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Golfing: A New Battlefield?

Dr. Ann Griffiths, 14 June 2021

Admiral Craig Baines has just issued an apology for golfing with former Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance. Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, was also involved in the golf outing. With this golf game, the leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) sends the message that it is tone-deaf to public opinion and public perceptions. But this issue illustrates another grey area. I don’t know if Baines and Vance are friends, but if they are friends, then it seems harsh to criticize a person for golfing with a friend, and it makes Baines look bad to issue an apology for doing so. Friendship/comradeship is a big part of the military. And, as we know, Vance has not been convicted of anything. Do we ask friends to abandon friends on the basis of them (allegedly) doing something incredibly stupid in the past? If so, then golf courses everywhere will be empty. On the other hand, if Baines and Vance are not friends, then it shows bad judgement on the part of Baines, and blindness as to how this would be perceived. As well, the fact that the golf course was emptied to allow the game to proceed stinks. It illustrates that the people involved knew that the round of golf would be seen as a cosy meeting among a privileged clique, and wanted to avoid anyone seeing them. The criticism of Lieutenant-General Rouleau is more weighty since he has oversight authority for the military police investigation into Vance – and this golf game creates the perception of special relations and favouritism. (He has now ‘stepped aside’ from his position.) No matter how you look at it, it’s hard not to see this as another unforced own goal by the CAF leadership.

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