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Debates of the Senate (Hansard): Royal Military College—Selection of Principal

Sen Romeo Dallaire on RMC selection of a new principal …Debates – Issue 171 – June 6, 2013:

Royal Military College—Selection of Principal

Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I will go back to history again to look into the future with this question. It starts in 1874 when a predecessor of your party, Sir John A. Macdonald, took a very fine decision, even though he was allowed to be in the chamber with his glass not full of water but of gin, and created the Royal Military College of Canada. I am wearing my college tie today.

The Royal Military College, which is 139 years old, went through a series of changes. It began as a military institution similar to Sandhurst overseas. Over the years, they realized that the education of the officer core needed more than pure military science. By 1959, the RMCC received its full charter as a stand- alone university in Ontario. Students had not only university-level academic requirements but also language requirements, military training and physical conditioning.


We have created a university where the chancellor is the minister, the vice-chancellor is the commandant, and it has a principal. This university is recognized among the universities of this country. In fact, it was on the Maclean’s list as one of the top small universities of the country. Part of that is because of its academic independence.

The method of choosing the principal, being an ex- commandant of the military college and an ex-vice-chancellor, is an exercise done by the governors, which includes the military, the commandant, academics and, of course, advisers to the institution.

Last month, PCO said that “the committee struck to find candidates to replace the principal was disbanded at the urging” — I like that word, “urging”; in my parlance that means “orders” — “of the Privy Council Office,” and that essentially it is the Privy Council Office that will choose the next principal.

How do we maintain academic stature by creating a system of choosing the principal that is totally contrary to every other university in this country?

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Senator Dallaire, you would know as well as anyone else that this position is a Governor-in-Council appointment reflecting the significant status of this valuable nomination. We, on this side and I am sure on both sides, are extremely proud of the work of the Royal Military College. It obviously contributes greatly to ensuring a cadre of officers with sound academic and military education and training. This is very valuable for the continuing growth of our Armed Forces.

The RMC in Canada is unique. We are proud of it, obviously. Unlike the previous government, who shut down the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, we believe these are important institutions. The principal is a key academic leader of the Royal Military College and is accountable for defining academic policy and the frameworks for all academic activities.

As the honourable senator pointed out, because it is an order- in-council appointment, the Privy Council Office is responsible for this appointment, but I wish to assure honourable senators that the chair of the Royal Military College Board of Governors will continue to play a large role and have a say in this appointment and, as part of the selection committee, will play an integral part in the Governor-in-Council process.

Senator Dallaire: Honourable senators, it is true that the previous government cut Saint-Jean, but you have not reopened it. If that is essential, then, instead of making it a CEGEP, which I consider a positive gesture — in fact, the minister at the time, Gordon O’Connor, did — remaking it a university would do a lot to bring back French Canadians into the officer corps.

However, specifically on this, the Royal Military College in Kingston, it is interesting that a procedure that has been there for over 40 years — because it has been a Governor-in-Council appointment for over 40 years; this is not last week — all of a sudden PCO, last month, decided to change the rules in how to select the principal, whereas in other universities they will spend nearly a year going across the country to find the best possible candidate. Now, within a month or so because the current principal is actually finishing his term on July 1, PCO will be able to guarantee the academic credentials and the continuum of those credentials for all of us who graduated from there — such as Senator Joe Day and myself — with university degrees. They will be considered as credible as before because PCO is responding, apparently, to some administrative requirement that, all of a sudden, has been noticed.

Does the leader really think that was essential? That is, that having as chancellor the minister, because the minister is chancellor, would not suffice in meeting the requirement of the PCO appointment?

Senator LeBreton: Again, I am glad you acknowledge that this appointment is not a new direction. This appointment has been for quite some time an order-in-council appointment. Order-in- council appointments are managed and are completely under the control of the Privy Council Office.

As I already pointed out to you, the chair of the Royal Military College Board of Governors will continue to have a say on this appointment and, as part of the selection committee for this position, will play an integral role in the Governor-in-Council process.

Senator Dallaire: Honourable senators, I have a supplementary question. You are quite right, but what you have said is a bit half- truth, because Brigadier General (Retired) Don Macnamara, who is the chair of the Board of Governors, had to lobby strenuously to be able to part of the five-person selection team by PCO. They did not say we would like you to be part of it; he had to nearly beat down the doors to be able to be part of it.

The other members of this new council to choose an academic principal of a university are a member from Privy Council Office; a member from the Prime Minister’s Office; the Minister of National Defence’s office, where before he would take the recommendation from the board; the commandant — thank God they kept the commandant in there — of the college; and Don Macnamara. Before it was far more extensive in academic oversight inputs and also the military and the requirements of the public service was represented.

You cannot tell me that people sitting in the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister’s Office know more than these people about what should be the standards, the criteria and the values of a person to be the principal of RMC than what we have been using, which was — yes, you are right — a Privy Council appointment for the last 40-odd years by these individuals who are known throughout the academic world and also have that credibility. You cannot tell me that, all of a sudden, we have to change the rules because someone read something from God knows what and that that gang will actually choose that principal who will have among his peers the credibility that we require for the institution to maintain its credibility among the other academic institutions in this country.

Please tell me why you had to change something. Is nothing sacred to you guys?

Senator LeBreton: Now I am one of “you guys.”

The fact is, Senator Dallaire, I have no knowledge or proof of people banging down doors, trying to be part of a selection process. I do know, having a little knowledge of how the order-in- council process works that for positions like this, which are for order-in-council, the Privy Council Office does consult widely with the relevant stakeholders. In this case it obviously would have been the military, the Department of National Defence. Obviously, there would be a lot of people consulted.

The process they are following, in my mind, is a relatively similar process that has always been followed. As I pointed out to you, the chair of the Royal Military College Board of Governors will continue to have a say on this appointment and, as part of the selection committee — so there is obviously a selection committee — will play an integral part in the Governor-in-Council process which produces the name of the next head of the Royal Military College.  Source

Choix du recteur CMR Débats – No. 171 (6 juin 2013)

One Comment

  • Peter Coulson 5029

    June 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    The removal from the committee formed to recommend a new Principal for RMC of academic representatives is to make the appointment a strictly political one, in both reality and appearance. I strongly protest. The academic standing of the College is put at risk.
    Peter Coulson 5029