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Duncan and Colonel Labbé: a tale of two nightmares

I love sleeping in a cuddly tangle with Duncan. He’s like a big teddy bear, only he purrs and he cuddles back. The only problem with sleeping with a 22 pound pussycat is that when he has a nightmare, he turns into a rigid, flailing octopus with razor-sharp claws. All he wants is to eject himself from the bed, but his arms and legs are scrambling in all directions, seeking purchase, and all his claws are fully extended.

It happened so quickly. A second or two. Then GC turned the light on to inspect the damage. I had a scratch on my inner arm, a scratch on my abdomen, and three puncture wounds on my face – one on my cheek, one on my eyelid, and one on my nose, about a hair’s breadth from my tear duct.

There was blood on me, blood on the floor, and even a little blood on GC’s knee. (It sounds like a scene from In Cold Blood, doesn’t it? Okay, there was blood all those places, but not a lot. It wasn’t a bloodbath or anything like that.)

Poor Duncan was sitting in the hallway looking traumatized, and he wouldn’t let me talk him into coming back to bed right away. Finally he jumped back in, snuggled back up, and started licking my wounds.

Here he is, sleeping on the couch under a newspaper, like a homeless cat.

Duncan snoozes under the news

Duncan snoozes under the news

Look at that, he’s sleeping under the article about Colonel Serge Labbé. Did you read that on the front page of the Citizen on Saturday? Basically, Conservative Defence Minister Peter McKay decided to give the Colonel an 8-year retroactive promotion to the rank of Brigadier-General right before he retired.

This was the same Colonel who failed so spectacularly in Somalia. Remember the 16-year-old Somalian kid who was tortured to death by Canadian peacekeepers, who took trophy pictures during and after? One of those photographs is permanently etched in my brain. It was one of the most disturbing images I’ve ever seen. It changed how I felt about my country.

Anyway, that incident – and the attempted cover-up – happened on Colonel Labbé’s watch, and I believe absolutely that that kind of behaviour had to be at least tacitly sanctioned by those in charge in order for it to have become part of the culture on that base. It wasn’t an isolated incident either. There were other incidents, one where food and water were used as bait to lure Somalians kids onto the base, whereupon they were murdered by Canadian peacekeepers.

Labbé wasn’t promoted back then because it was determined he had exercised poor and inappropriate leadership and had failed in his duties as a commander.

But in 2008, shortly before his retirement, a review of Labbé’s file was quietly ordered by General Rick Hillier, and Labbé was subsequently – and very quietly – promoted with eight years retroactivity. In addition to the retroactive pay, he was also awarded performance bonuses based on ‘estimates of what type of performance rating he might have received.’

Once word got out – someone tipped off the Citizen, who ran the story last summer – the Defence Department ordered that no interviews be given on the subject. Only carefully vetted written responses were provided. This effectively limited media coverage by excluding television, which cut the story off at the knees.

I don’t know why I keep being surprised that things like this happen in Canada.

10 comments to Duncan and Colonel Labbé: a tale of two nightmares

  • Oma

    I think I know why … because we want to believe that Canada is what we idealists believe it should be. I don’t get a daily newspaper any more and so I am often saved from being faced by the realities. I half-wish I hadn’t learned about this particular reality.

    It does no good to remind myself that politicians are not Canada. It’s a little like separating the US from a George Bush or a Barack Obama. We all vote in the politicians who run our countries, for good or bad. And likely for a human combination of the two.

  • Well done… I like the way Duncan wove the 2 nightmares together. It’s as if he was trying to tell you what to blog about today.

  • Poor Duncan (and poor you and GC.. ouch)
    Tux and I have had similar incidents.. the worse though included a very vicious half asleep attack (I’d love to know what he was dreaming about that scared him so much) and resulted in a lot of blood and a nice series of scars on my butt! Though Im thankful it was my butt he was sleeping by and not my face because it was bad
    As for our country… I’d like to believe we stand on a higher moral ground than the rest of the world, and in many cases we do but more often than not, we’re are just as capable at committing atrocities like the rest of the world. I’d say we are no better than animals, but I think the animals are better than us… animals don’t commit genocide

  • Gillian

    However a lot of the things Rick Hillier did were pretty intelligent so there may be a lot of background we know nothing about. And the media is not always right either.

  • Hi, Duncan, zoom and GC! Did you know you can put little slipcovers on kitty claws to keep people and furniture safe? They’re called Soft Claws ( and work really well if your cat lets you glue them on. Like false nails only soft! I don’t own stock or work for the company, but two cats I know wear them successfully.

  • Tom Sawyer

    It’s always something, ain’t it? Bloodbaths in bed, retroactive promotions, and now soft claws that you glue on your cat. When will it ever end?

  • Noam Deguerre

    are you referring to the video of the somalian kid roasting on the spit? i didn’t watch it myself; a former u.s.m.c. who was there corrected me while i was boasting about what the world’s longest border still means up here

  • Valerie, yikes! I hope I don’t someday regret sharing my pillow with Duncan. I don’t want scars all over my face.

    Gillian, I have a feeling the Citizen was extremely careful in their reporting of this particular story. When in doubt, they left it out.

    AuntieMichal, I learn something new every single day and today is no exception! Thanks for that.

    Tom – I know, eh? It never ends. The world is just full of amazing things..

    Noam, I’m not aware of a video. Just a series of deeply disturbing photographs.

  • Me

    Maybe it’s time to get Duncan de-clawed. Cat scratch disease is produced by bacteria called Bartonella henselea that usually lives in the mouths of cats. They spread it to their claws through routine grooming. Persons with cat-scratch disease can have a range of illnesses from mild to severe.

  • Me – I would NEVER get a cat de-clawed. Never. (Reasons? Read this.