Now then.  When this scene began, Gen René Lepine was sitting alone in the Canada Command conference room.  Now, all of a sudden, he’s not only running a multi-time zone video conference with a bunch of CF Base Commanders who are probably very busy, but also a number of key staff members from his headquarters are with him in the room.

Other than bad editing, we’re looking at some pretty bad writing as well, coupled with a lack of understanding of what these sorts of briefings are for.

“As you harden your bases, I want you to look carefully at your stocks of essential supplies and fuel lines into the bases. You should anticipate that power will be cut and prepare on-base generators to maintain essential services.

Details like “Harden your base, expect an attack, light armaments” are the kind that can be passed on through staff members as part of you ongoing background chatter.  This should have gone out days ago, and the base commanders should be well into their preparations by now.  Face-to-face comms (specifically by video, as opposed to phone) is for the important stuff that must reach the locals commanders directly.

Things like: What are the ROEs (Rules of Engagement)?[1]  Which bases are expected to be under greater threat (like Winnipeg), or likely to be central to the government’s response (like CFB Trenton)?  What are the rules governing co-operation with local police?

Or, if we wanted to take a darker turn: Which bases can expect to be left unsupported?

Yeah, you’d probably want to be looking a colleague in the eye when you told them that.

From what we’ve already seen, the Base Commanders can probably guess the answers for some of these things.  If CF-18s are getting shifted to Cold Lake and Hercs are being held at Trenton, then that should give some clue as to the centre of mass for government forces.  But other than the point about waiving the safety requirements in order to move the planes faster, there isn’t a whole lot here that needed face-to-face comms.

One of the terms I’ve heard for this problem is ‘Stove-Pipe Command.’  A stove pipe is meant to carry the smoke from the stove straight up and out of the house, without leaking into any of the surrounding rooms.  A stove pipe command system is one where the information only flows upwards, and none of it passes ‘sideways’ into other chains of command where it might be needed.

Most importantly, information never flows downwards in the stove pipe.  Which means the ground level troops (in this metaphor, the stove that’s generating the actual heat and smoke) never get any return on their work.  This can become downright deadly when you’ve got a central HQ acting as a stove pipe for multiple units and bases, drawing up information without disseminating anything back down.  In theory, a system like this could leave neighbouring units unaware of a common risk each of them face, while the HQ grows increasingly frustrated that they don’t seem to be working towards mutual support.

I guess us ground level people can just suck it.  We’re probably just a bunch of donkey wallopers and jam-stealers anyway.

“As you harden your bases, I want you to look carefully at your stocks of essential supplies and fuel lines into the bases. You should anticipate that power will be cut and prepare on-base generators to maintain essential services.

This is a place where I would expect more details about the type of threat expected.  In Uprising, we’ve seen that the NPA actually has car bombs on standby, but historically there’s no real precedent for something like that.  In Canada, extremist native movements have gone as far as shootings, sabotage, roadblocks and the threats of bombings.[2]  If Lepine were to give orders based on historical confrontations, he might warn his people to expect barricades, monkey-wrenching and sabotage – some of it involving commercial and military-grade explosives – and maybe shots fired as a worst case scenario.

If we were to go off what is currently known in Uprising’s Canada, I would expect Lepine to be warning the Base Commanders of sniping and ambushes, some of it involving stolen anti-armour and anti-aircraft weapons, and attacks based on insider information from native CF troops turned traitor.[3]  Lepine mentioned moving the CF-18s from Bagotville to Cold Lake, but he doesn’t seem to have considered the possibility that the jets might be shot down by NPA warriors using Blowpipe missiles[4] as they try to take off.

“Okay, I want my principal staff officer to say a few words and then we can take questions.”

The commander of operations, Colonel Stan Owens, spoke first. “Hello to everyone. Most units are at least at eighty percent effective manning. The major training has been halted and your people on course and some new trainees are on their way to their units. 

Eighty percent effective manning?  Didn’t we just get finished talking about how poorly funded the Canadian Forces was in this world?

Okay, let’s talk about manning in the Canadian Armed Forces!

So we know at the moment that Uprising’s CF is currently engaged in a fictional mission in Zimbabwe, with 1 RCR (Canada’s only and greatest Regiment according to Bland) forming the core of that Battle Group.[5]  This leaves 2 & 3 RCR in Ontario and the Maritimes, with PPCLI covering the West and R22ième (the Van Doos) in Québec as far as Regular Force infantry is concerned.

But this doesn’t tell the whole story.

At the time that Bland was writing (as well as today, but to a somewhat lesser extent) the Regular Force was suffering a serious manpower shortage that was being exacerbated by the War in Afghanistan.  To deploy a Regular Force Battalion, that unit would have to pull troops out of other similar units.  Some of these came from other Reg Force units, and more came from the Reserves, but the act of putting a Battle Group into an overseas theatre left all the surrounding units uncomfortably depleted.

That’s only the beginning.  Because you always have to plan for the next bound, as the first Battle Group goes out the door you have to start getting the next one ready to replace it in 6-9 months time.  The SOP we developed during the Afghan War was to cycle through RCR, R22ième, then PPCLI with the other combat arms units in each of those regions providing the augmentation to turn the core battalion into a Battle Group.

So if Bland’s following the same procedure here, that means there should be another Battle Group in Canada (Van Doos or Patricia) in some stage of readiness to replace 1 RCR.  Depending on how close they were to deploying, this could mean that there was a fighting formation ready to roll with all its supporting elements in place and a unified chain of command.  Such a unit would be a disproportionately deadly formation, not only for its capabilities but because it would be at the peak of its training cycle and be practically champing at the bit to be set loose upon an enemy.[6]

But this isn’t necessarily going to be the case.  Depending on where the new Battle Group is in its training cycle, it may still be in an IT (Individual Training) phase, meaning its composite units might not even be formally joined together yet.  Or it might be together as a formation, but off somewhere on exercise in preparation for its deployment.[7]  Pulling a Battle Group out of an exercise like this and redeploying it on short notice would be doable, but brutal from a logistic and planning perspective.  The resulting in chaos and confusion could easily take weeks to sort out.

On top of this, training a Battle Group for deployment takes manpower and resources.  It’s not uncommon for the training cycle to draw in top soldiers from other units as instructors and experts, even if they’re not deploying on the operation.  Meaning that other units not directly involved in the upcoming deployment could be short some of their best people (who in turn might be out of the country assisting in pre-deployment exercises).

So when Bland has his CCOC officers declaring ‘eighty percent effective manning,’ I’m going to have to raise some questions.  Canada does not have a huge army.  Deploying to a war zone takes a massive effort and puts all parts of the forces (Reg & Reserve) under a huge strain.  We pulled it off in Afghanistan and maybe, if there had been some kind of improbable native uprising breaking out back home, we could have responded to that as well.

But just four days to report ‘eighty percent effective manning?’  No.  I got questions.

[Commander of Operations Col Stan Owens still speaking] New recruits who have at least completed basic training are being sent to various units. Commanders will have to whip them into shape in a hurry. The military schools are being combed for essential trades and specialist officers and so are the reserve units. A discrete but urgent call-up of reserve unit commanding officers is underway; we’re trying not to alert the press but either way we’ll get the guys in place. Basically, we’re pretty good to go.

I can understand pulling freshly trained recruits out of the schools, although it seems a bit bleak to be shutting them down completely since the crisis could last for months or even years, providing enough time to train yet another cohort of soldiers.  But if the situation is dire enough, I could see pushing every warm body in a uniform toward the front lines.  It’s a bit surprising though that Lepine is using these troops to fill in existing units instead of deploying them as is.

Places like 4 Div Training Centre at Meaford could (depending on the time of year) generate a couple of companies worth of dismounted infantry from their recruits, with their course staff providing the officers and NCOs to lead them.  They’d have a hard time integrating with a mechanized LAV company, but they could go a long way towards filling in the needs of a base defence force.

The other thing that caught my eye here was the ‘discrete but urgent call-up of reserve unit commanding officers.’  Having served during Sept 11th and the shooting of Cpl Cirillo at the War Memorial, the idea that the regular army commanders would wait four days before even trying to notify reserve unit commanders is staggering.  Even if there was no word form the top, those Reserve COs would have by now been flooded with calls and e-mails from their troops and would have, in turn, been speaking to their Brigade Commanders about the ongoing situation.  At the very least they would have called in some troops to establish basic security on their Armoury’s weapon vaults.

The other possibility here, is that the Reserve officers are being called up not to lead their own units but to supplement the regular force units.  It’s not entirely clear from the text and, based on what we’ve seen so far from Douglas Bland, either option is possible.

Once again this is a place where editing is your friend.

I’ve already said my piece about Bland’s prejudice against the Militia.  The only thing I’m going to add is that, if you’re worried about defending dozens of facilities spread across thousands of kilometres of land, then maybe you shouldn’t be so eager to deplete the local forces who actually know the ground.

“All brigades are reporting op ready or near op ready. The airborne commandos of the Special Service Regiment are concentrated in Trenton and completing readiness drills with the aircrews. CFB Valcartier is at three hours notice to move, since we expect it to be called out first. The other units in the East are at twelve hours notice as of right now, and the Western units are at twenty-four hours notice, mostly waiting for aircraft arrivals and rigging.”

Wait, are the western units moving by plane or train?

Fuck, never mind.  We’ll see in the next part of the deconstruction exactly what kind of mission the CSSR has been given.  Knowing that, I’m surprised that their commanding officer isn’t kicking down the office door for Trenton’s Base Commander so he can barge in on this meeting and voice his complaints.  It’s quite the job they’ve been given.  And it’s something I’d expect would lead a CO voice some concerns.  Loudly and with prejudice.

He turned things over to J2, Intelligence. “Gentlemen and ladies, I’ll be brief. There really isn’t much new to report. The police have some persons of interest under surveillance in Quebec and Winnipeg, and they’re watching that so-called rendezvous in The Pas. The only new development involves natives in the James Bay Hydro area booking off work in unusual numbers. They all say they’re going hunting, which their bosses find hard to believe. But anyway, they’re gone. Oh, and a local constable keeps bugging the SQ about this one retired soldier, Will Boucanier, who he thinks is definitely stirring native trouble. Anyone know this guy?”

A lieutenant colonel down the table broke in. “Is that the airborne Warrant Officer Will Boucanier – Medal of Military Valour? Sir, I served with him in Afghanistan in JTF2. We should tell the SQ or Mounties to watch out. Buccaneer’s one tough, smart cookie. I hope he’s still on our side.”

He’s just so cool you guys!

The J2 looked to his commander. “I’ll check it out, sir. See if we have a positive ID on the guy. That’s it for now.”

Levine took comments and situational updates from the base commanders and then closed the meeting. “Okay everyone, thanks.”

He stood up and beckoned to Commodore Miller, his chief of staff. A serious officer, nicknamed Shiny John by his colleagues, he was already pegged by them as the navy’s next candidate for CDS. “John, let’s get to the Ops Centre. I want to go over the James Bay plan with you.”

I don’t know what the confusion’s about here.  Self-hater Bob Ignace already positively identified that this is the famous WO Will Boucanier.  He can also confirm that Boucanier’s made contact with ‘disgraced ranger'(???) Joe Neetha and has been taking an unusual interest in Beaver dams, but the J2 seems to have forgotten that.

They’re also not going to warn Ignace that – this time – he’s right to think the worst about his own people and that Will Boucanier should be arrested ASAP.

Unlike in previous chapters, this segment ends and a new segment featuring Gen Lepine in the exact same location begins immediately after.  Several pages are spent describing what is essentially yet another HQ building with work stations for all the various departments and personnel.  The only point worth noting is that, for once they actually include the RCMP in this arrangement.  This plus a later quote about the SQ refusing to fortify the dam and generally proving to be useless seem to indicate that Douglas Bland has belatedly realized that the army should have been talking to the police this whole time:

The Canada Command Operations Centre was completed in early 2008 and was the most sophisticated, fully integrated and interactive intelligence and operation facility of the Canadian Forces.  The situation room, though not large, provided each staff officer with access to secure computers and a wall full of electronic screens on which they could flash up maps, charts, and real-time images and operational data produced by remotely controlled, unmanned drones, high-altitude aircraft, satellites and communications intercepts in whatever dimension required.  Officers could track forest fires and floods and follow the course of search-and-rescue, or SAR, aircraft minute-by-minute.

A powerful, flexible database made it possible to determine the whereabouts, activities, and strength of each unit in the command almost instantaneously.  CCOC was supported by an intelligence staff, specialist teams of RCMP, Coast Guard, and emergency measures personnel permanently seconded to the Canada Command, and each team had its own place and specific duties in the centre.  

The centre’s vast communications network, with connections to the Canadian Forces NDOC, subordinate command headquarters, provincial emergency centres, RCMP headquarters, U.S. Northern Command in Colorado, and the Canadian Forces attache in Washington, provided Rene Lepine and his staff with almost instant, correlated information.  The staff might have been the brains of the command, but the “comms network” was its indispensable nervous system.  

[Speaking about James Bay] “The facilities aren’t really guarded, just locals with flashlights.  NDHQ has tried to get the SQ to beef things up, but they say there’s no need and it’s too expensive.”

Levine deposited his pen grimly on the table.  “Wait till the lights go out.”

They’re saying that they asked the SQ to increase security, but we’re going to see that this wasn’t a recent request, since the SQ will be caught completely by surprise when the fighting breaks out.  So we know they haven’t tried to pass on any recent information, specifically that an attack is immanent.  Information only flows one way in this HQ.

I wonder…when the power goes out…does Canada Command Operations Centre has a generator to keep it powered?

If so, who’s guarding the fuel tank?

***Today’s featured image is a classic Canadian recruitment poster from the First World War, complete with really anachronistic slogan.  Image from Archives of Ontario.***


[1] If you’re reading the blog entries chronologically, you’ll know I had an entire post about ROEs and their complexities just previous to this one.  This is where the footnote that inspired the post would have gone.  Basically, ROEs are complicated and often need to be discussed at length.  Sometimes even face-to-face!

[2] During the Oka Crisis, there were numerous threats made to bomb the Mercier Bridge, as well as deploy heavy weapons in dangerously close proximity to Montreal. While the bombing threats proved to be bluffs, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to assume that, once the war was on, actual bombings would be likely as part of a sabotage program.

[3] Now that would be a conversation requiring a face-to-face between commanders.  Warning the Base Commanders that their Indigenous troops may be traitors, while assuring them that Gen Lepine himself is not.

[4] I’ve mentioned before how Blowpipe missiles are considered obsolete by today’s standards, but this is potentially one of the few occasions where they could be absolutely deadly: A plane taking off has to follow a predictable path, making the Blowpipe’s 2,000m of range pretty damned effective.

[5] For those not familiar, a Battle Group is basically a mini-Brigade (brigades are multiple infantry battalions with combined arms support to create a force of three to five thousand troops).  In a Battle Group, you take a single infantry battalion and upgrade it with artillery, armour and engineer assets to give it capabilities disproportionate to its size.  Basically, battalion size but brigade strength.  Different versions of a Battle Group can be built around Armoured or Engineer units (the latter forming the basis for the Provincial Reconstruction Teams -PRTs- in Afghanistan).

[6] Depending on how old the Zimbabwean mission is, there could also be another Battle Group (that 1 RCR replaced) recently returned from deployment that has been dispersed back to its various home units.  Depending on how long ago this handover occurred, it might be possible to recall and reconstitute this Battle Group, although that would raise a number of concerns among these troops regarding exhaustion and operational stress.

[7] My own work up training included more than a month in New Mexico at Fort Bliss, and another month at CFB Wainwright, Alberta (still in Canada, but far away from the fighting in Uprising).

6 thoughts on “54-You and what army?

  1. “The only thing I’m going to add is that, if you’re worried about defending dozens of facilities spread across thousands of kilometres of land, then maybe you shouldn’t be so eager to deplete the local forces who actually know the ground.”

    Over and over and over we see the powers that be who, in responding to some emergency or other, ignore the people in the affected areas, which not only leads to a poorer response, but disgruntled locals. For example:
    “The Review Team heard a strong desire and willingness by many local people to help during the emergency periods of Firestorm 2003. Many expressed their frustration at being turned away, while out-of-province crews were called in to work on the fires. More importantly, we were told that because crews from out of the area often lacked a local resident as part of their team, they were unaware of the location of back roads, accessible water supplies, or available equipment and resources.” Government of British Columbia. (2004-02-15) Firestorm 2003: Provincial Review. Retrieved from (Also known as the Filmon Report)


  2. Not that he had a lot of credibility at this point, but the following sentence destroyed all remaining credibility of the author with respect to having kept up to date with the CAF from the date of his release to when he wrote The Turner Diaries, Mk II:

    “Oh, and a local constable keeps bugging the SQ about this one retired soldier, Will Boucanier, who he thinks is definitely stirring native trouble. Anyone know this guy?”

    Bill the Pirate is supposed to have been some sort or hot stuff with the CAF prior to his very recent release, meaning that his personnel file is quite accessible to people with appropriate need to know. And hells, you can get quite a bit of personal intelligence on people with nothing by open source info – social media, blog posts, etc can give you quite a bit of info on a person, while the CAF would have the following on him without doing anything exceptional:

    a. His complete service history;
    b. A photo taken at the time of his release (for the electronically generated veteran card);
    c. Banking info (from pay and CAF annuity records);
    d. His intended place of residence (because the CAF would move his stuff there); and
    e. His complete medical history for his service.

    Knowing his service history, you could find out what his last unit was, who was his commander, his sergeant major, his peers, subordinates, who he hung out with, etc. Getting the information can be done for people who have served recently (released after 1996) in about 10 minutes with a computer – and then the interviews can start within a remarkably short time afterwards (and given the tragic loss of Frank MacTavish, the interrogators may not be overly polite). It’s not NCIS/CSI fast where a first and last name gets typed into “the database” and the suspect’s life history, including kindergarden grades, provincial driver’s license and their last few blog posts vomits instantly forth on the screen, but the J2 for Canada Command would have known who WO (Ret’d) Boucanier was and not asked like its the pre-computer era and he’s hoping to get lucky that someone knows who Bill is.

    Now, let’s talk manning.

    There are two figures that can be used when we talk about being at 80% – established strength and authorized strength.

    Established strength is how big a unit is when it has all the people its supposed to have. Authorized strength is how many people the higher authorities let you have. And as you might guess, they are not the same and there are sound reasons why the two exist. Lets use an infantry battalion as an example:
    a. The Battalion is made up of 4 companies, three of which are made up of 4 platoons, every platoon made up of 3 sections. The sections are 8-10 people depending on their role.
    b. The section is the only group without a separate command group – every level has a “command team” consisting of an officer and senior NCO, and a group of people to assist them – a radio operator, a weapons team and maybe a runner at the platoon level, while the company will have the same, plus another radio operator, and the battalion will have a small staff to help the battalion commander manage the circus; and
    c. The fourth company will have the specialists – the sniper and recce section, the mortar platoon, the heavy weapons platoon (which at this time would have lots of C6 and .50 cal MGs), the anti-armour section, the maintainers, the supply section, the cooks, etc.

    It’s about 500 people and its what we use to send people to war or operations where there units may have to operate on their own.

    Authorized strength is what each unit is normally at when not otherwise deployed, the non-infantry specialists found on the established strength of a battalion will often be employed in locations other than the infantry battalion (for example, the cooks will be employed at Base kitchens). From a training and personnel management view this makes sense – those specialists get to practice their skills every day, while in the battalion (keeping with the cook example) they won’t be preparing meals every day. And routinely this isn’t a problem. And while a section is supposed to have between 8 to 12 people depending on role, there are routinely 6 to 8 people in a section. While not as tactically effective, it allows the CAF to maintain the leadership infrastructure to expand to established strength fairly quickly. As with many things, its the leadership capacity that is the hardest to train up to – it is reasonably easy to train an infantry soldier/gunner/etc to do the basics of their job, but the leaders of those people, the ones that are teaching them, directing them, etc take a lot longer to do so. And this means we accept being “top heavy” in times of non-operational stress in order to handle the institutional stress of expansion.

    This is a long way to say that authorized strength is nowhere close to established strength (especially in certain areas) and that while the service battalions and air wings (for whom the established strength and authorized strength is much closer due to different operational requirements) might be able to get to 80% strength by cancelling leave and recalling those people on training courses quickly, but getting the bulk of the army to 80% is going to take a lot of manpower – and the only source of trained personnel to do it is the Reserves, meaning that 100s (and possibly 1000s) of Reservists are being asked to put their other lives on hold to go “play army” for an indeterminate period.

    Let’s unpack that.

    In the “Turner Diaries, Mk II”, the Canadian public is unaware that the NPA has done anything, or that a First Nations uprising is even in the cards. There has been no public announcement by the PM, CDS, Widow MacTavish, etc and no one in any media organization has apparently clued in and asked questions or jsut published. Reservists who get the call to mobilize are going to talk and ask questions. If they don’t want trouble at home they’ll be asking their spouses for permission, employers for time to deploy (and most employers will be telling them “your job won’t be here when you get back” because of the non-emergency and short notice of this call-up) and students in post-secondary will be scrambling to cut deals with their profs about assignments, exams because otherwise they’ll be out their tuition for the term, etc. and if the people with influence over the non-military lives of the Reservists don’t like the answer, those Reservists aren’t going to show up. The only way to compel Reservists to transition from part-time, voluntary service in Canada is to get an Order in Council. That means debate in Cabinet, and the text of the Order being published as part of Hansard and in the Canada Gazette so that there is a lawful order on record. In other words, you’ve got a really big social disruption in the making and the author hand-waves it away.

    The other bit here is that Reservists are a curious lot – we know when the weekly parade night is, when the monthly exercises are, etc and we plan around them. Overseas deployments of reservists don’t happen with just a phone call – they take considerable planning from the people putting their non-military lives on hold(ish) and lots from the units that need to integrate them. When something happens out of the ordinary we react like people and ask “WTF?” And so far, no one is telling anyone what the Frak is going on. And Reservists, in the absence of hard information, are going to speculate. And some of those speculations are going out into the world of the media.

    Maybe every last Reservist keeps their mouth shut because Sgt S told them to “Zip it!” and the RSM dug out a vintage “Loose Lips” poster from the regimental museum to hammer home the point that if they talk they might get charged and go to jail. Likely not, but let’s give him that. Now what about the spouses, employers, teachers, etc? Do you think that they will all keep it quiet that all their part-time soldiers have all been called up? And so far ALL the people in authority are not saying anything to the people of Canada, so whose stories are getting told? Let’s just say that it won’t be CAF’s or the PMO’s.

    Both the Gov’t of Canada and the CAF are dealing with the media optics problem by chanting “if we ignore it, it will go away.” When this breaks it (and it will), trust in both the Government AND the CAF would be shattered.

    Why is this happening?
    Who is responsible?
    Why weren’t we told about this sooner?
    How did you let this happen?
    What are you going to do about this?
    What about my spouse/child/parent/property (pick one or more as applicable)?

    It would not end up being like what the author portrays it as.


    1. Yup. We can add all that to the list of things Gen Bishop has neglected to do since the CFB raids four days ago.
      I wasn’t aware that it specifically took an order in council to mobilize the reserves, but in any event, one of Bishop’s first actions should have been to contact the Prime Minister (via the Defence Minister) and warn him that they might need one. And fast. The next few days should have been spent on trying to verify the scope of the threat, and presenting a case to Cabinet as soon as possible.
      This also casts his ‘discrete call-ups’ action in a less flattering light. If he was waiting on an order in council that could come at any time, it would make sense to start laying the groundwork by providing reserve units with a warning order. But he hasn’t even tried to, meaning that the best he can hope for is a scattering of Class A volunteers and maybe a handful of permanent staff.
      Now, if Bishop put out a definitive order along the lines of “We are expecting a mobilization order soon, so reach out to your people and tell them to be ready, but don’t make any announcements and tell everyone to keep quiet.” That would likely work for the majority of the reserves, but there’d still be loose talk. So this would be where having a healthy relationship with the media would pay off. Bishop’s second call (after reaching out to the PM) should be to various media organizations, warning them about the situation as it stands, and asking them to keep a lid on any rumours that might come their way over the next few days.
      This would probably require cutting some kind of deal (“We’ll set you up with interviews, embed your reporters, etc…Just hold off for the next 48 hrs.”) but there’s at least a chance they could avoid tipping their hand prematurely.
      Of course this would depend on the army having a healthy relationship with the press, something that seems impossible in Bland’s Canada…


  3. The author’s view of the civil/military relationship and the military/media relationship seems to be trapped in the stereotypes of 1980s military movies like “Heartbreak Ridge”, “Commando”, etc. And his actual knowledge of how the CAF works beyond the “prepare a briefing for [person] on [topic]” level is lower than what I’d expect from someone who is apparently a prof at Queens University.

    He’s trapped in a “the military knows best and if those slimy politicians, weak-kneed bureaucrats and self-serving reporters would just get out of the way” mode of thinking that allows for some really self-pitying drinking sessions, but is ultimately self-destructive as it places blame for failures to achieve anything on an “other” that is holding you back.

    Going back to manpower, quick lesson on the overarching form of the CAF. First, there are three components – the Regular Force, the Reserve Force and the Special Force.

    The Regular Force are those people enrolled into the CAF to provide continuing, full time military service (s.14 National Defence Act);
    The Reserve Force are those people enrolled in the CAF to provide other than continuing full time military service (s.15 National Defence Act); and
    The Special Force are those people enrolled in the CAF for full time military service in an emergency, or in aid of any treaty or similar instrument as authorized by the Governor in Council (s.16 National Defence Act). Members of both the Regular and Reserve Force can be moved into the Special Force without their express consent, but this requires that the regulations set out by the Governor in Council for this emergency, etc. be followed. Otherwise, you have to volunteer to change component.

    This is a throwback to the conscription crises of the two World Wars – the governments of the day faced widescale civil unrest and disobedience when they tried to implement conscription (forced military service) and in both cases the government was nearly defeated because Canadians REALLY don’t like to be forced into doing something, so the civilian government has to very carefully weigh the political scales to see how far they can go. Getting those people who’ve already signed up (Regular Force) – no problem, they’re adults and knew what they were getting into. Volunteers wanting to sign up – same. People who don’t want to (and who may be involved in essential work, or perhaps belong to a constituency you need the support of) – not so much. Even back in the day when Canadians saw an invading American army as both a real threat AND a real possibility, getting the militia to show up for drills was an exercise in bribery (with barrels of whiskey, beer and cider) rather than coercion …. Unlike the US, Canada never really faced large scale armed resistance from First Nations (other than the Plains Cree War and the Second Metis War of 1885) since the days of l’Ancien Regime and the campaigns against the Mohawks in the 17th century, so the idea that you might need to defend against them is really going to be a hard sell.

    And without the media on side that sales pitch is a lot harder to make.


    1. To be completely fair to Bland (yeah, I know) there was a fair bit of animosity between the military and the media around the time that he retired. That doesn’t excuse him from noticing that things had changed, but there was that.
      The attitude that shows up in the story is pretty nihilistic when you get right down to it. Bland’s characters assume that they will never receive the support they want/need/deserve from the civilian government or the media. Rather than trying to fix that, they’d prefer to let everything fall apart just so they can say “I told you so” afterwards.


  4. The poor relationship between the military and the media in the 80s was due to the cultural pushback by the government after Unification in the late 60s.

    In the mid-60s Canada looked to reduce costs by unifying the Canadian Armed Forces – instead of three branch of service headquarters and a joint headquarters, there would only be one, a combined force would permit better use of manpower, etc. Like any organization with deep roots, there was a lot of resistance, particularly from the Royal Canadian Navy. Most of the navy command had WWII experience and they were not particularly thrilled about adopting a green uniform of Army cut, having their rank titles change from “vice admiral” to “lieutenant general”, and having some of their sailors now potentially being posted to such bastions of naval traditions like the ammo depot at Dundurn Saskatchewan and they were pretty vocal about their displeasure with the decision – to the point where a significant % decided that very publically resigning in protest, followed by holding press conferences was the thing to do. Anyway, the outcome of this was a reinforcement of the idea that members of the military should not involve themselves with politics and that press access to members of the armed forces needs to be tightly controlled so that the uniforms don’t embarrass the suits by disagreeing in public.

    What does that give you? A small group that is initially prevented from interacting with the media except in tightly controlled circumstances, and then generally only by very senior people. Junior people don’t know how to deal with the media, and no training on how to is thought necessary. The members of the media generally don’t have a lot of military experience or exposure since the CAF is very small, generally in out of the way locations in Canada and isn’t often involved in events that are considered newsworthy (we did not participate in a conflict where people were shooting at Canadians from 1953 to 1990 (I’m using our participation in the first Gulf War as my marker here) so the two professions just didn’t interact that often and as a result a whole lot of mutual misconceptions developed, often fed by US influences spilling over into our sphere. The learning curve got incredibly steep at this time with the advent of CNN and the beginnings of the 24 hour news cycle, which often meant that there was no time to go back and clarify points as the incident that was making news was being broadcast live. It was the equivalent of taking a former high school athlete and telling them “You’re now Canada’s Olympic hopeful. Race starts in 5 minutes, you’d better suit up.” Mistakes were made.

    One of the underlying mistakes of the CAF was that by not engaging the media positively throughout the 70s and 80s, the Canadian people were on the whole fairly ignorant of military affairs. What they saw was the military often asking for big ticket items to purchase come budget time. Because the government didn’t always trust the military to interact with the media in the wake of the 60s, a bureaucrat would be the one to do the press conference and they didn’t always make the best case to the public who’s footing the bill. As a result, the public doesn’t understand why the CAF needs this really expensive widget (because government spending rules require that the contract for the purchase of the widget include not only the cost of the item, but also the cost of 20 years of spare parts, fuel, training people to operate the new kit, etc.) and balks. This often resulted in putting off replacing some big ticket items (planes, tanks, ships, trucks) because no one thought to explain to the public that, yes this green truck is costing you $(metric butt-ton) each, but that includes the costs of 20 years of maintenance, the costs of training our mechanics to fix it and the fuel we project its going to use in the next 20 years. Instead, you had Accountant Georges that assumed the media person understood that the costs included all that, a military that wasn’t supposed to get involved in this, and a media that could generate $ money with the headline “Army to buy trucks for $1,000,000 each” resulting in a population that felt the military was ripping it off with “toys for boys” and screaming at their politicians to be more responsible with their money, who then decide that the contract isn’t being cancelled but does require “additional study before funds are committed” and now that 20 year old truck that was going to be replaced now needs to last another 10 years until the electoral heat dies down…. Meaning that Cpl Schnookums is driving a truck older than she is and is bitching about it to her mess buds about how frakked this is and how the media can’t be trusted, etc.


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