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News - All - 3 Mar 2018

News Item 87 of 4418 

Miscellaneous: 3 Mar 2018
Battle over jeans at the Royal Military College results in 1,000 cadets being punished

This file photo from 2016 shows members of the graduation class at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont. Lars Hagberg / The Canadian Press

Almost 1,000 officer cadets are being punished at the Royal Military College because an unknown number of their fellow students have been wearing jeans during their off hours away from the Kingston campus.

The action is aimed at the entire officer cadet corps at the college even though there are no actual rules allowing group punishment.

The cadets have been confined to the grounds of the college and are undergoing a series of dress and room inspections as well as cleanup duties around the site for failing to follow the dress rules while off campus. The cadets say they were also brought out on parade Friday in frigid weather but not allowed gloves or hats as part of punishment that started March 1 and ends March 9.

Rules prohibit the wearing of jeans during off hours, a regulation a number of officer cadets have continually broken, according to the college.

Col. Chris Ayotte, director of cadets at the Royal Military College, said the issue isn’t about jeans – it’s about whether the officers in training can follow orders. “One of the things we’re trying to do is make sure our young officers understand the importance of following lawful orders,” he explained in an interview with Postmedia. “It’s not only allowed us to be successful in our daily jobs in the military in garrison in Canada but it’s certainly extremely important on operations and in difficult situations. You can’t be selective about the rules or policies that you follow.”

But Rory Fowler, a former Canadian Forces legal officer, said the military stepped over the line with its group punishment. “The enforcement mechanism says when any cadet breaks the rules that cadet can have certain privileges withdrawn,” said Fowler, a retired lieutenant colonel who is now practicing with the Kingston law firm Cunningham Swan. “You can punish the cadet that broke the rules, not everybody.”

RMC has another 1,000 students, including some civilians, who are in graduate or part-time studies. They do not fall under the mass punishment.

“The purpose of the code of conduct is to teach the officer cadets the importance of following rules which is a little bit ironic when it appears the chain of command in issuing this group punishment is not following any rule whatsoever,” Fowler added.

Ayotte’s email outlining the punishment has been sent to a number of news media outlets by various sources.

If leaving the college after hours, the cadets are required to wear what the military calls “smart casual” which is a collared shirt and a pair of pants which are not jeans.

Ayotte said it’s unclear whether the issue is a clash between generations as many young people see jeans as proper casual dress. “I’m still trying to figure out if that is the case or not,” he explained. “But I’m not sure that even matters because we still need our officers to understand the importance of following orders.”

The leadership decided to remove the privilege of leaving the campus as a result, he added. The punishment could be extended depending on the behaviour of cadets.

Ayotte did not have details on how many of the 1,000 violated the dress rules. In some cases they were seen off campus by fellow cadets. In one case cadets were confronted by Ayotte as they were leaving the college.

Some cadets who approached Postmedia, however, say such punishment for the wearing of jeans shows the Canadian Forces is completely out of tune with realities of modern society. “These ridiculous measures from the director of cadets are extremely damaging to the health and well-being of everyone here,” one cadet, who wanted to remain anonymous, noted in an email. “RMCC has had major problems with cadet suicide in the past and this type of thing is why.”

Another suggested the cadets were being treated like prisoners.

A number also complained about officer cadets being recently withdrawn from their academic classes until they improve their proficiency in French. Those cadets argue that bilingualism is not a requirement for enrolment in the Canadian military.

In his email to cadets, Ayotte noted that the leadership has been trying to deal with the issue of dress since September 2017 but with limited success. “Some have worked hard to enforce the rules and change culture; I thank you for your efforts,” he wrote in an email. “Everyone else has either passively or actively supported the violation of this rule and, therefore, failed as a leader or a follower; you must do better and you will do better.”

David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen /Canadian Press/AA
 

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