ARCHIVED - Allegations against the Canadian Forces - Appendix II

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Appendix II: Memorandum from Captain Bruce Poulin, July 15, 1996

MEMORANDUM

15 Jul 96
 

DCOMD LFCHQ
 

COMMENTS ON COURSE 9601 AT CLFCSC

Ref: Conv DComd LFC/Gs Speechwriter, 09 Jul 96,
 

1. As we had discussed as per Ref, I wish to comment on my experience while I attended CLFCSC 9601.
 

2. Training is the glue that keeps the army together. It is the link between what we do in peace time and what we do in war. At the same time, all leaders and potential leaders of others carry what might be called a moral imperative as an essential part of the burden of leadership. This applies to actions of one’s word, deed and signature. It furthermore applies to actions, both explicit and implied. It is with these thoughts in mind that I wish to make my comments and concerns known to you sir.
 

3. I acknowledge that there are many fine Directing Staff and course supervisors in the Canadian Army and that they have impressive amounts of operational experience, both in working with teams under stress and in training teams to perform in difficult situations. Unfortunately, some weak instructors appear to make-up a sizeable proportion of the staff at CLFCSC.
 

4. As the editor for the CLFCSC Course 9601 Grad Book, I came into contact with almost every student on the course. I would also add that over the course of several months, I heard of many incidents and anecdotes which effected our otherwise very enthusiastic group. While there were many positive things that could be mentioned here, I would like to remain focused on the subject at hand. That is to say, on those incidents which had a negative effect on the group as seen from a training perspective. You will note that I am commenting only on those issues which are disturbing and had an effect on a significant number of students in the group.
 

5. You will also note that I wish to keep the name of specific students confidential so I will limit my examples, as much as possible, to events I was privy to. You should also note that I currently possess much of the documentation to corroborate the assertions I will be making. I chose not to include them at this point because of all of the vetting required and because I only wanted to bring these incidents to your attention. In no particular order, they are:
 

MARKING SYSTEM

6. Some of the lowest points on the course occurred immediately after marks were handed out to the students. The primary cause for-the angst, I was able to gather from the students was not the mark itself, rather it was the perceived huge discrepancy between the marks awarded by each of the respective Directing Staffs (DS). Many students agreed that the root of this problem was the lack of a Common training standard (CTS). For example:
 

  1. On one occasion, a student wrote a memo commenting on the fact that he felt he had been marked more conservatively than many of his peers both within the syndicate and among his peers in other syndicates. The DComd's response was to say among other things: all question of fairness aside, what Capt XXXXXX needs to understand above all else is that the grade assigned by a particular DS for a particular exercise is only relevant within the teaching and assessment framework established by that DS; comparing similar products and associated grades outside one's syndicate might be interesting, but it can lead to few useful conclusions with respect to the correlation between grade and product. I would like to posit here that having no correlation between grade and product is akin to training a marksman on a range without allowing the soldier to go and see whether he/she either hit the target, or if he/she had even come close.
     
  2. On another occasion a student felt he was singled out from his peers and assessed rather harshly on a written assignment, so he wrote a redress of grievance listing all of the reasons he felt that he was given the mark in question. The DComd wrote a response which addressed some but not all of the concerns (especially those comments that accused the DS of lying about some of his assertions in order to justify the mark awarded). The student then, in turn, wrote a memo citing that not all of his concerns had been addressed. The next morning he had to see the Chief of Staff (COS) where the memo was discussed and then he was placed on verbal warning. The COS stated that it was not related to the memo written the day before, but rather for a thank you speech he had delivered 6 day earlier, although the DComd had thought it had been very appropriate at the time. This kind of mean-spirited vengeance was not well received by either the student nor the student body.
     
  3. It was common on CLFCSC 9601 to have one DS type a report on a written assignment that was three pages long while another DS would write only four lines. In both cases, they were commenting on the same kind of written work. Needless to say, many students felt that they were not being assessed neither equally nor fairly which caused some resentment among students.
     
  4. Some of the comments found on the reports on the written assessments were also troubling. For example, one DS commented: “Had you had another weak paragraph... (it)would have lead to a failed estimate”. I suppose if the student in question had had another strong paragraph he would have had a higher mark. The point I wish to make sir is that the relevance of the comment seems dubious. Other comments such as “This is an estimate not a statement to the press were seen by several students as a poor example of professional behaviour particularly since the subsequent mark awarded was no joking matter.”  
     
  5. On another occasion, one of the DS wrote a letter to all of his students prior to the final written estimate and stated “I would be happy to discuss your grading... but hasten to remind you that the grades are NOT negotiable (DS emphasis).” Stating that marks were not negotiable regardless of the assessee's comments caused some resentment among the students in that syndicate regardless as to whether or not they would be dissatisfied with their mark.
     
  6. Another example of a poor marking attitude occurred in the third tutorial. The DS for one of the syndicates commented that if anyone did not complete all of the assigned tasks for the written assignment he would have to fail the individual(s) for submitting incomplete work. After the written estimates were submitted, corrected and returned it became known that some students from his syndicate had not submitted all of the required documents. The question was then raised with the DS who had made the comment earlier. His response was that if this had been tutorial two he would have failed the students in question, however, this was tutorial three with only two weeks to go and he saw failing anybody know as a punishment not only for the student but also for him (i.e. he would have to work over the week-end). The angst reached new heights when it was revealed that the individuals who had submitted incomplete work did not even receive the lowest marks in the syndicate. Rather, many of those who had submitted all of the required work, albeit in less detail because they provided all of the required work, were given many of the lower grades.
     

7. In sum, I would like to argue sir that providing exercises, either written or oral, with little formal feedback accomplishes very little. Furthermore, a spirit of professionalism cannot flourish without a standard. In this case, each syndicate had their own DS evaluation standards and during the course each student changed syndicates and hence DS, three times. This confluence of factors lead to much angst among the student body.
 

TUTORIAL ASSESSMENTS

8. Both the mid-tutorial and end tutorial assessments also caused some ill-feelings among the group for a variety of reasons. Once again, the discrepancy between the DS' modus i1 operandi was seen as the root cause. For example, some DS submitted copies of their mid-tutorial assessment to the students. Some did not. Some used the same format as the end tutorial assessment while others did not. Some DS did not even use any of the evaluation words normally associated with assessments nor assign a mid-tutorial mark or even refer to the end tutorial criteria for mid-tutorial assessments. In one instance:

 

  1. Under the criteria of written work one DS stated 'Extremely neat'.
     
  2. Under the criteria marked 'overall' the DS wrote 'gives impression of working hard to keep up'. Does this mean the students works hard and should be commended for it or that he, in fact, is weak.
     
  3. One last example relating to marks occurred during tutorial one when a student was given a C grade when all of the indicators pointed towards a higher grade. For example, this student wrote an Operations Order (EX BALL POINT) and received the highest mark in the syndicate. He also submitted two other written assignments (EX FAST SHUFFLE and QUICK DRAW) and received a C+ on each. Then, according to the Student Handbook, Tutorial One has two exercises that figure prominently in the end tutorial evaluation (EX DOG WATCH and INTREPID ACORN). In both of these exercises, the aforementioned student occupied the two most senior posts which led many students to conclude he was doing very well on the course. Yet, at the end of the day, when the end of tutorial One assessments were handed out, the student in question discovered I that he had only received a C. Nowhere and at no time was he given any indication of his shortcomings. In fact, it was quite the opposite. His lowest mark had been a C+. Needless to say, the C grade was not very well received by the student.
     

9. The observation that was brought to my attention here is that without a common assessment format and process many students felt that the institution could not identify critical processes. I to observe, evaluate and discuss via feedback.
 

TRAINING EXERCISES

10. One of the exercises (EX ROYAL FLUSH) calls for the retaking of Canada by pushing back the enemy (known as Fantasians) and restoring the international border along the Ottawa River and the St-Lawrence Seaway. In these days of political sensitivities between Canada's two founding peoples, I fear that the idea of pushing back the enemy into Quebec in order to re-establish Canada's international border may provide some fuel for the Quebec separatists. You should note that this whole issue surrounding the exercise consumed a lot of discussion time with the francophone students on the course. You will also note that none of the other exercises delineates between other provinces, peoples, or language -only Quebec is targeted.
 

REALITIES OF BATTLE

11. In April 96, I had the opportunity to speak with Comd LFC about CLFCSC course 9601. The Comd mentioned how armies tend to prepare to fight the last war. Victory, in other words constrains rather than frees the victor, and there is a danger that complacency becomes the rule. The army's current realities of battle content specifically included two trips to Europe per year (one per course). He continued to say that he felt it was a luxury we could no longer afford given the costs compared to the return gained from the trips. On 23 April 96, I shared this view with the Comd CLFCSC and he stated that it did not matter because he had included the trips in the new training plan package (i.e. the junior and senior courses) without specifically mentioning them and the Comd LFC had already approved it. In other words, there was no need to discuss the matter any further. Needless to say, I was disappointed with his outlook towards the Commander of the Canadian Army.
 

DS BEHAVIOUR

12. On one occasion a DS mentioned how during a media training exercise one of the students being interviewed had found himself in a 'tight spot'. To paraphrase the DS' words, the interviewer had the interviewee by the neck and was almost in a position to choke to interviewee. At the time, everyone understood this to be a simple figure of speech. So, although the comment itself seemed rather harmless the subsequent gesture posed by the DS was not. After making his remarks, he grabbed the-student who had been interviewed and simulated choking him with his right hand around the students neck. This lasted for approximately 5 seconds. This action was done in the presence of other students. It should also be pointed out that this was the only time I personally saw any DS touch any of the students during the course which made this action all-the-more disturbing. Needless to say, it made many students feel uncomfortable.
 

13. I recognize that many armies of the world -in order to foster the best teacher student rapport -believe that students must be two ranks below the mentor for a meaningful mentoring relationship to exist. This being said, this relationship quickly succumbs to adversity when the mentor begins exploiting his position of power and engages in unbecoming acts such as the one mentioned earlier.
 

RECOMMENDATIONS

14. These are but a few of the many incidents that came to my attention while I attended CLFCSC 9601. I believe that this short list will, nevertheless, suffice to show you that there is much work to be done if we intend to use CLFCSC as a model institution. Fortunately, we are at a cross-road where CLFCSC is revamping itself while the COMD LFC is calling for a return to basic ethical values. Therefore, I would suggest to you sir, in all humility, that the army is being afforded an opportunity to make substantial progress and address many of the shortcomings I mentioned earlier.
 

15. CLFCSC - which is seen as an instrument in developing Canada's army leadership since its establishment -must continue to play a an effective role in our military, and educational system which must, in turn, produce first-rate planners and operators at various levels. I would posit that this can only be achieved if, among other things, we adopt or at least consider adopting some of the following recommendations:
 

  1. All comments on written work should be on a covering page and reviewed by someone in charge of standards. The current practice of only submitting the best and worst from each syndicate to the DComd of CLFCSC does not address the concerns of most students who are in the middle. This corrective measure would ensure, common standards within syndicates as well as between them, the comments would be relevant contrary to some of the current practices, and the award of a grade would be seen as relevant and fair.
     
  2. A mark should be awarded at mid-tutorial evaluations and these marks must be taken into account for the end of tutorial mark.
     
  3. The production of a CTS that would be available before the course starts, is applied during the course and is used for future courses would do wonders to address many issues raised by students regarding either the marking system and/or the tutorial evaluations.
     
  4. A period on ethics emphasizing conduct (as opposed to rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict which comprises two of the six scenarios currently studied) be incorporated in both the junior and senior courses.
     
  5. Any reference to Quebec being the homeland of the enemy and the Ottawa River and St-Lawrence Seaway being the international border between Canada and the enemy be removed from any and all exercises.
     
  6. Many graduates of CLFCSC have gone on and played very important roles in this nation's military and civilian history. Several years ago, CLFCSC began commemorating some of these high achievers by placing their photo in a distinguished guests section in one of the buildings. It is recommended that this noble endeavour be renewed. In addition, the CLFCSC could have a ceremony done in conjunction with the graduation of the senior course. This action would serve to honour those leaders whose exemplary service has benefited the Army and reflected favourably on Fort Frontenac. I would also suggest that both LGen A. Roy and LGen M. Baril be inducted ASAP.
     

For your info.
 

B. Poulin
Capt.
G5 Speechwriter
 

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