The Mail

There's no life like it

April 27 1998
The Mail

There's no life like it

April 27 1998

There's no life like it

The Mail

I have just read your heartbreaking cover story about the increasingly difficult problems for lower ranks to earn enough in the Canadian Forces to support their families (“Fighting mad,” April 13). As you reported, this is compounded by poor prospects for promotion, constant rumors of more downsizing, unwanted postings or increases in private married quarters rent. I believe it took a great deal of courage for the men and women in your report to give testimony about the dire circumstances they live and work in. That the concerns of the rank and file have not been addressed is a very sad commentary about the state of affairs in the military. I think the slogan of the Canadian Forces should be changed from “There’s no life like it” to “There’s no life in it.”

Warrant Officer Roberta Archibald, Winnipeg

Recently, I have been mulling over the idea of joining the military to obtain an education and possibly pursue a career. After having read your article, this option has been put on the back burner. As a young person trying to decide what to do with my life, I know that I cannot be a part of an organization that treats its workers with such lack of respect.


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If I were to lead these men, how could I expect them to give 100 per cent to their jobs when I know that they have to get side jobs just to put food on the table?

Eric Doolaar, Mississauga, Ont.

Having served four years as a reservist, I realize that our armed forces personnel are underpaid for the job that they do. Nonetheless, I must say that I would be more than happy to change places with a private earning $28,000-plus when you consider the benefits that he will receive upon retirement. I currently work in the dairy industry in New Brunswick at $34,500 per year. When I retire at age 65, I will receive a gold watch and a thank-you. The armed forces private will retire at 55 or possibly earlier with a full military pension and benefits. In short, my response to the babies in the Forces is “Boo hoo.” Get a life.

G. A. Paradowski, Salisbury, N.B.

As a serving enlisted member of the armed forces, I was impressed to see the truth reaching the people of Canada. The struggles of the families in your article are nothing new to the military—living from pay to pay and trying to raise the standard of living of our children with a salary that, according to the Canadian government, lies on the poverty line is no small feat. But it is important for the people of Canada to know that we will continue to serve them to the best of our abilities, as we did in Quebec and Manitoba.

Cpl. Dan Campbell, Cold Lake, Alta.

As both a future officer in the Canadian Forces and a former base brat, I would like to applaud your coverage of the problems faced by junior officers and noncommissioned members. The men and women of the Canadian Forces put their lives on the line. It’s about time that government started looking after them.

Robert Hooper, Kingston, Ont.

Canada’s military has for years endured substandard or even non-existent equipment, but it always had its spirit. Today, that spirit appears to be crumbling in the wake of the Somalia incident et al. To blame senior

brass and politicians strikes me as a collective passing of the buck. We are all to blame. Unlike the education and health-care cutbacks that many Canadians are acutely aware of and vocal about, the military has for decades suffered from at best ignorance and at worst antipathy from the very citizenship it so nobly serves. I can only surmise that this is a result of the fact that, most of the time, the military toils in faraway lands that most Canadians hitherto had not heard of and, to be fair, probably care little about. Only when needed in their own backyard is the military accorded some level of public recognition. To conclude, it was with sad irony that I read your article “Fighting mad.” I applied to and was accepted by Royal Military College in 1985. Two weeks before being sworn in, an army medical review board withdrew the offer. In retrospect, that may have been the best day of my life.

Philip Benson, Toronto

Your story brought tears to my eyes. At long last, the Canadian public will learn of the special plight of the men and women in uniform. The very fact, however, that a national magazine felt compelled to champion our rank and file speaks volumes about the state of our generalship and underscores the need for an inspector general.

Col. Michel Drapeau (ret.), Orleans, Ont.

I served in the military regular forces from 1985 to 1991 at CFB Calgary. My last year there, I made $32,000. The average income per Canadian is $24,000 and some people in your stories are making $30,000 to $38,000 a year and going to food banks.


Their problem is not that they make too little—though I do agree they need a pay raise. The problem is that their wants exceed their needs. My wife doesn’t work, we have four wonderful children and we live on $30,000 to $40,000 a year. No bills, no credit cards and definitely no food banks.

Mike Wheeler, Chatham, Ont.

Athletic cheers

I was pleased with the issues raised in “Fighting for more coverage,” about female beach volleyball players and their skimpy uniforms (Opening Notes, April 13). But I am prompted to write by the statement from Marg McGregor, executive director of the Canadian Association for Women and Sport and Physical Activity, that “they aren’t cheerleaders.” I have been involved with cheerleading for three years and I challenge anyone who claims that cheerleading is not a sport to spend a week with any competitive squad and see if they could keep up.

Claire Markusson, Dartmouth, N.S.

Dying breeds?

As Allan Fotheringham well knows, all the political giants have gone the way of all the great columnists (‘Where have all the political giants gone?” April 6).

John Walmsley, Victoria

'Poor AÍ' propaganda

After reading Barbara Amiel’s nauseating column (‘The unseemly pillorying of Alan Eagleson,” March 30), I would be remiss if, after nearly eight years of investigating R. Alan Eagleson’s past business practices, I did not address her attempted rehabilitation of this thief. Amiel fiction:

Mr. Eagleson is “not necessarily guilty of fraud and theft.” Fact: He pleaded guilty six times to criminal charges in two countries. Amiel fiction: Two U.S. federal mail fraud charges Mr. Eagleson pleaded guilty to “are meaningless.” Fact: Mr. Eagleson’s crimes were not without victims. Mr. Eagleson lied to hundreds of NHL hockey players and their families by saying in a March 13,1989, letter sent to all players, “Neither I, nor any member of my family, nor any company with which I am associated, has ever received money directly or indirectly from any international hockey event... the suggestion of impropriety is without foundation and

is insulting,” a letter that betrayed them am the sport itself. This is a man who scammec career-ending disability insurance mone} from players and their families when the-, needed it most. Amiel fiction: The Racketee: Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Ac used to charge Mr. Eagleson in the Unite( States “is a form of legalized extortion. Fact: RICO laws enable U.S. authorities catch crooks such as Eagleson. It wouk have cost him far less money had he accept ed the jurisdiction of the U.S. court am stood trial. Amiel fiction: “If he were not Alai Eagleson, he would already be out on a tem porary absence program.” Fact: If he wen


not Alan Eagleson with his mouthpiece puppets plugging the judicial system—and some of the media—with “Poor AÍ” propaganda, he’d be facing years of jail time. People like Barbara Amiel who keep making excuses for Eagleson just don’t get it. This crook suckered an entire country and he finally got caught.

Russ Conway, Sports Editor, The Eagle-Tribune, Lawrence, Mass.

Athlete of the year

Perhaps you believe Colorado Rockies baseball player Larry Walker to be “The regular guy” (Sports, April 13), and I will not disagree if the definition of regular guy includes “sore loser.” His statement that he “got beat by a machine” in placing second to Jacques Villeneuve for Canadian Athlete of the Year is uncalled for and incorrect. Formula One drivers are superb athletes who train extremely hard in preparation for the racing season, but the intelligence of the driver is of equal importance to their athletic prowess. Can the same be said for a baseball player and his bat?

Marke Pelletier, Vancouver


Although I laughed at the somewhat contrived and predictable so-called Gen X attitude in your article, I must tell you I also groaned at the lack of respect for one of Canada’s last true political personalities (“Pierre who?” Cover, April 6). I was born in the mid-Sixties, and, yes, I am at times dulled by the constant “nostalgia” from the generations before me. However, when it comes to Trudeau, somehow I understand a willingness to take a moment and celebrate a true leader. He was a true statesman. Not all Gen Xers are of the belief that Trudeau was around so long that he was “just like a piece of furniture.” He encouraged me to be proud of being a Canadian.

Dani Elwell, Toronto

I guess I’m not a true Gen Xer. Although I didn’t comprehend everything about Canadian politics in the Trudeau era while growing up, I do have a deep appreciation for what the attempt at a Just Society meant. Is it just because of media nostalgia that I do remember an entirely different atmosphere of sociopolitical optimism in the 1970s? Our teachers and parents told us that a Just Society was possible—that justice and equality could prevail over corruption and poverty, that people’s interests could supersede those of authoritarian states and corpo-

rations—not only in Canada but around the world. With the arrival of the smooth-talking Brian Mulroney, we quickly saw the demise of the Just Society. I am not saying Trudeau is a lost saint who could do no wrong. However, if we look at the leaders we have now, and inspect their sense of social justice and vision of Canada’s role in the world, maybe we should get a little retrospective and nostalgic and see what the past has to tell us.

Ian Beardsell, New Westminster, B. C.

Your articles on PierreTrudeau gave me great pleasure by reminding me of something I take great pride in—that I never cast my vote for this man or his party while he was prime minister. They renewed my contention that he was a legend in his own mind.

Frederick Spooner, Nepean, Ont.

Students and teachers

In “Student negotiators” (Education Notes, April 13), you say Memorial University is “following Acadia University’s example” and giving the student body a seat on the administration’s bargaining team during the next faculty contract talks. This implies that our “seat” in negotiations was on the administration’s side. In fact, the student union

came up with the idea, approached both parties and there was an agreement that under certain protocols, the student union president could be a nonparticipating observer. This is a method by which students can see that their interests are protected and not be forced to side with one party. The situation at Memorial seems to me like an attempt by president Art May to have the students side with the board by default, instead of allowing them to put their education to use and make up their own minds.

Paul Black,

President, Acadia Students’ Union, Wolfville, N.S.

In response to ‘Turned-around teachers,” there is nothing new in education. Training teachers in classrooms has been done in other universities before Queen’s. I graduated from the professional development program at Simon Fraser University in 1967. This three-semester teacher training program started with us spending two months in a classroom with three other student teachers, and two months on campus. The second semester was spent in a classroom for four months, and then the third semester was spent on campus taking courses. At that time, it was truly a “revolutionary idea” to give us “on-the-job, sink-or-swim training.”

Shirley McGill, Qualicum Beach, B. C.

Fathers in the House

Your obituary of Rev. Bob Ogle (Passages, April 13) states that he was the first Roman Catholic priest to be elected as an MP. That distinction actually belongs to Father Andy Hogan, who was elected MP for Cape Breton/East Richmond, N.S., in 1974. Like Father Ogle, who was elected in 1979, he was an NDP member. After serving two terms, he was defeated in the 1980 election. Thus he did not face Father Ogle’s dilemma of having to decide in 1984 whether to run again for Parliament, or obey the Vatican’s ban against priests in politics.

Jim Noonan, Stittsville, Ont.


For the July 1 issue, Maclean's is preparing a list of the 100 Most Important Canadians in History. We invite readers to submit nominations in the following 10 categories: Nation-Builders; Thinkers and Writers; Entrepreneurs; Artists; Discoverers; Activists; Characters; Stars; Heroes; Scientists. The project is being organized for Maclean’s by the noted historian J. L. Granatstein. Nominations can be sent by mail, fax or e-mail (addresses on page 4), or be posted at Maclean's Online (