*Hugh Culliton is a teacher, father, husband, historian, and Navy Vet who served this country with distinction.
“[This is] not news, but [this] to is reality.”
– Peter Truman
Alone we might go faster for a short while, but together we will always go farther. So do we work each to ensure that a small, remote, and callous capitalist elite can use us to create tremendous personal profits for themselves, or do we work to ensure that everyone gets what they need to survive and get a square deal? These are questions that confront me at the end of 2022.
I was born into a strange world. In 1970, mom was a public health nurse, an MSc from McGill, and came from an educated, demanding family. Her mom, a fluently Gaelic-speaking Scott who could stop a Panzer with a scowl, rode to school on a draft horse before WW1. She was one of the first female pharmacists in Canada, graduating near the top of her U of T class of 1923. With her husband, she ran E.H. Northey Pharmacy Ltd in Lakefield, ON, into the 1970s – she was the brains, and Grandpa was the front man. Grandpa “Butts” Northey would routinely drive meds to destitute families north of Aspley, 30 miles up bad road at 2 AM in a blinding snowstorm because that’s what you do for people. They cared about their community and often took IOUs and chickens as payment. When folks were enduring hard times, Grandpa occasionally “lost” the receipts and called it square.
My Dad was cut from similar cloth though of a different pattern. He got almost himself expelled from high school, and never achieved a college diploma. Thinking as a high school teacher, I see he would have been working! Still, he is one of the most brilliant minds I have known and is as courageous as they come. If you’re flight lost all power, he’s the guy you’d want in the cockpit.
This 👇 convicted felon with Richard Nixon's face tattooed on his back, is a paid advisor of both @PierrePoilievre and @fordnation . I kid you not. When people show you what they are, believe them. https://t.co/QWVkrrp77y
— Hugh Culliton (@CullitonHugh) December 23, 2022
At 18, he deliberately had himself kicked out of the house by riding his flat-head Harley up the Sioux Lookout Catholic church aisle during Sunday mass. He pulled a 180 burn in front of the alter and popped a wheelie as he exited while giving my Grandpa the finger. (I only wish I were so awesome!) Grandpa, a storied bush pilot in his own right who also happened to be a deacon in that church and is the origin of the ‘Culliton temper,’ had a discussion afterward.
Using language only an extremely pissed-off Irish Catholic bush pilot could muster (that he likely had to later deal with in confession), Grandpa proposed that it was about time for Dad to join the RCAF. And that’s how my Dad got into aviation. By the time I came along in 1970, mom and Dad had been married several years. Dad hits the big 9-0 on 25 December – and you’ll be happy to know that the Culliton temper is still very much intact!
Shortly after the wedding, mom decided that swatting blackflies for the rest of her life beside a trailer in Moonbeam; ON wasn’t on her bucket list. So, while Dad was off fighting forest fires in a Beaver, she sent away for and applied FOR HIM to Air Canada as her ticket back to civilization. Dad was surprised when she met him on the dock and, before even a kiss, handed him a pen and demanded his signature on the paperwork.
She feared her wrath, and dad wisely signed. All the poor man ever wanted to do was fly a Norseman floatplane! But theirs was a love to be envious of, and mom was a force of nature. Being the prudent pilot, he acquiesced and kissed goodbye to the pristine shores of Remi Lake and said hello to Toronto.
Dad did his first wheel landing at YYZ in a Boeing 707! He has a feel for any aircraft that is almost supernatural. During the approach, he casually mentioned to his check-pilot evaluator that he’d never landed on wheels – floats, and skis. The agent, an old pilot, said, “Just treat it like a glassy water landing.” Having forgotten more about float planes than most pilots will ever know, Dad nailed it and got the job.
Once he got some seniority, he was making good money. However, given his wartime experience in a boarding school, there was NO way he’d expose his son to such trauma. So fate (i.e., mom) demanded I attend Lakefield College School. From Gr 7 – 13: 1983 – 1989, I did. The arguments were loving but heated, and a compromise was reached: I’d be a ‘day boy.’
LCS was an exciting and enriching experience, but it did color my perspective of the world/ Being a day boy, I lived at home in the bush north of Young’s Point. When not at school, I was in the woods. Like Dad, I have always preferred the solitude and peace of the bush.
School, however, was excellent in all the ways high school can be. Indeed my two closest friends went to LDSS – the local public high school – not LCS. I still suffered bullying and had to learn how to navigate the complex transactional-based relationships of the elites.
I was never a great student; I still fit into LCS but was always an outsider as I didn’t come from the right circles, and Dad didn’t work in/for/own a corporation. Some of my peers unkindly considered me a “hick.” I didn’t mind – a pit party with beer, girls, and shotguns was way more fun.
Still, it was an enriching environment. I learned Latin and even got to punch the King of Spain. I got away with that escapade because Felipe was a jerk, and I didn’t care who his Dad was. Three years my senior, he chased me down the Grove House 2nd floor hall with a broken hockey stick and cornered me; I got mad and turned on him. On witnessing the event, the then prince’s RCMP bodyguard merely winced, shrugged, and said, “Well, you had that coming – let’s go get some ice on it.” To his credit, Rex Catholicissimus quickly apologized. I still have great respect for him and, as a sailor, for his Spanish Armada!
This is the definition of "lipstick on a pig": https://t.co/yHzsAK3pWo
— Hugh Culliton (@CullitonHugh) December 23, 2022
So I learned alongside the elite. While never in their circle, I learned, played, and fought with them. I saw how they viewed the world, and it rubbed off on me. I thought of myself as being part of that gifted elite. Because of what I was learning, it was logical that I, too, would become one of the minds leading this Canadian project. Being a good LCS lad with military service in my family, I would eventually step forth to fulfill my destiny of running the nation.
I was a Tory through and through. Cut me, and I bled PC blue. To my everlasting shame and regret, I clearly remember, after we once lost a football match to Peterborough Collegiate Vocational School (my moms’ Alma Matter and a school I would later have the honor of teaching in), chanting with everyone else, “It’s alright, it’s OK, you’ll be working for ME someday.”
Arrogance is a powerfully addictive narcotic.
We were very well educated. But we were spoiled, entitled, and had a decidedly, perhaps pathologically, arrogant over-appreciation of our worth and abilities. The following 25 years of my life would see the excoriating process of chipping this scale off my Weltanschauung, bit by bit.
This process started after grad when I realized that while mom and Dad would financially assist me with the university, I was still suddenly on my own for everything else. Adulthood was scary. (“We paid for high school, so you have the skills to pay for everything else” – was how it was phrased.).
I went to Western. Like LCS but vastly more fun. Still, bills were piling up, and even the farm-grade diesel for the VW Rabbit was pricy. I was tired of eating the squirrels I was snaring surreptitiously on the UWO campus to supplement my meager rations. Thus when I saw the RCN Naval Cadet uniform on a good friend and saw the pay, I signed up.
Now, you have to understand: my older brother was RCAF. My Dad was RCAF. My Grandpa was RCAF. 2 great uncles were also RCAF. Another great uncle was also a Group Captain (DFC with Bar) in the RAF!! Even my Uncle Mickey was the Command Chief Master Sergeant of the USAF (!!!!!). So…the Navy for me! Yes, -a lot of pressure to live up to.
The RCN taught me how to be appropriately responsible for people. I learned commitment, dedication to duty, and the fundamental truth that loyalty ‘up’ first requires that belief ‘down’ be demonstrated. There are no secrets on the bridge of a warship. Sailors see through BS and duplicity. I wasn’t great, but my people said I looked after them and could navigate from A to B without hurting anyone. I chalk that up as a ‘win.’
Thanks to the RCN, and my love of history, I attended RMC and, in ’96, got my MA in War Studies. I met and fell in love with the Dean of Arts’ daughter (Let’s be honest – it’s likely the only reason I ever passed WS 500). We’ve been together ever since.
Most beautiful aircraft ever. https://t.co/CchNx96S3e
— Hugh Culliton (@CullitonHugh) December 22, 2022
Then Major-General Romeo Dallaire was looking for an academically inclined staff officer to assist him with the MASSIVE volume of data he retained from United Nations Assistance Mission Rwanda – UNAMIR 1. I presented myself in his office, and he was impressed enough to hire me. But my first staff job made me a teacher and a socialist.
I spent that Christmas alone in the Export Building with a 386 computer, eight filing cabinets of paper, a lonely empty 29th-floor office deck, and a sick dread in my heart as I attempted to figure out how to organize this massive amount of stuff into something he could use to help with his duty to assist the prosecution of war criminals. I was busting 18-hour days.
I read every dispatch sent between the UNAMIR 1 staff and UNHQ New York. I began to see just how sublimely frustrated and desperate the mission on the ground had become as these few officers and NCOs implored, begged, and screamed -DAILY – about the pending genocide they could all see coming as clear as a storm surge hitting the breakwater. Dallaire and his staff provided all the evidence, receipts, and tactical intelligence from good people who risked their lives to deliver. I even forced myself to listen to the racist, murderous screed of recorded Radio Rwanda broadcasts which coordinated the April 1994 genocide.
What do you need to know? The lists of weapons caches discovered? Got it. The recruitment and training of stoned, drunk teenagers conditioned to murder their neighbors? Have the receipts. The planning? I’ve held the actual documents. The UN knew and ignored all this well before the first helpless victim was killed.
Dallaire and his staff could see it coming at them like a freight train without breaks. His operational proposals and requests for support for stopping it were impeccable to a War Studies/Junior staff college grad. If they had followed his advice, the genocide wouldn’t have happened. They had that much time, but the authorities lacked political will. Everything UNAMIR said fell on deaf ears. No one gave a shit.
The fundamental lesson I learned as I poured through all these reams of data in that dark, cold Ottawa winter was this: all civilization is a thin veneer. What happened in Rwanda, Europe, Cambodia, USSR, …can happen ANYWHERE – in any society – especially Canada. It was that realization, along with the result that the best killers are teens as they’re the easiest to warp – my epiphany was that I needed to be a teacher.
My first full-time job was as a public high school teacher in a group home. I worked with kids struggling with horrid lives and substance abuse in dorms staffed by well-intentioned but undertrained (read: cheap to pay) 20-somethings. The workers cared but often didn’t have the skills, training, or resources necessary to deal with the issues.
These were not bad kids – they were kids who endured abuse, FAS, and heart-breaking trauma. They were staying in the 2000s every single thing Dickens wrote about in the 1830s.
This opened my mind a fair bit. These kids were being warehoused and monetized in a for-profit system where the group’s homeowners were buying sweet new trucks to park in (even then) million-dollar houses. In contrast, the kids in their care – at age 18 – were being kicked onto the street with a shrug and nod when the provincial funding stopped. After this, all I could see was that these underserved kids were the ones who were getting the least while needed the most. We weren’t just failing them; we were feeding off their misery.
That was 20 years ago, and the minor’s changed. A society that eats its CHILDREN is doomed to fail. A government that uses such suffering to make private banks for party donors is sick and doomed to die. Over 20 years, I’ve watched our public education system – with many warts, of course, but still very good – be underfunded to the point of ineffectiveness for the people because of money.
Anyone who tells you that public education is a cost – a “burden” rather than what it is – an investment – is arguing a psychopath’s case. Any society that places more value on private profit over the needs of its children isn’t just corrupt. It’s fundamentally terminally ill.
Charity only enriches the elites. If Doug truly cared, he wouldn't have made every single policy choice he's ever voted on. When people say "No" to a living wage, autistic kids, the elderly, they hate you.
Doug Ford represents death. https://t.co/kj9btdTjcc
— Hugh Culliton (@CullitonHugh) December 23, 2022
I went to school with some of the same minds now controlling our province. I understand how fundamentally limited, reductive, and weak their understanding of the world is. They are operating from a position of sublime arrogance and ignorance. Their interests are not the same as ours.
My fundamental learning was that we are all in this together at the end of the day, and everyone, especially those grindingly underserved, deserves vastly more than the privatization agenda the @fordnation grifters are currently offering us. This government is an obscene, criminal failure. They oppose everything we all value as necessary: protecting and helping the less fortunate. Their policies are killing people.
Care about your community and neighbors? You’re a socialist. Do you see a homeless person huddled on the street and wonder what happened to us? You’re a socialist. If you think that everyone – regardless of your personal biases – deserves a square deal, you’re a socialist.