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Club President on the Topic of Honorary Degree At Royal Military College of Canada

M0058 Marc Drolet

06 November 2011

Dear General Council Members of the Royal Military Colleges Club of Canada (RMCCC). There has been numerous communications on the subject of the offer of an Honorary Degree to Mr. Don Cherry in the last few days, both in the media and within the Club via emails. An Official release from the College announced yesterday 05 November 2011 that Mr. Cherry has declined the honour.

I appreciate and support everyone’s freedom to express their opinions and views as it is a core value / characteristic which is at the heart of our democratic way of life. However, freedom of expression should apply to all involved in a debate and not deprive anyone from listening to all sides or arguments.

The process of granting Honorary Degrees by the Royal Military Colleges is a very comprehensive process. The nominations can be initiated by different organizations or individuals, including the Royal Military Colleges Club of Canada through any member of the Senate.

As with most of Canadian universities, the Senate which in the case of RMC is composed of the Chancellor (Minister of National Defence), the Vice Chancellor (The RMCC Commandant), Principal, Deans, DCadet, Registrar and the Directeur des Etudes du RMC SJ, makes the final decision.

As can be seen, the RMCCC has no responsibility or authority in this process, and fully trust and support, that the institution, for where these matters fall directly within their authority and responsibility will make the best decision.

In the case which is of interest here, we must consider that this individual generates different emotions in everyone. From a process point of view, it is not the position of the Club to make a stand on a subject where we do not have the authority or responsibility for the decision. It is the Club’s position however, to promote the freedom of expression and facilitate discussions.

The Club has and does advocate in support of the Military Colleges. However the engagement of advocacy must be in a positive, proactive and responsible manner.

I have been in contact with many Club members, the Colleges Authorities, the Foundation authorities, and members of the General Council and can assure you that opinions do differ, but the “Esprit de Camaraderie” is strong and the respect of each other and for their individual opinions remains a great quality among the Club members.

I would ask Branch Presidents to disseminate this information to our membership at large, so that this message can be included with the discussion that is underway, which will hopefully conclude soon.

I trust that we will continue to share points of view, and I also trust that our debate will be based on more in depth arguments than that which can be found in the media.

Marc Drolet

President Royal Military Colleges Club of Canada

LCol (Ret’d)

M0058 CMR ’81

 

Le 06 Novembre 2011

Cher Membres du Conseil General du Club des Collèges Militaires du Canada (CCMC). Le sujet du degré Honorifique offert a Mr. Don Cherry a généré beaucoup de messages et a été sujet d’un bon débat virtuel dans les derniers jours incluant les medias. Un communique officiel du Collège a annoncé hier le 5 Novembre 2011 que Mr. Cherry n’a pas accepté ce degré honorifique.

J’apprécie et encourage tous nos membres d’exprimer leur vues et opinions, car c’est une valeur et droit qui est central a notre vie. Toutefois, la liberté d’expression devrait s’appliquer a tous dans un débat, et ne doit pas empêcher qui que ce soit d’écouter les positions de tous.

Le processus pour offrir des Degrés Honorifiques par les Collèges Militaires Royales du Canada est un processus bien structure. Les nominations peuvent être émise par tout organisme ou individus, incluant le Club des Collèges Militaire Royaux du Canada et ceci par le billet de n’importe lequel membre du Senat.

Comparativement a toutes Université Canadienne, le Senat qui est compose du Chandelier (Le Ministre de la Défence Nationale), le Vice Chancelier (Le Commandant des Collèges), le Principal, les Doyens, Le Directeur des Cadet, le Registraire et le Directeur des Études du CMR SJ, a la décision finale.

Le Club des Collèges Militaires Royaux du Canada n’a aucune responsabilités ou autorité dans ce processus, et supporte le Senat qui est une composante de notre institution et qui a l’autorité et responsabilité de prendre la meilleur décision dans ce domaine.

Dans le cas qui nous intéresse ici, nous devons considérer que Mr. Cherry soulevé des émotions différentes en chacun de nous. Du point de vue du processus mentionner ci haut, il n’est pas la responsabilité du Club de prendre position sur un sujet ou nous n’avons pas l’autorité ni la responsabilité sur cette décision. Par contre, le Club supporte la liberté d’expression et encourage un forum ou les opinions peuvent être exprimées.

Le Club fait partie et supporte les décisions de notre institution, ce qui n’empêche pas de préconiser la défense des droits d’expression et garde confiance que les échanges restent sur un ton positif et constructif.

J’ai gardé au cours de ce débat un contacte étroit les membres de notre Club, les autorités des Collèges, la Fondation et membres du Conseils General, et je peux confirmer que les opinions sont diverses sur le sujet en question ici. Mais l’Esprit de Camaraderie est fort, et le respect mutuel et pour les différents opinions, reste des qualités qui démarque notre Club.

Je vais demander a nos Présidents de Chapitres de communiquer ce message a nos membres, afin que les informations fournis peuvent être considéré dans le débat qui devrait voir une conclusion bientôt.

J’ai confiance que nous continuerons d’échanger nos opinions, et que le débat va inclure une perspective plus large que ce qui est fourni dans nos media.

 

Marc Drolet

Président du Club des Collèges Militaire du Canada

LCol (Retraite)

M0058 CMR ‘81

 

 

15 Comments

  • Dan McWilliams

    November 7, 2011 at 10:47 am

    I am disappointed that the College’s brain trust would consider Cherry for such an honour. Although he believes he is supporting the military, he does it in such a bigoted and over the top matter that it makes me cringe.
    RMC is about forming thinking, reasoning, graduates. Not cavemen. As a proud Canadian of “mixed race” (half francophone, half anglophone), and having lived in Europe, I have experienced firsthand the beautiful cultures that Don Cherry so freely and repeatedly maligns.
    I have stopped watching Coaches’ Corner years ago; I change the channel or mute the volume when he comes on.

    I am now retired from the military, after 20 years, including service for 5 months in the Persian Gulf. I strongly support my fellow veterans, but I still believe that we should not be encouraging this man by conferring an honorary degree on him. It sends the wrong message about RMC. Or is it true that the Colleges are still living in the 1950s?

  • Normand Nault 7101

    November 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    J’ai déjà exprimé mon opinion, sur la nomination de Don Cherry, au recteur; je n’utilserai donc pas ce médium pour la répéter. Je voudrais cependant exprimer mon opinion sur l’énoncé de notre Président, Marc Drolet. Le fait que le Club des CMR ne participe pas dans le processus de nomination des degrés honorifiques ne veut pas dire que le Club ne peut prendre position et exprimer une opinion, pour ou contre. J’apprécie que le Club “supporte le Senat qui est une composante de notre institution et qui a l’autorité et responsabilité de prendre la meilleur décision dans ce domaine”, mais quand le Sénat erre dans sa décision il faut exprimer son opinion et lui laisser savoir.C’est ce que le corps professoral a fait, si je comprends bien. Si le Club croit que le Sénat a pris la meilleure décision en nommant Don Cherry, il faut aussi le dire. Je n’ai pas appris durant mes cinq années aux collèges que de “s’assoir sur la clôture” est une option quand il est évident que ce sujet affecte les anciens et nouveaux élèves-officiers profondément, et qu’on représente, comme président du Club, des centaines si ce n’est des milliers d’anciens.

    Alors M. le Président, prenez position au nom de tous ceux que vous représentez; ne restez pas sur la clôture.

    Vérité, Devoir, Vaillance

  • Normand Nault 7101

    November 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Oops! Excusez-moi mesdames, je vous demande s’il vous plait de considérer que l’utilisation du masculin dans mon énoncé représente bel et bien les deux genres. C’est peut être mon émotion qui a causé ce manquement.

    Encore une fois, mes sincères excuses. Vous êtes des membres à part entière du Collège militaire royal du Canada.

  • 16078 P.D. Cowan

    November 7, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    With all due respect to LCol Drolet, I must differ on the assertion that although the RMCCC has no direct authority on the decision to grant honourary degrees, we must remain positive, and trusting.

    The actions of the college reflect directly on the alumni and the alumni association. I feel that it is in the interest of RMCCC to speak, positively or negatively, on matters that will, rightly or wrongly, be associated with RMC/RRMC/CMR alumni. In this case, the offer of a degree to Mr. Cherry certainly qualifies.

    The very fact that such an offer generates such a polarity of opinion suggests quite strongly that the honour was inappropriate. In fact, a review of the man’s career will turn up much that would make the honour inappropriate, and little to support his deserving such an honour. Don Cherry has made a career out of making outrageous, sometimes racist, and homophobic diatribes. These actions are not historic issues being judged against modern morality, he continues this sort of thing in recent times. The strength of this alone disqualify him as a candidate for an honourary degree, irrespective of whatever support he may offer for the Canadian Forces.

    His support of hockey goonery directly endangers current players, and sets a poor role for new players working through the hockey ranks. This is, perhaps, less important, but must be considered as part of the overall package.

    When this was announced, I was contacted by my friends and associates for an opinion. That tells me that the actions of the college directly reflect on the RMCCC – it was reflecting on me right then and there.

    A nagging cynical voice in me tells me that this was done as a publicity ploy to get RMC in the news media, knowing full well that it would generate controversy and likely result in Mr. Cherry declining it. I sincerely hope that RMC is not reduced to those kinds of cheap media stunts.

    If RMC must grant an honourary degree to a sports figure, I am certain there are many that both support the Canadian Forces and aren’t an embarrassment to Canada.

  • 5300 Robert H. Thomas

    November 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    For the first time in 54 years I am embarrassed in trying to support RMC when questioned by non-military friends about such an offer.

  • Jim Kempling, PPCLI 6643

    November 7, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Don has done more for our troops than any of the overly sensitive winners who are critical of him. RMC is fundamentally in the business of producing leaders who really care about their troops and are not afraid to stand up and be counted when things get tough. The PPCLI has honored Don Cherry. If you ask our soldiers who have put their lives on the line in Afghanistan instead of someone who has spent their life in an ivory tower, I thing there would be overwhelming support for the Coach.

  • Gary Moore, '72

    November 8, 2011 at 1:51 am

    I was appalled and embarassed when I read that RMC had offered Cherry an “honorary degree”. While he may be a supporter of our military, that alone does not qualify him for such an accolade. Indeed, the term “honorary degree” is a misnomer, being a loose translation of a “degree, honoris causa” or a degree for the sake of honour. While Wikipedia is not the best of references, it was handy for a brief description of the degree. It states that such a degree is typically awarded to an individual for significant contributions to a particular field of study, or to society in general, and often carries the same standing as its regular counterpart. How does Cherry meet these criteria? What significant contribution has he made to society or to any particular field other than being a cheerleader? Even his hockey views are criticized by many other commentators in the field. Indeed, his latest on-air rants have alienated many with significant calls to the CBC to cancel his show. His contempt for all except anglo-Canadians is legendary, and his boorish, ill-mannered televised behaviour means our TV is muted when he appears. Given this, I wonder how the Senate could have ever considered offering him such an honour, as it would only bring dishonour upon the College. Being a CF cheerleader surely is not enough, and the totality of the individual must be considered.

    Given all of that, I believe that the Club should be consulted for input on the awarding of such degrees, and that in this instance it should have opposed awarding one to Cherry, whether asked or not.

  • Serge G. Morin

    November 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Le message de notre président

    Je trouve aberrant le message complaisant de notre président concernant la candidature de Don Cherry au doctorat honorifique. Marc Drolet essaie de camoufler sous le vocable «liberté d’expression» les multiples oppositions par nos membres et par l’assemblée des professeurs du RMC (un vote de plus de 80% contre), à la nomination d’un individu certes coloré mais peu reluisant.
    La sélection d’un personnage aussi controversé que Don Cherry par le Sénat du Collège militaire du Canada montre non seulement une ignorance évidente du mandat de gestionnaires d’université qui leur est confié, mais apporte aussi un discrédit majeur à la dignité du doctorat honorifique offert par l’institution, ternissant du même coup l’image des militaires du Canada. Ce ne sont plus les exigences d’une éducation réputée et soignée, les nécessités d’un dynamisme intellectuel d’avant-garde et l’adéquation d’une éthique professionnelle impeccable qui sont mis en exergue. C’est plutôt l’image réductrice d’un bouffon qui n’hésite pas à utiliser des propos frisant le racisme pour propager sa boiteuse philosophie que l’on donne en exemple aux élèves-officiers. Nos militaires méritent une comparaison plus digne et un plus haut niveau d’appréciation des canadiens.
    Je n’admets nullement l’énoncé : « Le Club des Collèges Militaires Royaux du Canada n’a aucune responsabilités ou autorité dans ce processus, et supporte le Sénat qui est une composante de notre institution et qui a l’autorité et responsabilité de prendre la meilleur décision dans ce domaine». Si le Sénat n’est pas à la hauteur de son mandat, nous devons transmettre clairement notre opinion, «Vérité Devoir Vaillance » oblige. De même, ne dîtes pas plus loin que le Club fait partie des décisions du Sénat, alors que vous venez de dire le contraire.
    Que l’on suggère une justification de cette bourbe par une campagne auprès des présidents de chapitres me semble inapproprié. Si le Sénat du RMC n’a pas été à la hauteur, la direction de notre club n’a pas à justifier la bévue par une propagande humiliante.
    Serge G. Morin, CMR55, RMC57.

    You can translate my comments and publish them in Veritas as a letter to the publisher, but I doubt you will.

    I also would like to comment that the liberty of expression shoud be reserved to those that identify themselves. Soldier 25 above is the type of coward we do not need in the Canadian armed forces.

  • #12570 Mike Kennedy

    November 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    I can hardly wait to see how the professors will react next year when I nominate Kim Kardashian for an honourary degree.

    Somebody should tell the faculty that if they can’t take a joke, they shouldn’t have joined the Army.

  • Peter Dawe

    November 10, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    I must say I have been hesititating a good deal about offering my opinion on this very controversial issue. Perhaps it is none of my business as a non ring knocker but it seems to me there are some fundamental truths in this case that make offering an honourary degree to Don Cherry a proper thing to do. It strikes me that the Senate of the College is a very competent group and that if they have judged it appropriate to confer an honourary degree on Don Cherry then, I for one, feel they must have given the issue a good deal of consideration, probably anticipating the controvery such an action would create. Principal Sokolsky, Commandant Tremblay and Chancellor Peter Mackay are wise people; we second guess them at our peril.

    I worry about the loyalty issue in this case. Mme Lord is the flag bearer for objection to Cherry’s nomination but she is supported by 80% of the faculty according to some sources. I must then ask how well the nomination was explained to that body that they would reject it by such a margin. Nonetheless, objections of the nature raised by Mme Lord should be dealt with within RMCC and not in the public domain. The fact the Whig Standard chose to publish her objections on the front page and thus attract national attention is unfortunate but besides the point. RMCC is certainly not seen as the winner in this debacle, and that is most unfortunate.

    Don Cherry is a special man and I know that to be true first hand. While I enjoy playing hockey to this day and have coached for a long time, I still have trouble following Don’s occasional rants and admit to not agreeing with some of his overbearing and outspoken points of view. That said, I recognize that he has a vast amount of experience in the game and that, if I listen, I will always extract some nugget that will make it worth my while. I know for a fact that he resisted a good deal of pressure from within the CBC, the folks who pay his salary, to desist from mentioning the KIAs from Afghanisatn on Coach’s Corner. In fact, he phoned to ask me my opinion as the father of one of those KIAs. In answering, it struck me that this man was doing more for the morale of those that matter, the young men and women prosecuting the war in Afghanistan, than all the posturing and words of politicians. Don Cherry, in the true spirit of TDV, decided to do the right thing and to this day continues the tradition of honouring the latest KIA, no matter the consequences.

    I think it is also worthy of note that Don Cherry was named an honourary PPCLI and there are very few such distinctions made I can assure you. That honour has the complete support of all ranks of the regiment, including many RMC grads. Those that matter know that Cherry is a man of substance and one who truly cares. He may not be the most eloquent nor the most politically correct but he is someone who can be trusted to do the right thing…always. In the end, character trumps cosmetics every day of the week. So that everyone knows, he and my wife Reine, a Quebecer from the Beauce, get along just fine and he regularly supports her fundraising efforts for Canadians for Women in Afghanistan.

    So what? I think the College could do an awful lot worse that award an honourary degree to Don Cherry. He will go down in history as a great Canadian, not the least because of his support for the military community. Well done Principal Sokolsky!

    TDV!

  • # 12570 Mike Kennedy

    November 11, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I agree with Peter’s comments. This whole thing has, for the most part, turned into a public relations disaster for the College. It has caused RMC a huge amount of embarassment, all of which could have been avoided.

    If there were any concerns about Don Cherry’s suitability as a candidate for an honourary degree, they should have been dealt with in private, behind closed doors, and as part of the process of evaluating his candidacy. Once the decision to award him the honourary degree was made – by the proper authorities, which of course is what happened in this case – it would seem to me that everyone associated with the College had a responsibility to support that decision. There was certainly no need to turn this into a public debate in the media. Whether or not you like Don Cherry, you can well imagine how this whole affair must have made him feel.

    To me, the most troubling aspect of this whole situaiton has nothing to do with whether or not Don Cherry is an appropriate candidate for an honourary degree. The more fundamental problem, in my view, has to do with the lack of professionalism, judgement, and loyalty exhibitied by certain members of the academic staff who chose to publicly oppose the granting of the degree knowing full well that it had already been properly approved by the Senate of the College.

    By going out of their way to publicly express their “dissatisfaction” about the granting of the honourary degree, these profesors have in effect chosen to publicly challenge the authority of the College Senate, which as we know is the ultimate governing body in academic matters. In essence, these people have made a very public statement to the people of Canada to the effect that it is more important to them to express their “dissatisfaction” than it is to think about the image, reputation, and credibility of the College. This kind of behaviour is beneath an institution like RMC, and it is a grievous insult to any Ex-Cadet who has served this country in any capacity.

    In my opinion, people who would engage in this kind of behaviour have no right to teach in a place like RMC. If these individuals were really that “dissatisfied” they could have chosen to do the right thing, and the honourable thing, and simply resigned their positions at the College. I have very little use for people who go out of their way to complain about how bad things are, but continue to hang around collecting a paycheque. I have far more respect for those who act with the courage of their convictions, even if they have to be prepared to fall upon their own swords to do so.

    So, guys, the question I would pose to all of you is, should the College not be entitled to expect the same degree of loyalty from the academic staff as it does from the cadets ? Shouldn’t the professors all be expected to extend the same degree of loyalty to the College as WE do ?

    It would seem to me that in future, we would all be a lot better off if Ms. Lord and her academic colleagues would be good enough to focus their efforts on doing the job that the taxpayers are paying them to do.

    Some of you may perhaps be aware that in response to this situation, last weekend I wrote a letter to Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun. On Monday of this week I was interviewed by Charles Adler on his radio show. If you want to listen to the radio clip, it can be found in the November “archives” section of Charles’ website http://www.charlesadler.com. The interview aired on November 7. When we were on the air, Charles read the complete text of my letter, and we talked about this situation at greater length.

    I would welcome any comments anyone has on the radio interview. And no, I didn’t say anything about Kim Kardashian. But maybe I probably should have.

    This isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.

    TDV, gentlemen.

    Mike

  • 16078 P.D. Cowan

    November 11, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    By going out of their way to publicly express their “dissatisfaction” about the granting of the honourary degree, these profesors have in effect chosen to publicly challenge the authority of the College Senate, which as we know is the ultimate governing body in academic matters. In essence, these people have made a very public statement to the people of Canada to the effect that it is more important to them to express their “dissatisfaction” than it is to think about the image, reputation, and credibility of the College. This kind of behaviour is beneath an institution like RMC, and it is a grievous insult to any Ex-Cadet who has served this country in any capacity.

    Your opinion is interesting, and you are certainly entitled to it. However, I strongly feel that the professors expressing their opinion were, in fact, thinking about the damage to the reputation and credibility of the college that occurred when the announcement was made that the college would offer Cherry an honour to which very few people seem to think he was deserving.

    As officers, and as professionals, we have a duty to question the rulings of our superiors when they are perceived as lacking judgement or not in the best interest of the organizations we support and in which we participate.

    Your comments would lead me to believe that any attempt to do so internal to the college would have been silenced, ignored or possibly even punished – a travesty by any measure. Indeed, it appears that you believe they should have been silenced – a position I would consider to be unCanadian.

    The Senate of RMC has lost my trust, and the support of the RMCCC for granting this honour has me rethinking my life membership.

  • # 12570 Mike Kennedy

    November 11, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    My response to P.D. Cowan:

    Sir – Madam – I don’t know which one you are:

    I read your comments with interest. Allow me to respond.

    First of all, as I think we all well know, there is a big difference between quesitoning the rulings of our superiors, and openly defying them. The former is certainly acceptable from a professional viewpoint, provided there are valid reasons for raising concerns about the ruling in quesiton, and that appropriate judgement and common sense is exercised. There are special terms for the latter, they are called insubordination and disobedience, and when I was cadet 35 years ago, these were deemed to be serious offences.

    If you read my comments carefully, I never at any time suggested that the concerns about Don’ Cherry’s suitability as a candidate for an honourary degree should have been “silenced”. If concerns were present, they should certainly have been dealt with, but in an appropriate way, and with appropriate discretion. If Ms. Lord or anyone else within the College objected to the notion of granting Don Cherry an honourary degree, they could have written privately to the Principal, or to another member of the Senate, to outline the specific nature of their concerns, and ask that they be brought to the attention of the members of the Senate for consideration. I don’t know whether anyone actually did this. However, as I did state in my comments, there was no need to turn this into a debate in the media. As we all know by now, the results have been a disaster, at least in terms of the damage that has been done to the image of the College.

    If you wish to reconsider your life membership, that’s your business. But I must inform you that I take rather strong exception to your suggestion that my opinions are “unCanadian”. I don’t claim to be perfect, and I am willing to admit it when I am wrong. But I care deeply about the College and its standing in the eyes of my fellow Canadians, and I think I have served this country as well as the next man – or woman.

    It may well be that very few people think Don Cherry is deserving of this honour. But the members of the Senate obviously concluded that he deserved it, and it was their job to ascertain whether he really did deserve it. Whatever other people may privately think, we have to remember that they are the ones who are authorized to make that decision,and in view of this, I think their authority has to be respected.

    This whole sorry affair has made me start to think that maybe the solution is that henceforth RMC should not be permitted to award honourary degrees to ANYONE. If they can’t handle the process any better that has been the case in this instance, frankly I don’t think it is worth it. And after seeing what has transpired in this situation, I really can’t see why anyone would even want to accept an honourary degree from RMC.

    I trust the above has satisfactorily responded to your comments.

    Mike