Don Martin: Gen. Vance's leadership is no longer worth saluting
Published Thursday, May 23, 2019 5:52PM EDT
It's easy to kneejerk a demand for the prime minister to resign, as the Conservatives do on the flimsiest of pretexts.
It requires a lot more evidence to hoist a question mark over the leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces.
But beyond Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance's rushed judge and jury execution of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, other issues are starting to make that hefty pay raise given to him this week by Justin Trudeau fall somewhere between inexplicable and laughable.
For starters, his signature launch of Operation Honour four years ago to eradicate sexual misconduct in the forces has resulted in a dishonorable-level of non-achievement. The number of armed forces personnel reporting sexual assaults in this week's report was down only marginally.
But another military manoeuver this month raises serious concerns about whether Vance has lost his moral leadership compass.
The invitation-only dedication of the Kandahar Memorial deep inside the secured-access zone of the department’s Ottawa headquarters is a major black mark on Vance's four year record in the top job.
How can a former commander of the Canadian task force in Kandahar look out over a top-brass audience devoid of any family, friends or directly-affected armed forces personnel and not grasp that something profound was missing at a memorial dedicated to fallen soldiers?
Yet, incredibly, he not only overlooked it , but neglected to tell impacted families or the public about it for several days. That defies comprehension.
As former top general Rick Hillier told me this week : "I am perplexed as to why this occurred in this manner. It could have been such a positive, credibility-enhancing event. And now it’s the opposite."
Exactly right. It's the opposite of enhanced leadership credibility.
Confronted with this severely lapsed judgement, Vance meekly announced this presumably costly internal display area would be relocated to the inconveniently-located headquarters lobby.
If Vance can't deliver and dedicate a proper memorial to the Kandahar dead six years after the polished granite plaques were repatriated from Kandahar, it's got to red flag concerns about how he leads on live military matters. That may explain whispers he'll soon be replaced.
When you're Canada's chief of defence staff, respect is commanded by the stripes on your uniform.
But to make it work, respect must also be earned from the soldiers serving below you.
Given his recent sad performances, Jonathan Vance's leadership is no longer worth saluting.
That's the Last Word.