There have not been very many feel-good moments in Ottawa of late. There was one last week, although it was thoroughly overshadowed by the horror that gripped the capital, like the rest of the country, at the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, and by the stampede to close Parliament for the summer – a summer most MPs expect will end in a fall election.
If the decades-long scandal over sexual abuse and misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces has accomplished nothing else, it has created a cottage industry for retired justices of the Supreme Court of Canada – three of them so far.
Former justice Louise Deschamps was the first. In 2015, Deschamps delivered a report that urged the government to transfer the responsibility for the investigation of misconduct complaints and the prosecution of offenders from the CAF chain of command to an independent civilian agency.
Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau,
My Dear Prime Minister,
So, tomorrow is the first of June, the month you have been waiting for. I bet you have the big date written on the wall of the PMO: Wednesday, June 23. That’s the day Parliament shuts down for the summer and its members go wherever MPs go when they aren’t on the Hill whining at you about one fool thing or another. They would try the patience of Job, wouldn’t they, Sir?
The email from an acquaintance in England the other day was short and to the point: “What the Sam Hill is going on in the Canadian military? Just one senior officer or chief of staff after another under investigation and resigned. Is anyone in control there?”
These are fair questions. What indeed is going on?
The Canadian Armed Forces is losing generals faster that it can make them. By my count, the body count stands at five. Allegations of sexual misconduct are the common denominator in four of the five cases.
Ontario Progressive Conservatives fired the opening salvo of their June 2, 2022 re-election campaign a couple of weeks ago when they put a paid ad on social media attacking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals. The ad accused the feds of letting COVID-19 into the country by failing to close airports to international flights quickly enough in early 2020. And that failure, the ad insinuated, is why today we have variants from all over the world flying freely into Canada.
They are playing the good old blame game again on Parliament Hill. This time, the game involves two familiar elements: sexual misconduct in Canadian Armed Forces and a breakdown in the chain of accountability for a reported scandal – this one a high-profile affair involving Jonathan Vance, the former chief of the defence staff.
In a column two weeks ago, I ventured the heretical opinion that the politicians we elect do not receive enough appreciation for the hard work and long hours they put in and for the stress their jobs create for their families. Their task becomes especially trying during a pandemic.
Would anyone care to second a motion that we declare a National Day of Appreciation for Politicians?
Perhaps not. Our instinct as citizens, taxpayers and voters is to criticize and condemn, not to compliment and thank, the men and women we elect to do the heavy lifting of democracy.
But surely this is an appropriate occasion – a year into the COVID-19 pandemic – to contemplate what a bruising year it has been for elected representatives. Although I’m thinking of the federal variety, provincial politicians have taken their share of the bruising.
Chief Executive Officer
London SW1A 1AA
Dear Sir or Madam,
I understand you are the person, the chief executive, who manages the business of the House of Windsor. I have scoured your website – royal.uk – and diligently researched other sources. Yet I have been unable to find any trace of you. No name, no gender, no job title. Would I offend you enormously if I called you CE?
No one has ever claimed that Canada is a breeze to govern. We have too few people spread too thinly over too much territory, too many overlapping layers of government, too many politicians scuffling over jurisdiction – and over cash. Not to mention a constitutional division of powers written in and for the age of the horse and buggy.