The December 2017 “Team Canada” tour – now extra popularly recognized in some quarters within the military as “the celebration flight” – has honestly been a primary public family member’s black eye for the Canadian Forces. With VIPs who were intended to enhance the morale of army employees deployed in foreign places, the tour changed into a fiasco. Some VIPs at the RCAF flight to Greece and Latvia had been under the influence of alcohol and abusive to the team, particularly the army flight attendants. The VIP civilian passengers, including former NHL player Dave “Tiger” Williams, were exempt from protection screening before the flight. Some — already under the influence of alcohol — walked directly to the Canadian Forces plane with open alcoholic liquids of their palms.
Two individuals were so inebriated they had been reported to have urinated themselves. Video taken aboard the aircraft showed human beings — along with a staff member from Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance’s office — dancing in the aisles of the aircraft with their liquids as a rock band played behind the aircraft. In violation of Canadian Forces rules, others chewed tobacco, spitting the slimy juice into cups for flight attendants to clean up. The military flight crew was prohibited from drawing near the VIPs besides to offer them with the carrier. The team felt they couldn’t do something to halt the antics as these very important humans were Vance’s guests. Williams was charged with intercourse assault and assault. He denies the charges. The $337,000 taxpayer-funded ride become deliberate via Vance’s office. Vance okayed the booze at the RCAF plane.
We realize all of this now.
But almost proper from the start, the Canadian Forces/Department of National Defence Staff Public Affairs branch seemed to strive its first-rate to misinform reporters – and ultimately the public – on what honestly came about on that flight. Shortly after Williams become charged by way of army police, Chris Henderson, the assistant deputy minister of public affairs, had a declaration prepared to cope with Ottawa Citizen questions about the flight.
On Feb. 13, 2018, in step with Access to Information documents received via the Ottawa Citizen, he consulted with Vance and Deputy Minister Jody Thomas. He also knowledgeable many senior government public family members officers about what his department was supposed to inform the Ottawa Citizen. Those individuals blanketed Brig.-Gen. Marc Theriault, Col. Jay Janzen, Privy Council communications chief Ken MacKillop, and Byrne Furlong, who is on Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s workforce.
The DND/Canadian Forces assertion to the Citizen advised the VIP flight fee $15,000. The trip, it was claimed, went a protracted way to cheering up the troops. Then got here every other declaration for the general public affairs department. While alcohol was served on board the RCAF plane, the “cause behind this practice is to permit participants to revel in a few liquids in the course of the direction of an extended trip, not like an industrial flight.”
This statement became issued even though navy documents acquired through the Access to Information law display that the senior management knew on Dec. 6, 2017 about the out of control ingesting at the ride. This was a flight that involved greater than a “few liquids,” as the Citizen later located. And no commercial flight would ever allow the large abuse of alcohol that took place.
I wrote my article, the use of the public affairs statements.
The subsequent morning an electronic mail got here into my inbox. “You are being misled,” the message study. Then every other email got here. And any other. And some other. What the DND/Canadian Forces public affairs department hadn’t counted on turned into that the details of the drunken VIP tour had been very widely known during the RCAF network, both serving and retired. Retired navy personnel notion the abuse the RCAF team has been subjected to by a few VIPs was disgusting. They believed the Canadian Forces become looking to cover up the complete affair. So they provided information to the news media. Very particular information about the out of manage ingesting and the copious amounts of alcohol on that trip as well as the opposite on-board antics, such as the urinating passengers and details about the alleged sexual attack.
Further statements through Vance seeking to justify the onboard party to the news media fueled the drift of facts. “The band playing within the returned of the aircraft, that’s some group-building for people who’ve by no means met squaddies before and are going to go into maybe a dangerous area,” Vance told newshounds in making a case for the VIPs. “So, it’s not a Mardi Gras. It’s now not a celebration. It’s an undertaking.” After the general made that statement greater emails arrived. Retired navy employees mentioned the ridiculousness of any such declaration. Neither Greece nor Latvia is remotely risky.
After Vance recommended the antics at the flight have been a one-time thing, every other retired military member sent the Ottawa Citizen pictures from a preceding comparable Team Canada “morale-building” excursion. The photographs showed open coolers complete with booze propped up on the seat of the RCAF plane. Another photograph the Ottawa Citizen/Postmedia posted confirmed Tiger Williams – on yet another “morale excursion” – with beads crammed up his nostril.
In April, public affairs Brig.-Gen. Marc Theriault wrote the Ottawa Citizen to bitch approximately my reporting. The letter claimed amongst different things that I erroneously reported the date that Tiger Williams changed into to appear in court docket. Theriault claimed that the retired hockey participant becomes never scheduled to seem on April 6, 2018. But like among the statements from army public affairs on the “party flight,” Theriault’s declare wasn’t authentic. The Ottawa Citizen had correctly reported the Williams courtroom date given that that specific date was furnished through his attorney. (And as often takes place within the court docket machine, Williams’s appearance was pushed off to another date.)
But if the Canadian Forces were hoping the letter to the editor would have a chilling effect on the insurance of the celebration flight, they misjudged. The digging persisted. The Ottawa Citizen sooner or later compiled the actual price of the flight. It wasn’t the $15,000 that Henderson and his personnel claimed. Instead, taxpayers had laid out $337,000 for this drunken junket. That protected the $24,000 to fly the four army flight attendants domestic on a commercial carrier so they might not be on board the RCAF plane returning Williams and the alternative VIPs to Canada.