***A part of this upcoming post deals with a recent case where a young Indigenous man was shot and killed by a ‘white’ farmer during what the latter perceived as a violent robbery.  The outcome of the trial determined that the farmer was not at fault and cleared him of all charges.  I have my own feelings about this case, largely based on what I read about it in the news. However, the media is an imperfect medium, making my opinions about the case just that: opinions.  Because this is an emotional case, I will be doing my best to keep my editorializing to a minimum, but my opinions won’t be completely absent.  So fair warning.***

So I recently did my Intermediate Leadership Course (ILP), a part of which dealt with Unit Disciplinary Investigations (UDIs).  Basically, these are the localized investigations conducted within a unit to handle minor discipline cases.  As part of this we got given a hypothetical scenario where two soldiers had been involved in a fight.  One had provoked the other, who had in turn not only thrown the first punch but had seriously beaten the provocateur.  Typically in a situation like this, the weight of military law falls more heavily on the instigator of a fight, but it this case the other soldier went way over the line and hurt this guy pretty badly.

We were given a question: Who’s the guilty one?  Who do we charge?

The question boils down to that age-old cry: Who’s side are you on?  The more I think about it, the more I find I’m really uncomfortable the question.  Mainly it’s the implied notion that there’s two sides (and only two sides) to a given conflict and to take one side means to automatically oppose the other in every way shape or form.  There’s no room left for the possibility that, while one side may be worse, the other still has much to answer for.  Sides must be chosen and adhered to, with facts treated less as a matter of investigation than as an advantage to be seized.

That’s part of the issue I have with ‘Who’s side are you on?’  Having just two sides shifts the conflict to a zero sum game.  With zero sum there is only a winner and a loser, not a sort of better/kind of worse.  This is dangerous because once you’ve crossed over to zero sum there’s an incentive to win rather than be right.

It’s the idea that you should be more interested in your side winning than what’s the reality.  This doesn’t allow for the option of treating a fault on ‘your side’ as something that needs to be acknowledged and corrected.  Instead it’s something that needs to be countered with an accusation of even worse behaviour from the ‘other side’ in order to ensure to ensure that the final balance is a favourable one[1].  Perhaps most dangerously, binary view lends itself to a mindset where, if the other side’s bad enough, your side becomes good without actually have to do anything.  The accumulated scores don’t matter, all that’s important is who’s ahead at the end.

This is a weak ass form of morality that just makes us worse people overall[2].

So back in August 2016 a group of young Cree men and women from the Red Pheasant Reserve in Saskatchewan drove onto the farm of Gerald Stanley.  They had a car which was stuck with a flat and were looking for a way to tow it, but being young and having spent a good part of the afternoon drinking, they came up with the genius idea of trying to steal a truck to do it.

This brought them to the Stanley farm, where one of the guys was trying to start an ATV when Gerald Stanley and his son confronted them.  What happened then is up for debate.  The Cree youths claiming the Stanleys attacked them and they were trying to get away, while the Stanleys insisted they were defending themselves against thieves who were trying to run them over with their vehicle.  What is clear is that at one point in the confrontation, Gerald Stanley retrieved a pistol from a nearby barn and shot one of the men, Colten Boushie (age 22), dead[3].

The ugliness of the confrontation got compounded by the follow up, where police seemed to focus more heavily on the Cree youths and not on Gerald Stanley.  Justice for Colten Boushie! became a rallying cry for First Nations activists across the province and then across the country. Farmers meanwhile saw in the case the crystallization of all their worst fears about crime and lack of policing.  By the time an all-white jury acquitted Stanley of second degree murder earlier this year, the debate (such as it was) had gotten toxic, and has shown little signs of improvement.

So this is a pretty dark place to be, but there’a point to it, and it does tie into Uprising. Remember Jim Riley?  The whiny double-PC Member of Parliament who seemed completely agreeable to General Bishop’s plans but who nevertheless is going to get sidelined and ignored for the rest of the novel?  Yeah, that guy.  Meet his real-life counterpart:


This is Robert-Falcon Ouellette.  He’s the Liberal Party Member of Parliament for the riding of Winnipeg Centre, the riding which contains much of the AOR for Alex Gabriel’s Battle Group.  He’s the real-life version of Jim Riley.

As you can see, he’s got excellent hair and a very personable expression, and based on the few times I’ve heard him on the radio, he seems like a generally decent guy overall.  He’s also served in the military as a (gasp!) reservist, and retired after fifteen years of service as a Sergeant Major.

So why is MP Ouellette such a repudiation of Jim Riley?  As we’ve already seen (and will see more of in a few weeks when we finally meet the Canadian Prime Minister in Uprising) Bland has a very dim opinion of certain segments of the Canadian population.  Politicians, media personalities and journalists, as well as civilians that happen to fall under his own personal nebulous concept of ‘liberal.’  Regardless of background, job, or other possible experiences, all of these people share similar class of characteristics making their behaviour predictable and interchangeable.

If you know one, you know them all.  Except maybe for Mr Ouellette:

[On the subject of farmer’s security fears.]

“Where the state is no longer able to respond to problems in society … where the police aren’t able to respond to all of the complaints by citizens in a timely manner, citizens start thinking to themselves well, if they can’t do it, I have to protect my own property,” he said.

“I think we placed everyone in an impossible situation by the failures of the system.… It really is a terrible thing, and it’s something that I don’t believe needed to happen.”

[On the subject of the trial]

“It’s very disappointing to hear that the jury was not representative of the population of Saskatchewan,”

“The Boushie family, they haven’t had justice, because they’ve lost a young person,” Ouellette said.

“I’m really sorry to the family that they lost a young man like that.… I feel sorry for our society because we’ve been placed in this impossible situation.”


So at first glance…this seems awkward.  Who’s side is Robert-Falcon Ouellette on?  He’s an Indigenous man, and a Liberal, so on paper that should put him in the Colten Boushie camp.  But here he is articulating the legitimacy of farmers’ security fears, which (you’d think) would only be acknowledge by die hard Gerald Stanley supporters.

You might be tempted to think that this is some cowardly, middle of the road non-commitment answer.  Maybe.  Except that Robert-Falcon Ouellette served a decade and a half in the military, has a working understanding of firearms and ROEs.  What’s more, he’s a Cree man who grew up on Red Pheasant Reserve, the home of the Boushie family.  He has every reason to take this personally and I don’t think he would have been out of line if he’d literally gnashed his teeth and rent his garments.

Maybe there’s more to it than a ‘white’/native perspective?  It’s a frightening thing to contemplate.  That both sides might have things to answer for.  Stanley may have had good reason to fear for his safety and he may have wrong when he shot Colten Boushie.  Boushie may not have deserved to die, but he was doing something stupid and criminal.

So which side is Ouellette on?  Not sure.  Why do we only have two choices?

This is where Bland’s PPC party misses the mark in comparison with reality.  In the real world people can be complicated, and can hold a diverse collection of views and insights.  Parties are made up of people, making them complicated entities by extension.

To be clear, individuals can be reprehensible, and parties can go through phases where the clowns are running the circus.  If Bland wanted the double-PCs to be a Liberal-type party that was going through a period dark period under unscrupulous leadership, we’d still be seeing people like Mr Ouellette here out on the periphery[4].  But we’ll never see this in Uprising because Bland can’t seem to conceive of anything other than politics as a zero-sum game.  Either you’re utterly good or utterly bad, there is no nuance, nothing in between.  Pay no attention to that man suggesting there’s a third option…

Which brings us back to the original scenario at the start of this post, with the two soldiers having a fight.  Who’s guilty?  Luckily my class had its fair share of crotchety old cynics so the answer was easy.  Both.  One of the things I like about the QR&Os (Queen’s Regulations & Orders) is that you don’t necessarily have to settle for the lesser of two evils.  Declaring one person to be more in the wrong doesn’t absolve the other at all.

Who’s side am I on?  I don’t know.  But if you’re asking, then it’s probably not yours.



[1] As Mark Twain once said, “Love your enemies!  They’re the only ones who’ll point out your faults!”

[2] This is not my own original opinion here, but a concept I’ve adopted from Fred Clark, the Slacktivist.  An American evangelical Christian of a more ‘liberation’ mindset, one of Fred’s regular themes is that danger posed by defining your own righteousness not by what you do, but by how much worse ‘those other people’ are in comparison.  Hence his frequent references to the ‘Anti-Kitten Burning Coalition.’

[3] Full disclosure: My issues with the case has to do with Stanley’s testimony, as it has been reported in the media.  Simply put, a lot of it doesn’t ring true to me.  Suspicion isn’t proof, which is why I’m not going to get into a debate about this, but I can’t shake the feeling regardless.

[4] Hell, even utter self-serving greed heads could be expected to at least protect the country in order to save their grift.

One thought on “Choosing Sides…

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