Former DCdt Marcel Parisien In Conversation With Victoria Edwards

Posted by rmcclub on July 3rd, 2013

THIRD IN A SERIES OF ARTICLES ON FORMER DIRECTOR OF CADETS

E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003) interviewed 8738 Colonel (Ret’d) Marcel Parisien (CMR RMC 1971), who served as Director of Cadets (DCdt) from July 1992-1994 at RMC and as Commandant of CMR in 1994-1995.

e-veritas: What cadet memories do you have of CMR and RMC?

Marcel Parisien: When I got on the bus at Central Station in Montreal on 06 September 1966, I knew I was getting a free education. That was about the extent of my knowledge of what lay ahead. I did not know what the Canadian Forces were about but I knew I could handle the four year commitment. I remember a bunch of guys, perfect strangers who would become lifetime friends. I remember a bus load of girls from MacDonald College who had been invited to the college the evening of our Obstacle Course. I remember dancing with one of those girls while the smell of cow manure from the obstacles still affected my nostril. I remember hoping that the smell was confined to my nose. I remember our flight leader saying at one of our first group meeting: “Look at the guy on the right. Look at the guy on the left. Only one of you will be left at the end. Make sure you are that one!” Of a recruit class of 182, only 69 graduated five years later.

I remember adapting to life at CMR with relative ease, especially after the first two weeks. We worked in English for the first 15 days of the month and in French for the rest of the month. Classes were in your mother tongue. I was fairly bilingual when I got to CMR and did not experience the difficulties that some of my classmates did. A sizeable number of my francophone classmates were gone by the end of the first year.

If I knew little about CMR, I knew even less about RMC. I knew it was in Kingston and that it was Anglophone. I remember an incident that caused quite a “buzz” around CMR when I was in my junior year. Every year, RMC would host the CANMILCOL Weekend. This brought a representation of Seniors (Second Year) from Royal Roads and CMR to Kingston, where they would take part in a weekend of competitions and companionship with the second year cadets of RMC. Of course a parade was part of the festivities. Early in the week following the CANMILCOL reunion, the word got back to CMR that the CMR Cadet Wing Commander 7844 Hugues Lacombe (CMR 1970) had had the audacity to give the words of command in French. The francophone population at CMR was jubilant. That’s where we were just prior to coming to Kingston!

I remember adapting fairly well to RMC after having made appropriate amends for not achieving the pass mark on the compulsory college history test. I’m sorry but I just could not get excited about whose horse was buried where! I always felt however that while I was at CMR, the college belonged to the cadets, but at RMC the feeling was that the college belonged to History, to the Ex-Cadets, to the Staff but not to me as a cadet. Perhaps that was personal. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I had not started at RMC. I do not know! I do know however that, now that I am part of the history of the college, I do feel a sense of ownership.

e-veritas: What was your military background prior to becoming DCdt?

Marcel Parisien: Upon graduation from RMC in 1971, I completed my Air Navigator training and specialised as an Airborne Interceptor Navigator which meant that my office would be, at least for a while, in the backseat of a McDonnell CF-101 “Voodoo” aircraft. A tour on the staff of the Officer Candidate School in Chilliwack followed my first operational tour with 416 Squadron in Chatham NB. I then went back flying with 425 Squadron in Bagotville QC. Promoted to the rank of Major, I was posted to Oklahoma City on the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) where I flew as part of the NORAD Battle Staff. After Staff College, I was given command of Station des Forces Canadiennes (SFC) Moisie (Sept-Îles, QC), one of the Pinetree Radar stations identified for closure. Promoted to the rank of LCol I was given a second command position as Commandant of the École de Langues des Forces Canadiennes in Saint-Jean QC. From there, I was posted to the position of DCdts at RMC.

e-veritas: What timeframe were you DCdt and Commandant?

Marcel Parisien: I came to RMC in July of 1992 and was promoted out of the job two years later. I was Commandant at CMR in 1994-1995.

e-veritas: Who were the commandant(s) during your time?

Marcel Parisien: A classmate, 8790 General (Ret’d) Jean Boyle (RMC 1971), was the Commandant at the time of my arrival. In fact he was instrumental in my coming to RMC. During my last year in Saint-Jean I wrote him a letter telling him I wanted the job and “selling” myself. He bought it and made it happen. As an aside, much the same happened with the position of DAdmin where another classmate joined us; 8684 BGen (Ret’d) Peter Holt (CMR 1971). Halfway through my first year, BGen Boyle was promoted, so that from February to June 1993 he held two positions, one at NDHQ during the week and he would come back to RMC on weekend or as required during the week. This situation allowed me to log a fair amount of time as Acting Commandant. In June 1993, 6719 BGen (Ret’d) Michel Matte (CMR 1965) became Commandant.

Given what transpired after the 1994 Budget, few people remember that in the Fall of 1992, a decision was made to downgrade the position of Commandants at RMC and CMR to the rank of Colonel, bringing them in line with the rank of the Commandant at Royal Roads. When the time came to find a Commandant for RMC in the summer of 1993, all were aware that the Commandant of CMR, 6496 BGen (Ret’d) Charles Émond (CMR 1965) had a year left on his tour in Saint-Jean. Of course it would not do to have a one-star command CMR while only a full colonel commanded RMC. So BGen Michel Matte was brought in with the understanding that it would only be for a year. Because of that, BGen Matte came to Kingston unaccompanied, thereby providing me with another opportunity to log some more time as Acting Commandant. As it turned out the position remained at the one-star rank once the three colleges were amalgamated and BGen Emond was given command of RMC when his tour in Saint-Jean ended.

e-veritas: Where did you live?

Marcel Parisien: We moved into Panet House at the end of the summer 1992. For those who may not know the advertised floor space was 4603 square feet but I don’t think that includes the top floor. I also recall an inordinate amount of windows which, coupled with the ten foot ceilings, meant that we needed new curtains and lots of them. My wife, Janet and I stopped in Montreal on the way to Kingston, and went shopping for bargain curtain material. Fortunately my wife is an accomplished seamstress and we were able to come up with some decent window coverings, which we left behind on departure. In fact some are still hanging at Panet House in spite of the 20 plus years. We were the last family to live in Panet House and we have fond memories of our time there.

I was told that the base gardener would always include some flowers for the beds that lined the sidewalk leading to the main entrance of Panet House as part of the beautification programme. Unfortunately, this did not happen until the week after graduation. So, in the fall of our second year, my wife and I decided that we would plant some tulip bulbs so that there would be some flowers for the following spring’s graduation. We were concerned however with the large number of squirrels that shared the campus with us, thinking that they might dig out the bulbs and store them for their own purposes. We were told that by spreading a substance made from the bone marrow of animal we would manage to keep them away. So my wife and I spent a whole afternoon planting and spreading making sure that we had nice color arrangements so as to maximize the impact of our limited budget. Finally, shortly after 4pm, we called it quits, quite satisfied with our project. My wife went in to start supper. I went in the back entrance, put away the tools, fired up the barbecue, grabbed a beer and went to the front entrance to admire our work. I got there just in time to witness our pet English Springer Spaniel retrieving the last of the tulip bulbs, attracted no doubt by the bone marrow. The following spring saw tulips adorn the walkway but the color arrangement left a lot to be desired.

As I look back on it, I do not know how I could have carried out what I felt were my responsibilities as DCdts living anywhere else. On the evening of Friday, December 4th 1992, at about 2130 hrs,

14944 Phil Cowie (RMC 1985), one of my Squadron commanders who lived in one of the Private Married Quarters (PMQ)s on Rideout Row, knocked on my door to inform me that the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) had just advised the Protestant padre Major Frank Walker and his wife Margret, who lived next door to Phil, that their adult daughter Kim had been killed in a car accident on her way home. Kim was to be married the following summer and Marg had been working on her wedding dress. Padre Walker and I had both been posted to the college at the same time and had developed a good relationship. My wife and I and our daughter, who was friends with the Walker’s youngest daughter, all went to the Walker PMQ and tried as best we could to console. It soon became apparent that much had to be done, including the terrible task of identifying the body which had been taken to the hospital in Belleville. Around midnight, I said to Frank: “I’m going to bed now. I will be back here, at 0700hrs tomorrow morning and I will drive you and Marg wherever you need to go and be with you for as long as it takes.” I suspect that, had I lived elsewhere but Panet House, I would have heard about the accident on Monday morning but Phil knew I was near and that my door was always opened.

Along that train of thought, I recall my wife telling me that a third year cadet invited himself to tea one afternoon. As it turned out, he had just found out that his parents were getting divorced. He was an only child and was taking it very hard. He needed to talk and with two of her children in the military college system, my wife had a pretty good idea what he was going through and what to say to him. That interaction would not have happened had we lived elsewhere. As well, the second year cadet who knocked on our door on a Sunday afternoon to ask if she could take our dog for a walk would have had to find another way to deal with her homesickness.

e-veritas: What memories (good & bad) do you have of this time period?

Marcel Parisien: I honestly can’t think of any bad memories other than the Walker incident which I have just described. To this day, I still rate this as the best job I ever had and this time period as the most fulfilling of my career. If I had to identify an occasion that stands out, it would have to be the special convocation held in my second year in the job. You may recall that the college did not start granting degrees until early in the sixties. H3948 Dr. John Plant (RMC 1957), the Principal and 3210 Captain (N) (Ret’d) Peter Fortier (RMC 1954) the Registrar came up with the idea of holding a Special Convocation to award degrees to all who graduated from RMC before it could grant degrees. I can’t begin to describe my feelings when I saw the response. Some of the “younger” recipients I had known as senior officers and generals when I was just starting out but the “older” recipients had graduated well before I was born and yet, here they were, proud as can be to have their efforts recognised. 1800 Senator Hartland Molson (RMC 1924) was in attendance and he wasn’t the oldest one there.

I remember one individual in particular who was confined to a wheelchair. I had asked the third year class to help with the logistics of the day and this gentleman was being wheeled around by a third year female cadet. When they got to the right hand side of the stage, he asked her to stop. She did and with all the effort he could muster, he got up from his wheelchair and walked the rest of the way to get his degree. There was no way he would sit through this occasion. I knew then that I had made a mistake by not cancelling classes and making this event a parade for the entire cadet wing. Numerous were the third year cadets who expressed their pride in having taken part in this momentous occasion.

Among other memories was the discovery of the definition of the word “tradition”. I say this somewhat tongue in cheek but I remember hearing about practices that were termed “traditions of the college” and yet I had never heard of them. How long have these traditions been around? It seems that the recurring answer was: “Well they certainly were in place when we were recruits!” Thus I came to define the term tradition, as used by the cadets, as a practice in place when they were recruits. I also discovered that this was not a recent development.

I had been briefed by my predecessor about a source of irritation for a particular group of college alumni. This group had purchased, at significant cost, some pith helmets to be worn on parade by the senior cadets. The source of their irritation was that the cadets “refused to wear them properly”. The tradition called for the helmets to be worn in such a way that the eyes of the wearer were not visible. After every formal parade, I could expect a visit from a member of that group to re-iterate the proper way to wear the helmet. During one such visit just outside my office, we drifted towards the Memorial Staircase and the photos of the Old Eighteen where one of the Eighteen was wearing the pith helmet “improperly”. I never heard anything further.

e-veritas: What were the biggest challenges at that time – facing the college? with your position?

Marcel Parisien: The biggest challenge for me as DCdts was to keep everything in perspective. Yes I had to deal with cases of discipline, some fairly serious, but I had to remind myself that this involved but a minuscule portion of the cadet population. I had to remind myself not to impose on the majority, restrictions designed to deal with a problem that wasn’t theirs. In fact, I learned that the best way to deal with the cadets was to trust them to do well and let them know that you trusted them. It worked well and they responded positively.

As far as the biggest challenges facing the college at that time, there were many. The perennial problem is money. Budget cuts forced the revamping of the academic curriculum. The Engineering Management program is one of the fatalities that I recall but there were others. Staff was in short supply, both in quality and unfortunately at times also in quality. Infrastructure was also problematic. As difficult as it is to imagine now, we did not have any hall large enough for me to talk to the whole cadet wing at the same time.

I remember being appalled on my first Remembrance Day to find out that it was just another day. The cadets went to classes and only a small group, enough for a presence at the Memorial Arch, was dispatched for the ceremony. In all fairness, we had also sent a small group to Ottawa. But I could not believe that we would miss such an occasion to remind the cadets who we are and what we stand for! The following year, there were no classes, we held a large ceremony and I broke the wing into three groups and they heard from H17417 The Honourable John Matheson (Queens 1936, RMC 1993), 2435 BGen Bob Bennett (RMC 1935) and S109 Major Danny McLeod, about their experience and their legacy.

• H17417 The Honourable John Matheson (Queens 1936, RMC 1993) who helped develop both the maple leaf flag and the Order of Canada, is commemorated by the John Matheson Sword – awarded annually to the Preparatory Year cadet at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean who achieved the highest results in all four components of the College’s program, namely Academics, Leadership, Athletics and Bilingualism.

• 2435 BGen Bob Bennett (RMC 1935), former “Adjutant” of the Old Brigade, served with distinction in Canada and overseas throughout WW II and one year (1971 – 72) in Viet Nam and was the father of 8788 Geoff Bennett (RMC ’71) organizer of La Chasse-Galerie RMC fund-raising canoe trips down the Rideau.

• H25917 Major Danny McLeod was awarded the Military Cross [MC] for bravery in action during WW II, established the post-war Athletics program at RMC and directed the establishment of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU); his contribution to RMC is remembered in the Danny McLeod Athletics Endowment Fund and he was honoured by the “Birchall Leadership Award” 2007.

Our previous cries for assistance with the infrastructure problem were answered partially when we were able to go ahead with the renovations to LaSalle and Yeo Hall between 1993 and 1995. Yeo Hall proved problematic because we had to plan on feeding from the Senior Staff Mess as well as from temporary accommodations. Of course all our planning was really put to the test when the closure of the other two colleges was implemented.

e-veritas: As DCdt, to what extent did you follow the motto “never pass a faulter.” What discipline issues stick out in your mind? Any tips?

Marcel Parisien: As I alluded to earlier, discipline issues were the exception rather than the rule. So I can’t say that any discipline issue sticks out in my mind. As to the motto you suggest, I can’t honestly say that I was a great follower of it. Let me give you an example. It is about 2130 hrs on a weeknight, still during the recruit phase but after the beginning of classes. I am walking through quarters during what is Study Period. Because it is Recruit Term, the recruits are not allowed to close their room doors during study period. So I walk into a room where a young lady is sitting at her desk with a book in hand while her roommate is crashed out on her bed snoring away like a lumberjack. So I borrowed a piece of paper and left her a note that essentially said; “I came for a visit but to my disappointment you slept through it!” The next morning while her group was in line for breakfast, I came up to her and said: “I’m sorry I missed you last night!” She knew then that the note was real. I’m told that it was the last time she slept during the study period, at least during Recruit term. I ask you did I pass that faulter?

As DCdts, I found that it was more productive to praise a good deed than to punish a bad one. So I let my Captains look for faults and I concentrated on the good points. I was busier than they were.

e-veritas: Are there any skylarks that stick out in your mind?

Marcel Parisien: There is one in particular that comes to mind. 6719 BGen (Ret’d) Michel Matte (CMR 1965) was a man of many qualities, but some of these remained hidden until after coffee break. I only mention this because he was the first one to admit to this. The cadets had asked if they could wear costumes to class for Halloween. I knew I better run that one by the Commandant. So I approached him after coffee. Finally he authorised it providing that the costumes were in good taste and that they were legitimate costumes. This was not going to be an occasion to “dress down” for classes. I assured him the cadets would be so briefed. Sure enough, on his way to the office from his residence, on Halloween Day, the general came across a senior cadet dressed in jeans and a t-shirt carrying his books to class. Fuming, the general stopped him and ask what he was disguised as. Without hesitation the cadet replied: “A Queens’ student sir!” By the sound of his voice when he called me into his office on arrival, I knew something like that had likely happened. I walked in his office carrying two cups of coffee. Half an hour later we both had a chuckle and left it at that.

Also on the humorous side, there was a United States Marine Corps (USMC) Major doing post graduate work at the college and he had accepted to supervise the band as a secondary duty. He came to my office one day with a request. I had six majors working for me, two chaplains, the Athletic Director and three staff officers: SOT (training), SOC (careers) and SOP (plans). Keeping with that nomenclature he admitted that as a marine he would be proud to be referred to as the SOB (band). We both chuckled. Request denied!

e-veritas: What were, if any, the major changes that took place at the college during this time period?

Marcel Parisien: Of course that biggest impact on the college was the announcement of the closure of Royal Roads and CMR. These took place after I had left the college, but I was very much involved in the planning. Given that we were going ahead with plans to renovate both quarters and the dining room, we were already making plans to use the facilities on the base but never to the extent we ended up having to in order to accommodate the increase in students.

Also associated with the amalgamation of the three colleges into one was the “bilingualisation” of RMC. While RMC had considered itself bilingual prior to this, that was more in words than deeds. It was now clear that the status quo would no longer suffice. The college would now be living in a bilingual fishbowl and that did not sit well with some. But there was no choice in the matter, we had our marching orders. We were essentially told that what the 1994 Budget had announced was the closure of all three military colleges with the opening of a new bilingual and larger RMC.

I am also quite proud of a change I introduced at the end of my second year. I introduced the divisional structure into the cadet wing. I mentioned earlier that staffing was a problem but this was compounded by the use we made of the staff we had. As I mentioned earlier, I inherited a structure that had six majors reporting directly to me. But only one of these was in the direct chain of command: the Staff Officer Training (SOT). All eight Squadron Commanders reported through him. All the other majors had staff responsibilities. What I essentially did was take two of these majors plus the SOT and made them division Commanders, each responsible for three squadrons and each reporting directly to me. I managed to farm out the staff responsibilities to captains by shifting a few positions around. That the divisional system is still in effect today speaks to its logic. It is unfortunate that I personally did not get to sample it.

There were two other minor initiatives that I am responsible for. I changed the Recruit Obstacle Race from a timed event to a scored event and I had a board made and installed outside the office listing all who have occupied the position of DCdts or equivalent.

Another important change that took place during that time period that had an impact that was difficult to measure in the short term as it impacted on individuals differently was the recognition of the rights of Gays and Lesbians. I mention it here to remind all that it was not that long ago that we discriminated against a segment of our society. It makes you wonder what we are doing today that twenty years from now we won’t want to talk about.

e-veritas: What did you do in the CAF after this time?

Marcel Parisien: In early June 1994, life was good to me. I had just completed my second year in the job, all the players were finally in place to implement the divisional system, the cadets were away at summer training. On a personal note my daughter 20821 Maj Monique Marie Parisien (RMC 1997) was going into second year and my oldest son 20229 Maj Serge Parisien (CMR RMC 1996) was transferring from CMR into third year at RMC and my youngest son E3838 Maj Guy Parisien (RMC 2009) was working on completing high school in Kingston. As I was looking forward to my third year as DCdts and the challenges that lay ahead, I took comfort in the fact that I had all my family around me. Then on the 8th of June, I received a phone call that changed all that. I was being promoted and given command of CMR for its last year of operations. The year that followed was interesting to say the least. But as I look back with the benefit of the years, I can’t help but wonder, without the closure of Roads and CMR, would I have been named Commandant of RMC in the summer of 1994. Probably, but these thoughts and a dollar will buy me a cup of coffee at Tim Horton’s.

After my year at CMR, I did a quick touch and go at NDHQ before going to the NATO Defense College in Rome where I served on the faculty of the college for four years. I came back to Canada in 2000 as Chief of Staff at Canadian Forces Recruiting, Education and Training Systems (CFRETS) in Borden. Those familiar with CFRETS will know that it did essentially what the Canadian Defence Academy (CDA) does now. Forced into retirement in 2001 by the announced closure of CFRETS, I was fortunate enough to continue serving with the cadet organisation until I finally called it a day after more than 44 years in uniform. Today I volunteer with the Air Cadet League and keep busy teaching my new hip how to golf and play softball. And if I thought at one time that the job of DCdts was the best job in the world, I now know that it comes second to that of Grampa.

e-veritas: What memories do you have of CMR as Commandant for its last year of operations?

Marcel Parisien: As far as my year at CMR, that could be the object of another interview/article in itself. It was certainly a year of awakening for me. I had always tried to live my life according to certain values and principles and I innocently thought that other people in positions of responsibility and trust would also govern themselves according to similar values and principles. Then I was introduced to politics and politicians! I will touch on three incidents. But first let me set the stage.

I took command of CMR in August 1994, roughly six months after the announced closure. In early July of that year Daniel Johnson, the Liberal Premier of Quebec calls an election for the late summer. It shapes up to be a close one but the odds seem to favour the Parti Québecois (PQ). Needless to say, the PQ is exploiting the negative publicity generated by the closure of CMR, a decision made by a Liberal government. My Public Affairs Officer (PAO) at CMR is a candidate for the Action Démocratique party in the Saint-Jean riding. Inside the college we had had to make some minor adjustments. Prior to my arrival, a decision was made that all prep year cadet going into first year would do so in Kingston. So I do not have a first year class. That coupled with a sizeable number of third year cadets who had been given permission to transfer early to RMC, meant that the cadet population had dropped by almost 200.

Soon after assuming command I find out that what used to be the cadet dining hall is now being used as a storage facility for desks, beds, mattresses, chairs and dressers that are now surplus. Because of my involvement in the planning at RMC, I know that Kingston is going to purchase $750K worth of furniture to accommodate the cadets living on base because of the transfers and the ongoing renovations on the campus. I could go a long way towards fulfilling that need with the surplus equipment in storage. So I make a few phone calls. Eventually, I am told that during the electoral campaign, the sight of truckloads of furniture heading west on Highway 20 towards Kingston could cause concerns in certain circles. So I keep my surplus furniture and Kingston spends $750K of taxpayers’ money needlessly. But that doesn’t seem to raise any concerns in those circles.

As it turns out the PQ did win the election in Quebec. That was obvious almost as soon as results started pouring in on the evening of Election Day. What was not obvious however was who would represent the riding of Saint-Jean. Even late in the night, it was too close to call. It would require a judicial recount which took almost two weeks to complete and had both the incumbent Liberal and the PQ candidate dead even. There would need to be a by-election after a short campaign period. During this campaign, I hosted the new provincial minister of inter-governmental affairs, Louise Beaudoin and the new minister of education, Jean Garon and some of their staff to dinner in the Mess. They had come to talk to the local population as well as to the civilian employees of the college. They “floated” the idea of a second vocation for the college. They in fact announced the creation of a committee under the chairmanship of Jacques Parent, a former Recteur at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR). The committee would report directly to the premier. Of course their obvious intent was to ensure that the PQ candidate would win the by-election. And it worked. But it also generated expectations from my civilian employees who deserved better than to be used as pawns in a game they had no chance of winning.

On the Parent Committee, was a young female notary by the name of Danielle Deland. She was from a well established Saint-Jean family, partnering in her father’s notary practice. We had met during the visit of the committee to the college. She called me on a Saturday after she received an advanced copy of the report that was going to be presented to the premier. She was completely disenchanted with the report. She called it bogus. It was as if the Chairman had been told what to write and it certainly did not reflect the findings. She told me that she came to the conclusion that there never was any intention to seek another vocation for the college. A few weeks later, the PQ government washed its hands of the matter and laid the blame on the Federal Liberals. To this day I haven’t been able to come up with the proper vocabulary to describe people who would treat the people they are elected to serve with such contempt.

I mentioned earlier that my PAO had been a candidate in the riding. Obviously he was not successful and continued on as my PAO, at least until just before graduation. I found out accidently that he was planning a demonstration of sorts to take place during graduation parade. With the help of a sergeant in the supply section, who had been his Campaign Organiser, he managed to obtain a number of bed sheets and some paint. His plan was to unfurl a message to Prime Minister Jean Chretien from the roof of Champlain building during the marching off of the graduating class. Needless to say it did not happen. Also needless to say he was unemployed before graduation day. But what troubles me more about this incident is that he had support and encouragement in this endeavour from another member of his political party, from someone who should have known better, someone who once occupied a position for which I have a lot of respect, and because of that respect, someone who will remain nameless. As he reads this, he’ll know that I know.

On a different train of thought, I recall that my arrival at CMR was anticipated with mixed emotions. When I left CMR in 1969 to go to Kingston, some classmates stayed behind in third year. They eventually became the first group to graduate from CMR. From that day on the gap between the two colleges started growing. When I walked in as Commandant, not only had the decision been made to keep RMC and close CMR, but the Commandant of CMR was now the Commandant of RMC. To add insult to injury, when Royal Roads promoted their DCdts to be the Acting Commandant, what happened at CMR? The DCdts from RMC was named to be their Commandant!

e-veritas: How did you go forward/bridge the gap between the two colleges? Any best practices/lessons learned?

Marcel Parisien: In spite of this I soon was able to establish a measure of credibility and acceptance that allowed us to go forward. In September, I received the traditional invitation to the Ex-Cadet weekend parade at RMC. When I told my secretary to reply that I would be attending, she proceeded to tell me that she had been the secretary to the commandants for nearly 20 years and that the Commandants of CMR “do not attend functions at RMC”. I told her that this one did.

One of the objectives I had given myself was to try to bridge the gap between the two colleges at least for the cadets. Even when I was DCdts, I took the first year class to Saint-Jean on two occasions to view the “Carousel Militaire”. As Commandant I took the band and choir to RMC for a performance. I also took the theatre group who performed in a play by Antonine Maillet (the title of which escapes me) in Currie Hall at RMC. As an aside, Ms Maillet was granted an Honorary Degree from RMC the next year. I also thought it would be a good idea to get the two hockey teams together as they would all be on the same team the following year. That turned into a disaster!

It was obvious that the RMC cadets did not welcome the CMR cadets and even before the puck dropped, the best player on each team had been ejected for fighting. As the game progressed, even the cadets in the stands started jeering at the CMR team. That CMR won 7-2 made it even more frustrating. The fact that both my son and daughter were at RMC at the time gave me some insight that would not have been available to me otherwise. As it turned out, there was a lot of pent-up frustration in the cadet wing at RMC. The source of the frustration was the feeling that they were being forced into becoming a CMR. While they had to put up with that frustration, the hockey game was an opportunity to let some of it show. Needless to say for the CMR hockey players the result of the game erased the effect of the ill feelings but the grieving process was not over.

The experts tell us that the grieving process goes through five steps. As a group in Saint-Jean during the academic year 1994-1995, we went through these steps. I had men my age crying in my office because they did not know what was going to happen to them or their family. But in spite of all the adult leadership that we tried to provide, it is the cadets who saw us through the worst as only cadets will. In the spring edition of the college newsletter, The Rempart, they published an obviously tricked photo/poster showing a cadet in full ceremonial scarlet dress and sword in the background. In the foreground was a sword stuck in the rock. With it there was a caption that read: “According to the legend only an officer cadet can remove that sword.” For people who tend to think with their heart, that was enough, that was all that was needed. It gave a glimmer of hope where none existed before and we could now move on. On Graduation Day, I asked the members of the CMR class of 1971 to join the graduates so that the first and last class of graduates would march of the square together. By the way, the cadet who posed in scarlet dress for the poster is 19706 LCol Patrick Lemyre (CMR 1995), the current DCdts at RMC.

e-veritas: Are you in touch with what is happening at the college these days? If yes, what are your views?

Marcel Parisien: Retired here in Kingston, makes it easy for me to remain in touch with the college. A few years back my daughter, Monique was a division commander at the college 2008-2010 and nephew 25768 Andrew Holmes was a cadet so I had a close perspective for a while. In fact, as we speak, all three of my children are serving majors in the CF.

As to my views, I still have great admiration for the cadet wing and great respect for the hard work of the cadets. There are things that I see at the college that are new to me and they rub me the wrong way but it’s probably only because I don’t have a full understanding of them. One such is what I have heard called “interest only” as applied to members of the sports team. But that is probably better left for another day!

As a proud francophone, I know that the college has come a long way to become more bilingual but it did have a long way to go. When I first came to RMC in the Fall of 1969 as a third year cadet from CMR, I was invited into the DCdts office one Saturday afternoon. There was concern that, now that CMR had been given permission to run all five years, fewer francophone students would be coming to Kingston. So I was asked what the college could do to be “more attractive” to francophones. Honest, but probably not politically correct, I replied that a good start would be for the DCdts to speak French. Twenty three years later, I was the first French Canadian to be named to the position since 255 Captain H.A. Panet (RMC 1912). Since I left the position less than 20 years ago, at least five more francophones have occupied the position and four of the Commandants have also been French speaking. More than ever before young francophone students can find a home at RMC and that warms my heart.

e-veritas: Military service is certainly this family’s business – with a number attending Military Colleges through various programs.

Marcel Parisien: Sometimes it’s hard to keep a good thing secret!

• 20229 Maj Serge Parisien (CMR RMC 1996) serves as Information Support Flight Commander, CFSAS, AFTC, 17 Wing Winnipeg, Manitoba. He attended military college under Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTP). After being released in fourth year, owing to a surplus of pilots, he completed his studies as a civilian and subsequently rejoined the Canadian Forces.

• E3838 Maj Guy Parisien (RMC 2009) serves as WTISO, 4 Wing, Cold Lake, Alberta. He earned a Bachelors of Science degree from RMC under the Continuing Education Officer Training Plan and a College diploma in Electronics Engineering from St. Lawrence College

• 20821 Maj Monique Marie Parisien (RMC 1997) serves as Director of Capability Integration (DCI), Director General Capability and Structure Integration (DGCSI), Chief of Force Development (CFD). She attended RMC under the ROTP and returned as a division commander at RMC 2008-2010. After retiring later this summer, she intends to pursue graduate studies as a civilian. Her husband, Maj Desmond Stewart joined under the Direct Entry Program Civilian University Degree in 2002.

• My nephew, 25768 OCdt Andrew Holmes (RMC 2010-2012) currently serves in 14 Wing Greenwood. He relinquished his status as an Officer Cadet in April 2012 to become Private Holmes, RCAF.

• My brother-in-laws are 12055 Maj (ret’d) Greg Forestell (CMR 1979) and Col (Ret’d) Roy Forestell, who joined the CF under the Officer Candidate Training Plan (OCTP).

• M1009 OCdt Michael Forestell (RMC 2014), our nephew, is on phase training (Armour) in Gagetown, NB. He is a 4th year in Otter Sqn in the University Training Plan Non Commissioned Members (UTPNCM) program

 Click here for previous interviews with former DCdts

2 Responses to “Former DCdt Marcel Parisien In Conversation With Victoria Edwards”

  1. Claudia Vachon Says:

    One of my fondest memory from CMR was giving a ride to Col Parisien after soccer practice, not knowing he was our new DCadet! His daughter and I even talked about that “incident” at our 15 years reunion last year. Hands down he was the best CMR DCadet and Commandant I had and certainly the most personable. Please feel free to pass on this message to Col Parisien with my sincere gratitude. Thanks to him I have very fond memories from my 3 years at CMR.

    20695 Claudia Vachon
    Comox, BC

  2. Chris Chance Says:

    To Col Parisien, I read this article with great interest, particularly as a number of your relatives/peers are friends of mine, including your brother-in-law, Roy Forestell. Padre Frank Walker was the Deputy Protestant Padre in Valcartier during the Olympics in ’76, and I had the pleasure of hosting him when he came to visit my troop from C Sqn, 12ieme RBC on the north shore of the Saguenay River. I hadn’t heard of the Walker family tragedy and would really like to re-connect with Frank if at all possible, should you have his coordinates

    Best Regards,

    10209 Chris Chance
    Ottawa, ON

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