Ottawa’s Fort Fumble

Rev. Rod Lamb File

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The other day the October 2019 issue of “Esprit De Corps: Canadian Military” magazine came across my desk, and, as is my want, I tripped across the letters to the editor; one of which, written by Bill Beswetherick of Kingston, (P.6-7) caught my eye:

“On May 8 the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) which had years to plan the event, rushed out a video commemorating the 75th anniversary of the June 6 Canadian participation in D Day but failed to notice it showed German, not Canadian soldiers. In an internal email, DVA claimed staff felt ‘disappointment’ at the error. I am sure surviving D Day veterans felt more than just ‘disappointment’ at incompetence by an organization meant to honour their sacrifices. No wonder many have little faith in it looking after them when it cannot even detect an error any high school student would have spotted.

“Although none of the six levels of senior staff involved in the review process picked up the error, DVA claims the ‘the approval process was thorough’ and that it was a ‘learning experience’. I am sure the same sort of staff would have judged the planning process for the 1942 Dieppe raid, in which almost a thousand Canadians died, also was ‘thorough’ and the raid was a ‘learning opportunity.’ “

Deputy DVA Minister, recently retired Chief of the Defence Staff Walter Natynczk, stated the error was a ‘completely unacceptable mistake’, but I can safely bet the farm that none of the staff involved will have his or her performance bonus adversely affected.

“DVA solution to the video fiasco is typical government – add more bureaucracy. The six levels of senior staff which failed to detect the error will now include two staff from the Minister’s Office.”

This kind of bungling is so typical of the Canadian headquarters in Ottawa. No wonder it is referred to as Fort Fumble on the Rideau.

As a former volunteer padre at the Canadian base in Petawawa, I was often regaled by troops about the kind of screw-ups which plagued the place. No wonder, in polite language, this was referred to by such initials as SNAFU.

My father, James Lamb, former RCNVR (Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve) corvette commander, frequently saw this kind of inepitude during the Second World War. At war’s end, for example, after some of his crew had had some fun riding a cow on army property, the next day he was hauled into the com

manding officer’s office who raked him over the coals for abusing his cow!
The whole thing was a farce. No wonder he was so contemptuous of the higher brass.

This contempt continues to this day. When Don Cherry was sent packing for an alleged smear of some politically correct matter, the Armed Forces, which had regarded him as their hockey czar, was deafening in their silence. At the time, Cherry was wearing a Royal Canadian Legion jacket and a Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry tie. It did him as much good as a notarized endorsement from Martin Borman, Hitler’s lieutenant in the bunker.

For all the rhetoric Canadians make about their armed forces, we are remarkably disinterested in how they are treated. Only on Remembrance Day will we make some reference.

Perhaps it’s because of politics. The Armed Forces had chosen a Vancouver ship yard to build some badly-needed new vessels. But, to keep sacred cows happy, several of the ships were instead awarded to a Quebec shipyard. Of course, no mention was made, officially. It’s just business as usual at Fort Fumble.

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