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Politically Incorrect

Vimy Vidi Vichy

by Arthur Weinreb

September 16, 2002

In a letter to the National Post, published on September 1, Defense Minister John McCallum was attempting to answer criticism for his apparent lack of knowledge about the raid on Dieppe that took place in August, 1942. In his letter, McCallum confused Vichy, the seat of the French government that collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, with Vimy, the World War I battle of Vimy Ridge.

The Minister’s first excuse was that the mistake was a typo. That excuse went over about as well as, "Oh, did I claim a deduction of $100,000 on my income tax form; I meant to claim $1,000." Much like the "twinkie defense," the "typo defense" hardly ever works outside of California. So, on to the next excuse--despite having a "privileged education," he never took any of that stuff in school.

The "Gosh, I never took that in school" defense is not very good either. Can you imagine a doctor misdiagnosing a disease and saying "Gee, I never took that disease in school; think I was at a Save the Rainforest demonstration". Okay, the rainforest thing might work, but you get the point. Luckily for Canadians, being the Defense Minister isn’t an important a job as performing open heart surgery or serving double doubles at Tim Horton’s. How can John McCallum, much like his two predecessors, Art Eggleton and David Collenette, defend Canada when he has such a hard time trying to defend himself?

A quick glance at the McCallum’s biography, provided to the CBC, reveals that he was born in Montreal on April 9, 1950. The next entry has him graduating from the University of Cambridge in 1971 with a B.A. It could be that his "privileged education" meant skipping elementary and high school. Where was Elizabeth Witmer when we needed her? We know where she was; in school learning about the Battle of Vimy Ridge. McCallum was probably hanging out in Montreal bistros, lunching on shrimp cocktail and vimyssoise.

It’s a wonder why McCallum, former chief economist with the Royal Bank and a relative newcomer to politics, having first been elected in November 2000, was not kept in his previous portfolio or given another financial one. All that financial experience and he’s given a ministry that, unlike Heritage or Women’s Issues, has no money. As the prime minister would say: " Hey, dat’s life".

Not knowing important facts because he didn’t take them in school makes you wonder what else the beleaguered minister never learned. We hope that he has taken the following courses; if not, the country could really be in trouble.

Military Fashion 231: students will learn to be familiar with all types of military uniforms and practical experience will be given regarding such things as when to wear jungle camouflage and when to wear desert camouflage. Prerequisite: Sock Matching 101.

How to go to the Middle East on $5/day 111: students will learn the art of travelling on a limited budget with specific attention paid to how to get lifts from U.S. troops and how to get Americans to hand over food. Prerequisties: Panhandling 141 and Advanced Hitchhiking 225.

Helicopter Purchasing 330: highly theoretical course will teach students how to negotiate and purchase helicopters with specific attention paid to buying out previous purchase contracts. Prerequisite: Helicopter Repairs, 416.

In the end, John McCallum needn’t worry that he is historically challenged. Canada is a peaceful country and he doesn’t have to know all that stuff about war. And besides, we’re a multicultural country and we don’t need to learn about what all those white guys did during World Wars I and II. As long as McCallum doesn’t confuse Muslims with Hindus and Inuits with Metis, he’ll do okay.

Vimy; Vidi; Vichy — does it really matter?

Arthur Weinreb is a lawyer and author and Associate Editor of, he can be reached at: [email protected]

Canada Free Press, CFP Editor Judi McLeod