So now that we have a broad, big-picture idea of how Will Boucanier plans to defend James Bay, let’s see what they got planned for Highway 109 and the power lines leading in!

Once rescue columns moving from the south-he assumed first the SQ and then army units from Valcartier-were committed on Highway 109 from Val-d’Or through Matagami, his teams along that route would create havoc by blowing bridges and beaver dams and cratering roads.  The more noise and action, the bigger the reaction in the East.  And that, though he didn’t know the details, was a key part of Molly’s game plan.

This is sounding a lot more plausible than what Boucanier was planning earlier on, where the cells from the communities along Highway 109 would be straight up ambushing the relief column and getting into open gun battles with them.  Sabotage without confrontation would be a lot more workable for small groups like that, although unlikely to cause the SQ to run away…like he was expecting earlier in this same chapter.

In addition to the (now unclear) delaying action along 109, a major part of OP Thunder calls for the NPA cells to also wreck the transmission lines that link James Bay to the rest of Canada.  Personally, I would think of this as a good tactic to precede attacking the dam; an escalating series of attacks which, coupled with media statements and public demands, could go a long way towards winning a propaganda war with the government. Bringing down transmission wires after the dam has been taken is unlikely to even be noticed until long after the battle is over.

Regardless, this is the course of action that Molly Grace’s planners have decided upon, only to run into a problem: Apparently nobody can figure out how to bring down an hydro tower!  But luckily for them, their new recruit Will Boucanier is a manly soldier man, and can easily fix all their problems.

No, I’m not being hyperbolic here:

Planners at the Complex had initially worried that it would be too difficult for inexperienced members of local cells to break up the transmission system.  But Boucanier, with the aid of ex-army engineers, had quickly showed them how simply it could be done.

Despite the fact that communities in northern Canada would include lots of people who have worked in mining, construction (and even via Hydro-Québec) and therefore might have experience with commercial explosives, it takes Will Boucanier (and some army engineers?) to show them how to do it properly.

I’m not going to get into the actual method Bland describes here.  Basically it involves planting C4 at key points on a hydro-tower to cause it to collapse in a way that not only cuts the line but causes the debris to fall so that it blocks the construction of a replacement tower.

Part of the reason I’m not analyzing this goes to my preference on this blog not to get into the mechanical details of how to blow this country up.  I’ve talked about this before.  The other reason is that, while I know a few basic things about C4 and demolitions, I am not an expert.  What Bland describes sounds like it would work, but I can’t honestly say for sure one way or another.  I’m fine with leaving it at that.[1]

Just to be absolutely sure, Will had tested the procedure a few months earlier in a raid on a transmission tower in the Eastern Townships, deliberately mounted by an amateur group that had been mentored by a veteran explosives expert.  The evident sabotage was news for a day or two, but NPC disinformation tactics led investigators to blame disgruntled union members, not native radicals.  The demonstration, however, convinced the Committee to give Will the resources and the specialists he needed for the real show.  

Okay before I get into the weeds on the bulk of this paragraph, I just want to draw attention to the last sentence which I bolded.  Will Boucanier, after having proven his expertise by carrying out a mission, is given the experts he needs to carry out the mission.  Okay then.

I’m not sure why the thought that disgruntled union members using C4 to bring down a hydro tower would lead to authorities dismissing the case as unimportant.  C4 is not commercially available in Canada.  If a labor dispute has gotten to the point where people are bringing in illegal explosives to destroy public infrastructure, that would be the kind of thing that would bring the RCMP down like a ton of bricks.[2]

I mean, there have been some ugly labor and environmental disputes in Canada’s history.  We’ve already talked about the Oil Patch War.  On a less nationally famous level, there have been miner’s strikes in Northern Ontario where serious violence has been threatened.  In one story I heard, the striking miners threatened to shoot down a helicopter that was ferrying scabs across the picket line.[3]

What I’m saying is that fucked up shit can happen in Canada.  That’s definitely a thing.

And it is not going to be ignored.

Of course, knocking down towers takes time, and there was always the chance that an assault team could be surprised and shot up by a patrolling helicopter.  There were enough cells that one or two such mishaps wouldn’t matter.  But again, to be safe, there was a backup plan to pull down power lines without destroying towers.  It wasn’t nearly as effective because it was much simpler to repair, but it was easier and faster and could be done even by a totally amateur idiot with minimal practice.  It was a technique taken off the Internet from a pamphlet for the ultra-low-tech “counter revolution in military affairs.[4]”

Nice to see Bland acknowledging that demolitions take time.  Too bad he doesn’t think too hard about the psychological and morale impact of losing a party of bombers from a small community.

There’s also the risks involved with working around transmission towers.  Part of the reason why power lines passing through the wilderness have cut lines to keep them clear of any trees is that the electricity can arc to the ground very easily.  Bringing down a transmission tower will take more than just a knowledge of explosives.

hq-securite-distribution
All trees within a certain distance of power lines must be cut down.  From the Hydro-Québec safety page.  Source.

This technique had also been tested, and, fortunately, the Hydro-Quebec authorities had concluded it was either some kind of weird prank or another isolated piece of union mischief.  

Seriously, what the fuck kind of psycho-ass unions terrorized Bland’s home town?

Again, I don’t know for sure that the plan Bland describes here will work.  It sounds legit, but I’m not an engineer or an electrician, so I wouldn’t know.  I suspect it would work…

…assuming there’s power running through the wires.

The thing that hit me here is that this is the kind of monkey-wrenching that would precede a rebellion, not something that would follow.  This would be a good way to set the stage for a takeover of James Bay: Execute a bunch of actions that would result in temporary blackout and general inconvenience, then grab the big target and threaten to make the darkness permanent.  If along the way the NPA could provoke some kind of over-reaction from the police, they could also gain some serious psychological leverage as well.

However, once the Dam is captured and the power is turned off, the further destruction of the transmission lines won’t matter.  If the source of the electricity can’t be re-captured, damaged power lines will be irrelevant.

But enough about tactics, let’s get something that might pass for character development instead!

He stepped into the coffee shop and greeted Constable Bob Ignace, who was enjoying his daily doughnut.  “Great day for doughnuts, Bob.  Gotta watch the waistline, though.”

Ignace shifted in his chair and growled a reply.  “I thought you were fishing.  Maybe you need a lesson after all.  Or perhaps you’re up to no good with that asshole Neetha.”  His tone softened a little.  “Why don’t you really open a lodge, Will?  You’re a good guy.  Why hang around making trouble?  What kind of example do you think you’re setting for the kids?  We don’t need radicals around here; we need guys with jobs and families, guys who stay sober five days a week,[5] put food on the table and don’t hit their wife or kids.  Where is Neetha anyway?”

“Can’t say, Bob.  You know the fishing business, ‘need to know’ only.”  Will ordered a coffee and took it to a seat at the other end of the shop, watching out the window as his tail, SQ or more likely RCMP, crossed the street and hung around trying not to be totally obvious while Will slowly drank his coffee.

Will Boucanier is carrying a map case and an NPA-issued cell phone.  And he mouths off to the confirmed self-hating racist cop Bob Ignace.  Even if that map isn’t marked, it’s still a potential source of information.  That phone in his pocket?  It may be a burner but it has the numbers for phones in the hands of all three of his subordinates, as well as his superiors.  If Bob Ignace arrests him now, that information is in the hands of the government and his entire mission would be in the toilet.

True, Bob doesn’t have probable cause, but since when have the police needed an excuse to bust native heads?[6]

Also, we know from earlier that Ignace has been reporting on Will Boucanier’s activities to…someone higher up the food chain, to the point that it’s shown up in Gen Bishop’s security briefings.  Too bad the information hasn’t been flowing both ways, and Ignance has no idea that Boucanier might be part of a larger conspiracy.

Instead Will Boucanier makes a doughnut joke to a cop, who responds inexplicably with an appeal to reason that seems totally out of character from what we’ve seen so far (seriously, where did this come from?).[7]  He then sits calmly in full view of what he assumes to be an RCMP tail, with all his incriminating evidence still on him.  The minutes tick by until H-Hour, but he’s got all the time in the world so there’s no need to destroy documents, or pass on any further warnings to his people.  His musings about time being the great enemy from the beginning of this very chapter seem to be forgotten.

Forget finding his character’s voice, Douglas Bland can’t seem to maintain consistency for six pages.

***Today’s featured image is from hydroquebec.com’s page on the Romaine-2-Arnaud line project.***

_______________________

[1] Also, is Bland aware that there’s commercial explosives available to civilians that could probably achieve a similar effect.  C4 is great stuff, but Bland’s going through it like he’s got an endless supply.

[2] C4 does leave identifiable traces and residue, and the kind of damage done to the tower would make it pretty obvious that a high explosives (as opposed to something homemade) had been used.

[3] This was a story relayed to me by my Dad, who grew up in the Sudbury-Timmens region, and I’m still looking for a formal reference.  Nobody ever shot at the helicopter, and to the best of my Dad’s knowledge nobody even had guns on that picket line, so technically it was just talk.  But it was talk about shooting down helicopters, and it really alarmed people.

[4] I’m also a bit curious about the use of the term “a counter-revolution in military affairs.”  The revolution in military affairs (RMA) describes the high-tech, super-integrated modern warfare of late-20th/early-21st century industrial state.  Think America vs. Iraq in the first Gulf War.  The references I’ve found for ‘counter-revolution in military affairs’ (CRMA) refers to possible strategies of similarly industrial nations to counter the RMA army.  This involves what’s called Anti-Area/Access-Denial strategies where the goal is to break up an oncoming enemy before they even reach the war.  What Bland’s describing here is what’s commonly called ‘asymmetric warfare,’ the modern term for guerrilla warfare.

[5] It’s not a huge point, but the ‘weekend alcoholic’ is a thing.  The kind of people who could stay functional for a normal work week only to turn into absolute monsters come Friday night are a special kind of hell for their spouses and children, as actor Patrick Stewart can attest to.  (Content Note: heavy personal account on alcoholism and domestic violence).

[6] Is there a name for the mindset that tries to excuse racist policing by having the really questionable acts carried out by officers from the same ethnic group as the victim?

[7] Not that I’m expecting much from Bland with regards to character development, but Boucanier’s father was established as an alcoholic back in the novel’s beginning.  I don’t expect Ignace’s speech to have won him over, but did it even inspire contempt?

2 thoughts on “51-Tower Defence

  1. Labour violence in Canada has traditionally been fairly mild compared to Europe, or even the State’s since the 30s. It’s pretty much been limited to violence on the picket line against strikebreakers/scabs. The Winnipeg General Strike has pretty much been the most violence we’ve had and that was 100 years ago. Any Union dispute that rose to the level of “blowing stuff up” is pretty much off the scale for labour violence in this country. Also, given this coming off the Summer of Violence for Aboriginal affairs, how in the name if Arthur Currie did the NPA convince anyone that union activists were responsible?

    Labour/political violence just hasn’t been common in Canada since the 1920s, since both governments and larger corporations have figured out that violence really cuts into long term profit making/social stability. But by the 80s organized labour really came under fire as wannabe commies in US politics who were just waiting to force everyone into ill-fitting overalls make them work for free for long hours and kill those who protested, while taking away the right to religious expression. And some of that oozed north over the border.

    This is yet another sign of this wannabe Fascist author’s projection onto society. Essentially, Bland’s Canada is a state where labour violence is common enough that it isn’t commented on, First Nations politics is all a scam, the CAF can be the lead in a Commonwealth operation to overthrow another state less than three years before but is still treated as an unloved, unknown entity by the PM and where the CAF’s legal/ethical education has managed to be as nuanced as a teenager who’s managed to read one of The Communist Manifesto/Atlas Shrugged/Mein Kampf but no other work. It’s a state that is primed for a Great Man to grab hold and show it the way…

    Frak, this book makes me mad.

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    1. This is why I think the Oil Patch War is such an instructive example. For several years, the activities of the Ludwig family flew under the national radar, and local police warnings were ignored. But once bombings and shootings started? Yeah, the powers-that-be woke up and took notice pretty quickly.
      You can have a LOT of low-intensity craziness going on for a long time in this country, but once bombings and shootings start, things are getting real.

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