December 19, 2002



In the latest developments on the Worst Blog Of All Time, Canadian prime minister-to-be Paul Martin, MP, apparently didn't like the latest of his all of two blog posts (dated Dec. 9) about Christmas parties he was attending, so he deleted it and replaced it with a different posting after that week's Christmas parties had occurred, dated Dec. 14. Oh, yeah, he's getting the concept now...

The only paragraph left from the old post is paragraph 5, which now makes no sense. It talks about a brunch Martin went to "much later in the week" after the big Liberal Christmas parties on Thursday Dec. 12, but before the post date of Saturday. "Much later in the week?" Than Thursday?

Posted by BruceR at 02:10 PM



Me, I'm perfectly happy to have Colby Cosh and his entire Alberta/B.C. Report Canadian conservative journalist crew come down to 32 Brigade's offices any time and try to find some of that defence department waste he just knows is there. We have nothing to hide, at least at our level.

But I've done the, "if we have 50,000 personnel, why can't we have more than 2,000 soldiers overseas?" question here before. Again, 50,000 CF personnel, divided by three (army/navy/air force), divided by two (combat/non-combat) and divided by three rotations (over there right now/training to go over there/just back from over there), plus another rotation's worth as a training cadre, comes to just over 2,000 deployable front-line soldiers, or two battalions, as an absolute reg force army maximum: that's thumbnail math, but it's not too far off.

(In case you've lost count, Canadian army deployments abroad currently amount to one combat battalion, with a large logistic support element, in Bosnia, and a logistics battalion-minus supporting the UN Golan Heights force. We currently have the capacity to send a second battalion-sized element overseas, but we couldn't sustain it long-term because we'd be past that 2,000-soldier cap again.)

In fact, Canadian deployment rates, as a percentage of their total force size, have consistently been comparable to American or British, if not higher. It's just that we've simply got too few troops to start with.

Posted by BruceR at 12:01 PM



"Health care the spending priority, not defence: PM"
-- National Post, today

"Our troops could go to West Bank before peace deal, PM says"
-- National Post, also today

Well, I suppose that's one way to cut back on the payroll...

Seriously, anyone who can explain how a sane man can hold these two ideas in his head simultaneously (as duelling interviews on the same day would indicate in Prime Minister Chretien's case) -- freezing Canada's pathetic defence spending, and an aggressive policy of foreign military intervention -- please write to let me know how. Canadian military historian Sean Maloney certainly pulled no punches when he read them:

The introduction of Canadian forces into the present situation on the West Bank would be completely insane.

Posted by BruceR at 10:34 AM



I'm still thinking about why we have troubles getting soldier heroism stories out. Here's a couple quotes that made me think:

We don't have a popular image of Canadians. There would be no context.
--A British journalist talking to Sun columnist Paul Stanway, on why the British press doesn't cover Canada anymore.

The truth is, most non-native Canadians shrink from such stories -- because they make us feel guilty; because they involve complex political and bureaucratic history; because, other than a vague wish that native people were better off, we're preoccupied with other concerns, like our high taxes, or the latest infuriating government incompetence. And yet, the state of Canada's aboriginals is not only our national shame, it's our most glaring example of government waste, incompetence and failure.
--Linda Williamson in the Sun, on why there's not any "good news" stories about natives anymore.

Substitute "soldiers" for "Canadians" in the first, and for "natives" in the latter. Is there a similar journalistic blindspot for soldier stories in Canada today? I don't know, but I'm considering it.

(At least one email correspondent feels, one with some expert knowledge on the subject, that just the announcement's timing was way off, that we could have timed the release better with press deadlines and done better. They're absolutely right, of course. I'm just wondering if there isn't also a system-wide element at play here, as well.)

PS: Here's the Toronto Sun's story from this morning on the events in question.

Posted by BruceR at 10:22 AM



Two Toronto-area army reservists will be receiving the Medal of Bravery (MB), the Governor-General announced today for actions they took back on that horrible day, Sept. 11.

2nd Lieut. Peter Martinis and Master Corporal Peter Stibbard, while the rest of us were still transfixed in horror on what was going on in New York and Washington, had been put on front gate duty at Moss Park Armoury, one of the two army installations in downtown Toronto. They were unarmed, with instructions to just check for ID and call for backup if something amiss occurred: one doubts anyone saw the armoury itself as under threat, but it would likely have been a staging area if there had been any terrorist attack in the Toronto area that day... something, obviously, no one was ready to rule out just yet.

The whole thing would have gone without incident, if a mentally unbalanced man named Mark Hannah hadn't chosen their watch to try to gain access to the armoury. We really don't know what was going through his head (we were all a little jumpy, that day, as I recall) but Hannah felt for whatever reason that, because of Sept. 11, he had to get INSIDE that defence establishment. First, he just reacted angrily to not being allowed in. But when two passing policemen saw the escalating situation and tried to arrest Hannah for trespassing, he coldcocked one of them, and then took the other officer's sidearm. Assuming he could have figured out the safeties on a Glock pistol in his deranged state, things at that point could have gotten much, much worse, if Martinis and Stibbard hadn't tackled the guy and taken the gun away until the police officers could recover and pile on themselves. (Hannah later pled guilty to four felony counts and is currently incarcerated.)

Martinis and Stibbard are the first soldiers from the Toronto area to be decorated for courage since the present honours system was instituted in 1972. In all, fewer than 60 Canadian soldiers have received a bravery medal in that time. Having met both of them in my role as brigade public affairs officer, I have to say they're just a couple of regular guys, who did the right thing in a split second on a very rough day for all of us. I'm very glad the government decided to recognize them for it.

You may wonder why you hadn't heard about this one before. (Well might you wonder.) There's some more information on the 32 Brigade website. The Toronto Sun and Barrie Examiner will likely have pieces tomorrow and there were a couple bits on the local 11 o'clocks. And to be fair, we were working with zip notice from Rideau Hall in an off-peak media time of year. But I also can't help feel in some ways this is a story the Canadian media isn't really equipped to cover: they can't really pigeonhole military bravery stories like this, because it doesn't fit the paradigm.

I think it's clear I love Lord of the Rings as much as anyone, but I still wonder at a world where a local movie opening about fictitious, impossible heroes gets more mainstream press (I'm talking the A section, not entertainment news) than a story about a couple local, real-life guys who once did something rather heroic. I'm thinking the trouble is real-life heroics tend to be too complex for mainstream media (at least Canadian mainstream media) to fit into the square hole of their 1-minute or 300-word newsbit.

These guys weren't angels or saints (hey, they're soldiers after all) and they did something that lots of other soldiers have done overseas without ever being recognized (The same unit, the 48th Highlanders, that trained these guys also trained Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, who was killed by fratricide in Afghanistan last spring). But still, I would have thought more reporters would have thought it as nifty a story as I did (and a good example for other citizens to follow, when they see a cop in trouble). I guess I was wrong: oh, well.

Posted by BruceR at 12:55 AM