Dammit! It’s been too nice for too long! Time for another briefing!
Colonel Dobson gathered his notes and reviewed the briefing he was about to present to the CDS and the defence minister. Operational briefings were now scheduled for every twelve hours in the Ops Centre, with extra situational briefings whenever significant events and the incidents warranted….
Dobson knew this evening’s briefing would be tense. His boss was deeply concerned that, although intelligence reports and deployment schedules clearly demanded the immediate movement of his units from their home stations close to the expected “disturbances,” his political masters continued to ignore the CDS’s advice and stalled in the hope that the whole thing would somehow just go away.
Yes, that’s right. We’re having another briefing. Don’t go away, though! This time there’ll be some action! A full on ambush even!
A bit of literary criticism first:
A major part of building tension in your writing is mapping out the events of your novel, and structuring them in such a way that it creates an increasing level of tension & release. Big moment of drama (the raid on Petawawa) followed by a calmer patch that allows for the audience to catch its breath (the meeting at Akwesasne). Then there’s more drama (the move to Winnipeg, the recce of the Dam), followed by a another calm period that is nevertheless more dramatic than the first one due to the events that have already taken place. So on and so on, allowing the drama to ratchet up while giving the audience regular breaks to get to know the characters, and understand why they’re moving towards their inevitable conclusions.
If you’ve done the job right, the climax of the story should not only be awesome, but it should also be seen as appropriate. A logical place to end up based on what has come before.
In this scene, a three major plot developments (two of which are Significant Incident Reports) are going to be presented through the vehicle of CDS’s Operational briefing. The timestamp at the start of the scene is 2130 hrs on a Thursday, suggesting that the last briefing was held at 0930 hrs, but two of these three events happened overnight between Wednesday and Thursday. Meaning that they should have been brought up during the morning briefing. What we should be hearing now are updates on the SIRs, not the initial news. That’s weird enough. But on top of this, the events themselves should have had a major impact on the story and the actions of the characters in it. Both represent major escalations in the ongoing confrontation with the Movement, but both are treated as unremarkable by the Generals and Ministers present.
“Minister, General Bishop,” he began. “This briefing is based on information as of seventeen hundred hours ago today. In brief, the national security situation is deteriorating rapidly. Intelligence sources, including those at CSIS and the RCMP, conclude that significant threats to civil order exist in Quebec, particularly in the major cities of Montreal and Quebec City and at the James Bay facilities. They conclude also that conditions exist for significant unrest across the Prairie region and in northern Ontario. The main threat arises from militant native groups led by, supported by, or affiliated with the Native People’s Movement and backed by the so-called Native People’s Army. I have outlined these organizations before but if you have any questions I would be happy to elaborate.”
As we have already seen, there is good reason for their suspicions about James Bay (where they have been monitoring Will Boucanier), as well as Québec City and Montreal (where there have been riots). There’s still no clear indication as to why they’re suspecting further NPA action out west. Sure that’s where Alex Gabriel turned up, but nobody so far has seemed particularly worried about actually arresting him. The only reason I can see, based on the text at least, is Bland’s whole notion of “think in terms of vulnerabilities, not threats.”
Dobson paused briefly while the staff adjusted the situation maps and displays. “Gentlemen,” he resumed, “these displays illustrate the current Canada Command deployments. Of particular importance are the redirectment of airborne troops and supporting units to CFB Trenton, the reinforcement of 5 Brigade with troops from CFB Gagetown, the deployment of the CF18 squadron from CFB Bagotville to Cold Lake for security reasons, and the increased readiness of all regular and reserve units across the Canadian Forces.
An important thing to keep in mind here is that moving a major asset like CF18s is a massive strategic decision. Canada does not have a large Air Force (when Bland was writing this, it was even smaller than it is today), and the CF18s are basically the crown jewels. Fully functional, top-of-the-line fighter jets with experienced pilots and support crews are a massive force multiplier, and all but impossible to replace on short notice. This move was not authorized by the Minister of National Defence or by the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, Gen Bishop did not hesitate to take this action to preserve this vital asset.
This is important. Bishop et al are going to complain repeatedly in this and future scenes that their hands are tied as they need permission to take decisive action. Now it is true that, without an invocation of the Emergency Measures Act or in response to a request of Aid for the Civil Power, the CDS cannot take any action outside of National Defence property. This still leaves a wide variety of actions he can take in preparation for an anticipated action.
Moving the CF18s is an example of such an action. Since the jets were moved from one CFB to another, this would fall within the CDS’s domain and not necessarily require the Prime Minister’s authorization. But this isn’t the only action he can take. Assembling Battle Groups, designating chains of command, conducting some initial rehearsals are all things that can be done without the Prime Minister’s permission.
Then there’s the simple but all-important task of reaching out to the appropriate police agencies to share information and assigning liaison officers. When things finally blow up, the most vital first task will be to gather accurate information and coordinate between civilian, police, and military chains of command. Something as simple as assembling and disseminating a phone list can shave hours – if not days – off deployment times and save hundreds of lives.
More on this later. Right now, let’s check out the first SIR:
“We have received two Significant Incident Reports since the last briefing. Last night at about zero-two-hundred, one of the main Hydro lines from James Bay to Montreal was severely and intentionally damaged, resulting in a power outage in the city which is still affecting approximately 50,000 customers. The Hydro-Quebec crews refused to go to the damage site without a police escort, and that escort couldn’t be arranged until this morning. We’re waiting for a report on the repairs at this moment.”
This would have been a good thing to mention before now. Civilians have a habit of treating violence that doesn’t effect them directly with a kind of casual detachment. Even when it’s in the country, it’s happening somewhere else or on the TV. And that’s assuming that people are actually paying attention. This can result in disproportionate shock and outrage when the violence finally hits home.
So the lights went off for fifty thousand people in Montreal, huh? Canada’s second most populous city? How did the people handle that? Why wasn’t this one of the first things to come up when Gen Bishop went to see the Prime Minister this morning?
It might be fair to allow that the blackout happened but the cause wasn’t known at the time of the morning briefing. Even then, the suspicion should have been hanging over the CF and government characters like a cloud throughout the day. Especially given that James Bay was already on the radar. It should have also been reflected in the text.
Meanwhile, in the text we have here, the blackout seems to have occurred in some kind of vague alternate timeline. It happened, but somehow the PM doesn’t…know about it(?)
“Well,” Riley interrupted, “I can tell you that the PM and his Quebec lieutenant, Mr Labbé, are mighty pissed off at this attack and they want to know what the army is doing to prevent another one.”
“Minister, you can tell the PM, or I will, if you prefer,” replied the CDS icily, “that we can’t assure the free functioning of every kilometre of transmission line, especially not if we sit in the barracks. Carry on, Colonel Dobson.”
Uh…what? The PM and his top Québec MP are mighty pissed? This implies that the PM has recently become pissed, as opposed to having been pissed this morning, when the briefing happened and the lights were already off.
Remember this douche bag? He was part of the killer mob at whisky trench. Guys like this douche are going to be mad too, and politicians are going to worry.
Gen Bishop’s attitude here is pushing into disrespectful territory, and it’s only going to get worse, but he’s not completely out of line here. The CF has not been mobilized or given any definitive mission (although Jack Hemp has delivered several implied orders that could have granted Bishop some leeway), so it’s certainly not fair to blame him for this event.
Now for our second event:
Dobson looked directly at Riley. “The second SIR involves a penetration of the security perimeter at CFB Bagotville around first light this morning by a small party, we suspect less that a dozen natives, riding around in three pickup or four all-terrain vehicles. Shots were fired in the general direction of the hangar lines. The base defence force returned fire. The marksmanship on both sides prevented any casualties to anyone and the raiders disappeared immediately on taking fire.
So…this would have been a good scene to write out. Like, I would have enjoyed reading about this event instead of listening to Jack Hemp ramble and complain to the Grand Chief. Especially since it involves an attack on Bagotville, where the CF18s had been based until yesterday. This sounds like it was an attempt to knock out a chunk of Canada’s air power right at the start of the uprising, which could serve as a vindication for Gen Bishop’s decision to move the fighters out of there. It would have been a good scene to actually read about in person.
Let’s have it play out from say, the perspective of a Supply Tech on base. Someone not considered essential enough to move with the CF18s when they left, and pulling an extra shift as part of the Base Defence Force. Maybe even play it out in contrast to the sad fate of Fred McTavish from earlier in the novel. Even a no-casualties confrontation can be absolutely harrowing for the people involved. The Supply Tech hears the vehicles approaching but responds with caution instead of stepping out into the road. Shots are fired, engines roar, maybe the attack is stopped in the nick of time by the arrival of reinforcement.
This drama could then be contrasted with a sterile description in a headquarters briefing as a way to contrast the experience on the ground from that in the office. How even a General as ultra-cool as Bishop is still likely to be out of touch with the people on the ground just by the very nature of his job.
“Minister, we appear to be in a preliminary phase but not a static one. Native groups in Quebec seem to be forming larger parties, maybe even some units, as we understand the term, and they’re acting more aggressively. The Canadian Forces are deployed as best they can under the prime minister’s guidelines, but…” Dobson slowed down, pronouncing each word clearly and distinctly. “But we are not deployed in sufficient numbers or in the right locations to pre-empt or deter hostile actions that we can now anticipate.” He paused for effect, then resumed more rapidly. “The premier of Quebec, however, seems about to force the government’s hand.”
Riley sat up straight and stared at the CDS. “What’s this? What does she mean?”
The ‘she‘ that Defence Minister Riley is referring to here is Québec Premier Madeleine Commeau, who is female, and not Colonel Ian Dobson who is currently speaking, and is male. Yet another example of how editing is your friend.
“She means, “ said Bishop, raising a finger in Riley’s direction, “that we have been informed in the last hour from Canada Command that the solicitor general of Quebec is preparing a requisition for aid of the civil power on the grounds that, as we understand it, Quebec is facing ‘an apprehended insurrection’ mounted by militant native groups from within and without the province. I anticipate that the requisition will hit my desk in the next few hours or early Friday morning, and if it does, I will have to respond immediately as the National Defence Act stipulates. Therefore, minister, you and I had best get over to see the prime minister as soon as Colonel Dobson is done here so that I can explain to him how I intend to respond if and when the requisition arrives.
And here it is. The third event. The ambush is sprung.
So this briefing started with Col Dobson describing events that happened over the previous night, and may have already been resolved. Although these events speak to an overall strategic picture, they are not as immediately urgent as what has just been revealed here: Whatever plan the Double-PC government may have had, and whatever may have happened last night, everything is about to be turned on its head by the Québec Premier. This request may in fact be on its way to the CDS’s desk as they speak.
Gen Bishop should have led with this. Hell, Gen Bishop should have called Defence Minister Riley the moment he heard a request was coming from the Québec government. Premier Commeau has forced everyone’s hand and now the army is going to have to move, either in support of the Province’s Aide to the Civil Power request, or as part of a Federal Emergency Measures Act mobilization.
Now, do you remember recently how Gen Bishop was very particular about his people not taking notes during a previous briefing?
“…Minister, let me be clear, and Colonel Dobson, I want this statement in the briefing record: should I receive a requisition from the solicitor general of Quebec, I will act with dispatch and deploy an appropriate force of well-armed units to assist the SQ in Quebec.
Earlier Bishop had ordered his staff officers to not take notes as he speculated openly about how the Prime Minister wasn’t actually his boss. Now he’s ordering his staff to take note that he will instantly respond to an request from the Québec Premier that will give him the excuse he needs to carry out his preferred plan of action, and not the Prime Minister’s.
Don’t believe me? Here’s the next paragraph:
“And minister, I will also deploy a force into the James Bay region to deter if possible and to snuff out if necessary any threat there before we lose control of that situation too. Furthermore, I will make what arrangements I think are necessary to protect Canadian Forces members and assets in other regions and to make a show of strength in the West to deter any group that thinks it can take advantage of the situation in Quebec.”
During his meeting with the PM, we talked about the implied orders that Jack Hemp gave Gen Bishop. Bishop had the opportunity to either use these implied orders to cooperate with the SQ to secure James Bay, or warn the Prime Minister that this plan wouldn’t work so that the PM could develop a new one. Here we’re seeing the reason for why he kept silent and did nothing. With the situation escalating, he would soon receive carte blanche to act when the Québec Premier called for help.
Rather than cooperating to implement an acceptable plan, he delayed o that circumstances would allow him to force his plan upon everyone.
Make no mistake: Bishop could have warned Riley about the impending Requisition an hour ago, giving the Minister of Defence time to talk to the Prime Minister to determine a response. This response could have been introduced at the start of this briefing, allowing all further decisions to be made accordingly. Instead, he’s springing it here, after a bunch of old information has already lulled the Minister into a false sense of security, then laid out exactly what he plans to do as an ultimatum.
If you don’t authorize me to act, I will use this as an excuse to do it without you.
A few moments earlier? When I said that General Bishop was getting into disrespectful territory? This is full on insubordination. It may be acceptable to present legal facts as an ultimatum (“If you don’t do X, I will be legally forced to do X myself when Y happens.”) but delivering it as a surprise, in a manner calculated to put the Minister off balance is not.
Jim Riley moves to speak, but Bishop won’t give him the chance:
“No, minister, please don’t interrupt. My concern here, my very great concern, is that Canada’s governments, including yours but not only yours, have left the situation unattended for so long that we may be too late to avoid a long and costly struggle. You and your colleagues, including the prime minister, must understand the situation and prepare yourselves for bloodshed. It’s no longer a question of bad publicity. It’s a question of struggling to avoid a massive and irredeemable breakdown of law and order.”
This honestly sounds like Gen Andy Bishop has been holding a grudge for a while, and is planning on exacting his revenge by forcing a response to the uprising that will require excessive force. Either that or Douglas Bland is the one who’s been holding the grudge, and is using Uprising to voice it.
I…think it might be Bland.
Riley seemed almost relieved. “Well, in either case, I expect your cooperation and I assure you, you’ll get mine. I’ll see the prime minister immediately and pass your message along. If he wants to talk with you, I’ll let you know. But there are other things civilian authorities have to think about, you know. The military doesn’t have all the answers all the time. We need realistic advice. We have to consider the facts of national life. You guys don’t.”[Bold mine]
Oh look, another implied order. Wonder how Gen Bishop is going to take it.
Bishop turned to face Riley squarely. “Fine, minister, you speak with the prime minister, but I advise you to state the case in very clear terms. You and the prime minister will have my cooperation, but I must decide where my duty lies as circumstances unfold. If the prime minister decides that he can’t accept my advice, then I’ll recommend a candidate to take my place, unless, of course, he wishes to become his own CDS in the midst of this crisis.”
In other words, ‘My cooperation is conditional.’ Also, remember what retired Gen Rick Hillier (our real-life example of a CDS) had to say about threatening to retire?
So the scene ends with the Defence Minister hurrying out of his own defence briefing in order to warn the Prime Minister that their authority is about to be co-opted. There is no indication as to whether the briefing itself was delayed or would simply be cancelled altogether, but the next time we meet Col Dobson the timestamp says 2312 hrs and he is returning to his regular station at NDHQ, so maybe they waited?
It was close to midnight when Ian Dobson returned to the NDOC and found two worried-looking staff officers waiting for him. The senior duty officer handed him a couple of pages of notes. “The latest int reps are just in, sir, and they don’t look good. Actually, I think the shit’s hit the fan.”
Dobson glanced through the assessment. “Have you verified this with CSIS and the Mounties?”
“Yes, sir. They agreed that something big is developing tonight and they have their people on it right now. We also asked the Ranger commander here at NDHQ to make some inquiries among his units in James Bay. He phoned around then told us that everyone in the units has gone hunting. When he asked a couple of the women why the men were hunting at this time of year, they clammed right up and refused to talk to him any further”
“Okay. Keep on the other sources. Jimmy, secure fax this to Canada Command ops. Get the senior duty officer on the line for me ASAP and call the DCDS and ask him to come down here. Everyone, staff doubles up tonight.”
So while they were springing an ambush on their civilian leadership, at a briefing that was based on four-hour old information, information that re-hashed events from last night, things were actively getting worse.
Well, I guess if the staff officers and the Deputy-CDS stay up all night, that might make up for it.
***Today’s Featured image is from the movie ‘Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ (Columbia Pictures, 1964) where the Russian ambassador arrives at the War Room. Something about a scene where two civilians struggle resolve a crisis while a petulant General glares in the background seemed appropriate right about now. Source.***
 I’m not an HQ type myself, I’m not 100% sure, but I think the CDS should be getting a strategic briefing, while the operational briefings should be happening at the Battle-Group level.
 So, as a quick refresher: Alex Gabriel’s raid took place Sunday night. He met with Molly Grace while Will Boucanier arrived in Chisasibi on Monday. Gabriel was re-deployed to Winnipeg to meet up with Col ‘Sam’ Steele on Tuesday, while Molly Grace had her show down with the reluctant chiefs on her Native People’s Council on Wednesday, then ordered the beginning of the uprising on Thursday. On the Canadian Forces side, the CF noticed something was happening Monday morning, briefed the Minister of Defence on Tuesday, wasted Wednesday staring at their navels and had their first sit-down with the PM on Thursday morning.
 Is Col Dobson saying that his information is four hours old? How much time was he spending on preparing this briefing that he couldn’t plug in any further updates?
 Remember, General Bishop received an implied order from the Prime Minister to share information with the SQ during his meeting this morning. It won’t take long for us to see that he has deliberately ignored this order.
 Remember, at this point Alex Gabriel is only suspected of leading the Petawawa Raid, and while he is a deserter nobody seems especially desperate to track him down. So he’s not the reason why the intelligence community suspects an uprising in the West.
 Trying to get people to care about misogyny or online anti-feminist radicals was almost impossible until an Incel terrorist decided to run down a bunch of random innocents. Then suddenly it was like every news program out there was trying to explain what the Red Pill was.
 The text isn’t clear about what stage the repairs are at right now. If the information was current as of 1700 hrs (four and a half hours ago) then couldn’t the damage already be repaired?
 Bland would have to specify if he was a ‘jam-stealer‘ or a ‘donkey-walloper‘ or both, I suppose.
 We remember.
 As I’ve mentioned before, the actual letter requesting military aid during the Oka Crisis was only a page long. Once the decision is made, it doesn’t take long to submit a formal request.
 We discussed the basics of mobilizing the Canadian Armed Forces for a domestic operation here. This scene also casts Bishop’s earlier complaints about having his hands tied in a new light. He already knows that he’s about to be let off his leash!
 I’ve had to deliver a few of these ultimatums myself, but it’s never been without lots of advance warning. Sure the Officer always acts like it’s a surprise, but it really isn’t. “Sir, I warned you this was going to happen. Now the trucks are stuck, and the whole deployment’s screwed. I’m going to go un-fuck this mess the way I said we should have in the first place. Meanwhile, you can go explain to the CO why his schedule’s gone out the fucking window!”
 This is the point where, in the real world, the meeting would have devolved into a screaming match. You do not drop a bombshell like Bishop did then tell the fucking Minister of Defence to “Shut up and listen.” Col Dobson should be rushing forward to block these two from actually getting into a fist fight right there in the briefing room.
 I’m sorry, what? Is General Bishop saying that the Minister’s expectations of cooperation are acceptable to him? Since when are the boss’s orders up for your approval, soldier?