm halfway through it," he said.
Men in Black
Both soldiers said they were military police, but neither wore
the MP's red beret or armband. They were in black turtlenecks
and pants — the JTF2 uniform described in Canada's Secret Commandos:
The Unauthorized Story of Joint Task Force Two.
|'DND takes the attitude that everything on this unit is
Written by journalist David Pugliese, the new book drags Canada's
elite counter-terrorism unit out of the shadows.
It provides details of JTF2's skills, equipment and missions. The
bulk of this information previously was unknown to the public.
"I thought people deserve to find out a little bit about the
unit that they're paying for," says Pugliese, who writes on
defence issues for the Ottawa Citizen.
Releasing more information on JTF2 "would give a sense to the
public of what their military does," he says.
To research his book, Pugliese got documents through the Access to
Information Act, and from civil and martial court cases.
Policy of Secrecy
"DND takes the attitude that everything on this unit is
classified," he says.
Because of the
Official Secrets Act, no one at DND can discuss JTF2, its members, equipment
or capabilities, says public affairs officer Capt. Darren Steele.
The Defence department bought Dwyer Hill Training Centre from the
RCMP, when JTF2 took over counter-terrorism from the Mounties' Special Emergency
Response Team in 1993.
|Taylor wrote on JTF2 in Tested
Mettle: Canada’s Peacekeepers at War, a book he
co-authored with Brian Nolan.
"Whatever they (JTF2) do, whatever they spend, we don't
know," says Scott Taylor, 41, the publisher of Canada's Secret
Commandos. A war reporter and writer, Taylor also is publisher of Esprit de
When JTF2 is involved in covert operations on foreign missions, Taylor
puts Canadians at risk of being targeted by rebel forces.
Despite the veil of secrecy, information on JTF2 can be easily found on
the Defence department Web site.
For example, a 2001 document says the departmental budget to enhance
JTF2's capability is $119 million over a six-year period, ending March
There are around 250 members of JTF2.
Recruiting ads regularly run in The Maple Leaf, a Defence
The advertising says all applications have to be sent to Dwyer Hill
Training Centre, and those selected for JTF2 training will get
around five months of specialized training.