Army became ‘a way of life’ for first Honorary Colonel of the Canadian Army

Article / November 27, 2017 / Project number: 17-0259

By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

Note: to view additional photos, click the photo under Image Gallery.

Toronto, Ontario — Canadian Army (CA) Honorary Colonel Blake Goldring, the first individual to fulfil this role, has completed his duties. His many contributions to the CA were acknowledged at an event held November 24, 2017 in Ottawa. His connections to the military run deep. His formal involvement began when he was named Honorary Colonel of The Royal Regiment of Canada in 2005.

The latter experience inspired the highly-regarded Chairman and CEO of AGF Management Limited to create Canada Company, a charitable, non-partisan organization that assists military members, veterans and their families with scholarships, employment programs and many other initiatives. 

Small wonder then that when HCol Goldring became the first person to be named Honorary Colonel for the CA as a whole in 2011, then-Army Commander Lieutenant-General Peter Devlin remarked, “This is a good news story for Canada.”

In the following interview, HCol Goldring reflects on his 12 years of service and how, over that time, the CA has become nothing less than a way of life for him.

Your work as both an Honorary Colonel and with Canada Company suggests you have a strong bond with the military. Where does that come from?

I’ve always had a strong interest in history and a great admiration for our military. However, I do not come from a military background. My first exposure to the Army was attending a mess dinner organized by The Royal Regiment of Canada. I was struck by the camaraderie and pride in the soldiers that I met and inspired by the history and traditions of the Regiment. When the commanding officer created a civilian support group I leapt at the chance to join. It occurred to me that there was a real need for greater engagement between our military and the broader community. That was really underscored when I became Honorary Colonel at The Royal Regiment of Canada and gave birth to what became Canada Company.  

What have been the greatest rewards of being an Honorary Colonel for you?

I think the first and foremost would be meeting so many great men and women in uniform and seeing their professionalism, dedication and commitment to serving our country. Their leadership is incredibly inspiring and so impressive. I’ve made great friendships and gained great insight into our military. It’s an honour to be a member of this large family. I have to add that it’s a lot of fun, too. I’ve had occasion to meet our troops in places like Afghanistan, Poland and Israel and to visit bases across Canada. It’s been inspiring. I’m very proud of the members of our armed forces. I have learned a great deal through my time with the Canadian Armed Forces and I am a better business leader for it.

What was your first reaction to being asked to take on the roles of Honorary Colonel at The Royal Regiment of Canada and, later, the Army as a whole?

I was honestly as flabbergasted as I was flattered. I was quite sure when I was asked by Major General Reg Lewis to lunch that he was looking for a donation and I had my cheque book in hand [laughs]. When he told me his plan, I said, “Look, you’ve got the wrong guy” because at that point in my life I had never fired a gun, never marched. He said something that’s framed my military experience ever since: ”We need people from the outside.” And that was really important to me because it got me thinking about the military’s engagement with the wider community and that’s been my key motivator ever since. I was incredibly humbled to be named the first-ever Army Honorary Colonel – it’s like being handed a blank sheet of paper and asked to write your own job description. When you have the responsibility to work closely with the Army Commander, you get exposed to leadership at the highest levels. I found it incredibly enriching. What started out 12 years ago as a short-term engagement really has become a way of life for me.

How has serving as Honorary Colonel of the CA differed from your time as an Honorary Colonel with The Royal Regiment of Canada?

The mandates are quite different. The role of a regimental Honorary Colonel dates back more than a century and has a set of clearly-prescribed duties ranging from mentoring and supporting a unit’s troops, to helping maintain regimental traditions.

As Honorary Colonel of the Army, the position means you are working closely with the Commander and not with any particular unit. Over time, the responsibilities have evolved to include advising the Commander Canadian Army when asked on non-military matters, representing the civilian voice when meeting our troops, and strengthening relationships between the broader community and our Army.

Honorary Colonels act as guardians of regimental traditions and history and work to promote regiments in their communities. Why do you feel this needs to be done?

These are two key responsibilities for an Honorary Colonel. The first speaks to remembrance and the second speaks to stewardship. The Honorary Colonel is supported by Regimental Senates and Foundations in ensuring that the traditions and memories of units are sustained through time. The Honorary Colonel needs to lead the charge of solid community connections made and levered to ensure there is an appreciation and understanding of our military within the general public.

What advice would you offer someone else considering an Honorary Colonel appointment?

Seize the opportunity! Where else can you provide service to your country and meet some of the finest men and women in Canada? I have actively recruited several Honorary Colonels over the past 12 years and every single one of them has told me that it was one of the best things they had ever done.

To comment on this article, visit the Canadian Army's Facebook Notes.

Date modified: