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Chasse-Galerie 2016: More than countin’ beans for 8833 Dr. John Leggat

Chasse-Galerie 2016: More than countin’ beans for 8833 Dr. John Leggat

E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003) interviewed 8833 Dr. John Leggat (RMC 1971), one of thirteen Ex-Cadets and two officer-cadets who will raise money for the Danny McLeod Athletic Endowment Fund by paddling a voyageur canoe from Ottawa to Kingston this September, 2016. You can make a donation to support these paddlers at www.rmcclubfoundation.ca.

Victoria Edwards: This will be your 4th trip down the Rideau, but only the 2nd as an RMC paddler. What made you decide to do the paddle?

John Leggat: The canoe fundraiser was 8788 Geoff Bennet’s initiative. Geoff was and still is the enthusiastic driving force. He has done a great job, raising money for the RMC Foundation every five years. This is my second trip with the Chasse-Galerie; the other two trips of my four were done with my parents many years ago – not in a canoe!


I was the past president of the Club during the La Chasse Galerie canoe trip in 2001. I put on my RMC blazer and attended the send-off under the Wellington Street Bridge in Ottawa by the Chateau Laurier. Once the group was organized and set to go, they sailed past Le Café, at the National Arts Center where a group of friends and families of the paddlers enthusiastically bid them farewell. I recall that H4860 Gen (Ret`d) John de Chastelain (RMC 1960) played the bagpipes.

Geoff Bennett contacted me to crew in 2006, 2011 and 2016. It wasn’t convenient in 2006 since I had some other commitments that year. For 2011 and 2016’s trips, I was able to clear the week. I served as Bean Counter, which meant I carried a credit card and paid the bills for lock fees, meals and accommodation.

Victoria Edwards: Do you have any canoeing experience? Any lessons learned?

John Leggat: After grad in ‘71, Geoff Bennett and I celebrated by paddling from Algonquin Park to Ottawa along the Madawaska River for a week to 10 days. We camped along the way. We packed some freeze dried food and ate at a few village hot dogs stands. A few times, we bought hot dogs, which we cooked over an open fire. The best meals, however, were the fish we caught and cooked over open fires. We had a good time, fishing, camping along the shore or on nearby farms with the farmer’s permission.

I canoe at our country place in the Lower St Lawrence; it is a little canoe, which is easy to maneuver and control. A large freighter canoe rides high and responds well requiring a light touch by the helmsman to keep it on course.  It does take some stamina to stroke every 2 seconds or so, 10,000 paddle strokes a day and about 70,000 strokes from Ottawa to Kingston.

Victoria Edwards: Why was it important to you to support the Danny McLeod Athletic Endowment Fund? What do you do to keep physically fit?

John Leggat: In my experience, if it is a good cause, people are very generous. I participated in the athletics program at RMC. Since I liked sports in high school, it was natural to participate in sports in university and RMC had and still has a good program. I played intermural water polo and lacrosse and competed on the varsity tennis team. The athletic pillar at Military College taught the fundaments of many sports, not only the varsity sports or the ones that we like to watch on television.

The athletic program also promoted life-long physically activity. My wife Denise and I enjoy many sports and like taking long walks, it took some physical conditioning to prepare for our trip along one of the main pilgrimage routes in Europe. We walked and biked the 850 km Camino Frances from the French Pyrenees to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostelle in Spain in 2013. Our feet had to get used to travelling 20-30 km a day. The trail takes you through many small, picturesque villages. The high point of the trip was attending service in the cathedral at the end of the trip. We enjoyed meeting people over pilgrim meals, consisting of meat and potatoes, salad, a bottle of wine and dessert (usually an ice cream cone balanced upside-down on a dessert plate).

We are looking forward to walking another part of the pilgrim trail in the spring, this time in France.

Victoria Edwards: You served as RMC Club in various roles, including president for the 1999-2000 term.

John Leggat: I was a member of the Halifax Branch of the RMC Club. When I moved to Ottawa, I was encouraged by H3550 Murray Johnston and 8813 John Gibson to let my name stand for election to the Club Board of Directors. As things go, I joined the Board in 1994 and was elected president for the 1999-2000 terms. We had a good group throughout those years. We worked well as a team and we took on a number of initiatives that were important for the College and the Club:

We extended membership eligibility to non Ex-Cadet graduates, post graduates and those graduating from the College’s Continuing Studies programs. We also brought in a category of Student Member so that Officer Cadets and all others enrolled in programs could become engaged.

8765 Claude Tassé and I worked on Rapprochement – the bringing together of the Club des anciens du CMR and RMC Club so as to provide one alumni association for graduates and one Club that could attend to the interests of the membership and the Officer Cadets at RMC and Company Fort St Jean (at the time).

We worked with the RMC Foundation on a project for the refurbishment of the Memorial Arch, the centrepiece of the 125th anniversary of RMC, in time for the Reunion Weekend of 2001

We launched the RMC Club magazine Veritas.

Victoria Edwards: In your role as Bean Counter, what are your recommendations for this canoe trip?

John Leggat: As bean counter, I look after paying the bills en route. The trip expenses are covered by the paddlers. It is a fun adventure holiday for the paddlers, as long as it doesn’t rain too much. Over 6 days, we paddle 202 km, which works out to about 30-40 km a day depending on locks. Since the freighter canoe has a high profile, it is better to canoe with the wind behind you. Unfortunately, we often canoe heading into the wind – such is life.

We have fun relaxing together during the evenings. We stay in the homes or cottages of ex-cadets one night and the others in hotels, B&Bs or tents. The highlights of the trip are staying at Geoff’s family cottage on the Rideau Lakes, at the home of ex-cadets in Manotick and at a fishing camp on Cranberry Lake.

The paddlers raise money on their own from supporters, friends, classmates and other graduates. In addition, there are 14 major donors, each of whom has committed $5000 towards the trip. The donations are already starting to come in. This is my class’ Old Brigade entry year, so we are hoping to ramp up our class donations toward the class gift. It is easy to donate to the Danny McLeod Athletic Endowment Fund or for that matter to any of the RMC Foundation projects through the RMC Foundation website.

Victoria Edwards: What did you study at RMC? Outline your career progression since leaving the College. Any highlights?

John Leggat: After RMC, I continued my education at the University of British Columbia (MASc 1973 and Ph.D. 1976) in the field of aeroacoustics. I am a graduate of the National Defence College. I spent 33 years in the Reserve component of the Canadian Forces, retiring in 2001. My full time career was with Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC). I started life as a defence scientist in Halifax in 1976 and at the end of my career, served as Assistant Deputy Minister (Science & Technology) for the Department of National Defence and Chief Executive Officer of DRDC. I retired from the Public Service of Canada in 2005. From 2005 to 2013, I was an Associate and Senior Advisor with CFN Consultants in Ottawa. I also kept busy on the volunteer front as a member of the science advisory boards of two federal departments (Natural Resources Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans), and on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries.

Victoria Edwards: What are you up to these days?

John Leggat: Since 2013, I have been working on a study on greenhouse gas reduction strategies for Canada.  The study is being sponsored by the David Suzuki Foundation and the Canadian Academy of Engineering, of which I am a former president. The study called The Trottier Energy Futures Project points to the changes we can make today so that Canada can get on a track to reduce significantly its greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2050.

I also am looking after the management of a nature reserve in Quebec. Quite a few years ago a few friends and I purchased land at the mouth of the Saguenay River. Today the area, with a terrific view of the St Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers as well as the Bay of Tadoussac, is preserved in perpetuity and open to the public for walks and picnics.

I am a member of the standing review committee for the Networks of Centers of Excellence (NCE) program. The program funds major research initiatives at Canadian universities. www.nce-rce.gc.ca/index_eng.asp

On the personal side we have three grandsons. This is a fairly new experience for my wife Denise and me, since the eldest is 3 years old and the other two are 1 year old. Having little ones in the house again brings back many good memories and opens new dimensions in our lives. I need to get the three little boys in a big canoe one of these days.

Our aim at e-Veritas is to conduct one-on-one interviews with all 15 participants (in no particular order) over the next few months of e-Veritas editions.

5893 Tom Gee

8684 Peter Holt

8725 Fergus McLaughlin

8788 Geoff Bennett

8833 John Leggat

8836 Clark Little

8926 Ray Hook

9143 Bruce McAlpine

12192 Tom Lawson

M0288 Roxanne Rees

15519 Sandra Sukstorf

15566 Helga Grodzinski

22461 Claire Bramma

RMC Cadet (TBA)

CMR Cadet (TBA)