October 15th 2023
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? FROM A CADET TO A BOARD MEMBER
Can you share a bit about your journey from being a Cadet to your current role as a Board Member of the Navy League?
I grew up in the Gaspé Peninsula and had a hard time finding an extracurricular activity that suited me. I discovered the Sea Cadet movement through a friend in 1979 and convinced my parents to let me join. The local Corps was a 40 minutes’ drive away, so it was a family decision when considering the logistics. I really enjoyed the experience, and it brought me to consider a career in the military. After 39 years in uniforms serving in ships, submarines and headquarters, I was considering what to do with my time going forward. I was approached by a dear friend to consider volunteering with the Navy League. It seemed like a good fit. My mother had served at my local unit for many years after I left so it seemed like a good way to honour her legacy.
As a former Cadet, you've progressed through various roles to become a Board Member of the Navy League. How has your experience as a Cadet influenced your perspective and approach to leadership and your contributions to the Cadet program? Are there specific skills or values from your Cadet days that you find particularly relevant in your current responsibilities?
There are things that stay with you for a lifetime. My experience in Sea Cadets gave me at a young age a strong sense of what being an inclusive leader was even before the concept was popular. I’ve tried my best to apply that to everything I have done since. Another important perspective I gained was that we were a team despite the hierarchy. Everybody had something to contribute, and you could learn something new from anyone, particularly after summer camps. That meant a deep sense of respect for everybody on the team. Lastly, I would say that honesty was a value I always had, thanks to my parents, but it got cemented with my Cadet experience, particularly in senior positions. You can’t hide when you are the leader and people see through you quickly when you are not honest.
Your involvement as a Champion for the Defense Team Pride Advisory Organization and Defence Team Champion for Gender and Diversity for Operations highlights your commitment to inclusivity and diversity. Can you elaborate on the initiatives you've undertaken in these roles to promote diversity and create an inclusive environment within the Canadian Armed Forces?
These organizations were born out of a need to understand what was happening to members of various communities so we can help shape better policies and better leadership to attract and retain talent in the Defence Community. I was also a much-needed means to give a voice to community members and provide first hand lived experiences accounts to our leaders to help shape their understanding of how inclusive or exclusive the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence were towards women and members of the LGBTQ2I community. Some of the main initiatives the team undertook during my tenure as Champion were first to support our leaders to be more responsive to our responsibilities under the Women, Peace and Security program, better understand issues affecting women during operational deployments to enable resolution, establish a network of local Pride Advisory Organizations in all Bases and Wings, advancing dialogue to improve health care protocols for the LGBT community with a particular focus on the Transgender community. There is a lot more happening and to be done but the foundation for respectful and open dialogue is there.
As a board member of the Navy League of Canada, what are your main responsibilities and areas of focus? How do these responsibilities align with your background as a former Cadet?
As a new board member, my first year will be spent getting familiar with current issues and assist the President where needed to advance solutions. My personal interest is very much in strategic planning. I was doing a fair bit of it in my last years in uniform and a lot of good comes from having a strategic plan to focus the efforts of an organization. I hope to help bring this approach to the Navy League. My other field of interest is Maritime Affairs. This is at the core of the original mission of the Navy League. I experienced first-hand how little most Canadians know about their Navy and the impact maritime activities have on their daily lives. I think I can make a worthwhile contribution in that area.
Could you share a memorable experience or accomplishment during your time as a Cadet that has influenced your commitment to maritime-related activities and led you to your current position?
A long time ago (at least long for me) I had the opportunity to take a Boatswain course at HMCS Quebec. A great summer camp and we work diligently on our skills. One of the culminating experiences of the camp was to navigate on the St-Laurence seaway for a few days. The teamwork needed to make a ship work was great to witness and the level of activity in the seaway was fascinating. This short experience at sea struck a chord with me and spiked my curiosity about everything to do with maritime activities, commerce, and navies. It ultimately got me to my military career.
Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals for your role within the Navy League of Canada? How do you envision contributing to the organization's growth and impact in the coming years?
My main goal is to support the president and fellow board members in stewarding the great programs that are Sea Cadets and Navy League Cadets. Ultimately, it is about these young Canadians and giving them a chance to touch our maritime heritage and become better citizens. Adopting a long-term strategic perspective to our programs would bring a much-needed focus and I hope to contribute to that effort. To grow our volunteer staff, Cadets, and fundraising, we need a coordinated and synchronized plan to achieve results.
What advice would you offer to current Cadets or individuals considering a similar path?
Take every day as an opportunity to become a better person. Life is full of adventures and opportunities so stay open to seizing them when they show up. Stay true to yourself and respect those around you. They are part of your team and you will all need each other to get through life.
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