Letter to the Editor

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This Letter to the Editor was written by the Brigadier-General Bouchard, Commandant of The Royal Military College of Canada, in regards to his personal views on the publication of The Stone Frigate. The article is reprinted as it appeared in the RMC Newsletter, e-Veritas, Edition #13, 2019

Letters to the Editor/ Lettres à la rédaction

Rmcclub / April 1, 2019 

Dear Editor and Ex-Cadets,

I want to take this opportunity to thank e-Veritas for highlighting the recent launch of Kate Armstrong’s memoir, The Stone Frigate: The Royal Military College’s First Female Cadet Speaks Out.

For those who may not have read the book yet, the memoir highlights the author’s experience at the College from 1980 until her graduation in 1984. This first-person account bears witness to a time when the first women were enrolled at RMC, and as such, it is an important part of our history. It’s a history we want all our officer cadets to appreciate and consider. As the first group of women to enter RMC, Ms. Armstrong and her women classmates faced a unique set of challenges and improved conditions for the women who followed. More importantly, the lessons of their experience are invaluable for the generations of officer cadets who followed (women and men alike).

As an institution that is continually evolving and learning, RMC, like the CAF and Canadian society has changed in the past 40 years, particularly in terms of culture that is rightfully intolerant of all forms of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour. I sincerely believe our officer cadets have benefitted from this change, and I know we must continue to learn and improve the environment our students work in. That’s why this memoir is so important.

Reviewers have called the book brutally honest, and having read the memoir, I want everyone to know RMC accepts that honesty. Only through such honesty can this institution continue to move forward and learn from these experiences. Today, there are 226 female officer cadets studying at the College, about 20 per cent of the student population. All our officer cadets, including our 900 male officer cadets, would benefit from knowing Ms. Armstrong’s story.

The book is for sale in the RMC Club gift shop; we will have copies of it in our library, and we encourage our officer cadets, faculty and staff to read it as a way to better understand the struggles of those who have gone before. I also hope Ms. Armstrong will accept an open invitation to visit RMC to share her experiences with our officer cadets. Her experience is one from which we all can learn.

I thank Ms. Armstrong for her service, for her courage, and for providing a memoir and perspective that will bring such lasting value to this institution.

Sincerely,

Brigadier-General Sébastien Bouchard

Commandant, Royal Military College of Canada

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Lettre à l’intention du rédacteur en chef et des Anciens :

Je tiens à remercier e-Veritas d’avoir souligné le lancement récent du mémoire de Kate Armstrong, The Stone Frigate: The Royal Military College’s First Female Cadet Speaks Out.

Pour ceux et celles qui n’ont pas encore lu le livre, ce mémoire met en vitrine l’expérience de l’auteure au Collège de 1980 à l’obtention de son diplôme en 1984. Le récit, à la première personne du singulier, témoigne d’une époque où les premières femmes sont entrées au CMR : il s’agit donc d’une partie importante de notre histoire. C’est une histoire que nous voulons que tous nos élèves-officiers connaissent et soupèsent. En tant que tout premier groupe de femmes au CMR, Mme Armstrong et les autres femmes de sa promotion ont fait face à une série de défis uniques en leur genre et préparé le terrain pour donner de meilleures conditions aux femmes venues après elles. Et surtout, l’expérience de ces femmes revêt une importance inestimable pour les générations d’élèves‑officiers (aussi bien hommes que femmes) qui leur ont succédé.

En tant qu’établissement en constante évolution et en perpétuel apprentissage, le CMR, tout comme les FAC et la société canadienne dans leur ensemble, s’est transformé au fil des 40 dernières années, en particulier en termes de culture : une culture qui, à juste titre, ne tolère plus aucune forme de comportement sexuel dommageable ou inapproprié. Je crois sincèrement que ce changement a bénéficié à nos élèves-officiers, tout en sachant que nous devons continuer à apprendre et à améliorer le milieu de travail de nos étudiantes et étudiants. C’est pourquoi ce mémoire revêt une telle importance.

Les critiques ont dit de ce livre qu’il était d’une franchise implacable, et l’ayant lu moi-même, je veux que tout le monde sache que le CMR accueille cette franchise, car ce n’est que par une telle franchise que l’établissement pourra continuer à progresser et à apprendre des expériences de ce genre. Il y a aujourd’hui 226 femmes élèves-officiers qui font leurs études au Collège, soit quelque 20 p. 100 de la population étudiante; et tous nos élèves-officiers, y compris les 900 de sexe masculin, gagneraient à connaître l’histoire de Mme Armstrong.

Le livre est à vendre à la boutique du Club des CMR; nous en aurons aussi des exemplaires à la bibliothèque, et nous encourageons les élèves-officiers, les membres du corps professoral et les membres du personnel à le lire afin de mieux comprendre les défis qu’ont dû surmonter nos prédécesseures. J’espère aussi que Mme Armstrong acceptera une invitation à venir au CMR pour parler de son expérience à nos élèves-officiers, car c’est une expérience dont nous avons tous quelque chose à apprendre.

Merci à Mme Armstrong pour son service; pour son courage; et pour avoir légué à cet établissement un mémoire et une perspective aussi inappréciables.

Sincères salutations,

Brigadier-général Sébastien Bouchard

Commandant du Collège militaire royal du Canada


Comments:

Dear Brigadier-General Bouchard,

Thank you for your kind words, Sir. I am deeply gratified by this letter to the editor and extremely appreciative of your explicit declaration of support for my book. It was somewhat unexpected, to say the least, to receive such an open endorsement and encouragement from the Commandant of RMC suggesting to cadets and graduates alike that they read The Stone Frigate. I’m delighted. I hadn’t anticipated the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with the College. It would be my honour to accept any invitation to visit RMC and share my experiences with present day Officer Cadets and whomever you deem appropriate.

I agree wholeheartedly with your comments that our culture is changing. Those changes have made it possible for my book to be published and received in the spirit such as you have done, Sir. My hope in writing my story was, and remains, to open a dialogue with victims of sexism and sexual abuse. Any time there is sexual, physical, verbal, or emotional abuse – whether we are raped or molested or our bodies were the objects of jokes or obscene comments or leers – our sense of self is vitally damaged. Shame and confusion will arise and affect our ability to make good choices and take care of ourselves. No human being should ever have to live in such an unsafe environment or be subjected to those horrific behaviours.

I’m proud to be an RMC graduate; I always have been. RMC alumni are a powerhouse of leadership in Canada within the military, and every corner of our economy and culture. We’re out there everywhere, running companies and doing all manner of amazing jobs. That’s why it is so important for us to get it right. If RMC is willing to squarely face and address and heal the inequality dynamics at play in our culture, then we can rightfully claim ourselves as graduates of a leadership institution that embraces the values – for real and not just pretending – which are truly reflective of the best of Canada and our progressive attitudes and cultural aspects.

I believe that is worth striving toward.

14390 Kate Armstrong


Kate ArmstrongComment