Right Hooks

Accountability, Canadian Style

The Commanding General of Canadian Special Forces demonstrates "what right looks like."

Charles Paige · Aug. 29, 2016

So that’s what accountability and integrity look like, eh… The Commanding General of Canadian Special Forces recently demonstrated “what right looks like.” During a trip to visit his troops fighting the Islamic State in Iraq, Major General Mike Rouleau inadvertently discharged his weapon while preparing to depart friendly lines. In the military this is a serious violation referred to as a negligent discharge — even though he didn’t intend to fire the weapon, he is a professional and is expected to handle the tools of his trade accordingly. In his own words, “As a soldier and as a special operations assaulter, the only acceptable standard of care with a weapon is error-free.” As the senior officer present he could easily have shrugged it off and rationalized not reporting the incident based on his position, his long record of service, the importance of the mission — or any number of other excuses. He could have even argued that no “reasonable” convening authority (a rough military equivalent of a district attorney) would deem it a punishable offense. Instead, he self-reported the violation to his boss (the Chief of Canadian Defense Forces) and will likely now face a court martial. Not only did he not try to hide his mistake, he admitted it openly in a message to all Canadian Special Operations troops:

I made a mistake, I reported the mistake and I own my mistake 100 per cent.  Accountability is the bedrock of our discipline. … As the commanding general, I am every bit as accountable as the youngest private in the force. Accountability underpins our actions … especially as leaders (emphasis added).

While the potential penalties for a negligent discharge are relatively minor and the court martial panel may elect not to impose any punishment (and may not even find him guilty), the general chose to put his career at risk rather compromise his integrity — service before self. This stands in sharp contrast to the actions and subsequent justifications taken by other senior officials south of the border who deliberately and repeatedly put their own self-interest and convenience ahead of all other considerations.

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