The military’s top general has promised to get to the bottom of what happened on a recent Team Canada tour, but says he has never heard of widespread problems with the morale-boosting trips.
The Team Canada program has been under a cloud since military police charged former NHL player Tiger Williams earlier this month with sexually assaulting an Air Force steward while participating in a tour to Latvia in December.
Since then, various media reports have painted a picture of heavy drinking and partying during such trips, which involve the military flying athletes and celebrities overseas to meet with Canadian troops deployed abroad.
‘Back on the rails’
Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance announced on Friday that he is banning alcohol from all future Team Canada tours and suspending the program temporarily until military officials can determine what, if anything, needs to be fixed before resuming the trips.
“If we’ve gone off the rails a little bit there, we’ll put it back on the rails,” Vance said on the sidelines of a defence conference organized by the Canadian Defence Associations Institute, where he confirmed that a planned trip in March had been cancelled.
“It’s all about those many Canadians who volunteered, and sometimes repeatedly, to go raise the morale of the troops, which I’m grateful for and I don’t want to stop. So we’ll get it going as quickly as we can, but we’ll do it right.”
But the chief of defence staff also insisted media reports portraying the tours in a poor light aren’t accurate, and that his own experience — and those of others — found them to be well-run and good for the military.
“At this juncture, all I’ve got is my own experience and those who have been on Team Canadas before who would not characterize it as you did,” Vance told reporters, adding that he has never seen “widespread heavy drinking” on such a tour.
Drunk in their seats
The Toronto Star reported last weekend that several passengers on the December tour arrived in Ottawa already drunk before embarking on the Team Canada visit — and that two were so inebriated that they urinated in their seats.
The paper also reported that the steward Williams was alleged to have assaulted on the first leg of the tour was forced to return to Canada on a commercial flight, but that the former hockey player was allowed to continue on the tour.
Vance did not delve into specifics Friday, saying he had yet to review an internal report from the Air Force on the trip, but did defend the way military commanders responded once the allegation against Williams was brought to their attention.
And rather than setting back his efforts in recent years to shed the military’s reputation as an institution that is hostile to women, Vance suggested the affair had proven that the Armed Forces is serious about dealing with misconduct.
“When it became known by an authority in command, the aircraft commander, that that had happened, the ball rolled very quickly,” he said.
“It went from there to investigation to arrest in five weeks. Lightning fast … The decision to separate and ensure that the victim was cared for was job number 1. And the RCAF did the best they could under the circumstances.”
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Edmonton Alberta News Headlines
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Edmonton /ˈɛdməntən/ (About this sound listen) is the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta. Edmonton is on the North Saskatchewan River and is the centre of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, which is surrounded by Alberta’s central region. The city anchors the north end of what Statistics Canada defines as the “Calgary–Edmonton Corridor”.
The city had a population of 932,546 in 2016, making it Alberta’s second-largest city and Canada’s fifth-largest municipality. Also in 2016, Edmonton had a metropolitan population of 1,321,426, making it the sixth-largest census metropolitan area (CMA) in Canada. Edmonton is North America’s northernmost city that has a metropolitan population over one million. A resident of Edmonton is known as an Edmontonian.
Edmonton’s historic growth has been facilitated through the absorption of five adjacent urban municipalities (Strathcona, North Edmonton, West Edmonton, Beverly and Jasper Place) and a series of annexations ending in 1982.[ Known as the “Gateway to the North”, the city is a staging point for large-scale oil sands projects occurring in northern Alberta and large-scale diamond mining operations in the Northwest Territories.
Edmonton is a cultural, governmental and educational centre. It hosts a year-round slate of festivals, reflected in the nickname “Canada’s Festival City”. It is home to North America’s largest mall, West Edmonton Mall (the world’s largest mall from 1981 until 2004), and Fort Edmonton Park, Canada’s largest living history museum.
Further information: History of Edmonton and Timeline of Edmonton history
The earliest known inhabitants settled in the area that is now Edmonton around 3,000 BC and perhaps as early as 12,000 BC, when an ice-free corridor opened as the last glacial period ended and timber, water, and wildlife became available in the region.
In 1754, Anthony Henday, an explorer for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), may have been the first European to enter the Edmonton area. His expeditions across the Canadian Prairies were mainly to seek contact with the aboriginal population for establishing the fur trade, as competition was fierce between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company. By 1795, Fort Edmonton was established on the river’s north bank as a major trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company. The new fort’s name was suggested by John Peter Pruden after Edmonton, London, the home town of both the HBC deputy governor Sir James Winter Lake, and Pruden.
In 1876, Treaty 6, which includes what is now Edmonton, was signed between the Aboriginal peoples in Canada (or First Nations) and Queen Victoria as Queen of Canada, as part of the Numbered Treaties of Canada. The agreement includes the Plains and Woods Cree, Assiniboine, and other band governments of First Nations at Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt and Battle River. The area covered by the treaty represents most of the central area of the current provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
The coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to southern Alberta in 1885 helped the Edmonton economy, and the 1891 building of the Calgary and Edmonton (C&E) Railway resulted in the emergence of a railway townsite (South Edmonton/Strathcona) on the river’s south side, across from Edmonton. The arrival of the CPR and the C&E Railway helped bring settlers and entrepreneurs from eastern Canada, Europe, U.S. and other parts of the world. The Edmonton area’s fertile soil and cheap land attracted settlers, further establishing Edmonton as a major regional commercial and agricultural centre. Some people participating in the Klondike Gold Rush passed through South Edmonton/Strathcona in 1897. Strathcona was North America’s northernmost railway point, but travel to the Klondike was still very difficult for the “Klondikers”, and a majority of them took a steamship north to the Yukon from Vancouver, British Columbia.
Jasper Avenue, ca. 1907
Incorporated as a town in 1892 with a population of 700 and then as a city in 1904 with a population of 8,350, Edmonton became the capital of Alberta when the province was formed a year later, on September 1, 1905. In November 1905, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) arrived in Edmonton, accelerating growth.
During the early 1900s, Edmonton’s rapid growth led to speculation in real estate. In 1912, Edmonton amalgamated with the City of Strathcona, south of the North Saskatchewan River; as a result, the city extended south of the North Saskatchewan River for the first time.
Just prior to World War I, the boom ended, and the city’s population declined from more than 72,000 in 1914 to less than 54,000 only two years later. Many impoverished families moved to subsistence farms outside the city, while others fled to greener pastures in other provinces. Recruitment to the Canadian army during the war also contributed to the drop in population. Afterwards, the city slowly recovered in population and economy during the 1920s and 1930s and took off again during and after World War II.
The Edmonton City Centre Airport opened in 1929, becoming Canada’s first licensed airfield.Originally named Blatchford Field in honour of former mayor Kenny Blatchford, pioneering aviators such as Wilfrid R. “Wop” May and Max Ward used Blatchford Field as a major base for distributing mail, food, and medicine to Northern Canada; hence Edmonton’s emergence as the “Gateway to the North”. World War II saw Edmonton become a major base for the construction of the Alaska Highway and the Northwest Staging Route.
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