Governor Edward Cornwallis, the founder of Halifax, Nova Scotia

No Balance

When Canada’s social experimenter, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, repatriated the Constitution of Canada on April 17, 1982, he famously made the remark, ‘For if individuals and minorities do not feel protected against the possibility of the tyranny of the majority, if French-speaking Canadians or native peoples or new Canadians do not feel they will be treated with justice, it is useless to ask them to open their hearts and minds to their fellow Canadians.’ It was a laudable goal to ensure that Canadian minorities felt protected but there were rumblings at the time that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the first part of the Constitution would cause unnecessary strife to Canada. In fact, Canada almost blew apart because of a Manitoba MLA, Elijah Harper’s opposition to PM Mulroney’s Meech Lake Accord. As a minority of one, the Oji-Cree politician opposed the Accord due to First Nations issues. His obstinate rejection ultimately led to the 1995 Québec Referendum which narrowly was won by the pro-Canada side. The tables have turned and present day Canada has been gripped by the tyranny of the vocal minority.

On July 10, 2017, a local Halifax Mi’kmaq activist threatened in a Facebook post that her group was ‘REMOVING CORNWALLIS’ the next Saturday at 12 pm. Uttering threats to destroy property is an offense according to the Criminal Code of Canada Section 264.1(1)(b) punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. The group repeated their threat right up until the morning of the event. The authorities, led by Halifax’s mayor, Mike Savage, had no intention to uphold Canadian law prior to or on that day but instead caved to the strident minority and draped the beleaguered statue of the city’s founder in a tarp. The few police officers present appeared to be there in case of a counter-protest. Regardless of ample evidence that Governor Edward Cornwallis was not a Hitler-like tyrant bent on Native genocide, the statue’s days are numbered and it will probably be quietly removed in the dead of night similar to Confederate statues in the US Southern states. The press has been complicit in pushing the narrative because except for one excellent counter-balance article on the full history, all they focus on is the Governor’s 1749 bounty on the Mi’kmaq. Zero mention is made of the war that was being waged or of the atrocities committed by both sides. A person has to dig deep to learn of the rescinding of the decree in 1752 in an attempt to make peace. Revisionist zealots flaunt the law at will and the silent majority are being fed one-sided stories to keep them quiet.

There are a few rare individuals and groups who dare point out the hypocrisy and lawlessness of minority special interest groups. They are quickly condemned as neo-Nazi, alt-right, misogynistic, hate groups by the press and minorities in question. A group that publicly identified the threat uttering members of the July 15 event was taken to task by the press for ‘doxing’. The activist group’s transgressions were swept aside but the angle to charge this alt right group with a criminal act was fervently pursued. It was the same for members of the Proud Boys group that peacefully confronted a prior Cornwallis protest. The men were pilloried nation-wide and have probably irreparably harmed their military careers. Taking a recent example from Quebec, the rejection of a Muslim only cemetery was condemned as a racist, far right act that disappointed PM Justin Trudeau. Instead of raising the question about religious discrimination over the fact that it was going to be a Muslim only cemetery, the top politician of the land went straight to siding with the minority who will be claiming their human rights have been infringed. The message is loud and clear to the majority. If you oppose the edicts of the politically correct monoliths of the power elite and mainstream press, you will be set upon. As the vast majority of the majority just wants to go about their lives, nary a brave soul will pop their head above the wall for fear of having it lopped off in a frenzy of social media powered righteous justice.

It is only occasionally, that the majority rises up in indignation over particularly egregious decisions of our political masters and their minions. It was telling when a poll saying 71% of Canadians opposed the Amar Khadr $10.5M payout. The elites and the press came out telling us to put up with the decision. Trudeau cited Charter issues as the justification and a sudden fervor to reign in government spending. But like in a hotly contested hockey game, savvy, regular folk cried foul because they know cherry-picking when they see it.

Hypocrisy is hypocrisy and people notice. Anti-establishment splinter groups dictating who can participate in LGBT(assorted letters and numbers) parades are giving black eyes to a movement that was accepted by the mainstream for promoting inclusivity. Collectively, the rest of us are going, ‘Hold on there, we’re supposed to bend to your will but it doesn’t go the other way?!?’

Another hotspot that strikes a common chord with the masses is the occasional spat over vanity license plates. If only one person finds your plate to be offensive for whatever reason, the authorities will revoke it. ASIMIL8, GRABHER, and this list of ICBC rejected plates are all verboten for various arbitrary reasons. The rejections are all done anonymously by some triggered individual or by some faceless bureaucrat. The plaintiff faces long court battles against the politically correct State who feels free to trample on their rights of free expression on the off chance that some minority group or individual may feel offended.

This full on censorship of sensitive subjects that may ‘trigger’ minorities has been aided and abetted by our national broadcaster, the CBC. They are acting as a proxy propaganda arm for these minority groups as they have put a lock down on any sort of conversation regarding certain ‘subjects’. There is zero commenting allowed regarding the Native, LGBT, or Muslim communities. Granted, there is enough hate speech directed towards these subjects and the moderators would have their hands full deleting inappropriate opinions. But pretty much every Trump story is opened for comments which are dripping with vitriol. Supposedly, an old, rich, American white guy and his ‘privileged’ supporters are fair game for hate speech. I do not believe in free speech that masquerades as a method of cyber attacking but when you shut down all conversation, it kills any sort of dialogue designed to move an issue forward.

Maybe I should put in my own complaint for my Charter Rights of free expression being suppressed. I regularly make comments on the CBC forum boards and fairly often my content is ‘disabled’. The moderators can block it or after someone has flagged my comment, it can be blocked and deleted. For example, this particular comment was disabled four times as some individual decided to keep flagging it: ‘Trudeau is addicted to playing the Showboater Extraordinaire. All politicians enjoy the limelight and attention, it is part of the process of relentless self-promotion. But he’s all pot smoke and fancy socks with little substance. He’s been jetting around being seen by the ‘right’ crowd and making sure to march in all the politically correct parades. His office was able to shoehorn in a brief trip to the Stampede when literally a few hours away in BC there are 40,000 evacuees in a province in crisis. You can debate the value of the PM visiting a disaster scene but he was quick with the selfies while filling a sandbag in Quebec and ran up to a Northern area to discuss the emergency issues up there. But he hasn’t said word one about the BC Wildfires. I guess he’s more comfortable with special interest, in vogue causes instead of the plebian mainstream issues that affect the bulk of Canadians.’ The Ministry of Truth is making sure that only their dialogue and message makes it out to the masses.

Similar to the grassroots phenomenon that brought Trump to power in the States, I predict that Canada’s masses will eventually rise against the elite politicians, mainstream censoring press and vocal minorities who seek to push their narrow minded, special agendas. Eventually, the nail which is the tyranny of the minority will hurt the old dog enough that he/she/it/some gender neutral pronoun will get up and shake out some common sense where the needs of the few do not outweigh the needs of the many.


Men to Aspire To

I was fortunate this week to meet three men whom I would confer celebrity status to. What is depressing is in all likelihood very few Canadians would be unable to identify them and what they are known for. How about you, could you name the Leader of the Official Opposition, the CDS and the former senator best known for his work to rid the world of child soldiers?

I drove an hour to meet Andrew Scheer at a Conservative BBQ out in Brookfield, NS last Monday. He was in my top three for my balloting choices for the new leader and I wanted to see what kind of man he was in person. Well, he’s a tall fellow. For some reason that doesn’t come across when you see him on TV during House of Commons question periods. He’s definitely a family man who has a passel of kids, five, all about 12 and younger. I had a chance to say hello to his wife and had a few words with the older son, who I found to be quite intelligent and able to hold a conversation. Mr. Scheer did the obligatory speech for the crowd but kept it short and light. When I shook his hand, I had to rib him about his Roughriders losing to my Bombers during the inaugural game at the new Regina stadium. All in all, he seems like a decent prairie boy and I am happy he is the new Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Through my Royal United Services Institute of NS connections, I was able to attend the Chief of Defence Staff’s unplugged talk about the new Canada Defence Policy. General Jonathan Vance has an impressive pedigree starting from joining back in the 80’s, to commanding troops in Afghanistan, to making it as the top soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces. He is not a tall man but neither were his army predecessors Gen Rick Hillier or Gen Walt Natynczyk. I have met a few CDS’s over the years, the first one at CFB Summerside, PEI. I got to carry Gen John de Chastelain’s briefcase for a short period of time while he was visiting the air base. Gen Hillier was attending an Officer’s Mess function at 19 Wing Comox in support of a Boomer’s Legacy event. He definitely held rock star status. As for Gen Natynczkk, I was the OPI for a large mess function in his honour. He had been up for a flight with the Snowbirds and was a little green around the gills from the experience. It is always good to hear from these movers and shakers of the military as their vision by definition shapes the future of the military. Gen Vance is a consummate public speaker and was firm in his belief that contrary to the skeptics, the Defence Policy will hold the CAF in good stead for the next twenty years. I also liked the fact that he had little patience for a retired Major who was spouting nonsense over the recent ‘Proud Boys’ incident. I liked what I heard from the CDS and I feel the CAF is in good hands.

The last man that I was honoured to meet in person for the third time in my life, was LGen (Ret’d) Roméo Dallaire. It was close to a decade ago when I first met him giving a talk about Rwanda and child soldiers at the Syd Williams Theatre in Courtenay, BC. He took the time to greet as many people as he could to sign copies of his ‘Shake Hands with the Devil’ or to listen to your comments. It was obvious to me that he had the ghosts of a million Rwandans on his conscience. I met him again when he and a group of fellow senators came through Venture, the RCN training school in Esquimalt, BC for MARS officers, for a tour. Now, a few years later, I jumped at the chance to meet him again as he was giving a talk about his Dalhousie University program, Veteran Trainers for the Eradication of Child Soldiers (VTECS). Again, it must be a thing with army officers, he is not a large or tall man. Simultaneously, he comes across as frail and tough as nails. You can tell that he memorized his talking points long ago and they come off his tongue as old, familiar friends. He is also a man who doesn’t brook any guff and adroitly told a questioning twerp to ‘F’ himself after accusing him of war crimes. It has become popular for the supporters of the Rwandan perpetrators of the genocide to twist the massacre to shift blame to the retired general. This conspiracy theory has been thoroughly debunked along with the blame that the general was responsible for the deaths of ten Belgian peacekeepers at the start of the genocide. It is disheartening that along with the ravages of his PTSD, the man must put up with these unfounded accusations. As for his PTSD, according to his last book, ‘Waiting for First Light’, it seems as if death may be his only final release. I was quite impressed with the book and felt it was the best of his three works to date. I made a point to handwrite a thank you note and was able to deliver it to him at the end of the presentation. There was recognition in his face when we shook hands, even though our past meetings were very brief. I would have to say that he is a hero of mine and it has been a pleasure to make his acquaintance.

I have been a student of leaders of men for many decades. Hence, I have no interest in the show boaters or narcissistic selfie takers. It is a good week when you can meet powerful men in person to see what they are made of.

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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.


Amanita muscaria v. formosa

Mystery Mushrooms

Growing up on a Manitoba farm, we were always gathering wild fruits, berries and wildlife to supplement our food supply. I doubt there are many people who have netted suckers in a ditch for canning or preserved the considerable amounts of wild berries that my mother did. As an avid outdoorsman, I constantly graze as I move, sampling what nature has to offer. The breasts of a prairie chicken taste particularly good cooked over a wood fire, meat from a squirrel less so. Later in life, I had the chance to discover the various tastes from the oceans and had some formal training from Air Force survival training. Outdoor tip: if you are bored with lots of time on your hands, rock lichen can be dried into ‘chips’ to fill a rumbly empty stomach.

When I first moved to BC, I became interested in mushrooms. Sure, everyone immediately thinks of the ‘magic’ variety but I didn’t know anyone with a horse paddock. Horse manure helps with the psychoactive ingredient for these ‘little brown’ shrooms. Instead, as I hiked through the mountain trails, I was curious about the dozens of varieties I came across and if they were edible. I recommend picking up The Field Guide to Mushrooms’ by Marie F. Heerkens as a starter book for those interested in fungi.

As most people are aware, you have to be careful with mushrooms and it is helpful to be 100% sure of what you are eating. I am going to talk of the Amanita muscaria v. formosa which is a close cousin of a look-alike mushroom called the Poison Amanita or Death Cap. Descriptors of the Amanita family include destroying angel, deadly, poison, possibly poisonous, edible but eat not, unknown edibility, etc. I think you get the picture. You indulge in wild mushrooms at your own risk.

But I am an adventurer when it comes to tasting new foodstuffs, so when these amazing orange mushrooms kept popping up in my front yard, I was curious of their edibility. To start with, I got out my field guide and was quite sure it was the Amanita variety known as Fly Amanita, Fly Agaric or Fly Poison. There seemed to be a theme with the names and indeed, flies seemed attracted to the little stand and were dying. Google is also your friend and I found helpful advice and research on How to Safely Eat Amanita Mushrooms.

  • Step One

Find some newly sprouted buttons and take a sharp knife to the stem. Give the mushroom a little shake to seed the ground with spores. Normally, you don’t want to yank out the entire mushroom so they will come back another season. But, big caveat here, the large bulb of the Death Cap just under the surface helps to give it away.

A nice stand of Fly Poison mushrooms in the button stage
  • Step Two

Wash the mushrooms off to rid them of dirt and the white spots on the caps. Then slice them into at least quarters or eighths.

Anything that is such a pretty orange is good to eat, right?
  • Step Three

Boil the orange out of them. The water soluble poison in the mushroom is called muscarin and can be boiled or steeped out of the flesh. The process turns the water a dark yellow pee colour. If you feel like vomiting, passing out or having a total body high, then eat a couple of these raw.

15 minutes of hard boiling rids them of their colour and hopefully the muscarin poison
  • Step Four

Fry them up in a little bit of butter and enjoy! Like all new foods, especially mushrooms, eat a little bit and wait. Survival books preach a period of 24 hours between small amounts. Take it easy and see how your body reacts. I nibbled on a purple mushroom out in BC that had obviously been nibbled on by the little woodland creatures. When my mouth instantly went numb, I felt it wise to spit it out!

Mmmmm, all food tastes better after it has been fried up with butter!
  • Step Five

Evaluate the taste and whether all the bother is worth eating more. I tried one mushroom first to see if there were any bad side effects and as there were none, I tried a larger batch a few days later. I did notice a slight numbing of my tongue after about 15 minutes and a bit of an upset stomach after about an hour. I did sleep it off partly because I wanted a nap and I think I had some overall body tingles. The mushrooms tasted okay but nothing to really write home about.

Moral of the story: be curious but careful especially when it comes to mushrooms. I probably won’t bother eating them again but I am going to see if they can help rid my garden of the bugs eating my cucumbers.

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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.


The average Canadian’s idea of a CAF peacekeeping mission

Canadian Dithering on Peacekeeping Mission

Three items related to Canada’s supposed promise to send troops on a UN peacekeeping mission happened this week. Outfits like the CDA Institute have submitted analysis on Canada’s New Defence Policy, the Globe and Mail has reported that a CAF sniper once again holds the record for the furthest kill shot and the MPs of the House of Commons are expected to rise for their summer break from June 23 to September 18.

Prime Minister Trudeau (in?)famously declared a day after the election on October 20, 2015 that “Canada was back!” This partly referred to our country’s readiness to get back on to the world stage as a peacekeeping nation. The CAF had been regrouping after 12 years of operations in Afghanistan and had taken an operational pause. The Liberals (cynical thinking) just wanted a coveted seat back on the UN Security Council or (altruistic thinking) wanted to bring Canadian ‘sunny ways’ to downtrodden portions of the planet. Looking at a calendar, this promise to our allies to help with the ‘heavy lifting’ is going on two years with no fulfillment in sight.

Reminiscent of The Economist’s take of a former Liberal PM, Trudeau is turning into ‘Mr. Dithers’ The Sequel. He is hedging his bets by judiciously spending Canada’s blood and gold on select hellhole missions around the world. The CAF has Special Operations Forces in hotspots sprinkled here and there and as evidenced by the record breaking kill shot, we are turning the ‘bad guys’ into pink mist. But these operations are by necessity shrouded in secrecy so if personnel are hurt or killed, the PR fallout is minimized. We also are making a big deal of a contingent of 450 soldiers being sent to bolster Latvia, CF 18s patrolling Iceland’s air space and a frigate in the Mediterranean under Operation REASSURANCE in an effort to blunt Russia’s burgeoning re-emergence as an aggressive military world power. The world may be sliding back into another Cold War but potential for onesies or twosies of Canadian flag draped coffins coming home is minimal. The government pumped out a comprehensive Canada Defence Policy which impressively lays out the CAF’s focus for the next 20 years along with substantive budget increases. There have been immediate results like overdue pay increases but the large expenditures will not kick in until after the next election cycle. Lots of good words and promises but very little in the way of solid rubber meeting the road.

About a year ago, the Minister of National Defence (MND), Harjit Sajjan made the rounds of African countries for potential Canadian peacekeeping missions in an effort towards due diligence before fulfilling the PM’s promise. The scuttlebutt has been Mali was the lead contender of Canadian peacekeeping largesse. Mali is a particularly nasty quagmire with open Islamic civil warfare, use of child soldiers, frequent and numerous peacekeeper casualties all with a liberal dash of IEDs. As a former Intelligence officer, the MND is no dummy. I think he and the PM got the shit scared out of themselves and they know dead CAF men and women will be regularly travelling the Highway to Heroes route if we send troops out on these peacemaking missions. This is why they dither when pressed on when the government is planning on making a decision.

I am no fan of sending CAF personnel into harm’s way. I have family and friends in uniform. I have lost military friends doing their duty. Frankly, in my opinion, some parts of the world are burning and that’s just the way it is. Let them sort their own crap out because all we seem to do as Western powers is muddy the water and waste our efforts. The government knows there is no upside to sending troops to a place like Mali, so they are stalling like mad hoping other world events or opportunities will come up. As reported by Murray Brewster of CBC, Canada has been presented with a long list of UN ‘marquee command roles’ missions and has turned them all down except for a plum position in New York. But with the rising of the House, the Liberals will push any decision further to the right by months until at least the fall session. Opposition MPs will rightly want a debate before sending CAF troops into obvious peril and this will be another excuse to, in military parlance, mark time.

There’s an old military adage related to the concept of leadership when it comes to making a choice. Either make a decision whether it is yes or no, follow or get the hell out of the way. Our allies like the Dutch in need of a tag-out in Mali and the Germans who wanted the use of our helicopters instead of theirs are probably pissed that Canada is all talk and no action. Perhaps the innocents who are being killed, tortured, raped, and maimed would like to stop holding out false hope that blue beret wearing Canadians are coming to their rescue. The world and our defence partners are realizing that Canadian ‘Sunny Ways’ and ‘Canada is Back’ talk is only so much blowing sunshine up their collective behinds.

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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.


A CAF Army service couple – Photo by: MCpl M. Ferguson, Canadian Army Public Affairs


This past Father’s Day and a recent news item about Acting Sub Lieutenant Laura Nash and her troubles got me thinking about the many unknown sacrifices military men and women in uniform make for their countries.

Most Canadians think of military sacrifice in terms of death or serious injury on some far away battlefield such as Afghanistan or the World Wars. Also, because of people like LGen (Ret’d) Romeo Dallaire and attention to veteran’s suicides, PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is associated with military service. People familiar with military families may also notice that they move quite often. But other than these items, the general public is oblivious to the multitudes of sacrifices a service person undergoes from Day Zero.

I will use my own military experience as a somewhat typical sample of a military career full of forfeiture. I rejoined the military in 2007 as I was selected for pilot training and had a chance to fulfill a childhood dream. The process had already taken about a year to that point. For most new inductees to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), you show up at the ‘Mega’ in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and you are directed to enter this quarter mile long building through the Green Door. I imagine it is similar to walking into prison. Immediately, you’re told how to dress, where to sit, how to speak and you have started Week Zero of Basic Training. All the freedoms and life’s normal pleasures are washed away until 14 weeks later, you could come out as a freshly minted officer. I already had a degree, so I was commissioned right away unlike the kids headed to military college. I will not even speak to their sacrifices but they are extensive. For myself, I was destined for a 10 month language training course in French. I am not particularly good in other languages, so I was going to be there for the long haul. Now even though there was another language school in Esquimalt on Vancouver Island just a few hours down from my family in Comox, I was not allowed to go. So I got to miss the Grade 9 and 12 years of my kids and almost missed my son’s graduation because of a change in my final language profile tests. To this day, I have never used French in any meaningful way as I am sure neither have many of my compatriots. The language school only kept the large number of pilot trainees in order to keep French language teachers employed. But that is just how things run.

Luckily, I had lived in the military town of Comox for some time and was able to secure an On-The-Job (OJT) posting with the local SAR squadron. I got to spend about a year at home, with courses here and there, and then I was off to Portage la Prairie, MB for flight training. Like many military men who did not want to uproot their family, I went on Imposed Restrictions (IR). Thankfully, the military has this program even though it is expensive to run. This go around, I missed Grades 11 and 12 with my daughter and had to make a special trip to see her graduation. Unfortunately, for me and about 20 other wannabe pilots, a Standards Officer decided to fail us all from Helicopter training. I was five years (about 3.5 years spent away from my family) into the process and a couple months from my pilot wings and I was cut.

My life went to shambles at this point as my wife left and I was adrift for many months waiting to see if the military would keep me or release me. I kept my employment and headed to Esquimalt, BC for training as a Maritime Surface and Sub-Surface officer (MARS). The kids were in university in Saskatchewan and Ontario, so I was pretty much on my own to start another rigorous training regime this time at sea. Way back in 1991, soon after my son was born, I was asked if I wanted to go MARS instead of releasing from the military. I knew I would basically say goodbye to my young family for about five years, so I decided to turn down the offer and took my release. This time around, I had nothing to lose being on my own, so I went for it. Out of the next five years before finishing with MARS, I was gone from my home close to three years. Meanwhile, I had been posted against my wishes to Halifax and had lost two great girlfriends in the process.

This is a minor scratching of my trials and tribulations while in uniform. But imagine a young man or woman trying to make a go of a relationship. Typically, women find men in uniform and then you have a Career Manager’s nightmare called a Service Couple. They pretty much go their separate ways to different provinces for many years and then if they want a family, the woman takes a hit to their career. The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has said the military is looking to mitigate this but I have seen quite a few MARS women officers just release at this point. For the men, they find civilian wives who start getting dragged around the country. Whatever careers they had or wanted end up being toast and quite often, they just have babies. They end up effectively as single parent mothers in a different part of the country away from friends and family. Anecdotally, military divorce rates are much higher than for civilians because of the contingencies of military life.

With regards to the young A/SLt who was told to choose between her young son and her MARS training, the internet lit up with condemnation over such supposed inhumane treatment. Civilians could not believe a woman would be told these were her choices, especially in 2017. It illustrates the great divide between civvies and the military. Ordinary folk have no idea of the sacrifices, mental and physical, necessary to become a military member. I saw one fellow near the end of Basic try to gut it out on a broken foot just so he would not have to redo the course. I had nearly blown both of my Achilles and could not walk without searing pain even though we were marching at least 10 miles a day. Another man had to ice his shins two hours a night due to the pain he was in. This was just Basic! The physical issues might wane slightly as you progress through training and your career but daily rigor and discipline are ever constant. Quite a few military members get deployed an average of 200 to 250 days for years before getting a break. Civilians will never understand what service people go through in an ordinary day let alone during a real battle. They have no right to judge and as far as I am concerned should have little right to drive policy as much as they have as I have observed over the last decade.

If you want a military life, be prepared to make sacrifices. It would be great for the young A/SLt to be a MARS officer and be able to look after her young son but it isn’t going to happen. She’s lucky that she got to keep her job for as long as she did. In the past, women who got pregnant were released immediately. Policies are changing and the military is working hard to lessen the sacrifices peculiar to women who ‘Force Generate’ humans. But I am somewhat disturbed by the attitude of the Rear Admiral who came up with this quip. He said that the old stereotypical attitudes on women were almost gone in the military’s upper echelons of power. Unlike men, they were stuck producing the kids and take harder hits to their careers. As a father who spent so much time away from his family, I posit that men miss their children just as much as a woman would. Society has this mythology built upon the women being the only ones capable of nurturing and caring for children, hence most kids end up with the mother after divorce. Men want a family life just as much as women do but it falls on them to foot the bills so they have to go further afield if work is not easily available.

During the Afghanistan War was the only time Canadian civilians would ‘thank me’ for my service because they thought we all went over there. Considering the everyday sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, civilians should be thanking every one of them every day. When was the last time you bought a drink for a military member?

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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.


Liberals Pledge to have the Backs of our Military Members

This past Friday, June 9, 2017, the Honourable Scott Brison, Member of Parliament for Kings-Hants, NS and President of the Treasury Board addressed members of the military and various stakeholders at the CFB Halifax Military Family Resources Center (MFRC). The Liberal’s long awaited Canada’s Defence Policy was unveiled to the public last week and the government is sending its representatives out to spread the news.

The CFB Halifax MFRC was a fitting backdrop for Mr. Brison’s speech as it concerned the ‘softer’ personnel-oriented portions of the Liberal’s Strong, Secure, Engaged themed Defence Policy. He described how they are providing an extra $147 million to MFRCs across the country to boost support to military families. He briefly spoke about how the government has laid out their 20 year plan with boosted funding through to 2026-2027. Plus he described the lengthy and thorough process of consultation with Canadians and allies. The government tried to dovetail the wishes of our citizens with what our defence partners were doing. It has been a lengthy process and the government realizes that the men and women in uniform are the heart of the organization.

After the preamble, Mr. Brison spoke on some specifics of the new policy which should alleviate the stress and angst of our military members. He stated that the transition process for our military members has not had a good track record. Men and women who have taken off the uniform have felt abandoned, victimized and bereft of benefits. There is a moral responsibility to look after those people who had the country’s back and Mr. Brison pledged that his government will do a better job in the future.

To that end, as part of the new Canada’s Defence Policy, there is a section dedicated to Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel and their families. Entitled, Well-Supported, Diverse, Resilient People and Families, the full text of the document can be found here.  Mr. Brison emphasized four key points:

  • A Personnel Administrative branch will be created whose purpose will be to help military personnel throughout their career with the end goal of easing transition back to civilian life.
  • The medical services of the CAF will be augmented by 200 personnel which will include experts in transition care. Injured military members with have definitive care in place before release.
  • A new CAF Transition Group of 1200 personnel will be created. The composition will be 400 staff who will be working with 800 ill and injured military personnel. The goal will be to either get these personnel well enough to return to duty or to successfully transition them to civilian life.
  • The last major initiative announced was that all benefits, such as pension payments, will be in place before a member is released.

This news and these new policies could have come sooner with regards to my own difficult transition to civilian life. I was given three weeks notice of my departure from the military and had little time to prepare. I had some loose plans put together for life after the Regular Force that involved the Reserves but those were dashed when I ‘accidentally’ discovered I wasn’t allowed to reapply for at least five years. The Navy is still holding back a quarter of my last pay cheque due to auditing purposes. Thankfully, I wasn’t waiting on a pension check because I doubt that would have started without a lengthy delay. Heck, even the CAF pin and Wardroom departure gifts I was promised have not even arrived after six months. Hopefully, current CAF members from now on can be spared some of the hardship that seems so common when the uniform is taken off for the last time.

There are plenty of new policy initiatives such as the pay raises, deployment income tax relief, family support measures, etc. that should increase the general morale and welfare of CAF members. Although there was no timeline given by Mr. Brison for all the new programs, the attendees and myself were cautiously optimistic that the government will do the right thing by the men and women who stand on guard for thee.

Blair’s LinkedIn Profile

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.


Fall of 2003 Dive Rescue Team Logo – Credit to Bob McCauley


Good news for the CCG Dive Rescue Team. Reports from my Coast Guard contacts say that the decision to axe the team has been rescinded. There was much rejoicing! Making some noise seems to have worked plus last week the unit saved the lives of 2 adults and 5 children who were clinging to their capsized vessel. Penetrating the wreck wasn’t necessary but they could have gone inside if needed. Hopefully the team’s stay of execution lasts for awhile.


Ardesco ab Venter

The title, loosely translated from Latin, means Fire from the Belly. This was the motto of our 2003 Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Dive Rescue training class while we struggled through the labours Tim, John and the other trainers subjected us to in the pool, at the dock shed in Steveston village, Richmond and at the Kitsilano Coast Guard station (CGS). We were the second of two groups trained that year to become members of a newly formed, elite, one of a kind in Canada Dive Rescue team destined to operate out of the CCG Hovercraft station based at Sea Island, Richmond, BC.

Reminiscent of other past Liberal and Conservative government decisions to cut CCG programs like the original dive rescue team, manned lighthouses and the Kitsilano CGS, Trudeau’s government recently announced their intention to axe the current Dive Rescue team and reallocate the $500,000/year savings and personnel to other CCG areas. Search and Rescue (SAR) experts, industry, the public and politicians are lining up against this short-sighted decision while the government plays a bait and switch policy saying they are increasing total CCG funding. As an aside, the CCG has been chronically underfunded for decades and is in woeful shape.

Related links

While determining budgets and public policy, it is difficult for politicians to determine the correct programs and facilities to fund and support. Similar to shutting down a fire hall, you have an emotional public (who votes you in) on one side and bean counters (purveyors of fiscal reality) with hard statistics on the other. In a case of absurdum, you don’t want to over-react to a perceived issue like Homer Simpson and his ill-conceived Bear Patrol.

I would like to present arguments that are both emotional and logical in favour of keeping the Dive Rescue unit intact.

Working as a first responder is a calling, not a labour. I had my first taste of Search and Rescue (SAR) as a young man posted to CFB Summerside, PEI. The waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence were particularly treacherous mid-December 1990 and numerous sailors from Le Bout de Ligne, Nadine, Straits Pride II and a couple of foreign cargo vessels lost their lives in the three day storm. CCG ships, military aircraft, commercial and fishing vessels conducted a multi-day search. I volunteered to fly in one of the 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron Buffalos as a spotter. Conditions were atrocious in the rear of a bucking Buffalo. The aircraft was being buffeted by 70 knot winds while we flew 500 feet over 70 foot high waves. Reports from a CCG ship stated that sea conditions were so bad that lifeboat survivors next to the ship couldn’t be brought onboard before succumbing to the elements. Most sane individuals run away from conditions like these while SAR personalities see it as an opportunity to deter Death’s collection of souls for that day. I didn’t see a damn thing in the back of that Buffalo in all the hours patrolling back and forth between PEI and Newfoundland but I imagined that those doomed sailors died knowing that we at least tried. The collective SAR effort saved none of the three Le Bout de Ligne sailors, two of the ten Nadine sailors and three of the six Straits Pride II sailors that night. Divers from CCG Ship G.C. Gorton recovered one of the victims from the wreck before it sank. I am sure the families of the rescued and recovered sailors were not thinking of the cost of the efforts put towards finding their loved ones.

CCGS Sea Island Dive Rescue Unit Crest

Fast forward 13 years and I was a newly trained Rescue Specialist with the CCG Dive Rescue Unit. We were pumped up after an intensive seven week training course (last I heard it is now a thirteen week course) and eager to put our life saving skills to use. Media attention was high, we were giving tours, interviews and receiving plenty of favourable press coverage. I did not have a long wait before my first major incident as just a few shifts into my new career, my team responded to reports of a security van in the water at the Vancouver Centerm Pier. The call ran like clockwork. We arrived on scene well within our rescue window, fire trucks were lighting up the area where they said the van had hit the water and we had a diver deployed within minutes. All good except there was no van, no occupants and no rescue. I was the third diver in the water when word came down that our Captain had discovered evidence (scratches on the pier’s bull rail) that the van was probably at the stern of the hovercraft rather than the bow where we had been directed to search. Through no fault of their own, the land based emergency services had pointed us in the wrong direction and we were well past rescuing a husband and father of two young children. Disbanding the Dive Rescue unit will severely diminish inter-agency cooperation and the knowledge base between the CCG, the military and civilian emergency services. Over fourteen years of hard fought expertise is in danger of being lost if this decision goes through. The grown children of that deceased security guard will not be happy that lessons from their father’s death will be forgotten.

Unimaginative bean counters and CCG brass have been whittling away at the Sea Island dive team for decades citing cost as a major issue. I understand that sometimes you have to equate a dollars and cents figure to how many lives have been or may be saved by a particular organization. In my three plus years with the Dive Rescue unit, I saved one life while diving. I also participated in many dive incidents where we were too late. So if you’re looking for bang for your buck, Dive Rescue is a long shot. But if you’re looking at discontinuing the dive capabilities, then who is going to dive on the 10 to 12 vehicles per year that end up in the Lower Mainland waters to check for occupants? Who is going to respond to distressed divers at Whytecliff Park, or the artificial reefs off Vancouver Island and in Howe Sound? Who is going to check overturned vessels or crashed aircraft for survivors? These are just stats of my participation let alone the decade’s worth of SAR calls since I left the unit. Military SAR Technicians, police and fire units are not equipped, or do not have the expertise to respond adequately or timely to the incidents that routinely are attended to by the Dive Rescue Unit. The closest divers who could respond to a vehicle in the water along the Fraser would be the SAR Techs of 442 Squadron based out of Comox on Vancouver Island. There will be gaps and people will needlessly die as impotent rescuers standby.

The plan is to keep the hovercraft and a rescue team operational at Sea Island. They will reduce the five person Rescue Specialist team from five down to probably two. This will drastically reduce the value added capabilities of the response team. During my time at the station, only approximately 10% of the SAR calls involved diving with the rest being a grab bag mix of tracking down ELT/EPIRB signals, vessels in distress, transferring summer sun worshipper patients from Wreck Beach, looking for persons floating in the water, etc. In addition we did buoy tending (visited Sand Heads Light a lot), pollution response (recovered discarded buoy batteries tossed in the water by previous CCG technicians), Community outreach (public tours and numerous media clips), marine patrols (summer standby for Vancouver’s Celebration of Light fireworks shows) assisting university and Department of Fishery scientists, etc. It never hurt to have a few extra trained bodies on hand as spotters, helpers or extra muscle especially for the more involved SAR incidents or day to day CG activities.

The nightmare scenario and the reason for hovercraft stationed near Vancouver International Airport since 1968 is to provide emergency service for an aircraft going down in the low tide mud flats next to the airport. The mud extends for miles and hovercraft are the only practical means of rescuing large numbers of survivors before the tide comes in to drown them. Just such an accident occurred on January 2, 1966 when a Grumman G-21A Goose flown by BC Air Lines overshot a runway and landed out in the tidal flats. It was difficult to extract the 10 survivors as the only means to reach them was by helicopter. A couple of years later, on February 7, 1968, a Canadian Pacific Boeing 707 nearly did the same thing while skidding off the airport’s runway. If the aircraft had continued on into the mud or the shallow waters of a low tide, rescuing the 61 crew and passengers onboard would have been challenging. Later that year, in August, two SRN-6 hovercraft started regular operations from the station. In 1971, Captain John McGrath became the station’s Officer-In-Charge and was instrumental in acquiring the larger hovercraft replacements for the SRN-6s. His other major project was to develop and implement his vision for a fully staffed Dive Rescue capability. Captain McGrath, with the help of Rescue Specialist Tim McFarlane realized this dream with the creation of today’s Dive Rescue unit in 2003. But by government logic, since the Vancouver International airport has never had a serious large scale crash in the mud, then why continue the costly funding of the station and its two expensive hovercraft? Why not retire the hovercraft and rely on shallow draft 733/753 Zodiacs and hope if a plane goes in that it happens at high tide?

The voices against the removal of the Dive Rescue Unit are beginning to intensify. There are clear emotional and logical arguments to keep these knowledgeable, dedicated, experienced heroes in place. The half million/year reported ‘savings’ amounts to .02% of the CCG’s 2017 reported $2.5-billion budget. (If you watch the Simpson’s clip, you’ll see how upset Homer gets over a measly extra $5 Bear Patrol Tax.) Like my former classmates, these dedicated CCG personnel fight with ‘fire in their bellies’ while providing a demonstrated public service to the citizens of their SAR area of responsibility.

Keep the divers at Sea Island and tell the Liberals to stop trying to repeat tragic history.

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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.


The Common Earthworm

Tales from An Urban Worm Herder

With the Navy behind me and extra time ahead of me for the pursuit of other interests, I have turned my hand to the exciting profession of Worm Whispering. The Canadian Maritimes are experiencing their usual cool, wet spring which has generated perfect conditions for numerous wiggly  Lumbricus terrestris (the common earthworm) to squirm their way across my nearby parking lots and pathways.

So, why take up whispering for earthworms? Some serious worm experts at the University of Illinois have put some heavyweight study into the little animals and you can read all about Squirmin’ Herman and his amazing benefits at the following link:

One of the interesting facts that I learned when I started this new profession was that worms are not coming to the surface because of the rain drowning them out of their burrows. Rather, after a good soaking, it signals to the animal that this would be a good time to start a worm pilgrimage to see if in fact the dirt is dirtier on the other side.

They are ambitious, determined creatures. Straight line distance across my parking lot is about 100 feet making it quite the trek if you were wiggling along on your belly. As you can see in this video, this worm was moving at a blistering speed of 8 inches per minute or .0076 MPH. Cutting straight across the lot, a determined worm could make it in 2.5 hours. Impressive!

Okay, now that you aspiring worm herders are jacked on the benefits of worms, let us get to know the relevant parts and characteristics of your typical wiggler. The diagram above shows the main parts of your common earthworm or night crawler. They are weird, little beasts who are both male and female, hermaphrodites, so when two worms get together to ‘do it’, they double their pleasure. Mmmmm, pornographic worm sex! Yeah, probably not a big seller. Anyways, stuff goes in the mouth end and worm poop gold comes out the back end. Also, note the Clitelum (yes, a little dirty sounding and is related to more worm sex). Also known as the Saddle, this is an important landmark for when I explain the best method of gathering a healthy starter crop of worms. Lastly, the entire worm is covered in goo that enables it to inch along the pavement or through the dirt and keeps it from drying out.

Okay, enough prepping, let’s get hunting! The best time and place to find your future herd is to go to the nearest parking lot at the tail end of a solid rain event. You have to be quick or cars and birds will take their toll first. When I was neophyte to the profession, I would just pick up a worm with my fingers. As you can see in this video, as soon as they are touched they employ their defensive mechanisms. The slippery goo makes them hard to pick up, your fingers get icky and you’re stressing out the worm.

Here’s my patented method for successful, efficient worm harvesting and re-settling:

1)  Find a butter knife and a worm receptacle. Early into my new career, I determined that I needed something to carry the worms in besides my hands. There were a lot of them plus I’m pretty sure those horny worms were having sex as I carried them back to my garden plot. You can use a plain cup but I went upscale with Tina’s $12 Pampered Chef Tupperware measuring cup.

Tools of the Worm Whispering trade

2)  Find an unsuspecting worm and as demonstrated in this instructional video, slide the knife under the worm just aft of the Clitellum or Saddle, smoothly lift the specimen and plop it into your waiting worm carrier. You will soon figure out where the balance point is and if you worm whisper correctly, the worm will be limp and docile. The novice worm whisperer will startle their prey and they will rapidly contract and try to squirm away. It gets a little trickier to balance them on the knife but persevere to get the hang of it. If the worm has its head near some dirt, you have to be especially swift of hand before it deploys its setae. These are hair-like bristles so strong that you might pull the worm in two. Since worms can regrow the back half of their bodies, this is a defensive mechanism where a bird can get a meal and the worm can live another day.

A successful hunt! (Strangely, Tina doesn’t want her measuring cup back.)

3)  Remember to pace yourself. I have a recurring worm herding injury from so many deep knee bends.

4)  Gather worm movement intelligence from the neighbors and your significant others. Remember to reassure them you’re not some creepy person stalking their parking lots or some unemployed fisherman hunting for bait. When they understand your role as a worm protector and saviour, they are more likely to just view you as a harmless kook.

5)  Just like playoff hockey, worm whisper with your head up! Some of the best specimens are right in the middle of the road and you don’t want to end up squished like a worm. Speaking of squished worms, you can pick up the dead ones too as their bodies are good worm food and fertilizer for the garden.

Find an open, turned up section of your garden for your worm wriggle’s new home.

6) Once you’ve got a decent bunch or wriggle of worms, head back to your dirt pile. Keep an eye on them as they will squirm right out of their carrier. Find an open spot that has been turned up and loosely cover them in dirt. From there, let your worms do what worms do, ie. have worm sex, eat and poop.

Loosely cover to hide the worm hanky-panky, then enjoy your new worm farm.

Hopefully I have inspired more people to take up the profession or as I see it, the calling, of Worm Whispering. During the harvest you get lots of exercise and if you time it right, you can take a free shower in the rain. Later after a successful day of herding, you can relax by the garden and listen to your worms happily hump. Your summer garden and inner soul will thank you.

Happy hunting fellow Worm Whisperers!

Blair’s LinkedIn Profile

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 (and Worm Whisperer) to the list.


The old-timey method of looking up the meaning of a word

Vulgarity in Society

In the past, vulgarity was referred to as using colorful language or swearing like a sailor. It was out of place during High Tea or while attending church. But amongst the first words  most young people want to learn in a new language are the ‘bad’ ones so you can sneak a few past your parents at the dinner table. Back in the day, the consequences were no worse than the threatened washing your mouth out with soap.

Fast forward to our Politically Correct climate where certain ‘trigger’ words seem to leave people ‘utterly devastated’. Blue Jay’s fielder, Kevin Pillar, yells the old term for a British smoke (fag) during the heat of the moment and he’s almost in tears afterwards in the press scrum talking about his 2 game suspension. Anaheim Ducks Captain, Ryan Getzlaf, shouted ‘Fucking Cocksucker’ at a referee during a game and received the highest fine the NHL is allowed to levy. The media immediately trotted out offended and disappointed homosexuals for their reactions and the last bastion of male dominance has been brought to their knees. Hockey players are literally beating each other black and blue with barely controlled violence but a tasteless insult offends and shocks the sensibilities to the point where it must be smote from on high?

Trigger words come and go as time changes what is culturally acceptable. Some heinous words are forbidden to utter under any circumstances. The ‘N’ word is so verboten, it caused a minor uproar during a recent Canadian Senate committee meeting that was debating the deletion of gender pronouns. The ‘C’ word that describes a nasty woman is an example of a particularly unpleasant retort that offends women of an older generation. Homophobic slurs that were very common to my generation have now been elevated to the infamous status of displaying a swastika or shouting ‘Sieg Heil’.

Offensive language is language and has been used throughout history. If you can get past the hurt feelings and censoring, it is interesting to learn where certain terms come from. ‘Cracker’ seems to have a long, rich history and was used to describe ‘white trailer trash’ as far back as the 1590’s. Quebecers were called ‘Pepsi’s‘ because they couldn’t afford the more expensive Coca Cola. Acadian swear words do not follow typical anatomical or sexual idioms and make little sense outside of the Roman Catholic context. Cup, tent or The Host (en francais, câlisse, tabarnak, osti) when used as vulgarity make people in Paris laugh because they sound like nonsense words. Chilean curses are a bit confusing depending on context. For example, ‘Weon‘ depending on who says it and the inflection can mean an endearing term for a buddy or a crude way of calling you a fucker. As for the Newfies, a faggot to them is a pile of half fried codfish, so heaven knows what they’re saying.

Coming back to the Senate meetings, it may seem silly that the larger populace may someday be criminally restrained from using gender pronouns because it offends the transgender and gay communities. But the fluffy, homogeneous, marshmallow PC censor’s goal is to make society as bland as tapioca pudding.  Label everything that could be possibly offensive to any minority group as hate speech (eg. Bill M-103) and you will be able to curb free speech and to guide us into their Orwellian future.

After a quick perusal of the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, I easily found each naughty word used in this essay and its meaning. Should we adopt Orwellian theory and have a good old fashioned electronic book burning erasing all traces of ‘offensive’ literature? Maybe instead of pulling our hair out over a few obnoxious insults, we should take a step back and put vulgar language into perspective. I don’t think a hurled word here and there needs the wrath of social justice raining down on the offender. Save that righteous indignation for those who preach and practise intolerance.

But instead, I fear the PC crowd will not be happy until Ministry of Truth Thought Police reprogram us all at the Ministry of Love.

Blair’s LinkedIn Profile

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.


The utilitarian sandbag, aka this year’s Ontario and Quebec lawn ornament

Reformation of Canadian Emergency Measures

Irrespective of the political mantra of preparing for an increased frequency of fires, flood and pestilence in Canada due to climate change, the average person should be prepared to go 72 hours relying on their own resources before expecting help from government services. Considering a significant number of people still die from BBQ Carbon Monoxide poisoning after the heat goes out, I would say the average person is woefully under-prepared to fend for themselves.

This last round of flooding in Quebec demonstrated the short-comings of our collective response to fluid situations during a disaster response. To begin with, the municipalities who are the front line responders to a crisis are also the same people who authorized putting people into harm’s way to begin with! Land and home owners are local governments largest source of tax income. Yes, the home owner should be doing some due diligence but they are relying on a real estate agent who is trying to make a sale and a hope that the municipality wouldn’t have zoned a house to be built in an unsafe area. Local politicians need to be operating more at arm’s length from the process. But it works out as a good deal because they’re playing the odds of a natural catastrophe being low and then if one does happen, they know the Federal government will pick up the tab. If I were the Feds, I would set up a different system to mitigate zoning habitation in known danger areas.

The next major change should be a more robust role for the military. As the system stands in Canada, a provincial government has to make a formal request for help to the Federal government for the troops to come in. This is called Aid to the Civil Power. Usually after a situation gets away from the local authority, the cries are heard of why wasn’t the military called sooner? There are many reasons such as:

  • Provincial and local officials/organizations do not have the experience to know when they’re getting over their heads. They have neither the training nor knowledge to adequately respond to larger incidents and can quickly be overwhelmed.
  • There may be a reluctance to call the military due to past incidents and prejudices. Oka officials weren’t too keen to have the troops come help in their flooded community.[1]
  • Pride is a factor. Newfoundland officials were reticent to call in the military in the aftermath of Hurricane Igor. Premier Danny Williams wasn’t a big supporter of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and this probably led to a delay in acceptance of federal aid.[2]
  • Perceived costs related to military aid are a factor. By the books, if the military is called in, the province is to pick up the tab. In reality, the Federal government will tally up a bill but only collects partial or no payment.

Under Minister Ralph Goodale, Public Safety Canada[3] coordinates the response to natural disasters. Their efforts trickle down to provincial, city and municipal Emergency Preparedness offices with varying success. Some jurisdictions such as Vancouver are very well prepared but that was because of the lead up to the Winter Olympic Games. One of the best legacies to come from that event was the implementation of E-Comm. E-Comm is a pan-communications system whereby all the disparate emergency services can talk to one another. Previously, the Lower Mainland’s many services wouldn’t have been able to coordinate relief efforts after a significant incident, such as an earthquake. But most areas of Canada don’t have the luxury of monies showered upon them for emergency preparedness, so they make do.

This is why military personnel should be co-managing the Emergency Management Centers (EMCs) similar to the model of the Joint Rescue Coordination Centers. Provincial officials and agencies lack the resources, knowledge and management experience of military personnel. They may run the occasional exercise to test their responsiveness but running exercises is the military’s raison d’etre. Military personnel typically have more experience dealing with, planning for and managing actual emergency situations. From day one in Basic, you’re put under pressure and taught how to survive, function and lead with little sleep, food, supplies or resources. This training plus a substantial bank of discipline, knowledge and expertise is continually honed throughout their entire career. During Brigadier General Turenne’s Operation LENTUS presentation[4] on the recent New Brunswick ice storm military response, he said that you could see the relief of the civilian responders immediately once the troops appeared. The locals were quickly becoming overwhelmed after a few days by even the simple tasks. As the BGen explained, his troops are agile, adaptable, scalable and responsive. Civilian officials/organizers/responders do not have the built-in tools, training or experience of military personnel at managing larger scale emergencies.

Since the military is going to back-stop the efforts of the local authorities, they should have a louder voice on the timing of the deployment and should be able to side-step the provincial officials. Currently, the admirals and generals are already keeping tabs on the domestic front through regular briefings on their areas of responsibility. They are well aware of possible problem incidents and if need be start the Warning Order process and concurrent activity in order to lean forward as much as possible. Their hands are somewhat tied as they have to wait for their official government marching orders. They’ll prod the provincial officials to consider calling for help sooner than later. Meanwhile, military units are quietly pre-positioning resources and personnel because they know the call is coming. If we already had military in the EMCs, they would be able to recognize the need for higher assistance earlier and would bring expertise to the table that their civilian counterparts are lacking. In the Navy or the Air force you’re taught to stay ahead of the ship or aircraft, not to swim in the wake.

The burning of the Town of Slave Lake in 2011 is a good example of when military management would have been more successful. The whole disaster could have been mitigated or avoided all together by the simple accessing of a weather briefing. Military members are constantly receiving or giving briefings in order to disseminate pertinent information. Every briefing starts with a Met Tech report on the forecast weather with associated meteorological products. I’m pretty sure the response to the small wildfires outside of town would have been beefed up if someone had paid attention to the forecast windstorm with its associated 100 kph gusts approaching. Even the Final Report on the Lessons Learned[5] from the fire makes no mention of keeping an eye on weather forecasts.  Civilians have access to important resources but they are either unaware or are ignorant of how to use them.

Minister Goodale noted in a recent press conference that they were going to take another look at the mechanism for responding to future Canadian disasters. Provincial officials should be given less latitude and the Federal government should give the military more latitude to respond without waiting for the red tape, egos and inexperienced civilians to catch up with fast flowing events. The Federal government is effectively picking up the tab anyways and the experts in the military should be running the show.

[1] The Oka Grand Chief unilaterally decided to decline the military’s offer of assistance citing possible hard feelings from the Oka crisis that occurred 27 years ago. Despite an all-out band effort, 30 homes were flooded and 8 were evacuated.

[2] The destructive force of Hurricane Igor was well predicted ahead of time. In addition, calls for federal assistance were delayed or never made. This exasperated the recovery of the storm’s victims.

[3] Public Safety Canada website.

[4] A PDF copy of BGen Turenne’s Operation LENTUS 17-01 presentation.

[5] PDF copy of Lesser Slave Lake Regional Urban Interface Wildfire – Lessons Learned.