Before we begin: Something I picked up from last post. Col Dobson’s briefing made no mention of Alex Gabriel or any suspicions they may have about an attack out west in Winnipeg. The focus of his briefing is on Quebec. The result of this (in part) is that the focus of the federal government response will focus on Quebec as well. Winnipeg will be left unsupported.
Okay then, back to the story!
Hemp blinked at him. “So what are you suggesting we do?”
“What I’m already doing with the units we have – basically issuing preliminary orders to bring units and aircraft to a higher degree of readiness – to give you as many options as possible. There aren’t that many. But since you ask for my recommendation, I advise the cabinet to consider a three-point deterrence plan: first, a preventive deployment of small combat units to the James Bay region; second, bring the combat brigade in Valcartier to readiness to move into Quebec City and Montreal to support the SQ; and third, I also recommend that we begin to alert reserve unit headquarters to prepare, and to start recalling their people, for vital point protection duties.
So…this is interesting. We’re now four days into the uprising, with all kinds of red flags appearing across the country, and it doesn’t seem that the CDS has mobilized anybody. It’s not 100% clear in the text (editing is your friend, Douglas Bland!) but it seems like he’s only asking for permission to roll up the army right now! From the description of the scene leading to this meeting at the PMO, it didn’t seem like they’d even planned to ask for that permission today. Go back and read the intro scene to this section, where Bishop and Riley get summoned to the PMO. There’s no sense of ‘oh good, this’ll make it easier to present our plans.’ It honestly reads like they hadn’t planned to meet with the PM at all.
“I make these recommendations understanding, of course, that such measures would certainly reach the media. With all due respect to the, uh, public relations side of things, prime minister, as chief of defence staff, I am formally advising you that it is critically important that the government move to deter any violent disturbances before they occur. The hesitation of the SQ has already emboldened the native rebels and things are likely to get badly out of hand in short order if we don’t act.”
Gen Bishop’s certainly one to talk about hesitation…
The CDS is speaking as though there was some way to avoid media scrutiny at this point. With Quebec City and Montreal under virtual siege already it’s impossible that the streets aren’t already swarming with reporters, meaning that those weapons the SQ have already spotted are probably popping up on every news site’s front page right about now…
…hey, serious question: If Jack Hemp’s the PM who only knows how to make popular decisions, why doesn’t he have someone monitoring online traffic right now feeding him information from what the news organizations are saying?
…I mean, other than the fact that Bland really doesn’t seem to know a lot about the internet…
Hemp reached for a glass of water. “Well, Christ, we can’t go sending the army all over the place. I don’t want any obvious moves, and we can leave James Bay to the Quebec authorities. I assume they have the same intelligence that you have? So, General Bishop, you do whatever you need to do to ready your troops, but do it quietly, behind the scenes. Also, get somebody talking to the SQ, but I don’t think we can just walk into Quebec. It’s a bit tricky, you know.” Hemp hesitated, actually worse off for the information Dobson had given him, which had lessened his ignorance without increasing his understanding. “Okay, I see the big picture, thank you, colonel.” [Emphasis mine]
Notice the highlighted portions. The Prime Minister has asked a question, and delivered an implied order with a desired end state. Now this is not the best way to run a show like this. When there’s a lot of moving parts you want to make your instructions as explicit as possible, but it’s still right there in black and white. The PM wants the Quebec Provincial authorities to take charge of the security of James Bay, and he’s ordering the CDS to act in their support. In particular, he wants the CF to share information with the SQ, and explicitly asks them if this is already happening.
This shouldn’t be complicated for Gen Bishop. His boss has given him his marching orders – or some marching orders, at least, there should be more coming – and they’re pretty unambiguous. If this was scaled down to my level and it was me (as a Sergeant) sitting at that table, I would be writing frantically in my FMP. One would assume that a full General would treat it with similar gravity.
It should come as no surprise to any of us that Gen Bishop will not.
He will make no attempt to answer Jack Hemp’s question about what he’s shared with Quebec (nothing), or respond to the implied order that he liaise with the SQ to protect James Bay (he won’t). As far as the question was concerned, he could have literally just shook his head. This would have been enough to warn his boss that no, Premier Commeau was not privy to the intelligence the CF has. If there was some problem with the implied orders (say, the fact that nothing’s been done to fortify James Bay for the last four days, and that now may be too late for the SQ to do anything), he should be speaking up right now.
But what’s this we see coming around the bend? It’s another fourth wall break! Here comes Douglas Bland himself to tell us something he’s too lazy to put into one of his character’s head!
The “bit tricky” part Hemp referred to had also been a problem for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney during the 1990 Oka crisis. As a rule, Canadians tend to be sympathetic to native protestors, and recoil from any use of force against them – so long as the trouble isn’t in their own backyard, of course. Moreover, many English Canadians, fatigued at being called the oppressors of Quebec, were eager to side with natives crying “oppressor” at Quebec City.
Partial credit to Bland for (sort of) acknowledging that the French are Canadians too.
Part of the reason I keep going back to events like the Oka Crisis is because it helps back up my arguments by pointing to…you know…the last time in history that something like this happened. All that research helps me catch these little details that I just blew past during my first read through.
Brian Mulroney having trouble walking into Quebec? Prime Minister Brian Mulroney? This guy?:
Uh…Brian Mulroney was born in Quebec (Baie-Comeau), and represented Quebec ridings (Charlevoix and Manicouagan) for most of his political career. The man was (Anglo) Québecois through and through. In fact, his deep roots and affinity with ‘la belle province’ were key to his party’s election victories.
They were especially agitated when the Quebec premier, Madelaine Commeau, a separatist by conviction and a ruthless negotiator by nature, went on television crying for blood. “Les savages must be put down now and hard…Quebec will not put up with another Indian blockage of Montreal or attacks on the highways.”
“Listen,” Hemp said to the room, “here’s what Commeau said to me this morning. ‘Jack, there’ll be no more Okas. You get these Indians under control or I’m going to let the SQ sort it out. If that doesn’t work, I will call in the army and you know I can do it without your permission.”
Actually Hemp didn’t know anything of the sort. He was as ignorant of the laws governing civil-military relations in Canada as he was of anything else to do with the military. In his entire time in office, he had only talked to the CDS once, at a reception for the Secretary General of the United Nations.
I’m calling bullshit on two points here: 1) There is no way this is the first time the Prime Minister has met his CDS. Remember, Jack Hemp was the guy who promoted him to this job. And he promoted Bishop to this job for overthrowing the country of Zimbabwe and plunging Canada into a multi-year peacekeeping mission that is ongoing as we speak. Even if the mission’s been a relatively uneventful one (unlikely) it’s probably a safe bet that the PM and CDS must have sat down at least a couple of times a month to review what’s been happening.
Second of all, there is no way a left-wing Prime Minister of Canada doesn’t know at least the basics of Canadian emergency powers.
So check out this piece of Canadian history:
For those who are not familiar, this is the full extent of a famous interview given by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau (our current PM’s father) at the height of the FLQ Crisis (also called the October Crisis), literally hours before Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act and suspended civil liberties in Canada. At this point, James Cross (the British Trade Commissioner) and Pierre Laporte (a Québec MNA) had been kidnapped and the army had already been partially mobilized to provide security at Parliament Hill. Most of the time, when it’s shown in documentaries, they only show the scene where Trudeau utters the famous line “Just watch me” in response to a journalist’s question “How far would you go?” It’s worth watching the interview in its entirety for a couple of reasons:
One is that the elder Trudeau is seen by many as the quintessential Liberal Prime Minister, and as such the very embodiment of left wing politics in Canada. Even now I’m willing to bet that at least half the hatred his son Justin Trudeau is catching is residual bad blood for the old man. Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s life and history dominates the second half of the 20th Century in Canada, just like William Lyon McKenzie-King dominates the first half. If Jack Hemp is a left-wing politician, then he knows Trudeau’s legacy.
“Just watch me” should be the first place his mind goes right now.
The other thing to watch for is the part that comes up around the 4:00 mark. This is the exchange which eventually leads up to Trudeau’s famous “Just watch me” quote, but there’s a moment about a minute earlier (starting around 4:33) where the journalist (Tim Ralfe) is talking about why he rejects the use of military force in response to the FLQ: “…and my choice is to live in a society that is free and democratic and we don’t have people with guns running around in it…[Trudeau attempts to reply but Tim Ralfe keeps going]…and one of the things I have to give up for that choice is that people like you may be kidnapped…”
This is usually a part that gets cut out when they do a documentary about the October Crisis. Everyone homes in on the ‘Just watch me’ quote, but there’s not much focus on the exchange that brought it on.
“…people like you may be kidnapped…”
Pierre Laporte wasn’t just kidnapped during the October crisis. A few days after this interview was filmed, he would be murdered.
To the best of my knowledge, Trudeau wasn’t close to either James Cross or Pierre Laporte. [4a] Also, given that this was an impromptu interview, it’s safe to say that the Tim Ralfe probably misspoke when he said that he would trade Trudeau’s safety for his own freedom. On the other hand, while neither man had any way of knowing Pierre Laporte would be murdered, they also had no idea that James Cross would be released unharmed.
Even allowing for all of that…
***This is why I can never go into politics. Because I would have lost my shit at a comment like that….***
…sorry…getting back to business…
Look at Trudeau’s face when the journalist says it. At this point Trudeau was under a tremendous amount of pressure as his home Province threatened to tear itself apart on his watch. By this point he’d already been examining the possibility of the War Measures Act; a ridiculously draconian piece of legislation from the First World War that nobody thought was a good idea even as they realized it was the only club in the bag. He knew this option was on the table. He knew Laporte and Cross could both end up dead whatever he did. And here’s this journalist telling him it was alright if he got kidnapped.
Bland seems to imagine that politicians treat statecraft as a game from which they are firmly removed, and that they will be more afraid of negative press than perhaps outraged or angered. Pierre Elliot Trudeau was the ultimate Liberal PM, and he was painfully close to everything that was happening in the Crisis. The stress and the pressure of the situation was hitting him full force, not just in the abstract sense but in a real-life face to face encounter at the front doors to Parliament Hill.
“So someone tell me what she’s talking about,” Hemp said, getting to his feet and pacing around his chair, a sure warning to his staff that he was greatly frustrated. He spoke to no one in particular. “I can’t go shooting Indians in Quebec or anywhere else. The rest of Canada wouldn’t put up with it for a minute. What does she expect me to do, satisfy Quebec’s demand to fight their old battles with the Iroquois and tell the rest of Canada they don’t matter?”
Uh….I might be reading too much into it, but calling them Iroquois instead of Mohawks seems to be suggesting a kind of ‘age old vendetta’ take on Premier Commeau’s comments. The Iroquois Confederacy was a five (later six) nation alliance of which the Mohawks are the largest nation in the present day. The terminology has changed over the years (the Six Nations Reserve is now in Southern Ontario) and while the three big Reserves (Akwesasne, Kahnawake, and Kanesetake) are properly called the Kahniankehaka they are popularly referred to as Mohawks in the modern day.
Calling them Iroquois, while it may have some validity, seems to be harkening back to the colonial period of the 17th & 18th Centuries when the French colonists fought protracted wars with the Iroquois Confederacy (who were primarily English allies). It seems to be suggesting that the Quebec Premier is naturally inclined to fight Mohawks because French. Instead of this being a case of the Premier reacting (albeit poorly) to a real life current crisis.
He turned to the CDS. “General Bishop, what does she mean by saying she can call on the army without my permission? They’re federal troops, after all.” Hemp sat down and all eyes turned to the CDS.
The CDS hardly knew where to begin. A complex answer would befuddle the prime minister, but he decided to keep it simple for the moment; there was enough confusion in the room as it was.
“Prime minister, according to the National Defence Act, the provinces may request what’s called ‘aid of the civil power’ from the chief of the defence staff, who would then be compelled to provide armed forces whenever the provincial authorities believe they cannot control a riot or other threat to public safety.”
“In other situations of this sort, the FLQ crisis of 1970, for example, the problems at Oka and so on, the chief of the defence staff has, of course, informed the minister of defence and the prime minister of the request and his plan to respond and consulted with them. But it is his call whether he sends in a corporal’s guard or a brigade.”
The prime minister stared at him and snapped, “So you’re telling me if Commeau calls you and asks for the army, I just have to sit here and let her take them and use them as she sees fit?”
“In the starkest terms, yes, that’s the law, prime minister. If the premier of Quebec were to make a formal request, then I would be obliged to make some kind of response. But I hasten to add from what we know of the situation at this moment, there is as yet no need for an overt deployment of troops and I am prepared to tell Premier Commeau that in person.”
Whooookay!… We got some work to do!
First off, in modern day Canada there are only two legal mechanisms by which the military can be mobilized domestically, outside of Search & Rescue operations. The first is Aide to Civil Power, which is (as Bland describes) a request from a Province’s Attorney General for military aide. The other is the Emergency Measures Act, the less iron-fisted legislation that was passed in the ’80s to replace the War Measures Act.
Now, the Oka Crisis was an Aid to Civil Power mobilization. The Québec Attorney General wrote a letter (which was barely a page long, actually) asking for military aid. This didn’t mean (either then or today) that Quebec got to take control of the entire CAF. Nor did it mean that the CDS (as Bland implies here) gets to make whatever decision he wants regarding the military aid he sends.
Upon such a request, the CDS must provide assistance appropriate to the emergency that has generated the request. He has some leeway to apply the brakes if he thinks the civil authorities are over reacting (e.g.: he might agree to provide infantry to contain a number of armed barricades but enforce strict rules of engagement) but for the most part, he has to provide aid appropriate to the emergency.
He does not get to do this without input from the Federal Government, however. Even if the CAF is serving a Provincial emergency, it is still a Federal institution and must answer to the Defence Minister, Cabinet, and ultimately the PM. He also does not get to disregard the rule of law. Whatever the situation, the Laws of Armed Conflict, the Charter of Rights & Freedoms, and the National Defence Act are still in full force and must be obeyed.
During Oka, this resulted in a kind of three-way command structure with the CDS (then General John de Chastelein), the Québec Provincial government (under Robert Bourassa) and the Federal government (under Mulroney). Once the army took over the perimeter around Oka, Kahnawake and Kahnesatake, de Chastelein had the most direct, hands-on control of the situation, but he still answered to what amounted to an extended civilian council.
The FLQ Crisis, on the other hand, wasn’t Aid to the Civil Power. It was full on martial law. All civil liberties were technically suspended and Trudeau effectively became the dictator of Canada. This can’t happen again, since the War Measures Act has been repealed. Meanwhile the Emergency Measures Act allows for graduated levels of response depending on how serious the emergency. Since its passage, the lowest response levels have been invoke a couple of times for dealing with natural disasters. At its most extreme level, it does give the PM and his Cabinet extraordinary powers, but not absolute power. Their actions are subject to Parliamentary review, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (along with all other applicable laws) remains in effect regardless.
So going around shooting Indians is not option. Even if they wanted to.
During Oka, the Quebec and Federal governments managed to work together pretty smoothly (at the time Mulroney and Bourassa were also collaborating on the Meech Lake Accord). I suppose it’s theoretically possible for a PM and Premier to be so at odds with each other that working together would be intolerable. In such a case, the solution would be for Jack Hemp to declare the NPA’s Uprising to be a national emergency, invoke the EMA and use it to keep the army under Federal control since the EMA supersedes Aid to Civil Power.
For the record, what you’ve just read in the above paragraphs is stuff I learned in High School history class, plus a fifteen minute conversation with my crack legal advisor at the Regiment. This is not an esoteric mystery. This is history, politics and law 101.
Well, enough about that. What’s the government’s response to the CDS’s (suspiciously edited) lesson on real politique?
Everyone sat waiting for Hemp to respond, but the prime minister just sat fiddling with his pencil. Finally Eddie Geldt broke the silence. “Well, we could let her make the request, and if anything bad happens, it really isn’t your fault, prime minister. You could distance yourself…the government I mean…pretty easily from any, uh, untoward incidents. I mean, if we have no choice, then the media would point to Commeau or the army.”
Hemp glared at Geldt, who fell silent. The PM did his best to look thoughtful as he replied, “Eddie, the military is under my control and I don’t want anyone thinking it’s not. And of course we’re not hanging the guys and gals in uniform out to dry, not this government. Plus the media wouldn’t let us just blame Quebec. No, I think we have to try to get to the native leaders and find a deal. Eddie, you get on it right away. Haven’t we got a couple of those people on the payroll? And get that old fart Labbé, my so-called Quebec lieutenant, tell him to get on the phone and tell Commeau to cool it.”
Oh look! Another implied order…
As much as I hate to admit it, Eddie Geldt does have a bit of a point. Politics is a bloodsport and you don’t get to this level of power without thinking of every contingency, no matter how back-stabby they may be. Even an honourable politician would have to think in these terms, if only to find leverage that might restrain the Quebec Premier (“You want the army? Fine. But you’re the ones who get to wear it if there’s a massacre!”).
But yeah, saying this in front of the General is probably a bad idea.
He got up, and Eddie Geldt followed him out the door. Hemp grabbed Geldt’s elbow and hissed, “Good suggestion Eddie, but damn it, you should keep that stuff to yourself. You just pissed off the military guys and you know I don’t trust them. Bishop is worse than the rest of them – they’re not team players. He says something, then the rest of them all say the same thing. It’s worse than dealing with the union bosses.”
“Anyway, have your guys draw up a couple of statements just in case. You know, ‘I deeply regret the actions of the armed forces and the loss of lives, heads will roll, etc.’ How do I fire Bishop? Check that out, but keep it quiet, for Christ’s sake. And get a meeting organized with Al Onanole, just him and me. We’re going to need all the strange bedfellows we can round up.
The last two sentences are setting up the next section, where we will meet Al Onanole, Uprising’s version of the Assembly of First Nations’ Grand Chief. Something which should have happened the moment Molly Grace’s al-Queada video dropped.
It’s kind of unsettling how Jack Hemp turns out to be right about Bishop being dangerous. I’m not sure what to make of the line about Bishop saying something and everyone else agreeing, but he’s right that Bishop can’t be trusted. As for firing Bishop…all the PM has to do is ask for his resignation.
He won’t though. It’s never made clear if this is because Eddie never got him an answer.
***Today’s Featured Image is of the ‘just watch me’ interview, captured from a different angle. Source.***
 In keeping with Bland’s love of army buzzwords, End State is an official term that basically boils down to “I’ll be happy once you’ve done X and Y, no later than [time].”
 The official sub-heading in CAF Battle Procedure is found under ‘Execution’ and is called ’Groupings & Tasks.’ On the simplest level, it’s literally the place where you go ‘You and you will do this, you guys over there will do that, and the rest of you will do the other thing but only when this and that have been completed.’
 It’d be even better if he owned up to having never shared any information with local law enforcement, and therefore any pro-government forces in the area were completely in the dark.
 Just to be clear, I have no idea how Trudeau felt at that exact moment. But the man was under stress, and Tim Ralfe’s comments were pretty fucking ignorant.
[4a] EDIT: I recently had the chance to listen to the CBC podcast “How to Start a Revolution” about the broad history of the FLQ, set against the “Quiet Revolution” (the non-violent revolution in Québec that actually broke the early 20th Century stranglehold of Provincial politics). As it turns out, Pierre Trudeau actually did know Pierre Laporte personally from back when both men were journalists (Laporte wrote for Le Devoir while Trudeau was the founder/editor of Cité Libre). It’s not mentioned how close the two men actually were, but Trudeau did know Laporte personally, so when Ralfe made is ill-timed comments, it was definitely personal.
 Fun fact! SAR (Search and Rescue) operations are the primary role for the Canadian Rangers! You know, those Inuit and First Nations auxiliaries whom Bland thinks are all highly trained Arctic commandos, ready to turn traitor! Their primary mission is Search and Rescue.
 Essentially, the request for Aid to the Civil Power would be answered with the Emergency Measures Act. Jack Hemp would be bringing the army to Quebec’s rescue personally instead of letting them borrow it.
 I wouldn’t think much of it under other circumstances, but given that Bland has a thing for historically significant character names, it’s worth noting that Col Serge Labbé was the Battle Group Commander for the ill-fated mission to Somalia… (common misconception: LCol Carol Mathieu was the Airborne’s Regiment’s commander, but Labbé was in charge the entirety of the Canadian forces in Somalia, and of our overall mission).
 This statement seems to suggest that, if Gen Bishop were to receive a request for Aid to the Civil Power, his response should be to inform the Premier that the Emergency Measures Act will be invoked, and that this is the manner in which help will come.