Jimmy's story: a CIC officer experiences the shreds, patches and sacks of the CF Grievance System.
This is precisely why, I believe, that the current Canadian Forces Grievance System is failing to address the reasonable complaints of soldiers, sailors and airpersons. A shortcoming that should be of concern to all of us because this is the only legal tool these valiant and loyal serving members have to protest against personal injustices or any other form of inequitable treatment. Perhaps it would be useful to provide some real-life illustrations of the ways in which grievances arc ignored or at least stalled by the military leaders and defence bureaucrats. The example, which follows, is based on the story of a naval reserve officer who, although now recently retired, must remain anonymous. We will call him Jimmy In his early 50s, Jimmy is married, with children. His spouse is a serving officer in the regular force.
THE PRIMARY RESERVE: A WORLD OF ITS OWN
Before I relate Jimmy's story, however, I need to briefly define the Canadian military universe. Our armed forces consist of two major components: the regular force, approximately 60,000 strong, and the reserve force, currently 25,000 strong. Reservists, as the name implies, serve on a part-time basis and are apt to be called-out if and when an emergency occurs. For instance, because of critical manpower shortages in the regular force, many reservists are called out to serve on a full-time basis with and within the regular force. Approximately 600 of them are currently serving in Afghanistan. At present, there are more than 8,000 primary reserve force members (about 3,000 of whom are CF annuitants) on active Class B or Class C service with more than 2,000 employed, year in year out, on a full-time basis at NDHQ. The regular force could not function without their contribution.
The reserve force itself is divided into a number of sub-components. These are: the naval reserve, the army reserve, the air reserve, the Cadet Instructor Cadre, the Canadian Rangers and the supplementary reserve. The bulk of reservists serve in either the naval reserve, militia or air reserve. Their rank and trade structure parallels that of the regular force. However, approximately 4,500 commissioned officers comprise the Cadet Instructors Cadre (CIC) (formerly the Cadet Instructors List (CIL)). They represent the three elements: sea, land and air with the responsibility for the safety, supervision, administration and training of more than 54,000 sea, army and air cadets.
On the surface, primary reservists are undistinguishable from their regular force brethren--they perform the same tasks, receive the same annual performance evaluations, subject to the same Code of Service Discipline, and they each require a security clearance. However, under the surface, their conditions of service are asymmetrical: a reservist is paid less and there is no assurance that active service will be renewed from one year to the next. In public service parlance, a reservist is more or less a "term employee" whose term is renewable yearly. (On the plus side, however, reservists can now qualify for an annuity).
For the CIC, Canadian Rangers and supplementary reserve members, the situation is again very widely divergent. In the past few years, the transfer of these members into the primary reserve and/or to their employment on active service has been severely restricted with, for example, CIC officer qualifications or accumulated experience and performance in regular forces Class B billets, for instance, not being given any equivalency or recognition.
When serving at NDHQ and major headquarters, reservists are administered by a directorate named the Primary Reserve List (PRL), which has decision-making power no other directorate in the Canadian Forces has. As will be seen, however, the NDHQ PRL directorate, in particular, has a reputation for poorly maintaining personnel records as well as harbouring ritualistic and anachronistic procedures.
GRIEVANCE: CAROUSEL OF FRUSTRATIONS & DELAYS
Having set the scene, permit me to outline Jimmy's sorry case. He was a naval reservist who during the period of 1979 to 2009 dedicated his entire life and service, mostly serving as a Class B at NDHQ, to this country. His service records, replete with performance evaluation reports prepared by regular force officers, describe him as a dedicated and top of the scale administrative officer. He is worth his weight in gold. During this period, Jimmy served in die ranks of officer cadet, acting sub-lieutenant, sub-lieutenant, lieutenant and lieutenant commander. Quite an accomplishment.
Following two decades of service, in a number of increasingly responsible positions and having attended the Reserve Force Defence College course, which is normally a gateway to a higher rank, in 2002, Jimmy was promoted to the rank of acting lieutenant commander whilst working for the then deputy chief of the defence staff. His spouse and children were justifiably proud of such professional achievement. Commensurate with the rank, Jimmy was given increased responsibilities. His superiors evaluated his performance evaluation in the new rank as being above average.
Then, one day in 2004, without warning, Jimmy was summoned by his superior and told that he was no longer a lieutenant commander. He was told there were no records on file indicating that, decades before, he had effectively transferred from the CIC (then CIL) to the primary reserves. Bluntly, he was reminded that CIC officers cannot and will not be called-out on Class B or Class C service. He was immediately ordered to remove a stripe from all of his uniforms reverting back to the rank of lieutenant (navy). Tout de suite. Worse, he was allowed no time to either absorb let alone understand this ego-shattering decision or to have a reasonable period in which to inform his staff about this demotion. Ditto for his family. With a heavy soul, tears welling his eyes, that night he had to explain to his spouse and his young teenage son, who, as an air cadet, understood about such military matters, that despite having done no wrong, his father would go down the rank ladder, not up.
In spite of years of employment as a reservist in many critical positions at NDHQ, in the absence of such a record of transfer from the CIC to the primary reserves, he was de facto deemed to be a CIC instructor and no more. He was soon persona non grata at NDHQ. Hence, in addition to being demoted to a junior rank, Jimmy would be without a job--at least, unless he went back to square one and submitted himself, as someone in his 20s would, to a regimen of recruit training with its drills, push-ups, sit-ups, haircuts and living communally for a number of months to learn new entry-level stuff about the navy. The navy would make no allowance in recognition of his distinguished prior naval service, his experience, his maturity and his advanced training. Nothing! Eternally an optimist and having an indefectible confidence in the wisdom of the navy, Jimmy thought that surely the many senior naval people he knew would quickly see the stupidity of it all and bring reason and sanity to the forefront. He turned out to be wrong. Not even a direct appeal to the chief of maritime staff produced the bat of an eyelash. Such turn-around only happens in HMS Pinafore, circa 1878.
CROSSING THE RUBICON IN 2004
Jimmy decided to remonstrate against these decisions, but, given his sudden lack of status, the rebuff was effectively stonewalled. With reluctance, he then resorted to the only recourse allowed under Canadian military law, a grievance. He did so in October 2004. But, the folks at the PRL directorate were anything but helpful. After all, he was challenging their "wise" decision! Furthermore, he was quickly ostracized within his own directorate.
In theory, this is not supposed to happen when one submits a grievance because recrimination is disallowed under the National Defence Act. But this is not the reality. Instead, there appears to be a stigma attached to those who react to a personal wrong by grieving. They are no longer part of the club as they are considered to have crossed the Rubicon.
Faced with a monolithic refusal to reconsider or to be afforded a modicum of consideration for his many years of efficient service in the navy, Jimmy turned to outside legal assistance. I took on the challenge. Persistence eventually paid off and in January 2005, mediation was held by a naval commodore. This was seen as a good sign. But because of the paucity of ill-kept records in his personnel file, the commodore concluded that Jimmy must continue to be considered as a member of the CIC. The commodore offered, however, to facilitate his application for a transfer to the reserves force. He went further by recommending to the naval reserve headquarters in Quebec City that Jimmy's previous employment, training and qualifications and experience be taken into account in assessing his potential for transfer. In other words, that a positive Previous Learning Assessment Review (PLAR) be written.
A sensible recommendation, but it was ignored.
The fun and games began. Impervious to common sense and showing an aversion to profit from the sage advice of the commodore and despite Jimmy having accumulated a record 20-year experience in critical sensitive Class B positions, the naval reserve headquarters demanded that Jimmy attend basic naval training (including learning the naval toasts of the day, parts of ship, and other sea-going nomenclature), within a very constricted timeframe followed by basic trades training. No consideration was given for his extensive prior employment, experience gained or training and qualifications already earned let alone the positions held within the HMCS Bytown Wardroom Mess Committee.
THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
Jimmy then asked the CF Grievance Board to examine his case. Because of the absence of transfer records from the CIC, in 2007 the Board recommended that the transfer to the primary reserves not be recognized. Turning his case to the CDS, Jimmy pleaded for reason and common sense:
I have in good faith completed a loyal honourable dedicated career as a military officer, as a servant of the Crown over two decades, trusting the system. I have done nothing wrong but still I am punished. I cannot be responsible that the records as they now stand do not reflect the reality of my service. Throughout my fulltime career within Regular force positions as a reservist my actions were in the belief I was a Primary Reserve Naval Officer, and I was not alone. I shared this belief with the system, superiors, peers and subordinates. Each employment renewal requires security, medical, dental., physical fitness and qualification standards be met.
Something must have resonated. In September 2008, four years and four months after the grievance was submitted, the CDS deemed Jimmy to have been a primary reservist since 1985. Good news. There is more. The CDS determined Jimmy's rank to be that of lieutenant (navy). His transfer to the reserves force was deemed effective as of July 1985. Vindication! Victory! Common sense at last applied!
STONEWALLING: AN ART FORM
Not too fast. The NDHQ PRL bureaucrats got back into action. Now retired, Jimmy was ordered to parade before the director of the NDHQ PRL to arrange - wait for it - the scheduling of his recruit and basic trade training which, when completed in 2011, would permit him to compete for Class B employment as a primary reservist at NDHQ. An absurd situation created by a bureaucracy and made worse by the shrugs of the CF senior leadership for his having had the audacity to grieve. However, the circle was squared. 1 for the PRL bureaucrats, 0 for Jimmy.
Earlier this year Jimmy decided that this ridiculous state of affairs had gone on long enough. Lie decided that it was only right that he inform others of his circumstances to fully illustrate just how one's career can first be completely messed up by a bureaucracy that when yielding unwarranted powers can then ward off any attempt to seek redress through the CF grievance process making it impossible for things to proceed or successfully deflect the beneficial implementation of a reasonable and well-considered grievance decision by the final authority for so-doing in the Canadian Forces.
Reprinted with permission from The Hill Times.
Mr. Michel Drapeau practices in all areas of administrative law, in particular, access to information and privacy law, human rights law, employment law, military law as well as civil litigation. Prior to joining the legal profession, Col. Drapeau served 34 years in the Canadian military.
by Col (ret'd) Michel Drapeau
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|Publication:||Esprit de Corps|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2010|
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