General Bishop can see events unfolding before him and, although the picture is still unclear, it’s clear that danger is immanent, and that he must act.
So, of course, he calls a meeting.
General Bishop was in a stern mood. He’d called this operations meeting of the Armed Forces Council – to which no civil servants were invited – soon after leaving the Langevin Block with the shaken defence minister. He set out his intentions as soon as he stalked up to the table.
We know this is a manly man meeting of Real Soldiers® because ‘no civil servants were invited.’ Insert your joke about ‘He Man Woman Haters Club’ here. Also, Gen Bishop is in a ‘stern mood.’ Notice, he’s not angry, or frustrated, or any other emotion that might suggest he’s not in control and totally just so cool you guys. He’s stern. Manly men get stern. Later on, when the Prime Minister and other Double-PC members of Parliament become angry, it will be with a whiny, out of control tone that suggests children throwing a hissy fit rather than a real man surveying the situation with a calm, Clint Eastwood eye.
It looks as though Bland intended this to be a shot aimed at the public service, a group he seems to equate with the dreaded Double-PC weak knees who will only shiver and quake, then find some way to obstruct the Real Soldiers® from doing their job.
“Ladies and gentlemen, no notes please. I believe the nation is threatened and that the difficulties in Quebec may not be the most serious matter before us. René Lepine and I discussed the possibility of a feint in the East as a lead-up to an attack in the West. There is scant intelligence to support this notion, but in a brief conversation with RCMP Commissioner Richard, he reported that his detachments in the West, though not in B.C., and on the East Coast were reporting gatherings of young native people, increasing hostility to the police, and minor outbreaks of violence in some towns against non-natives and on some reserves against some residents. We both concluded that we need a much more detailed intelligence picture from these regions and he has taken the lead in developing a collection plan with CSIS.
We’ve seen in earlier chapters that Bland has an aversion to note taking. All the better to avoid responsibility when the investigation happens later. In this case though, Gen Bishop has a very good reason to not want any sort of written record to be kept of this meeting.
We’ll get to that in a second. First, let’s talk about ret-conning.
So as recently as one day ago (in narrative time) the West was eerily quiet. Now apparently it’s a seething mass of insolence and threats, with uppity native youth threatening police and the gangs in danger of getting out of control. I’m not sure why it is that Bland felt it necessary to re-write the ITAC’s assessment, but at the time the best of the Canadian intelligence establishment were willing to dismiss a threat to western Canada on the grounds of how quiet it was.
I’m wondering if this was maybe Bland waffling between whether or not to make the NPA a super disciplined military organization. If they were, then they could keep a tight lid on their people, and avoid telegraphing their intentions to launch their real attack in the West. This would help the story by making Bishop’s neglect of the west an understandable mistake. Of course he shifted all the troops East, the NPA tricked him! On the other hand, if the point of this story is to crap on weak-kneed liberals and how they always get in the soldiers way, then having a lot of evidence suggesting a Western operation would let Bishop anticipate the threat only to be held back by those dastardly politicians.
Something like the latter version would actually make sense in a more realistic story. A revolution can only succeed by riding on a wave of popular support and passion. That passion, by its very nature will be messy and prone to outbursts and confusion. At the start, the best laid plans could easily be short-circuited by some random knuckle head breaking ranks and doing something foolish.
It’s only late in the game, after the population has been thoroughly mobilized that you can expect the sort of widespread discipline seen by, say, the Viet Cong or the Afghan Mujahedeen. Unfortunately, this is the early phases of the revolution and the NPA leadership is an inner circle within an inner circle wrapped in an enigma that cloaks it’s plans and actions in the deepest of secrecy (while inviting random fugitives into their headquarters, but still). So it’s unlikely that the rank-and-file will be rampaging in perfect harmony with Molly Grace’s intentions.
So which is it? Are the Native Peoples marching in lockstep, speaking with one voice? Or are they chaotic and fraying at the edges? With random hotheads breaking ranks to attack at the first hint of a confrontation?
“However, we can’t wait until we get more intelligence.
You haven’t tried to develop any information either!
The enemy may have had the element of surprise on their side at first, but Bishop has had close to 96 hours to try and develop more information. The Complex is a giant sitting duck, spewing EM signals into the air and occupying a footprint big enough to be seen from space, and yet they’re operating with impunity. Alex Gabriel is wandering the streets of Winnipeg with all the secrets of the Uprising in his head, and yet the Winnipeg police haven’t even heard that he’s a wanted man. Will Boucanier has had half a week to prepare his attack on the Bourassa Dam, but they haven’t so much as warned the dam staff to lock their doors and stop giving guided tours!
We have an immediate problem in Quebec and I anticipate a request to aid the civil powers from the premier within days, possibly hours. I want to tell you, and you will keep these remarks to yourselves and not discuss them, even among yourselves, that I intend to interpret my powers as CDS in the broadest possible way. I intend also to take full advantage of the prime minister’s vague directions to bring the Canadian Forces to a high stage of alert. When the politicians wake up and say jump, we’ll be more than ready to go.
Hmmm…now this is edging pretty close to a dangerous line.
So sometimes moments will come when you have to interpret ‘Commander’s Intent’ in order to create orders for yourself. You have a pretty good idea of what the boss wants, but you know the boss doesn’t have his shit together so they haven’t given explicit orders to do something they need to get done. So, as a loyal subordinate, it’s up to you to do it on your own and hope you get forgiven. It’s sketchy territory because you haven’t been given explicit orders to do something, and you’re basing your plans on what you think your boss will want once they catch up with the circumstances.
This kind of ‘anticipation’ occupies a weird intersection between loyalty and contempt. Loyalty in that you are running some serious risks in order to save your commander from themselves. In fact, you wouldn’t be able to anticipate your commander’s intent without actually having a very strong working relationship to begin with. Contempt comes in because there’s no getting around the fact that your boss fucked up, and for whatever reason you weren’t able to talk things out face to face. Instead you were forced to go behind his back.
Even if your actions save the day, that’s some seriously awkward ground to occupy.
“To review: the CDS, as you know, is appointed by order-in-council and holds the appointment at pleasure. The prime minister under normal circumstances can relieve me any time he wants to. But these are not normal circumstances. I share with the government a responsibility for the defence of Canada, a fact well established in law and custom. I am also, like everyone in uniform, subordinate not to the prime minister but to the governor general, who constitutionally appointed me to this position on the advice of the government. I think the distinction was left in place for times like these.”
Oh shit. Yeah. He went there.
There is a lot to unpack here, but let me say up front that there is no doubt whatsoever as to the reality of Bland’s little scene here. General Bishop is talking treason here, plain and simple. This isn’t up for debate. He is explicitly taking advantage of vague direction from his lawful chain of command to lay the groundwork for a subversion of civil rule in Canada.
He said it outloud. This is treason. The fact that he’s ordered his people not to take any notes means that he knows it.
Every officer in that room who has heard his commands must know this. If they follow his instructions, they are just as guilty as he is. In fact, as officers holding the Queen’s Commission, they are obligated to refuse his orders and report his actions immediately to the lawful chain of command. In this case that means the Minister of National Defence.
Just to be clear, Bishop isn’t interested in anticipating Commander’s Intent like we discussed above. He’s not saying “Okay the PM’s got his head in the sand but pretty soon he’ll have to wake up and smell the revolution. When that happens he’ll probably freak out and overreact. My intent is to have ourselves ready for the mission so that we can do what he needs, rather than run around following whatever he says.” That would fall into the category of ‘Anticipating Commander’s Intent’ and, while sketchy, would still be legal.
No. He’s specifically using the vagueness of the PM’s orders to set up an argument that he actually owes no loyalty to Canada’s elected government. Worse, he’s backing this up with a grade ten pseudo-political lecture about who his boss really is, before emphasizing that he doesn’t need to follow the one who was elected by the people of Canada.
Here’s a quick bit of Canadian political history: In Canada, our de facto head of state is the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the elected head of the largest party in Parliament, which effectively gives them complete legislative and executive control (judicial control still rests with our Supreme Court). Now, that’s the de facto reality of the situation. In legalistic de jure form, there is no Prime Minister of Canada.
No seriously. Go look it up. Read the British North America Act, the Balfour Declaration, the Statutes of Westminster and then round it out with our Charter of Rights & Freedoms. It’s not in there. The Prime Minister is officially a non-entity in our political system.
Officially, we were and remain a Constitutional Monarchy, with our ruler, Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II as the supreme monarch over all our realms. Good times. I understand she’s a pretty cool lady. I know people who’ve met her who’ve said as much.
More to the point, this isn’t just something that appears on some obscure letter head, either. For those of you guys living in Canada, go look at a Highway sign. That little silhouette at the top of the sign? That’s a crown. That indicates that the road in question is directly under the rule (and thereby the protection) of Queen Elizabeth II. Go to court. There’s no state prosecutor or district attorney like you’d find in the US. But there is a Crown Prosecutor, who will see justice done no matter how lowly the crime.
Hell, on a personal note, when I joined the Canadian Forces, I took an oath “to Queen Elizabeth II and all her legal heirs and successors” but not to the Prime Minister (Jean Chretien at the time), to Canada, or even to our Constitution. Officially we all answer to the Queen, and any law passed by Parliament is basically a suggestion until it receives Royal Assent from the Crown, which in Canada is represented by the Governor General.
So Bishop (and by extension, Bland) is technically correct when he says that his loyalty is to the crown first and the Prime Minister when he feels like it. Technically. But to embrace this definition he will have to ignore almost 150 years of Canadian legal and historical precedent which is where things get complicated. By law, Elizabeth II rules supreme through her Viceroy, the Governor General of Canada. In reality, the Prime Minister runs the show and actually names all of the typical Royal Appointments including the Governor General.
Yeah, you read that right. And if you’re a reader who’s new to the Canadian political system by all means, feel free to take a minute. The Prime Minister (a post that officially doesn’t exist) appoints the Governor General (the real post that lends official sanction to all public aspects of Canadian life) who in turn makes every law passed by the Prime Minister official.
Go ahead. Take a moment. Your head will hurt if you try to think it through. Just understand that this is a system that has worked for one and a half centuries, and we’d rather keep it that way.
Bishop paused to let the message settle in his commanders’ minds. “I will visit the governor general tomorrow morning to discuss affairs of state and the conditions and circumstances of the Canadian Forces. Under the circumstances, it is critically important that the governor general be kept thoroughly, and immediately, informed of our situation, our decisions, and our thinking.”
The CDS paused again, then flipped open his briefing book and continued in a more normal tone. “Now you can take whatever notes you need.
And there we have it, folks.
The CDS has explicitly stated that he doesn’t see his lawful chain of command as lawful, described how he plans to play the GG’s ceremonial authority against Jack Hemp’s legal one. But he hasn’t talked to that ceremonial authority to confirm whether they’re down for a mutiny.
I’m not going to call myself an expert, but that seems like the sort of thing you’d want to check beforehand.
Spoiler alert (kinda): Although he will play no direct role on paper, it will be implied that the Uprising-Canada Governor General is actually the real-life General Lewis McKenzie (ret’d.). When I first read through the book I’d thought it was still Michael Jean, which left me confused given Bland’s (apparent) opinion of her. But later in the novel PM Jack Hemp will make a comment about which suggests it’s the Race Car General himself who’s representing the Queen in the Great White North.
I’ll probably talk about him more later on, but McKenzie was one of the first post-Cold War Generals to become something of a popular figure and public intellectual. In the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, he commanded the UN mission into the former Yugoslavia. This had the effect of making him a public figure and for the most part he stepped up, not only providing a firm hand on the wheel for what proved to be a seriously fucked up mission, but going on later to be a respected writer and commenter with the National Post.
So what we have here is a tenth grade argument about the legal basis of power in Canada, with explicit call for mutiny, but our heroic CDS is confident that everything will go smoothly because Mr GG is (allegedly) a member of the old boys club and a writer for the National Post, so naturally he’ll back Gen Bishop’s play.
How’s that prayer go? “Lord give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.”
 Imagine the nerve! A mere politician telling a General that defending a Province with a quarter of Canada’s population should be a priority!
 I went through the Ontario High School in the early 1990s and the various ‘History and Canadian Politics/Civics’ classes was in grade 9 and 10. Explaining the oddities of our political system was a class that got a lot of incredulous laughs for our teachers. Bland is invoking a line of reasoning that passed through most kids’ systems when we were 14-16.
 My grandfather actually met her Mom during the war!
9 thoughts on “48-Can we hear from Mr G-G, please?”
To expand, the political doctrine that states Canada’s Crown, which if you just look at the written documents, would seem to indicate that Her Majesty the Queen (HMTQ) is the absolute ruler of Canada, acts only on the advice of the elected officials (ie. the PM and Cabinet) is called Parliamentary Supremacy. And its one of the better bits of inheritance we get from Great Britain.
in essence there are two parts to the Canadian political/legal system – the written law, and tradition, or the unwritten law. The unwritten law, which dates back to Charles the Second, is that the Crown has all the power, but only exercises it on the advice and direction of Parliament. This is came out of the English Civil War and Cromwell’s Regency period. Charles the First didn’t get memo and lost both the argument and his head. Charles the Second got the memo (knowing what happened to Dad kind of focussed the mind). James the Second didn’t pay close attention, and lost his Crown, but not his life (he had to flee the country and got to live on the charity of other monarchs for the rest of his life). William and Mary also got the memo, but tried to exert some independence at a single point, and then were reminded where Parliament’s power lay as their $ was cut off , so they fell back in line. No monarch has successfully defied Parliament (Edward VII came close with the Simpson Affair, but after being told if he went ahead with his plans to marry he’d lose the support of Parliament he abdicated). And lets be honest, our current monarch stays in line because her education in the matter of her role and scope of authority tells her that the monarch is the servant of the people (and it certainly doesn’t hurt that she has her uncle’s case as a demonstration of what happens when the monarch ignores Parliament).
Here in Canada the closest we came to the Crown defying the will of Parliament was the King-Byng Affair where the GG initially refused to prorogue Parliament and call another election because MacKenzie King wanted to call one (he’d just won a minority government, and felt he needed a majority). Eventually, the matter was resolved in favour of the elected Parliament.
What it boils down to is that Canada (and the Commonwealth nations that recognize Elizabeth Windsor as their Head of State) maintain the legal fiction that HMTQ is all powerful and can do as she pleases, but it pleases her to only act on the advice of her elected Parliament and Cabinet.
What the author has done here is do a grade school level analysis of how the country he served for 30 years works. Maybe he meant it as a warning that with the wrong people in positions of power (ie, a CDS that has contempt for the will of the Canadian people as expressed through their elected representatives and a GG that may be prepared to overlook 300+ years of precedent to destroy the country) that the country is in danger of saving itself, but losing its soul in the process, but I doubt it. Bland’s presentation is too ham-fisted, too RKO serial villain-esque to make that point. This is proto-fascist wish fulfillment where a strongman does what is “right” to save us from ourselves and the OTHER. It troubles me greatly that someone in Bland’s position with his background either has that level of ignorance of how the Canadian political system works, or worse, thinks that what he wrote here is how the system SHOULD work.
A more detailed look at the King-Byng Affair might be called for. Especially since it’s a real life case of a popular General and a (less than charismatic) Prime Minister going head to head.
The King-Byng Affair.
In 1926 the Governor General was Lord Julien Byng of Vimy. He’d been the British general who had commanded the Canadian Corps during the Battle for Vimy Ridge. His skill at planning the battle and most importantly (to Canadians) was not treating the Canadians as equal to the British troops, instead of mere colonials, won him the respect of Canadians. He was appointed Governor General of Canada in 1921 and held the post until 1926.
In October 1925 was a minority government in Parliament – for those not familiar with this a minority government occurs when a party does not have the majority of seats in parliament, but if they have the support of another party then they can get a majority of support for their legislative agenda. The Governor General then asks one of the MPs in that coalition (usually the head of the larger of the partners in the coalition) to be the Prime Minister and form the government. Traditionally, once the minority government loses a vote, then parliament is dissolved and elections are called. William Lyon MacKenzie-King was head of the Liberal Party and with the support of the Progressive Party, they had the majority of seats in Parliament. The minority government lost a vote in Parliament, and as was tradition, King asked the GG to dissolve Parliament. Instead, Byng asked the leader of the Conservative Party under Arthur Meighan to form the government.
Scandal erupts – the GG did not act on the advice of Parliament!
At the time, if a person was appointed to Cabinet, then they were expected to resign their seat in the House, and a special by-election was held in their riding to determine if their constituents were ok with them holding said Cabinet position. Meighan got around this requirement by only making acting appointments to Cabinet (which meant that they didn’t need to resign and be re-elected). Support for this government lasted for five votes, and then Byng dissolved Parliament.
In the General election of September 1926 the Liberals, running on a platform of constitutional reform (where the GG’s refusal to act on the advice of the government was the act being held up as why this reform was needed) and won the majority of seats in Parliament. Canada then started raising the issue in the Imperial Conferences in 1926, which resulted in declarations by Britain that the Dominion governments (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland and South Africa) were “co-equal” with the British Parliament and resulted in the Statute of Westminster in 1931.
It should be noted that since this little spat, that no GG has ever acted against the will of Parliament and it goes without saying that no GG has ever deployed the CAF on his own authority.
Essentially, Bland is arguing that the prerogative power of the Crown to wage war can be exercised without the consent of the people of Canada (as represented by their elected officials). Such an act goes not only against the Canadian tradition since Confederation, but also against the tradition of Great Britain (from whence our Parliamentary traditions arise) since 1645 when Charles I lost his argument with Parliament. Given that there have been several legal cases arguing the limits of the Crown Perogative to declare war argued in the last 20 years (one was over the cabinet decision to take part in the 1999 Kosovo campaign and whether in the absence of a general vote in the House it was legal to deploy the CAF), it should have been well known to anyone who claimed to have extensively researched a book of this sort that the Cabinet, issuing the order through the Governor General, is the authority for Canada to wage war. In any event, any staff officer or NCO worth a damn should have called “bullshit” on General Bishop’s pronouncement.
I’d like to think I would.
Well I was thinking that _ I _ might have to do a deep dive into King-Byng…but hey, this works too! Thanks!
One of the reasons I keep referencing Harry Swain’s memoir about the Oka Crisis is the sheer wealth of details he provides about the behind-the-scenes work that went into the political side of the government’s response. One of the themes that keeps coming up is the vital importance of the Law. Many of the people involved had legal backgrounds, and when they didn’t they were consulting lawyers on pretty much _everything_.
Also, other than pre-positioning some liaison officers, the CAF didn’t take _any_ action without clear legal authority. Which is what you’d expect…