Special Report

Eastern Region Geomatics Office, Ministry of Transportation of Ontario/M. Chartrand

The Royal Military College of Canada campus, Kingston, Ontario.

Royal Military College of Canada
Special Staff Assistance Visit Update

by Virginia Tattersall

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In August 2016, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), General Jonathan Vance, directed the deployment of a Special Staff Assistance Visit (SSAV) to the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) in Kingston, Ontario. The SSAV was, by design, an administrative, fact finding investigation with a mandate to assess the overall climate, training environment, culture, and Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTP) programme construct at RMC, and how these factors impacted the morale, welfare, and success of the Naval and Officer Cadets (N/OCdts) at the College. The SSAV Team, led by Vice-Admiral (retired) G. Maddison, and Major-General (retired) D. Neasmith, and supported by a civilian academic advisor (Doctor Phil Bates), interviewed and received input from more than 400 stakeholders, including the leadership and staff from the Canadian Defence Academy, RMC military, academic and support staff, and, most importantly, more than 200 of the N/OCdts themselves. Their conclusions and recommendations were delivered in early-March 2017 via the “Special Staff Assistance Visit – Report on the Climate, Training Environment, Culture and ROTP Programme at the Royal Military College of Canada – Kingston.” The Chief of the Defence Staff accepted the report in its entirety and de-briefed the staff and students of the College on the report at the end of March.

In its assessment of the climate at RMC, the SSAV surmised that:

…the overall climate at RMC has been influenced by a decade of resource pressures and higher priorities at the strategic level, which resulted in RMC operating in an environment that has generally placed a lower degree of priority on the College. The SSAV Team noted uncertainty among stakeholders regarding RMC’s mission and priorities, a significant level of tension between the Academic and Training Wings, N/OCdts who are cynical about their experience at RMC, and disconnects between how RMC employs more traditional learning and military training techniques and the expectations of a new generation of ‘tech-savvy’ and multi-tasking N/OCdts.1

CFB Kingston photo

At work in the lab.

The report made 79 recommendations that addressed concerns in the areas of command, control, selection/employment of staff, student daily life, support at the College, and the Four Pillars programme.2 To these recommendations, the CDS provided additional amplifying direction, including a mandate to immediately:

  • Reinstate Kye (evening snacks);
  • Revoke the Leadership Level Progression Model (LLPM) and the qualification standard;
  • Reverse the cuts to the Personnel Support Program and reinstate pay levels and staffed positions; and
  • Reinforce that in order to graduate, the cadets must obtain their degree (as bestowed by the College Senate), and obtain a commission (granted by Her Majesty the Queen). To obtain a commission, cadets are required to successfully complete a Bachelor’s degree, continuously improve and attain a minimum of BBB in their second official language, successfully complete the Canadian Military College (CMC) physical fitness standard in their final year, and be recommended for graduation by the Commandant of CMC.

CFB Kingston photo

On parade in front of the Mackenzie building.

Commander Military Personnel Command (CMPC) was tasked by the CDS to implement and account for each actioned recommendation. To that end, a series of working groups with College leadership (from both military Colleges, the Royal Military College of Canada and the Royal Military College Saint-Jean) and key stakeholders Assistant Deputy Minister Infrastructure and Environment (ADM[IE]), Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS), Canadian Forces Health Services (CFHS), Director General Military Careers (DGMC), and Director General Compensation and Benefits (DGCB), has resulted in significant progress in delivering on the recommendations of the report. While many of the actions taken are not evident to the cadets, among those that have had a visible impact upon them are:

  • The opening of a Care Delivery Unit (CDU) in the basement of Fort Sauvé on the grounds of the College in Kingston to provide primary care health services, dental care coordination, mental health (MH) services, pharmacy, and physiotherapy to the cadets. The CDU is open extended hours in the evening and on the weekend to better enable cadets to seek immediate medical attention;
  • The hiring of additional supplemental Physical Training (PT) staff in Kingston to support the delivery of supplemental PT;
  • The presence of supplemental Training Wing staff at RMC – Kingston, including the addition of a colonel as Director of Cadets, and of a chief warrant officer (CWO) as the Training Wing CWO;
  • The change in the walking out dress policy for all years at both Colleges to ‘smart casual’; and
  • The increased restrictions on the number and types of events that Cadets are invited/tasked to support in order to protect cadet schedules at both Colleges.

Both military Colleges have collaborated on a rewrite of Cadet Wing Instructions (CADWINS) aimed at simplifying the content, with the rationale for why rules are applied and extraneous information removed. The two Colleges are also sharing training plans in order to harmonize and adopt best practices and to ensure commonality between the CMCs. Additional resourcing to address staff shortfalls in the areas of administration, logistics, information technology (IT), and student academic support, as well as to fund infrastructure repairs, has been also been sought for both Colleges.

Finally, in the area of governance, the CDS has directed that the Commander Canadian Defence Academy report directly to him on issues pertaining to the two military Colleges (RMC and RMC Saint-Jean), the Canadian Forces College (CFC) in Toronto, Ontario, and the Osside Profession of Arms Institute in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This will result in a split between the Canadian Defence Academy (CDA) and the Military Personnel Generation (MILPERSGEN) functions. MILPERSGEN will remain a direct report to Commander MILPERSCOM with responsibility for Canadian Forces Recruiting Group, Military Personnel Generation Training Group (including Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School [CFLRS] Saint-Jean), Director Personnel Generation Requirements, and Director Individual Training and Education.

CFB Kingston photo

Graduation day at RMC.

Much remains to be undertaken in the longer term with respect to recommendations pertaining to the overall governance of the Colleges, the review of the Four Pillars (including a potential refresh of the Withers Report), and major infrastructure projects (i.e. replacement of Massey Library). However, in the short term, the work undertaken to date is already making a difference in the climate of the two undergraduate Colleges for both students and staff.

Brigadier-General Virginia Tattersall, CD, has served as an Army Logistics Officer in a rich variety of line and staff positions, including operational tours in Cambodia, Syria, and Afghanistan, and a tour with the Strategic Joint Staff. She is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC), the Land Forces Command and Staff College, and the Joint Command and Staff Programme at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto. Holder of a BA (Honours) in Political Science and History, as well as a Masters in Defence Studies from RMC, she is also a 2015 graduate of the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy in Washington with a Masters of Science in Resource Strategy. General Tattersall was promoted to her present rank in February 2017 and posted to Kingston as Deputy Commander Military Personnel Generation.

CFB Kingston photo

New beginnings.


  1. “Special Staff Assistance Visit – Report on the Climate, Training Environment, Culture and ROTP Programme at the Royal Military College of Canada – Kingston.”
  2. The Four Pillars programme specifies how Naval and Officer Cadets are required to meet established standards in four key areas considered germane to service as an officer in the CAF: academics, military training, physical fitness, and bilingualism (French and English). “Special Staff Assistance Visit – Report on the Climate, Training Environment, Culture and ROTP Programme at the Royal Military College of Canada – Kingston.”