A B.C. ferry will be escorted to Vancouver by a Canadian Navy coastal patrol vessel and a CP-140 Aurora aircraft as part of a military training exercise currently underway on the Island. (News Bulletin file photo)

Canadian military guards ferry against pirates during Island training exercise

Canadian Armed Forces conducting evacuation exercise from fictitious failed country

Canadian coastal patrol vessel HMCS Brandon and a CP-140 Aurora aircraft that tracks surface and underwater threats will escort the 10:30 a.m. B.C. Ferry sailing when it leaves Departure Bay Tuesday (May 2).

Why? Pirates.

The ferry is taking part in Operation Ready Angle 17, a military exercise to hone the Canadian military’s proficiency at evacuating Canadian citizens from a hostile zone to safety. In this case, from Vancouver Island – called Macedemia for the purposes of the exercise, a country that has suffered severe social upheaval after a major earthquake and tsunami. It’s chaos with gun-toting gangs roaming the streets and pirates lurking in its coastal waters.

The mission for about 240 Canadian Armed Forces members tasked with the job is, with discretion and a minimal amount of fuss, get Canadian citizens out of the region.

“We send in guys in civilian clothes. They kind of find out where all the Canadians are and they bring them to a processing centre where the government takes over – Global Affairs Canada,” said Capt. Jeff Manney, a public affairs officer for Canadian Forces.

Civilian-clothed troops reconnoiter the area to find safe routes to get Canadians to processing centres where Global Affairs Canada takes over.

“A huge part of it is discretion,” Manney said. “No government wants to see foreign soldiers wandering around in its territory, so we try and be discrete and we work with our allies as well.”

Personnel tasked with evacuations must be proficient at a wide range of tasks and coordination between multiple agencies to pull off missions like the one in 2006 when 14,000 Canadians were evacuated from Beirut, Lebanon.

On Monday, armed troops guarded a “processing centre” at HMCS Quadra Cadet Summer Training Centre in Comox while genuine citizens were sorted from imposters, put on a bus for Nanaimo and evacuated to a naval reserve base in Vancouver, which is also part of Macedemia.

While much of the exercise is happening in Comox, military reconnaissance personnel have met with police and local governments in Nanaimo and Port Alberni to test procedures.

“They’ve been, basically, all around the area in the country of Macedemia,” Manney said.

Ready Angle 17 follows Operation Ready Renaissance, a Disaster Assistance Response Team exercise on the Island in February to the simulated earthquake and tsunami that triggered Macedemia’s demise.

Tuesday’s ferry sailing to Vancouver will meet with HMCS Brandon about 30 minutes into its sailing.

“In this scenario, there are pirates operating in this vicinity where we need to get the Canadians out of. The Aurora will be in the air providing surveillance of the area as well to see these Canadians off safely to the safe haven,” Manney said.

Manney said Ready Angle 17 is an annual exercise and not in response to “any particular incident going on in the world today.”