So, I’m going to talk about my father for a bit.
Richard was my father. We weren’t ever close by any stretch of the imagination.
Richard died in January of 2017. I found out from my brother in 2019.
I didn’t feel anything at first.
I thought for sure that it was going to hit me eventually.
Not even when I held a certified copy of his death certificate in my hands.
It never did. And I honestly don’t think it will.
He wasn’t an evil man. He was just fucked up. And fucked up a lot more than average.
He had a lot of demons.
Growing up on Canadian Forces Bases probably caused his abusive behaviours to be downplayed as he wasn’t the only man in the Canadian Forces that used physical punishment to keep his spouse and his children in line.
I remember seeing other kid get swift kicks. I remember seeing other kids get back handed so hard that blood was drawn. I remember hearing the screams of beatings coming from bedroom windows and the utter indifference from anyone around as nobody in a company town sticks their nose into the business of others.
Growing up on Canadian Forces Bases also meant that his PTSD and depression was nothing out of the ordinary as other members of the Canadian Forces living in the PMQ patches also had issues with PTSD and depression.
No matter how prevalent domestic abuse was in the Canadian Forces, there were always the cheerleaders who would downplay military domestic abuse. Whether it be members of the Canadian Forces, or members of the media, there always has been a desire to ignore and hide the domestic abuse.
And it didn’t help that a majority of this domestic abuse was dealt “in house” by the military “justice” system.
Still, as a kid I didn’t really know to much about him, and he was my own father.
For example, I wouldn’t learn of his birthday until September of 2005 when I had to apply to get my birth certificate from the Nova Scotia government. Yeah, sure, the argument could be made that I didn’t know my mother’s birthday either until 2005, but she left when I was 5 years old.
All the time that we lived in Ontario on Canadian Forces Base Dowsview I had no idea that my father was born in Peterborough, Ontario.
Before age 9 I never really knew him all that well as he was rarely home.
And in those days, when he did come home you just stayed away from him.
On Canadian Forces Base Shearwater it was mainly my mother raising my brother and I.
On Canadian Forces Base Summerside it was my grandmother raising my brother and I from the summer of 1977 until the spring of 1978.
Grandma lived with us from the time we arrived on the base until the spring of 1981 when she moved out and got her own apartment on 111th St. and 107th Ave. On Canadian Forces Base Namao Richard didn’t start living with us again until August of 1980 when he moved back in. Even my foster care records mention this.
I remember when Richard started living with us again my uncle Doug had bought me a 45 RPM of Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs song “Wooly Bully”. Richard had a thing for wool sweaters at the time. And even uncle Doug didn’t like Richard’s temper.
As I said, Richard wasn’t evil. He just couldn’t control his anger or his temper.
Someone said something to me recently that has just started to kinda make sense.
I know that my grandmother was an alcoholic before my father was born.
I was told that Richard was a “brandy baby”. In the sense that he had to be given brandy as a baby to stop his crying. Not for teething, but to reduce his withdrawal symptoms. Apparently he was quite colicky as a baby due to the withdrawal.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome didn’t become a thing until about the 1960. But people before this knew there was a connection to the mother’s drinking and the baby’s health.
Back in the ’40s, no one would have cared about an Indian woman drinking during her pregnancy.
Much as alcoholism has a spectrum, FAS also has a spectrum. Just because my grandmother drank, in no doubt to deal with her own demons, doesn’t mean that she was a “fall down piss drunk” alcoholic. Alcoholic just means that she couldn’t control her drinking.
Some of the stereotypical features of FAS are facial abnormalities, intellectual disability or low IQ, and low body weight. As I said though, FAS is a spectrum. A person doesn’t have to have all of the symptoms of FAS to have FAS.
Some of the other symptoms of FAS are:
- Difficulty in school (especially with math)
- Speech and language delays
- Poor reasoning and judgement skills
- Poor impulse control
Richard only went as far as grade 8 in school. He had to take a grade 9 upgrade course to join the Royal Canadian Navy. This is how he met my uncle Al. Math was one of those matters that could throw him into a fury. If I ever had to ask him for help with my math homework, this would frustrate him and upset him.
He blew up once really good when we lived at 94 Sunfield Road in North York. He hit me fairly hard. The next day he was all teary-eyed and apologetic. He promised that he was going to take an upgrading course and learn the math so that he could help me with my homework.
He took the upgrading course. But the help with homework never came. He took a math upgrading course at York University in North York. But I’ve know for long time that these courses were never to help me wth my math homework. Because at the time Richard was stuck in administrative duties piloting a desk for the Canadian Forces, he could no longer hide his lack of understanding of mathematics behind his mechanical aptitude. I think these upgrade courses were mandated by the Canadian Forces in order for Richard to progress up the ranks now that he was a desk jockey and not a mechanic.
Richard could not speak French. Even his service files from the Canadian Forces indicate that he couldn’t speak French. Now, I have to admit that my French skills are very piss-poor, but I did learn French as a child.
Une, deux, trois, jaune, vert, rouge, bon jour, bon nuit……… you get the picture.
The only real phrase in French that I know is “Désolé, je ne parle pas français”. Which is still head and shoulders above what Richard would have known.
My father would often say that he refused to speak French because my mother had hurt him when she “walked out on him”. When I met my mother in 2013, I asked her how her French was. Considering that she was born in Hull, Quebec and had the maiden name of Dagenais she could speak French fairly well even though she hadn’t used it since she was a kid.
Richard’s reasoning skills were very iffy. He had absolutely no compunction about letting me and my brother wander around aimlessly downtown with no money and no way to get back home other than walking. He’d drop my brother and I off unsupervised at major attractions in the city. And no, Toronto at the time wasn’t some little bucolic town like Mayberry.
Richard did have very poor impulse control. He would take really bad risks. He rear-ended a Jaguar in Toronto because the Jaguar was slowing down for an amber light but Richard though that if he sped up he could swerve around the Jag and make it through the intersection. He rear-ended a Metropolitan Toronto Police car in North York, again because he was trying to speed through traffic. He drove drunk on more than one occasion that caused damage to his cars and injuries to me. When Richard would lose his temper and start spanking either my brother or I he’d lose control and often had to be stopped by someone else whether it be grandma, uncle Doug, or Sue.
If Richard perceived that someone had slighted him on the road, or was too stupid to be on the road he’d have absolutely no hesitation in showing the other person how to drive properly.
Richard also had another impulse control issue. Spending. Although he never had money to spend on my brother or I, he would always be buying himself doodads and gizmos whether or not he had any actual use for them. He’d buy computer parts, use them once, and then they’d sit on a shelf never to be used again. He bought a camera, a Canon AE-1. He had all of the lenses for it, he had the power winder, he had the different flashes for it. But he never really used it. This was just another impulse gizmo. He works on model aircraft for a while, but abandoned that hobby quickly.
He’d buy tons of automotive tools, but he’d never work on cars.
When I talked to Marie in 2013 she mentioned that how on CFB Shearwater, Richard was always going to HFC for loans. These were small loans. Think of them as the predecessor to Money Mart and their payday loans.
As soon as Marie had said HFC I remembered Richard had taken me to store that had the red HFC logo on the front of it. We’d ride his motorcycle over. But being that I was a kid I never understood what HFC was. Did Richard finance his Honda CB 450-Four through HFC? I know his 1969 Thunderbird was bought with his retention bonus that he received from the Canadian Forces when he signed on again after his initial 5 year agreement.
I then thought about when we lived on Canadian Forces Base Downsview in Ontario of the times that Richard would race over to the American Express office in North York to drop off a payment cheque as late at night as possible. I still don’t understand what he was doing other than trying to delay the payment for as long as possible without missing a payment. I guess that he figured out that if he got the payment into the drive up drop slot by a certain day that it would take ‘x’ days for the cheque to get processed and sent to his bank for payment.
His inability to manage money probably explains why he didn’t really spend much on my brother and I.
Richard was a very heavy drinker. He was an alcoholic. The only thing is, there were a lot of alcoholics living on the PMQ patches back then. None the less, Richard had a drinking problem. When I brought up the topic of Richard’s drinking with Marie in 2013 she said that as bad as Richard’s drinking was, grandma could easily drink him under the table.
According to Marie, Richard frequently lost his driver’s licence and that’s why she had to learn how to drive in Nova Scotia. And that’s why I mistakenly thought that the Thunderbird was her car. Nova Scotia has an odd peculiarity in relation to its vehicle licences. You can have separate motorcycle and car licences. Not you can have one licence or the other, but you could have both at the same time. Or you can get you motorcycle qualifications as an endorsement on your regular licence. Apparently Richard would simply ride his motorcycle while his car licence was suspended because he had the two separate licences. I haven’t found out if he had a DND driver’s licence, but if he did this would complicate matters further.
Richard totalled the Thunderbird on CFB Shearwater. This got me sent to the base infirmary for stitches. Knowing that the IWK children’s hospital was beginning to have concerns about my home life I don’t think it was a coincidence that I wasn’t sent to a public hospital to get stitches where the civilian police would start asking questions.
Richard nearly totalled his Pontiac Astre on PEI when we were returning from him drinking at the mess on base. We lived in the City of Summerside in housing that was on long term lease to the Department of National Defence. This was after my mother had left. So Richard had to take my brother and I with him when he went drinking. My brother and I stayed in the car while he was in the mess getting pissed. On the way home he drifted over the centre line and side swiped an oncoming car. Tore the grille of the front of his car, crumpled the front L.H. fender. Smashed the L.H. head light. Tore the rear bumper off the other car. We all got out of the car. When the other driver asked Richard if he had been drinking I told the other driving that we had just come from the mess on the base at that my father was drunk. Richard nearly backhanded me into next week.
To her credit, Sue was the only person able to reign in Richard’s drinking.
Richard must have been Sue’s fix’him’up project.
I’m not sure if she was ever able to get him to entirely stop drinking, but she did get him to tone it down substantially. Sue saw grandma as enabling Richard’s drinking, and I think this is one of the reasons grandma moved out of our house in the spring of 1981. At the time when grandma was living with us, when Sue would come home from work grandma would go upstairs and barricade herself in her bedroom.
There were times when Richard would show up home drunk and Sue would kick him out of their bedroom. Richard would go pass out in the living room and often end up rolling around naked and making loud animal like noises.
My brother and I would often take blankets down to him. Sue would tell us not to, that Richard needed to learn a lesson.
I was sent over to the Sgt. and W/O’s mess a couple of times on CFB Downsview to drag him home at Sue’s request. One of these retrievals resulted in Richard buying me a beer when I was well underage. But the bartender served me, probably to keep Richard’s temper down, but called the military police anyways. We got out of there before the MPs showed up.
So were Richard’s issues a result of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Very possible. But he’s dead, so there’s no tests possible.
Were Richard’s issues due to his upbringing that was no doubt dysfunctional due to his mother’s drinking, his mother’s emotional issues due to her time in Indian Residential School, his father leaving when he was young, and his having grown up in an environment that was probably not all that friendly due to his status as a “half-breed”.
Were Richard’s issues due to the PTSD he suffered as a result of his involvement with the HMCS Kootenay gear box explosion on October 29th, 1969?
Bill Parker, Bob Wrightson, Marie, and Pat Longmore said that the HMCS Kootenay event severely fucked Richard up and that the Canadian Forces never helped him. Richard was already a drinker when he joined the Royal Canadian Navy in 1963 at age 17. According to both Bill and Marie the Kootenay incident push Richard very deep into a bottle. I don’t know if Richard ever hit the hard drugs like heroin or cocaine.
After the massive domestic dispute in the summer of 1985, Bill Parker had said that he really wished that I could have known my father before the Kootenay as my father used to be friendly and outgoing but that the Kootenay had changed him for the worse.
Bill also mentioned to me in 1985 that my brother, my mother, and I would often come stay with the Parkers when Richard got out of control when we lived on CFB Shearwater, and that I was more than welcome to come stay with Bill if my father lost his temper and had a meltdown again.
This lodger accommodation would be confirmed when I made acquaintances with Pat Longmore around 2017. In fact domestic violence was so well known on the base and in Shannon Park back then that there was a “battered wives club” that ran secret shelters for women needing to escape violence in the PMQs.
When I was in Nova Scotia in 2015 I met a man named Chris Legere. Chris saw me taking pictures of the HMCS Bonaventure’s anchor and asked me what my attachment was to the Bonnie. I told Chris about my father and my father’s involvement with the Kootenay that day via his attachment to the Sea Kings. Chris invited me to sit down with him. He said that the Canadian Forces tried very hard to downplay the effects of the Kootenay. Survivors of the deceased were told to get off the base as they could no longer live there. Survivors of the deceased were given very little in the way of benefits and assistance. Chris also said that many sailors from the Kootenay that were involved with the gearbox explosion got into hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. Chris said that what was a minor problem on the CFB Halifax and CFB Shearwater with hard drugs prior to the Kootenay bloomed into a disaster afterwards.
As Richard had been with the Sea Kings and more than likely had been involved with the transfer of survivors and deceased off the Kootenay this would have fried his noodle as he had worked with the members of the Kootenay when he had been on that ship as a stoker. According to both Bill and Marie, three of the deceased from the boiler room had been his drinking buddies from his navy days.
Does any of this excuse his behaviour?
No. No it doesn’t.
But it does go a long way towards explaining why things were the way they were.
Did Richard have secrets?
Yes, he had a lot of secrets.
Richard was a womanizer.
Richard had girlfriends when he had girlfriends.
Richard also had an ability to make the truth whatever he wanted it to be.
In 2011 when Richard was asked about the babysitter from CFB Namao Richard claimed that my brother and I never had a babysitter and that we were never sexually abused but that I caused a lot of problems in school and that I always wanted money.
Richard should have know about the social service records in Alberta and Ontario. Richard should have known that everything he had to say could have easily been disproved.
When the CFNIS interviewed my father in 2011, was he told what to say by the CFNIS? Or was he covering his own ass? There’s no way that Richard could have forgotten that his mother lived with us from 1977 until 1978 in Summerside and the from 1978 until 1981 in Edmonton. In fact he blamed grandma for the behaviour and emotional issues that my brother and I were exhibitingRichard was frequently away with the military on exercises for 6 to 8 weeks at a time. And I know that he sure as hell didn’t let my brother and I live feral on the base. Plus you have to take into account that even when he wasn’t on training exercises he was often staying with Vicki in Wetaskiwin or with Sue at her apartment by Londonderry Mall.
My brother is of the opinion that the CFNIS coaxed my father to say what he said. As there is absolutely no way my father’s statement could have ever been reconciled with the contents of my foster care records. And there may be some truth to this as Alberta Social Services indicated that my father had a tendency to tell those that he perceived to be in positions of authority what he thought they wanted to hear.
I lean more towards the possibility that Richard said what he said because he benefited from the sexual abuse of my brother and I. We know from the findings of the Military Police Complaints Commission that the CFNIS had access to the court martial transcripts and the Canadian Forces Special Investigations Unit paperwork from the Captain McRae child sexual abuse scandal. The military police were well aware in 1980 that P.S. was abusing younger children on the base. In fact Captain McRae’s defence counsel was using P.S.’s abuse of younger children on the base in order to try to discredit the testimony of P.S.. As the Military Police Complaints Commission stated, there is obviously no doubt that the Canadian Armed Forces knew what was happening on CFB Namao back in 1980.
My father was having issues related to his drinking and his temper. I can remember once or twice Richard worried that he was going to get thrown out of the military and that he’d have to go work in a garage or something mechanical.
Did Richard make a deal with the devil in 1980? A deal whereby he would keep quiet about the sexual abuse of my brother and I in exchange for the Canadian Forces cutting him some slack with his issues? I wouldn’t put this past him. After all the psychiatrist hired by the Canadian Forces in October of 1980 said that Richard wouldn’t take responsibility for his problems and expected others to solve his problems for him.
This might explain why no matter how badly my mental health was deteriorating and no matter how my sanity required immediate intervention, Richard wasn’t concerned in the least. He had a bargain to live up to.
Richard’s dead so we’ll never know the truth as to why he did what he did.
I did examine my father for Federal Court in 2013 for my Application for Judicial Review. He practically recanted everything he told the CFNIS.
Yep, grandma was raising us.
Yep, Grandma hired the babysitter.
Richard had no problem using intimidation and threats of violence to get his was.
Around the summer of 1982 the relationship between Richard and Sue was on the rocks. It was documented in my foster care records that Richard and Sue refused to talk to each other and were instead using my brother and I as intermediaries. I don’t know if my brother honestly doesn’t remember this or if he’s just moved this to a far off-limit area of his mind, but Richard had threatened to kill the both of us and dispose of our bodies.
Richard sat my brother and I down on the sofa in the living room of our PMQ on CFB Griesbach. Richard told my brother and I that things weren’t working out between him and Sue and that Sue might be leaving. Both my brother and I cheered. Sue was born in 1958. I was born in 1971 and my brother was born in 1974. Sue was practically the older sister that neither my brother or I wanted. Anyways, Richard told us to shut up. He said that if Sue walked out the door that he was going to kill my brother and I, and that he’d stiff our bodies into a duffle bag. He swore that no one would ever find my brother and I and that he’d simply go move into the barracks like nothing had happened. He just looked at my brother and I and asked “Do you understand? Have I made myself fucking clear to the two of you?”
I honestly do believe that had Richard been able to figure out a way to make my brother and I disappear he would have had no problem slaughtering the two of us and disposing of us. As he told one of his airforce buddies once, the only reason he kept us as opposed to giving us back to our mother is that as long as we lived under his roof he could control the costs whereas if he gave us back to our mother then he’d have to pay child support and alimony.
And my fear of Richard drowning me in a toilet? That wasn’t unfounded. He tried before we had moved off CFB Namao in October of 1980. I honestly can’t remember what this was about. But as we were being moved from Namao to Griesbach he would have known about the Captain McRae / P.S. affair.
Anyways enough for now.