VAdm Mark Norman addressing a ship’s company during Divisions

The Prime Minister’s Method to Muzzle the Navy

The members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), indeed the men and women of most Western militaries, are held to strict standards. One of the strictest policies is that of refraining from talking smack about your political leadership. The CAF from the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Vance right down to the greenest Private are to remain apolitical and silent when it comes to the military’s views vis-à-vis government decisions and procurement contracts. It was widely reported that former CDS, Gen Rick Hillier, was irking PM Steven Harper because of his popularity and outspokenness. The PM chose not to take on the Leprechaun from The Rock head on and replaced him in due time with Gen Tom Lawson. Unfortunately, for the former Vice CDS, Vice Admiral (VAdm) Mark Norman, PM Justin Trudeau took a more sinister approach to a supposed faux pas on the part of a very senior military officer.

The story surrounding the virtual hanging of the VAdm from the yardarm without his opportunity to be brought before the mast is superbly detailed in two recent National Post pieces by Andrew Coyne and David Pugliese. The gist of the situation is that the VAdm has been removed from his position and has been placed in legal limbo for just over a year now. Adding insult to injury, the RCMP has requested at least another three months to examine the mountain of seized material (which includes the VAdm’s wife’s medical records). Trudeau opined shortly after the VAdm’s removal that the matter would end up in court thus signaling where he wanted the process to lead.

These actions by PM Trudeau, the Liberal government, and the RCMP are reminiscent of Gestapo and NKVD tactics. The VAdm may not have been carted off to Lubyanka or Gen Augusto Pinochet’s Isla Dawson political prisoner camps but for all intents and purposes that is exactly what has happened. Due to military protocol, the VAdm is unable to speak publicly or to agitate for his disposition or he will have no chance to return to his post. If he does speak up for himself, his career will be ruined beyond recovery. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and the government will just wait and obfuscate until he cracks or becomes irreverent. The VAdm is indeed between a rock and a hard place.

In addition, VAdm Norman will see no public support from his fellow officers. Unlike the RCN Admirals’ Revolt to protest the 1968 Liberal’s CAF Unification, there will be no resignations in protest. The CDS has firm control of his senior leadership and they have all been cowed into silence and obedience. Everyone knows what happens to the first gopher who pokes their head out of the hole.

From a personal context, VAdm Norman was my senior commander in the RCN (affectionately known as the Kraken as his acronym was CRCN) for several years. I saw him in person once and I never heard any poor accounts of a man who served and still serves his country faithfully and proudly for 38 years. His only hint at a ‘crime’ was to embarrass a new government who wanted to scuttle a critically needed production of a RCN Supply ship just because it was the previous Conservative government’s idea. The man is a bona fide Canadian Patriot and he is being treated like gash to be tossed overboard.

PM Justin Trudeau was fond of quoting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms especially when it came to handing over $10.5 million to convicted terrorist Omar Khadr or in regards to returning ‘Canadian’ ISIS fighters. Perhaps Trudeau should take a closer look at the Charter’s Legal Rights Section Paragraph 12. ‘Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.’ I have a feeling a future PM will be apologizing and handing over a large cheque to the VAdm.

Meanwhile, the true colours of Trudeau, who idolizes the Castros and China’s system of dictatorship are on full display. Regrettably for the VAdm, my feeling is that he will just fade from relevance and quietly disappear just like the recently paid-off last of the ‘Sisters of the Space Age‘ destroyer Athabaskan in the background of the picture above.

It is a shame that Athabaskan’s motto, ‘We Fight As One‘, are just hollow words when it comes to the VAdm’s predicament.

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The message that showed up on every cell phone in Hawaii including my Mom’s IPhone

Mosquitos and Tigers

I know everyone is all concerned about a possible flare-up with the North Koreans and possible ballistic missile shots tipped with a nuclear weapon. Just some real world military perspective here:

  • The text of the Alert read, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Nowhere in that statement do I see a reference to North Korea or that this was a nuclear tipped missile. Thankfully, a retraction alert went out 38 minutes later. People get a lot of exercise by jumping to conclusions.
  • The DPRK’s technology isn’t to the point of fitting a nuclear warhead onboard a missile.
  • The DPRK’s ability to fire a missile that would actually come anywhere close to actually striking an intended target with any sort of accuracy, especially at the range of Hawaii, hasn’t been achieved. Why do you think they are doing test shots? This basically makes your chances of being hurt about the same as being hit by some toilet blue ice falling from a passing airliner. I would be more worried about the Chinese miscalculating the ultimate landing area of the Tiangong-1 when it burns up on re-entry in the next few months. Kim Jong-un is just playing silly buggers in order to 1) further his own position with his own people so they don’t string him up and, 2) further his own position on the world stage bluffing that he can play with the big boys, again in order to save his own hide.
  • If and when North Korea gets around to a functioning nuke plus a reliable delivery system, they aren’t going to waste a shot on the States. It will be held in reserve for the all-out response or attack involving South Korea. A long shot towards the States will just invite the chances of it missing or being intercepted. Wiping out Seoul or a similar large population/military concentration will be the preferred shot. This is the entire strategy of North Korea. Their conventional weaponry is massive thus deterring a first strike from their enemies. An eventual nuke is just another tool in the deterrent war-box in order to keep the Americans from coming after Chubby №1 Leader. He learned his lesson from watching what happened to Gaddafi and Hussein.
  • There are however about 4000 operational nukes on reliable delivery platforms, mostly between Russia and the US, with about 1800 ready to go short notice (mostly on boomer submarines) and they are all pointed at one another ready to release nuclear Armageddon. No point being that worried about a mosquito when there is a tiger in the room.
  • What may happen, is just like 9/11, scared Americans who were never really in any significant danger are apt to overreact causing untold devastation to the Korean peninsula. About 3000 deaths from a terrorist strike on the US has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, untold misery and the utter devastation of at least Afghanistan, Iraq, and large swathes of the Middle East with no end in sight. Plus of course the treasure and blood spent on these so-called ‘revenge’ crusades has been staggering. There are already plenty of calls for a first strike against North Korea to take out their nuclear arsenal, such as it is. No matter that Seoul with its 10 million inhabitants are only about 25 km from the DMZ and would suffer incredible casualties. No matter that the North Koreans themselves would suffer incredible casualties. But don’t worry about the yellow man as long as there isn’t a hair harmed on some fair headed American.

If I was a South Korean, I would be somewhat worried about the northern neighbors. If I was that same South Korean, I would be absolutely terrified of the Americans going off half-cocked especially because they are so wound up over such a tiny threat. America has no skin in the game other than waning influence in the South Asia/Pacific region because of the ascension of the Chinese. The South and North Korean people are just seen as expendable cannon fodder by the larger players.

Slowly, more information is coming out over how this mistake was able to occur. Until the FCC produces their final report, I suggest you read this analysis from an industry expert, Jared M. Spool.

Meanwhile, if I was vacationing on Hawaii with my parents right now, I would be worried about what to wear at the next luau and making sure I had enough rum for my pineapple. Next time there’s an ‘ Ballistic Missile Alert’, it’s either a hoax, mistake, or the real thing. In all those cases, there’s absolutely nothing you can do so there isn’t much point in getting worked up.

My advice is to have another one of those rum and pineapples.

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POLITICAL JUNKIE – Deuxième Partie

Source: Maclean’s-The 91 most important economic charts to watch in 2018, Dec 5, 2017

Why Is Justin Trudeau Spending like a Drunken Sailor?

At the end of 2017, Maclean’s published an excellent analysis piece which provides a financial view of where Canada is sitting at the beginning of a new year. For this article, I will focus on Justin Trudeau’s out of control spending habits.

The chart above is part of an extremely informative snapshot of how the Federal government has been hemorrhaging money with no end in sight.  Here’s a list of all Canadian Parliaments to cross reference against the Federal debt numbers.

Let’s do some analysis: The Liberals starting with Lester B. Pearson (1963) and ending with Turner (1984) (minus of course Joe Clark’s six month blip in 1979) successively started to dramatically raise the Federal debt. Brian Mulroney (1984–93) continued this upward, steady climb of federal debt. Jean Chrétien took over from 1993–2003 and with some soul searching and Paul Martin’s help, finally slayed the deficit and turned the beast around in 1997. Former Finance Minister Martin accomplished this by cutting transfer payments to the provinces and the larger than forecast federal revenue. (Personally, I liked Paul Martin and I thought he was good for the country. But my beef and point of these writings is really with Justin Trudeau and where he’s taking Canada.) Steven Harper was elected in 2006 and of course was replaced in 2015. He was continuing the path of successive government surpluses when a little thing called the Great Global Recession came along in 2008. Harper is widely credited with having positioned Canada to a point of a somewhat soft economic landing but plenty of credit is due to Chretien/Martin for turning the head of the ship around in the first place. It is normal and sound economic policy to go into deficit spending mode during times of great economic downturn or in time of war.

Source: Maclean’s-The 91 most important economic charts to watch in 2018, Dec 5, 2017

As illustrated in the chart above, there was a sharp Federal deficit starting in 2008–09 to deal with the immediate effects of the recession in Canada. This was followed by a swift return to a surplus balance in his last year in office. Despite having weathered the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Harper leveled out the debt in 2013 holding steady to 2015.

Source: Maclean’s-The 91 most important economic charts to watch in 2018, Dec 5, 2017

Now focus on Trudeau’s tenure in office and his spending. We’re not at war and not in a global recession but his deficit numbers are increasing dramatically and the projections from his finance minister don’t show any decrease any time soon especially with an election looming in a couple of years.

The Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill Morneau are spending like we are in a Golden Age when we are not. Canadians seriously need to ask if we can afford another term in office from Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.


Trudeau before becoming PM looking and acting as the perfect metrosexual PC man

Canada’s Beta Prime Minister

Trudeau is having a rough time of it lately with lapses of judgement in the race to shore up his Muslim ideology.

Many of the country’s populace and politicians jumped on the alleged assault of an 11 year old girl by a man who was trying to cut her hijab off. Instead of waiting for a complete investigation, which ended up taking only a day or two extra, Justin Trudeau and the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne rushed to decry this latest example of Islamophobia. The entire story ended up being a farce.

On Dec 19, the PM hosted Joshua Boyle and his family in his office. The family had just returned to Canada after years of being held by the Taliban. There were always questions as to why the man was backpacking in Afghanistan in the first place with his pregnant wife who ended up giving birth to three children in captivity. It seems that almost immediately upon their return to Canada, he started beating his wife (this is by inference) and now faces 15 separate serious charges.

This past November, the Liberals started to be brought to task over Canadian nationals returning from fighting with ISIS. The Liberals have been somewhat less than convincing wrt properly bringing these enemy combatants to justice compared to other nations.

This past March, the Liberals felt the need to pass Bill M-103, the so called Islamophobia bill even though Canada has long had strict laws against religious discrimination in all its forms.

Lastly, there was a bitter debate over the 10.5 million CAD payout to Omar Khadr this past year. The move was bitterly opposed by the majority of Canadians but Trudeau stated that the man’s Charter rights needed defending. Meanwhile, returning Canadian Armed Forces troops are seen as not receiving the help and support they deserve. As a kicker, Vice Admiral Mark Norman who was 2nd in command of the CAF until his police investigation started over a year ago, still sits in limbo. To this day, he has ‘still never officially been provided the reasoning for his unprecedented removal as vice-chief of the defence staff. He has never received a military hearing on the matter, and there has been no independent examination of the facts of his case.’ His supposed crime: he attempted to kick-start the process to equip the Royal Canadian Navy with a sorely needed supply ship of which the RCN has been without for years. His efforts put egg on the face of the newly elected Trudeau government and he’s been made to pay the price for the actions of a patriot.

Trudeau on his Canadian Charm offensive regarding NAFTA talks

Trudeau and his ‘Sunny Ways’ gang have a particular ideology and political correctness agenda. He plays well with the selfie types, jet-setters, and elites of the world with his smooth patter, PC ways, love for feminism, devotion to the environment and fancy socks. He also has the ability to cry on cue when he’s apologizing for the latest indignity Canadians have inflicted on this group or another. I don’t want to be mean-spirited but if you look at his body language when he meets with Trump, he looks like the little boy who has been invited to the adult table. It even appears as if he’s crossing his ankles with his knees firmly together in the picture above. Isn’t that how women wearing skirts usually sit?

Justin did shorten his hair after being elected PM as it was a political point the Conservatives were trying to make fun of. It’s more difficult for the adults to tousle now.

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Blair is a personification of a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’. He has held several careers and has all the T-shirts. Time to add the title Blogger to the list.


So What About Glyphosate?

If you scroll through the news feeds, Facebook and Twitter posts, there are plenty of entries from the anti-everything crowd to do with ‘residues’ in our food. One of the favourite targets of the ignorant rabble is the company Monsanto and the chemical glyphosate, the main active ingredient in the popular weed killer Roundup.

There’s a dirty little secret the environmentalists are holding tight. If it got out or if people learned the concept of critical thinking, they know their influence would vanish like a summer evening’s chemtrail.

The fact of the matter with regards to herbicide use is the amounts present before and after application are so miniscule, the entire argument and discussion is mute. The anti-everything crowd gets into a lather every time there is an increase of measurement of anything whether it’s Roundup, CO2, hormones, antibiotics, etc. What is never focused on is proportion. Just because we can measure something in the parts per billion doesn’t mean that 80 ppb is any worse for us than 40 ppb even though it really sounds scary when a headline screams that such and such has been found to contain TWICE as much SCARY SOUNDING chemical than such and such. We get so lathered up over amounts of this and that which essentially amount to zero impact on humans or the environment. It’s just an effective propaganda ploy used by the anti-crowd.

Hopefully you’ve heard of the phrase, it’s the dose that makes the poison. What if you heard that your favourite apple was being sprayed with cyanide for some reason, maybe to control some particular bug? Then even though it was scientifically demonstrated that any cyanide residue that made it to the supermarket via the outside of those apples was only in the Parts/Billion range, could you imagine the outcry, particularly from the organic types? Cyanide is pretty scary sounding. It is the suicide pill issued to spies like 007 to avoid spilling secrets when captured. What sane person would want that in their food, let alone heaven forbid, feed to their children? There would be a plummet of apple sales, protests in the streets, letters to government, boycotts of supermarkets, and entire celebrity blog sites dedicated to the eradication of a proven, beneficial agricultural practice. Concurrently, organic apple producers and marketing companies would be slapping “CYANIDE FREE” stickers on their apples and food products. They would even be throwing their stickers on their oranges and bananas because you know, you can’t be too careful when it comes to the food that you feed little Johnny and Janie. There would be whole marketing campaigns built around how much better tasting a CERTIFIED by the Anti-Cyanide Random made up Society (trademarked) cyanide free apple tastes.

What is sad, is the above was a scenario pulled straight out of my butt. Then it was pointed out to me that this exact same script played out over apples and the use of a chemical called Alar back in 1989. The science was back and forth as to the long term harm of the product but in an over abundance of caution, the chemical was banned for products intended for human consumption. But there was a massive over reaction to the news that the chemical might be carcinogenic. Apples and their products disappeared overnight. Organic outlets reaped a windfall touting ‘Alar-free’ apples and juice. The apple industries in Washington and Quebec took significant hits. The chemical is still allowed to be used for spraying on ornamentals.

Well, ironically, if you are truly worried about cyanide poisoning outside of my hypothetical example, take a trip to your local health food (snake oil and quackery) store and buy yourself a packet of apricot seeds. A Quebec man recently poisoned himself due to inattention to the small warning on the package. One kernel could be enough to kill a toddler. Here’s what the easily overlooked warning on the backside of the package looks like:

The European Food Safety Authority has specific Mg amounts that are lethal. I doubt people weigh the kernels they eat.

The front side of the package reads like a cornucopia of goodness. They are even touted as a cancer cure! (Debunked here)

WOW! This looks like a superfood. We should all eat this!

Now, if the package above was labelled properly with a sticker like the one below, how likely would your choice be to buy it for your kids? The only real warning for those who can’t consume it are women who are pregnant or nursing. It doesn’t say children can’t eat them only ‘not intended’.

By rights, these Apricot Kernels should have a poison label on the front of the package.

This is the argument against labelling products with GMO stickers. Sales of so-called healthy, sweet apricot kernels would plummet if they were labelled properly. GMO sounds scary versus natural, organic, or any of the other advertising buzzwords employed to entice you to buy a particular foodstuff. I count SEVENTEEN instances of ‘wholesomeness’ advertising on that 8 ounce package. What caring mother would buy food for her kids that has a prominent warning label on the front of the package? It’s so much easier to choose and trust a food labelled ‘ambrosial’. Besides, a multi-billion dollar ‘health’ food industry can be trusted, right?

It’s just an artificial ploy that keeps the rubes distracted and siphons more money out of their wallets. The organic industry, the climate industry, the renewable energy industry are all operating with similar scams in order to funnel our buying habits and wealth into money and power redistribution schemes. Gradually, the hypocrisy and anti-everything lies are being revealed through films like Food Evolution.

Hopefully people will eventually stop putting so much stock in these snake oil salesmen.

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Blair is a personification of a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’. He has held several careers and has all the T-shirts. Time to add the title Blogger to the list.


HMCS St. John’s on manoeuvres during Operation REASSURANCE

Originally published with RUSI(NS)


The popular RUSI(NS) Distinguished Speaker series continued on 4 October 2017 with a presentation by Commander Sheldon Gillis. The charismatic Cdr Gillis gave an illuminating talk to an appreciative audience on the activities of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) St. John’s whilst he captained the Halifax-class frigate last spring on deployment as the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) contribution to Operation REASSURANCE.

From 9 January to 14 July 14, 2017, Cdr Gillis and his ship’s company of 239 sailors and RCAF personnel conducted Roto 6 (sixth rotation) in support of Op REASSURANCE, taking on the mission from HMCS Charlottetown.  HMCS St. John’s conducted operations in the central portion of the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, off of Syria, and near Iceland, before returning to their home port of Halifax. According to the commander, the post-Halifax-class Modernization/Frigate Life Extension (HCM/FELIX) ship and embarked Sea King helicopter performed admirably.  In his opinion, the expenditure of billions of dollars on upgrading the frigates has proven itself in theatre.  He is looking forward to the next technological and operational leaps forward when the RCAF’s new Cyclone maritime helicopter becomes available for operations.

The commander is a long serving naval officer whose first major deployment was in HMCS Protecteur when she sailed in 1990 on Operation FRICTION to the Persian Gulf.  Cdr Gillis has observed first-hand the sea changes of world naval power.  To him, what was old is now new again.  In the late 2000s, Russia was flush with revenue from oil sales.  Portions of this windfall have gone to modernizing and beefing up an ailing Russian Fleet.  While his frigate was deployed, a Russian carrier conducted air operations off of Syria, Russian surface ships and a brand new Kilo-class submarine were preparing to fire cruise missiles into Syria, and numerous Russian ‘research’ vessels were in the Mediterranean. For 21 days, he and his company kept constant surveillance on the Kilo-class submarine whilst she operated off the coast of Syria.  As he described it, he was conducting old school Cold War symmetric anti-submarine operations.  These skill sets used to be the raison d’être of the RCN and one of its main foci.  Thankfully, the ship was able to pivot back to this vital role.  Apparently the modernized frigates and younger sailors can ably handle the ‘novel’ task of Russian sub-hunting that was second nature to sailors of a past generation.

Other novel dealings for the Canadian frigate were the numerous ship-to-ship interactions with the Russians.  There was quite a bit of interest in St John’s  whilst they spent 21 days in the Black Sea conducting port visits and patrols.  Whilst they were shadowing the Kilo-class submarine off of Syria, there were at least 10 to 12 Russian surface ships in the same small area of water space. Although both navies act professionally, they each realize that everyone is keeping a wary eye on each other.  There was a significant shift in naval operating dynamics where the normal exercise safety factors did not exist.  Most navy personnel are used to the somewhat artificial exercise parameters and haven’t been exposed to real world symmetrical threats.  As Cdr Gillis stressed, the Russians are not our enemy but they are worth keeping more of an eye on in the future.

Touching on the future course of the RCN, Cdr Gillis opined that although his frigate, helicopter and company acquit themselves well with respect to the tasks assigned to them, it is vital that the RCN pushes forward with the Canadian Surface Combatant project.  Other world navies such as Russia and China are boosting their naval inventories and sea presence.  In order to keep up, Canada needs to keep re-investing in our own sea going capabilities to deal with the resurging symmetric abilities and/or threats.  In addition, the RCN’s ‘to do’ list is not shrinking but expanding year upon year.  A nation’s naval power is as important in today’s world as it has ever been.

RUSI(NS) members and invited guests enjoyed Cdr Gillis’s frank and open presentation and follow on discussion of HMCS St. John’s latest European deployment.  It was quite evident that he was proud to have commanded a RCN warship.  For the audience present, it was a rare opportunity to hear from a senior naval officer who had been out ‘doing the business’.

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A LinkedIn letter from ‘a proud father of a 10 year old daughter who has a strong will to question and fight “Gender bias” and prove herself.’

Genesis of a Snowflake

After the 1986 release of the movie ‘Top Gun’, it was reported that the USN saw a 500% increase of young men wanting to become Naval Aviators. Although I had already made an attempt to join the Canadian military as a pilot and was instead accepted as an Air Navigator, the movie still validated my decision to join the Air Force. Movies, TV, and celebrities are powerful motivators that influence people’s thinking and ambitions. Ironically, Tom Cruise’s dyslexia would have precluded him from being considered as a Naval Aviator. The cold, hard truth is many dreams are impossible. Borrowing some USAF statistics, supposedly out of 2000 prospects walking through the recruiting door, only one will eventually earn their wings. Many of those people who fail will accept their shortcomings but the more popular route being drilled into our youth is to blame outside forces.

The letter pictured above popped up in my LinkedIn newsfeed. This father’s 10 year old girl perceives that because of gender bias she will have trouble attaining her dream of becoming an airline pilot. She feels that it should be ‘Only Girls -˃ Then Boys’. The vast majority of comments are along the lines of ‘You go Girl! Tell it like it is!’. Only one person came out to contradict her position with this statement, ‘I work for an airline. 28 years. I have lots of experience. Someone needs to tell this girl that what she’s seeing and hearing isn’t true. I’ve flown with lots of female pilots and male flight attendants. She has every chance in the world. All she really needs is someone to believe in her dream with her.’ It would be interesting to know where this girl is getting her beliefs from. My guess is the constant bombardment from the MSM, celebrities, and feminists stating that women are being treated unfairly by a paternalistic society is to blame.

It seems that her home state of California has some of the strictest gender equity laws in the country. People in the industry and my own considerable experience in the field would say she’s got as much of a shot at being a pilot as any boy would. The USN trained their first six women Naval Aviators in 1974. In point of fact, to become an airline pilot having deep pockets is more of a factor than a great flying aptitude or good ‘hands and feet’. Archie Bunker is long gone and has been replaced by legions of well-meaning cheer leaders extolling the virtues of women. If anything, the gender playing field is as level or tipped in favour of women as it has ever been.

I would like to use the example of my daughter’s route to becoming a RCAF pilot to help illustrate the point I’m trying to make.

At the age of 12, she joined the 386 Komox RCACS. During her ‘career’ with the Air Cadets, she was the head of the First Aid Team & Precision Drill Team, became an accomplished shooter, a decent Biathaloner, became the Drum Major and finished as the Squadron Commander of 100 plus kids. She attended camps each summer and earned her glider and power licenses. I’ve flown with her and she’s got better ‘hands and feet’ than her old man. She finished off Cadets with a prestigious exchange trip to Europe.

Within weeks of her return to Canada, she went to the Royal Military College in Kingston, ON to begin her engineering degree. Attending a military college is difficult enough to just survive let alone graduate with an Aeronautical Engineering degree. In addition, she eventually became the head of the Highland Dance club and was very active in the Fencing Club. She has just returned from participating with the CAF contingent sent to the World Military Fencing Tournament in Italy.

Last November, I had the great pleasure to present her with her Wings and promotion to Lieutenant in Moose Jaw, SK. She has since trained to become a Category ‘C’ instructor, flew one of the Harvard II’s over Ottawa for the Canada 150 Flypast and represented the RCAF at Edmonton’s airshow. After her tour as an instructor, she will probably be asked to attend the Hawk course for eventual CF-18 training.

My daughter is 25 and accomplished all of the above through her hard work and ambition, NOT because she’s a woman. She actually becomes quite angry at any mention of her success being because of her sex. It demeans the incredibly hard work and effort she and her fellow female military friends have put into creating successful military careers.

There should be no substitute for hard work, dedication and sacrifice. Merit alone should be the basis for selection. The girl in the letter is already setting the stage for her own failure, ready to blame the misogynistic old boys club if her dream of becoming a pilot doesn’t come to fruition. Blaming others for your own failings and lack of hard work is a characteristic of the ‘Snowflake’ generation. Reality is even with all the dedicated effort in the world, you may not succeed just because you don’t measure up.

To quote Lt Worf, “If winning does not matter, than why do you keep score?”


Nova Scotia Highway 101 sign welcoming travellers to Clare

Acadians in Nova Scotia

The recent furor over historical Canadians such as John A. MacDonald, Edward Cornwallis or Frank Oliver and their place in modern day Canada has brought forward the fact that we are woefully ignorant of our own history. Other than the hazy recollection of a CBC Vignette, the vast majority of us know very little Canadian history. Hence when a vocal minority seizes control of the narrative surrounding a particular character, the majority doesn’t immediately dismiss the hyperbole as they have no knowledge of the subject.

Towards the end of shedding some light on a piece of Canadian and Nova Scotia history, the focus of this article will be on the Municipality of Clare and the vibrant present day Acadian culture. Until I had spent some time visiting the region, I had no idea of the rich Acadian culture thriving in the southwest corner of the province. The entire Le Grand Dérangement episode was never a part of my school history lessons and it seems after checking with my kids, it still is not a part of high school studies. I consider it a sin that our own history receives such short shrift.

Location of the Municipality of Clare on the southwest tip of Nova Scotia

The History of Clare (La Baie Sainte Marie)

Starting in 1755, the Acadians were flung hither and yon from their homes in the Grand-Pré region of Nova Scotia. After close to a decade, under a kinder British governor, many of the exiles were allowed to return to British territory in 1764. Their former lands had already been ceded to New England Planters, so a new area of the Nova Scotian peninsula needed to be found for them. Legend has it that a surveyor from the Irish county of Clare, carved out a large chunk of land for the returning Acadians. This became the Municipality of Clare located in the County of Digby.

Families named Comeau, Deveau, LeBlanc, Robicheau, Belliveau and Melanson were typically given land for a homestead and a 100 acre woodlot. Unlike the fertile lands of the reclaimed Grand Pré delta or the Annapolis valley, it was tough to grow crops on the rocky, wooded, boggy land. Most of the Acadians turned to logging and fishing to survive.

Today, the main industries include agriculture, lobster fishing, other fisheries, ship building, mink farming, logging and tourism. Although all the larger sawmills are gone from the region, numerous hobby sawmills are busy making lumber from the family woodlots. Red Spruce, Yellow Birch, Hemlock, White Pine, Sugar Maple, and American Beech are common Acadian forest trees. Burning wood for heat is very common. Sawing logs into planks, boards and beams for various building projects is the usual destination for the larger felled trees. A couple of niche markets is to make maple wood slats for lobster traps or Hackmatack ‘knees’ for wooden ships.

The Culture

The Acadians of Clare are fluently bilingual, had a rich Catholic religious background and have several unique foods and customs.

  • The Acadian Churches along the Evangeline Trail

The small Acadian communities of loggers and fisherman managed to erect several magnificent churches that run the length of the Clare portion of the Evangeline Trail.

Église Saint-Bernard Church, Saint-Bernard, Nova Scotia

This is the first large church you come across after taking the Church Point turn-off from the main 101 Highway. The granite for the structure was brought from Shelburne, NS and the first mass was held after a 32 year construction period in September 1942.

Église Sainte-Marie, Church Point, Nova Scotia

After only two years of construction, 1500 volunteers finished building North America’s largest wooden church in 1905. Located next to it is the Acadian Université Sainte-Anne.

Paroisse Sacré-Coeur, Saulnierville, Nova Scotia

Further ‘down the line’, is another larger wooden church built and financed by the local inhabitants in 1880.

Saint-Alphonse-de-Ligouri Church, Mavillette, Nova Scotia

Again, this 1921 church was another example of the local Acadian craftsmen and parishioners coming together to build a place of worship.

Acadian Food

Nova Scotia Acadians have many signature and staple dishes unique to their culture. Similar to the more esoteric dishes from other cultures, many of the traditional meals take some getting used to.

Acadian ‘comfort food’ – Rappie Pie

I wish I could say it was more appetizing than it looks but I will be charitable and say Rappie Pie is an acquired taste. The process of making the dish starts with finding an old fowl in the yard and boiling the meat to tenderize it. Meanwhile, you make ‘zombie’ potatoes (my characterization of the process) by mashing all of the liquid and starch out of them. They get re-energized by the chicken broth. Then in a large pan, you layer the chicken meat, some diced onions and the grey, goopy potato paste. Bake in the oven until there’s a crisp crust. It’s a time consuming dish to make especially the processing of the potatoes. This is why it is served for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Check out the recipe here.

Traditional Acadian Chicken Fricot

This dish is similar to a meat and dumplings stew. Again, if chicken was the meat in the stew, they would use an older bird. The dish looks and tastes more palatable than the Rappie pie. Check out the recipe here.

Acadian Stuffed Quahogs
  • Quahogs

Quahogs are large clams that can be found in the intertidal regions on Clare’s shoreline. Many places in the Maritimes and states such as Maine will cut them into strips for deep frying similar to other clams. The Acadians prefer to eat them stuffed as pictured above.

Dulse – An edible seaweed harvested and sold in Clare
  • Seafood

Due to the nature of being so close to the ocean, Acadians frequently ate lobster, oysters, red mussels, dulse (a type of seaweed), herring, and haddock. Seafood and fish chowder are common meals.

Cultural Events

Acadians in Clare hold festivals similar to other Acadians elsewhere in New Brunswick, PEI, Maine and Quebec. They also hold their own unique yearly events.

Tintamarre traffic driving up the ‘Line’ to Sainte-Anne University

This is a relatively new Acadian tradition that had its roots in New Brunswick when it was held in conjunction with important Acadian anniversaries. The traditional way of holding a Tintamarre was to start at one end of the village and make a lot of noise as you passed by the neighbors with everyone ending up at a central meeting place. In Clare, because of the long distances up and down the ‘Line’, people get in their vehicles and drive the highway from both ends of the municipality to end up at the Sainte-Anne University. It is held on Acadian Day, August 15, and in Clare is the culmination of a week-long Acadian Festival. Houses next to the road decorate their yards with flags and droves of people come out to wave at the honking line of traffic.

Metaghan, Nova Scotia Easter Canoe Trip, April 2-3, 2010 – Photo Courtesy of Lisa Sutt
  • The Spring Canoe Rallies

There is a strong connection between the inhabitants of Clare and canoeing. Several Canoe rallies take place in the spring. One traditional rally that had its start in the 70’s uses the Salmon River/Lake Doucette drainage area for participants to make their way right down to the ocean. The two day event is held every Easter long weekend and attracts scores of canoes. It also attracts numerous spectators and well-wishers who follow the boaters on their ‘four wheelers’. Certain popular haul-outs are good vantage points to watch the participants shoot some rapids and occasionally tip over in the frigid spring runoff. Check out YouTube video highlights of the 2010 Meteghan Easter Canoe trip courtesy of Lisa Sutt through this link.

Grou Tyme – ‘A Great Time’ for all Acadians to come together for music and dance
  • Acadian Music

The Acadians of Clare enjoy their music. Years ago, community centers held weekend dances for the locals to party. Numerous small home-grown bands entertained their neighbors. In recent years, several popular bands such as Radio Radio, Grand Dérangement, and Blou got their start in the area. Unfortunately, outside of the region, only Quebec fans may be familiar with their music as most of their songs are in French.

Canadians need to discover the fact that Nova Scotia is not just Halifax, Peggy’s Cove and lobster. Clare is a Canadian historical gem whose heart is a short three hour drive from Halifax. Next time you visit the Maritimes, it would be worth the time to visit.

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Selling UN Peacekeeping to Canadians

***Originally published with FrontLine Defence***

Most Canadians would agree that the atrocities happening in places like Mali, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (and any numerous other corners of hell in the world) should be stopped. But hard lessons in Afghanistan have taught us that spending precious blood and gold may not make the kind of difference needed to set some of these regions firmly on a path away from lawless anarchy. Prime Minister Trudeau’s trepidation towards committing a large military contingent to a quagmire such as Mali is absolutely understandable. There seems to be no upside in it for Canada other than the altruistic humanitarian angle. Why send Canadians to a place that (a) doesn’t want peace and (b) doesn’t want foreigners meddling in their affairs? The return on millions or billions spent, will likely only be the return of Canadian dead, maimed, and mentally injured. UN peacekeeping is a tough sell to Canadians who have witnessed repatriation parades and an epidemic of soldier suicides. Would it not be easier to throw up our hands in despair and say “let them work out their own issues and stay out of someone else’s fight”?

Historically, Canadians have, and will do what’s right. As witnessed by the Royal Canadian Navy sailors recently returned from West Africa’s mission, NEPTUNE TRIDENT 17-01, the Canadian flag, the people and our ideals are respected and powerful. We are seen as honest brokers with no ulterior motives unlike other larger countries. We are wanted and needed. Canada can and must make a difference outside of our borders.

So how do you sell the bitter medicine that is UN peacekeeping to Canadians? To begin with, they need to be given the straight goods. Recently, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), General Jonathan Vance stated something similar with reference to the new Canada Defence Policy. The Policy lays out firm timelines and monies for the next 20 years, giving hard direction for the military to follow irrespective of change of government. The same firm, clear direction needs to be in place before Canada’s next UN peacekeeping operation. The government and military needs to be brutally honest, open and realistic about the whole proposed operation. Number one is to identify the goal. Why are we going, where are we going, what will we accomplish, and how long will we be there? How many of our soldiers might be taking the Highway of Heroes home? What will be the ultimate cost, including expected care associated with returning soldiers maimed in mind and body? How will we decide when enough is enough? Will there be a natural ‘Victory’ or just a point where we’ll just cut our losses and leave? When there is no discernable upside to a bad mission, Canadians would be more willing to sacrifice to the greater good if they are given the straight up honest cost ahead of time, with regular, candid updates.

People don’t want sugar-coated BS, and are tired of politicians trying to feed it to them.

Once Canadians have the straight goods, they’re going to demand that our soldiers have the best tools and training to accomplish the mission. Again, a remark from the CDS is apropos. The military still recruits based largely on a model of a WWI soldier. Similar to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) recruiting strategy overhaul envisioned by General Vance, Canada also needs a complete rethink of how to approach peacekeeping missions in order to be effective during and long after we’ve been there.

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative based at Dalhousie University in Halifax uses this type of forward thinking with their Veteran Trainers for the Eradication of Child Soldiers (VTECS) program and research. The program just graduated a second cohort of veterans who will work overseas to help end the scourge of child soldiery and exploitation, utilizing the proactive, and progressive, research, education and training pioneered by the Dallaire Initiative. So far, the combination of expertise and research has been paying increasingly large dividends, with countries such as Sierra Leone, Rwanda and even Somalia embracing this new approach.

These new types of peacekeeping methodologies need to be embraced and leveraged by the CAF in order to ensure successful future peacekeeping missions. As part of a speaking series co-hosted by Wounded Warriors Canada and VTECS, Major-General Patrick Cammaert (retired from the Royal Netherland Marine Corps) spoke of UN-sponsored peacekeeping challenges. Peacekeeping efforts fail when any of the following occur:

  • Participating countries and their forces have neither the will nor appetite for the missions – if your heart isn’t in it, it’s obvious to the populace and they lose trust in UN backed programs.
  • Peacekeepers have a lack of understanding of the issues surrounding the conflict they’ve been dropped into.
  • Commanders are derelict in serious reporting regarding the actual issues in theatre.
  • UN forces operate under a risk-adverse attitude and are not proactive.
  • Peacekeepers have a general lack of knowledge of the mandate, the Rules of Engagement, and who they will be dealing with.
  • There are no consequences for mission failure (the attitude is: keep your head down, don’t risk your own people, ride it out until you get to go home).

MGen Cammaert, who is no stranger to peacekeeping and what it takes to run a successful operation, had strong ideas of what is required if future UN missions are to be successful.

  • Political will and a firm direction needs to be in place before there can be any peacekeeping. A political solution needs to be hammered out, communicated and implemented ahead of the mission.
  • Peacekeeping nations need to ask the local populations: “what do you need of us and how can we help you accomplish your goals”, instead of the usual: “we’re here and this is what we’re going to do.”
  • There needs to be a holistic approach that involves the diplomats, NGOs, police and military.
  • Commanders in the field are key to success. They need to be competent and fearless. They need the tools and authority to make decisions that cannot wait for authorities back in the UN.
  • Pre-deployment training is crucial, with a heavy emphasis on scenario-based problems (it’s already too late to learn when boots hit the ground).
  • The local population needs to see activity, movement and engagement by the peacekeeping forces. Similar to a cop walking the beat, the local population and adversaries need to see a continuous presence and constant interaction.
  • Mobility and decisive action can be critical. Sometimes a quick, pivotal action to a threat will thwart years of subsequent strife.
  • The concept of ‘No Consenting Adults’ needs to be 100% enforced in conflict zones.
  • Finally, there needs to be substantially more women deployed in the field. A woman is invaluable when dealing with other women or children in these conflict zones. It isn’t sexist, it’s plain fact that a woman can diffuse tense situations involving women and children better than a man.

Quality is better than quantity, asserts MGen Cammaert. As Peacekeepers, you need to gain the trust of the people, you are there to help. You need to do it right, you need to be seen doing it right, and you have to be there long enough to make sure it will continue to be done right. Otherwise, don’t bother with half-hearted attempts which will do more harm than good.

The CAF lacks the type of peacekeeping soldier and doctrine that MGen Cammaert described during his presentation. During the event, the Foundation screened a short film from DHX Media entitled ‘Checkpoint’. The powerful short film illustrated how the ‘old’ way of running the business of peacekeeping is not adequate for the 21st Century. Drawing on my own experience, military members are trained to take decisive and, if necessary, lethal action. For example, back in 2007 during Basic Training, our platoon was introduced to a bayonet drill. A pair of Royal Canadian Regiment sergeants got our bloodlust to the point where we were quite willing and able to impale and kill the enemy. This is the job of the infantry, who are often “up close” to the action. You kill or are killed. This was how a child soldier ends up dead when the film first ran a checkpoint scenario manned by two young armed boys.

Peacekeepers of the future require more complex skills. They need to be part diplomat, social worker, police, soldier, and definitely more gender- and racially-diverse. They also need better pre-deployment scenario-based training that will give them the tools to deal with the likely situations for the particular conflict zone they’re headed for. The CAF prepares as well as it can, and has excelled at pre-planning for battle since Vimy Ridge – but I cannot stress enough that today’s peacekeeping missions need a different approach. When the ‘Checkpoint’ mission scenario ran a second time, the child soldier did not die, and the UN peacekeeper was not traumatized by the experience of killing a child.

The CAF does what it can to keep up with their better-equipped NATO allies. But realistically, Canada is not going to be a major player during a World War III. However, we can be effective at dousing the hotspots that lead down that path. Our military has a long history of doing amazing things with somewhat less-than-adequate tools, manpower and equipment. They really shine when it comes to niche military areas of expertise such as our Sniper program, our Clearance Diver units, our Search and Rescue program, our Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), our expertise with Nuclear Biological Chemical Warfare (NBCW), and our JTF-2 team. We know how to specialize and become world experts. The next thing we need to become expert in, is Peacekeeping.

There is a need for the CAF to stand up a dedicated peacekeeping unit similar to the Special Operations Forces or Maritime Tactical Operations Group (MTOG) models. They need to recruit from across the spectrum of the CAF for dedicated men and women who will become experts in the field of peacekeeping. Give them the diplomat, social worker, and soldier training.

There may be a necessity to recruit directly from civilian sectors to bolster personnel shortfalls, particularly females. When the Search and Rescue technician trade had personnel issues, they went directly to paramedic associations for qualified people. Perhaps the CAF could target women in police forces or social workers associations to help fill personnel gaps. Bring in leading edge organizations such as VTECS to keep training and techniques fresh and innovative. Give this core group the best tools and training before they end up on mission. Then once we’re experts, similar to the men and women graduating from the VTECS program, the knowledge can be passed to allies and the local populations. Partnership with world-renowned and universally recognized external organizations, like the Dallaire Initiative, may add an important perspective. New threats and complex scenarios call for new and innovative approaches by the CAF, moving beyond the insistence that only they can train themselves, and leveraging the capabilities provided by civilian organizations that can blend advanced education, military experience and real-world approaches to address these complex realities.

The second scenario presented in the ‘Checkpoint’ short film resulted in three children dropping their weapons and no one being shot. A simple psychological technique diffused a deadly situation. Modest solutions and techniques pay significant dividends; no dead child, no angry opposition force, no angry parents, no anti-peacekeeper propaganda fodder, and no soldier living with a kid’s death on his conscience.

Hope and honesty is how you sell Canadians on UN peacekeeping. Be straight with the costs and the reasons. Give our CAF members the correct tools and equipment to do the job. Incorporate innovative techniques, training and leading edge research to give our people the best edge to be successful.

What’s happening in places like Mali is horrendous, and Canada could make a difference. We just need to be forward thinking enough to make a quality impact.


Preserver alongside Her Majesty’s Canadian Dockyard Halifax, 28 July 2017, ready to be towed to the ship breaker. Photo credit, Blair Gilmore, RUSI(NS)

The Sun Dips on PRESERVER, Last of the Protecteur-Class AOR

Originally published with RUSI(NS), Bourque Newswatch, and Ottawa Citizen

August 2, 2017, marked the end of an era for the Canadian built Protecteur-class AOR (Auxiliary Oiler, Replenishment) when Preserver transfers from the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to her new owners, Marine Recyling Corporation. Navy tugs will tow the vessel one last time a short distance off of her berth at Her Majesty’s Canadian Dockyard Halifax, from where she will then be transferred to a civilian tug and towed to a special facility in Sydney, Cape Breton for breaking and recycling.

As I toured the flats taking part in the last official tour of the vessel, I reflected on the bygone era represented by the ship and her predecessor, Protecteur. Standing on top of the bridge next to the Officer of the Watch’s station by the Engine Room speaking tube, I could envision the numerous ‘sundowners’ that area had witnessed. How many times had the Captain and his ship’s officers spent a few quiet contemplative minutes up in this spot? How peaceful it would have been on some far off ocean, sipping a beer and perhaps indulging with a cigar, quietly contemplating life at sea as the fiery orb sank once again into the abyss. As we traveled through the stripped out 555 foot long ship, I wondered how many Duty Roundsmen had followed these paths? How many thousands of times had the decks been scrubbed or the brass fittings polished? How many dignified cocktail gatherings, ‘channel fever’ parties, baptisms, summary trials, mess dinners, RPC (Request the Pleasure of your Company), and countless other functions were held in the Officers’ Wardroom, Chief & POs’ Mess, Hangar and the Main Cave? What were the number of sea ditties floating about the fleet generated from decades of good natured Preserver sailor’s high jinx? The old ship’s motto was ‘Heart of the Fleet’ but it was the continuous presence of thousands of RCN sailors serving, living and toiling aboard her over all those decades that brought life to inanimate steel. Their salty souls permeate the bulkheads and deck plates.

But the old lady’s time has come, and she is scheduled meet her fate at the breaking yard. Back on July 30, 1970, when she was put into commission at the New Brunswick Saint John Shipbuilding yard, it was still common for ships to be powered by steam, and she ended up as the last boiler powered vessel in the RCN. In addition, many materials used in her construction are long gone from today’s modern ships. Miles of PCB coated copper wiring run through her hull. Much of her interior surface is covered with the old ubiquitous Navy red lead paint. Marine Recycling will have a challenge to safely removing all those toxic substances. Helping to ensure their proper disposal, our RCN tour guide explained that the Department of National Defence will continue to play a watchdog role until the last fifteen feet of the ship is left. The building and ultimate breaking of Preserver represents a true ‘cradle to grave’ Canadian shipbuilding process.

Preserver faithfully functioned as a vital force multiplier for the RCN. But as the world moved forward, parts for the old ship became scarce and tightening environmental regulations would have kept the single hulled fueling vessel out of most ports. But Preserver’s usefulness has not entirely waned as she will perform one last useful task for the Navy. The military always ends up in possession of material and equipment that has become obsolete or too expensive to dispose of. Much of this material ends up warehoused to collect dust. There is a unique item still onboard the ship that epitomizes this dilemma of how to dispose of items that have outlived their usefulness, namely the Wardroom piano. Years ago, an upright piano was presented to the ship’s officers as a gift. It is said to have taken four days of work pulling up hatches and making openings to bring it to its home onboard. The time and effort to remove this unique musical instrument is now not worth the bother. So as is common in the military recycling business, the new owners will receive a ship full of extra bits and pieces of military surplus including a piano. Wouldn’t that be a rare find a few months from now on EBay?

There is always a touch of sadness and nostalgia when you say good-bye to a ship, especially when it is the last of her type. The countless eyes who have witnessed innumerable sunrises and sunsets from her decks and stared across the thousands of miles of endless oceans are long gone. All that is left is for the graceful old lady to take her final voyage into the setting sun.

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Blair is a personification of a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’. He has held several careers and has all the T-shirts. Time to add the title Blogger to the list.