Canada and its Land Forces—A French Canadian Soldier's View
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 1 Feb 1979, p. 206-218
Paradis, Lieut. General Jean Jacques, Speaker
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Item Type
The involvement of all Canadians in the building and strengthening of national unity. The importance of Canada's credibility as a reliable ally to a soldier. The feeling of Quebeckers. The conflict or "curtain of fog" that has descended between Canada's so-called two solitudes. A discussion or exploration of this issue; an examination of the reasons for it, set in a military-historical perspective. An optimistic belief in the outcome of the referendum in favour of a united Canada.
Date of Original
1 Feb 1979
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Full Text
FEBRUARY 1, 1979
Canada and its Land Forces--A French Canadian Soldier's View
AN ADDRESS BY Lieut. General Jean Jacques Paradis, C.M.M., C.D., COMMANDER, FORCE MOBILE COMMAND
CHAIRMAN The President, Reginald W. Lewis


Members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: There's an old saying that "No news is good news." It is nowhere more applicable than in the case of our armed forces. To many in this country it probably came as a surprise last week that there are, for example, Canadian soldiers on the Golan Heights with bayonets. For more often than not the forces, and particularly so the regulars, hit the headlines only as a sidelight to some other issue. A classic case in point was this week when the forces certainly made the headlines but in the context of a feminist issue rather than defence. That our forces are out there somewhere and doing a good job of work, we know, but it is, I think, a pity that their professional skills, good works and the extraordinary contributions that they have made to the development of Canada are not better known to the average citizen and particularly to our young people.

And so it is that we look forward with a great deal of interest when a member of that small group of professionals accepts an invitation to speak to us. We are delighted, on this occasion, to welcome as our guest speaker Lieutenant General Jean Jacques Paradis, Commander of the Order of Military Merit, and Commander Mobile Command. To put that term "Mobile Command" in context, let me tell you that it comprises the whole field force of what was the Army and to which has been added certain tactical aviation units. If I may be so bold, "Mobile Command" is our euphemism for the Army and General Paradis is our Army Commander.

The General was born in Montreal, where he was educated in the Quebec classical college tradition. He graduated from the University of Montreal and at the onset of the Korean War, he joined the army. Our speaker experienced active combat duty in Korea from 1951 to 1952 as a subaltern with the Second Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment. He subsequently served in a number of command and staff appointments at home and abroad, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and command of the Third Battalion of his regiment, the "Vandoos," in 1966. He was promoted to Colonel and in 1969 appointed Deputy Commandant of the Staff College, after which he went to England to study at the Imperial Defence College. In 1972 he was promoted to Brigadier General to command the 5e Groupe-brigade, our combat group stationed at Valcartier. As a Major General, he was in turn Deputy Commander of Mobile Command and Chief of Personnel Development for the forces. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General in August 1977, he was appointed to his present command the following month.

These brief details were lifted from the official biographical notes on the General. Those notes fail to mention that he is a soldier's soldier and that he has a great pride that his regimental Colonel-in-Chief is the Queen. Those notes also do not mention that he is a Canadian patriot and his own force for unity. There is also no mention that he is a broadly read and scholarly officer who is also a trained and accomplished musician.

The General is a rarity in being a senior French Canadian officer. Let me explain. Whereas thirty per cent of our population are of French ethnic origin, only some twenty-five percent of our armed forces are, and in fact ten years ago the figure was twenty per cent. Furthermore, in the officer category, the French proportion is considerably less, their numbers being disproportionately concentrated in the non-commissioned ranks. Less than thirteen per cent of all our Generals, Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels are of French ethnic origin and indeed ten years ago that figure was only five per cent. Lieutenant General Paradis is the senior serving French Canadian officer of the Canadian armed forces. As such, he is uniquely qualified to speak to us on the topic--"Canada and its Land Forces, a French Canadian Soldier's View."

Ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured at this time to present to you Lieutenant General Jean Jacques Paradis, Commander, Mobile Command.


Ladies and gentlemen: This year you celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of The Empire Club of Canada. Not only do I congratulate you for ensuring the continued existence of a most worthwhile institution, but I thank you for myself and all those before me to whom you have provided the occasion to express views they cherished and who otherwise might never have been heard.

For seventy-five years the Empire Club and its members have fostered the freedom of thought and speech which we in Canada have always held as being a cornerstone of our democracy. This commands the respect of all Canadians. I am indeed honoured and delighted to be your guest today to address you on "Canada and its Land Forces, a French Canadian Soldier's View."

Let me deal once and for all, I hope, with a rumour which from time to time shows its ugly head. The Special Service Force based at Petawawa is not poised on the border of Quebec ready to invade that province. As the Commander of nearly all of Canada's Land Forces I must, as you know, be prepared to deploy battle-ready forces for carrying out operations in support of the entire spectrum of Canada's defence objectives. These involve, in order of priority, tasks in relation to our national security, the defence of North America and our NATO and international peacekeeping commitments. While no forces are maintained for this sole purpose, any of my troops may be called upon to provide, on request, aid to civil law-enforcement agencies, anywhere in Canada, in the execution of their constitutional responsibilities. Mobile Command is now, as it has always been in the past, ready and able to perform such a task in the future. But no one should confuse capabilities with intentions, and it is from intentions that plans are derived. I can give you my word that no plans exist for the so-called invasion of the Province of Quebec. And this brings me closer to the heart of my topic.

As a French Canadian, and a soldier, the very thought that divisions within my country could spark a violent confrontation among its people is repulsive, and it is a prospect that must be devoutly rejected by all Canadians. Those who speak lightly of military intervention apparently seem to forget the dismal record of failure of so-called military solutions to internal political differences and the agony of destruction, misery and heartbreak that accompanies them. The list of examples in our time is so lengthy and pitiful that I don't need to quote any. The very existence of our Forces in terms its institutions. They also continue to believe, along with a high proportion of their compatriots, that these goals can best be achieved within Confederation, and that their aspirations, if fulfilled, can only strengthen the fabric of Canada. As a soldier, this inner strength in terms of Canada's credibility as a reliable ally in the pursuit of world peace cannot escape me nor should it escape anyone.

Of course, the ambivalence of many Quebeckers on these issues contributes to a large degree to the confusion that pervades the debate both within and outside the province. The French Canadian humorist Yvon Deschamps put it rather astutely in response to the usual question: "What does Quebec want?" He said: "Quebeckers want an independent Quebec within a strong Canada!"

Of course, he brought the house down with his remark. But the majority of Quebeckers ardently want to put an end to this uncertainty. They are eager to stand up and be counted as to where their political expectations lie. I am firmly confident that in the coming referendum, (I did not say Gallup polls), when the issues at stake are put before its people, Quebec will clearly demonstrate its will to pursue its destiny as a full partner in Confederation. But Quebeckers cannot do it alone. They will need "a little help from their friends" living in the other nine Canadian provinces.

In this context, it is no exaggeration to say (and here, I will attempt not to paraphrase Churchill too closely) that in recent years a curtain of fog has descended between Canada's so-called two solitudes. To put it mildly, it is the fog of obscurantism that contributes most to the current misunderstandings between the major linguistic groups of our country. If I have one fear at all about the positive outcome of the referendum in Quebec, it is the yet unknown effect these misunderstandings may have on the minds and the will of the majority of Quebeckers who are already committed to federalism and on the not insignificant numbers who claim, in polls, to be uncertain.

In this connection let me outline a few of the minor and major fog patches in the troubled Canadian scene, that in no small way contribute to exacerbate and embroil the debate now taking place in Quebec, and which play into the hands of those whose aim it is to pull her out of Confederation. Fair-minded Quebeckers understand the natural negative response, or resentment of many, over some of the recent developments in their province and the severity of the critics about certain endeavours of the incumbent or even past governments of Quebec. But they are justifiably upset by the persistently heavy barrage of subtle and not so subtle attacks, in the printed and other media, that indiscriminately falls upon all Quebeckers, whatever their roles in Canadian society, their allegiance or their loyalty.

They recoil at the sound of boos, as sparse as they are, when Canada's national anthem is sung in French. They suspect the intentions of those who would paralyze Canada's entire air transportation system for a not too clearly defined fear of French being used in the air space above Quebec. They don't like to be reminded that they lost the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 by persons who not only have a poor knowledge of historical facts but who appear to still believe they have a God-given obligation to complete the conquest of an imaginary New France. (I have already said what I felt about the notion of fighting it all over again!) They are puzzled by the response of those who, because of a few words of French printed on their corn flakes boxes, claim it interferes with the operation of their throats. They are concerned, and whether this concern is justified or not is not at issue, with the movement of head offices out of Montreal when it is insufficiently made clear to them that the reasons are based on simple economics.

The catchy phrase "French Power," and the uses made of it, evoke more worrisome connotations, if interpreted to mean that French Canadians are not welcome to aspire to rewarding and prominent careers in the government service or in other endeavours of national consequence.

The short list I have just outlined is by no means exhaustive and the issues it raises are not by themselves of equal importance or seriousness. Let me just say that it is the sheer volume and repetitiveness of the message, rather than its objective content, that can have an eroding effect on the hearts and minds of those French Canadians who are committed to federalism and especially of those whose belief in it is faltering.

"Sandwiched" between confusing outside pressures and the well-articulated internal entreaties and blandishments of a separatist minority who skilfully exploits every shade of misunderstanding, I believe these French Canadians not only need but deserve the encouragement of the entire population of Canada in a spirit of tolerance and true patriotism!

I have singled out earlier in especially glowing terms how the French Canadian soldier, because of his unique familiarity with the whole of Canada and its people, has acquired a rather special perception of our national scene. I would not be entirely truthful if I led you to believe that he is so thick-skinned as to be completely unaffected by the divisions in his country.

Of particular significance in this regard is the issue of bilingualism and biculturalism in the Forces. Let me cite you an example of the sort of "flak," as it were, that we run into. The quotation is from the book In Retreat by Gerald Porter. I quote: "Bilingualism policies for the Forces have had a particularly damaging effect on their overall efficiency and morale. The policy which originally intended to unite the two language groups in pursuit of a common goal is pushing them further apart. If the present program continues apace, the forces will be neatly divided into two language camps by the mid-1980s. It has been an expensive and vexatious exercise for most of those in uniform, particularly the English majority, who believe their careers are being sacrificed on the altar of linguistic expediency."

I don't propose, in the course of this short address, to make the apology for the bilingualism and biculturalism program or to comment in detail on whether it has been implemented wisely or not. Suffice it to say that the first page of a special study published last year by the Commissioner of Official Languages indeed recognized the past efforts made by the Department of National Defence, but devotes the next 213 pages to telling us where our policies and practices are out of kilter with the Official Languages Act, which, by the way, is a

law of our land. The program is now under intensive review both in my Command and at National Defence Headquarters. I can tell you that the plans under preparation will not be designed to water down the program further, but to make it work. And there are good reasons for so doing.

We've come a long way from World War I, when only one major unit of infantry in the C.E.F. was allowed to be identified as French Canadian, and that was the 22nd Regiment or the "Vandoos" as they began to be known. I think it is fair to say that the Vandoos accounted well for themselves in the field of honour. Who knows how many more regiments of that calibre might have been raised had it not been for the short-sightedness of the governments of the time, who disregarded or feared to make any concessions to the reality of Quebec's cultural and linguistic identity? Similar policies persisted more or less throughout the Second World War in which French Canadian units designated for overseas service were restricted to four infantry battalions and one artillery regiment. There were sundry minor support units, and no armoured regiment. It would appear that it was un-Canadian then, as before, to allow French Canadians to fight in formed brigades. I'll spare you the story of how lavish the reception was for formed French Canadian units in our Navy and Air Force. I don't have to remind you either with what gusto, thanks partly to such policies, the majority of the young men in my province rallied under the flag! It is also interesting to note, in passing, that during both these conflicts our country came close to breaking up.

In the immediate post-war years and during the Korean War, right on through the late sixties, except for the brief appearance of a few sub-units of other arms, the Royal 22nd Regiment remained the only French language regular force unit in all of Canada's three services. There indeed was an active bilingualism program in effect then too; but it was limited to some translation and terminology work as well as language training, mainly to teach English to francophones.

Allow me to let you in on a little story about an army headquarters study that was done in the early sixties to decide whether the training area and accommodation facilities at Camp Valcartier, north of Quebec City, should be expanded to enable the stationing, along with the Vandoos, of a squadron of tanks and a battery of artillery. You might not believe this, but one of the arguments used to reject the proposal was that it would be imprudent to station any more troops in an area located under the probable fall-out pattern of a thermonuclear attack on the city of Montreal! As a Vandoo stationed at Valcartier at the time, I must say that despite this ominous danger, my regiment steadfastly held its ground!

In a period of rising expectations under the impetus of Quebec's Quiet Revolution, how much longer could anyone expect this kind of situation to persist without further damaging Canada's frail unity? Well, something had to be done about it, and something was! Since then, in this so-called decade of retreat--as Mr. Porter would put it--great strides have been made towards achieving a more equitable balance throughout the Land Forces in terms of linguistic representation.

French Canadians now have, as it were, their own brigade group, including combat and logistic support units with integral helicopter support, and a brand new base to boot! At long last they have a place in Canada where, at several stages in their service life, they may expect to train and work in their own language, and because they have access to a wider range of military specialties, they can now entertain career prospects at least comparable to those enjoyed by their anglophone comrades. And that is an achievement we can all be proud of as a federal nation. I can assure you that the "5e Groupe-brigade" is not about to march against Ontario or any other part of the country and is doing as efficient a job of defending our country as any other formation in my Command.

Of course the price has been and is continuing to be high, and the job is far from over.

The young French Canadian soldier or officer candidate joining the Army today can, for all practical purposes, count on receiving his basic training in his own language. But, for the moment, that is about all. Of course there are a few facilities and extension courses where more advanced specialties are taught in his language, but not many, and we are step by step improving on this. If he has any thought of promotion or of advancing in his trade or classification, he quickly realizes that he must know or learn English. If he hasn't already done so on his own, he can avail himself of formal language training. By and large the French Canadian soldier, as I've said earlier, along with a large proportion of his compatriots, has taken and takes on this challenge readily. This is not to say that this task is easy or in any way easier than for an anglophone to learn French. However, he knows that if he is to succeed, he must acquire more than just a passing knowledge of English; he must excel at it. But, as we say, in any language, where there's a will, there's a way.

Along the path of the French Canadian soldier's career, duty demands that he serve fairly frequently and for extended tours outside his province. He, at some point as well, gets married and raises a family. His dependents more often than not, have not, if at all, acquired the same mastery of the second language as he has. For reasons beyond the control of the Department of National Defence, I think it is fair to say that we have not always been able, because of the nature and disparities of the school systems throughout Canada, to provide his children with schooling in their own language. It is ironic to say that in the case of our dependents stationed in Germany, where D.N. D. is allowed to operate parallel sets of school systems, the experience is less traumatic for those young families than that of moving to many other parts of Canada. I can tell you one thing. Our "army brats," as we fondly call them, are thoroughly bilingual!

Let me tell you a story in this connection. A fellow officer of mine posted in Kingston, Ontario, with his young family, had a three-and-a-half-year-old son, who only weeks after his arrival was picking up English off the streets at a remarkable pace. So much so that, within the family, he had the habit of switching from French to English and vice versa sometimes in mid-sentence. The dutiful father, in order to correct this weakness, said to him: "Listen son, when you start saying something in French would you please finish your sentence in French; and when you start in English, finish off in English, will you?" The child replied with a puzzled look on his face: "Dad, what's English?"

If only all the children of Canada were given the opportunity to learn a second language early in their lives, how much better off this country could be! But that is another subject. The point I am making is that the French Canadian soldiers of this country also have to pay a high price for their membership in the profession of arms.

Is it therefore too farfetched, in the name of national unity, for the Forces to call on their anglophone brothers-in-arms to devote the necessary time and effort to acquire a knowledge of Canada's other official language? For those who might express concern about the possible sacrifice of their careers on "the altar of linguistic expediency"--to quote Mr. Porter again--let me just say that there is a lot of room at the top. For example, at this time, of the 102 or so generals in the whole of the Armed Forces, there are eighteen who are French Canadians, or seventeen per cent; of the 314 colonels, there are thirty-seven, or less than twelve per cent. As for splitting the Forces "neatly into two camps" by the mid-1980s, not only is this perspective completely opposite to the current policy and thrust of D.N.D.'s bilingual and bicultural program, but the probability of its happening is highly unlikely.

For those who rise to the challenge of learning a second language--I did not say language training--and there are many who do, the rewards are high; not so much in terms of career progression, the merit list looks after that, but in the area of human relations, where mutual respect, an awareness of one another's differences and aspirations, friendship, team spirit and yes, unity, are really the only gifts that bilingualism and biculturalism policies promise, and all of them, by the way, are the ingredients that make up not only the inner strength of a nation but the fighting heart of an army.

I said earlier that I had every confidence in the favourable outcome of the Quebec referendum. For most Quebeckers, this will be not only a heart-rending moment of decision, but an act of faith in the future of their country. For many a Canadian, no doubt, it will be a well-earned occasion to breathe a long-awaited sigh of relief.

Inside Quebec, there will remain, among friends, the task of healing old and fresh wounds, of pulling together the really not so different strands that make up Quebec's unique, but not un-Canadian brand of nationalism or its own vision of survival. However, if left alone, how does anyone really believe that Quebeckers will succeed in making of Confederation the true reflection of that vision?

The distance is short between disenchantment and outright discord. How far is it between discord and violence? The question of Canada's unity is not just an issue for Quebeckers to settle among themselves. And time is running out.

The almost patronizing and perennial question, "What does Quebec want?" I suggest, has been heard often enough, and there are sufficient elements of an answer by now. Perhaps it is high time for asking, "What does Canada want?"

The message from "out there" is clear enough. For what are all those noises we hear about nationalism, separatism, federalism, sovereignty-association, if not one massive appeal from a threatened minority that craves for recognition and respect, for equal opportunity to develop, to be happy and to prosper in the land their forefathers helped to open and to build, Canada?

Thank you for having invited a soldier among you to speak his mind in defence of his country.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by J.A.W. Whiteacre, M.M., C.D., Q.C., a Director of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Canada and its Land Forces—A French Canadian Soldier's View

The involvement of all Canadians in the building and strengthening of national unity. The importance of Canada's credibility as a reliable ally to a soldier. The feeling of Quebeckers. The conflict or "curtain of fog" that has descended between Canada's so-called two solitudes. A discussion or exploration of this issue; an examination of the reasons for it, set in a military-historical perspective. An optimistic belief in the outcome of the referendum in favour of a united Canada.