So, another Globe and Mail editorial cartoon, this one by Brian Gable, gets right to the point:
Another “watchdog” is going to do exactly nothing. The former Ombudsman did his job, he did the right thing. The problem was that the political leadership ~ specifically Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan ~ decided to ignore him and then to shut him out of the process. I have no idea why Minister Sajjan decided to put the interests of the most senior military officers ahead of those subordinate to them, but he did. The Ombudsman was the watchdog we needed. He did all the right things. Defence Minister Sajjan failed the men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces, he failed the institution and he failed Canada. Another watchdog will not fix that.
Some years ago I said that our military needed to be seen in human terms. Our men and women in uniform, I said, needed to be tough, superbly disciplined, well trained, adequately equipped and also properly organized and well led, too. I believe that the Canadian Armed Forces are not well enough led and that has led to a breakdown in discipline which I said, back in 2016, “is the sine qua non of soldiering.” I stand by that. Nothing, not firepower, not leadership, not fighting spirit, not huge budgets and the finest hardware, nothing else matters as much as discipline. I will not be moved off that position because I know that I have 3,000 years of history to back me up.
I remember, in 1961, reading an article, I’m pretty sure it was in Time magazine, but Google doesn’t help me out there, which noted that Lieutenant General Geoffrey Walsh had taken over (as Chief of the General Staff) (and I’m about 99% sure I have the words correct) “the small but superbly disciplined Canadian Army.” I showed the little article to an older soldier who said something like “this is some [expletive] Yank magazine, eh? Well, it figgers; they look at us and they think we’re the [expletive] Grenadier [expletive] Guards. All they see is the marchin’ and the drill and we look great ’cause they’re a sloppy bunch of [expletive]. But you remember, kid, what I tell ya. The real discipline ain’t on the parade square, it’s in the field and you listen to what I [expletive] tell ya’ and then you do like I [expletive] tell ya’.” ( It was that kind of [expletive]😉 army 60 years ago.) And he was right of course. Yes, our Regiment was a thing of beauty when we trooped the colour ~ as good as any other regiment in the world ~ but what made us better than any of the rest was self-discipline, learned the proper way by the examples set by good, tough leaders. Somehow the Canadian Armed Forces seems to have lost too much toughness, too much discipline and far too much leadership.
By my count, fully ⅓ of the most senior admirals and generals (four and three star officers) in the Canadian Armed Force shave been accused of some sort of impropriety. Now, I don’t know if that’s all there is ~ I fear there may be even more to come ~ and I don’t know if ⅓ of the colonels and lieutenants and sergeants are also going to be accused of misconduct (I certainly hope not), Nor do I know if ⅓ of bank presidents or corporate CEOs or very, very senior civil servants might be accused of the same sort of thing. What I do know is that ⅓ is too much for Canadian admirals and generals; ⅓ must be totally unacceptable; 1⁄10 is also too much; maybe 1/100 is a more “normal” and acceptable figure ~ but, I hope, since the Canadian Armed Forces has over 120 admirals and generals and commodores in the full-time, regular force, that 1/100 is too high, too.
In each public affair involving the most senior officers there appears to be a case to be answered. This is not just rumours. People have come forward and have made complaints that the military’s own National Investigation Service thinks need formal investigation. If it was just one, isolated case one might have said, “oh, maybe it’s just a disgruntled subordinate who didn’t get the promotion or positing she was after,” but in at least two cases we know that very senior Canadian officers had extramarital affairs while serving in allied HQs and that, at least, brought those individuals into some disrepute, even if they did not break any Canadian military rules. (Unlike the more puritanical USA, adultery is not a military offence in Canada.) So, it seems evident, unproven but evident, that something is not right within the top leadership levels of the Canadian Armed Forces. I believe that there has been a series of ethical failures, going back years, decades, in fact, which have created leadership problems which have had a direct impact on the discipline of the officers and sailors, soldiers and air force members who serve in Canada’s Navy, Army and Air Force.
My solution remains as I said almost two weeks ago: “It is time, I believe, for Prime Minister Trudeau to tell ALL of the currently serving four and three star admirals and generals to retire, forthwith.” Maybe he cannot force them retire but he can put each on indefinite, paid, leave.
I know that I am proposing mass punishment and so on, all the things that we were taught were not the hallmarks of good leadership but when ⅓ of the senior leaders are being investigated for moral misconduct then I believe that a bit of overreaction might be acceptable.
The Canadian Armed Forces needs a new, interim leader, who will have a specific mandate to restore the military ethos in Canada. If (s)he does that then the leadership and discipline will regenerate themselves. There will be not need for another useless watchdog.