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!