Automatic gunfire, armed soldiers in Vancouver this weekend for urban training

Automatic gunfire, armed soldiers in Vancouver this weekend for urban training
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march in Calgary on Friday, July 8, 2016. It might look frightening, but Vancouver residents are being advised not to be concerned if they hear what sounds like gunfire or see armed military members around a now-closed brewery on the city's west side.

The Vancouver-based light infantry unit of the Canadian Army is asking residents to not be alarmed if they hear automatic gunfire this weekend around the site of the former Molson-Coors brewery.

The Seaforth Highlanders regiment says it will be conducting urban operations training on both Saturday and Sunday at the old brewery site and at the unit’s nearby armoury.

Maj. Brennan MacLachlan with the Seaforth Highlanders said unit members will not be using live ammunition and will stay almost exclusively inside the brewery and armoury buildings.

He said disturbance to nearby neighbourhoods should be minimal.

“The buildings are pretty soundproof and also blank fire isn’t as loud as, say, live ammunition,” MacLachlan said of the reservist’s use of C7 assault rifles during the exercise. “So, there shouldn’t be too much (noise) coming out. But otherwise, you may hear some automatic — sort of the rat-tat-tat-tat-tat type sounds occasionally.”

The former brewery is right next to Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge and along False Creek, where thousand of residents live in condominiums and townhomes.

A statement from Capt. Graeme Kaine with 39 Canadian Brigade Group, which administers reserve forces in British Columbia, said uniformed reservists might be seen carrying small arms weapons for the training.

Kaine said health protection measures will be enforced “at all times” of the exercise, and the training will follow guidelines from federal, provincial and municipal public health agencies.

Kaine also said the exercise will help the reserve unit plan, prepare and execute any future operations in what he describes as “complex urban environments.”

MacLachlan said developer Concord Pacific, which owns the brewery site, gave the regiment permission to use the building starting last year, and it is planning to maximize use of the building for urban operations.

He said urban training would involve standard, block-shaped buildings, and a “massive” site such as the brewery featuring industrial-type areas, warehousing and office spaces create a more comprehensive training environment.

“It’s an extremely valuable opportunity, particularly as we look at the trend and conflicts of late,” MacLachlan said.

“So, having more exposure to it is critical to prepare our soldiers to work in those places. And unfortunately, urban operation is one of the most — if not the most — complex environment to operate in as a soldier.”

MacLachlan said the unit is expected to have access to the brewery site for about four years.

The Seaforth Highlanders conduct monthly training exercises, and MacLachlan said the unit typically covers urban operations at least once every few years, but the brewery’s availability means they’ll do more such exercises.

“The role of the infantry is that we have to be able to operate any time, anywhere basically,” he said.

“Whenever conflict arises or there’s a need for support from the Canadian Armed Forces, we don’t get the luxury of picking where and when that’s going to occur. So, urban operation is very relevant, and I think it’s safe to say there’ll always be some flavour of urban operations in any operating environment that we’re going to go to.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2023.

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