Ed Fitch: ser­vice to Canada

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - News - — LAU­REN KRAMER

Mon­treal na­tive Ed Fitch is a re­tired ma­jor gen­eral with the Cana­dian Armed Forces who served Canada for 43 years. He had an il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer from 1966 through to his semi-re­tire­ment in 2006.

Dur­ing that time he re­ceived the Mer­i­to­ri­ous Ser­vice Medal for his work in the former Yu­goslavia, fa­cil­i­tat­ing NATO’S en­try. He was also ap­pointed an Of­fi­cer of the Or­der of Mil­i­tary Merit in June 1999, the mil­i­tary equiv­a­lent of the Or­der of Canada.

As a colonel in the mid-1990s, Fitch was in the former Yu­goslavia when the United Na­tions’ peace­keep­ing force, which he was part of, was con­tracted out to NATO.

“It was an as­tound­ing change that had never hap­pened be­fore: an in-place tran­si­tion from a UN com­mand to a NATO com­mand,” he re­flected.

“It was De­cem­ber 1995 when we all re­moved our UN badges and rolled over to this NATO force, with a com­pletely dif­fer­ent set of rules. As a com­bat en­gi­neer on the land force, I was the guy on the ground pre­par­ing for the in­com­ing 50,000 troops who needed mine­fields cleared, bridges built and ac­com­mo­da­tions cre­ated.”

At 50, Fitch was pro­moted to bri­gadier gen­eral and was in com­mand of a di­vi­sion of 12,000 mem­bers of the mil­i­tary and civil­ians, and a land mass that stretched from Thun­der Bay to Van­cou­ver Is­land and up into the Arc­tic.

“My staff en­joyed telling me that it was the largest mil­i­tary district in the world, hap­pily a fairly be­nign one,” he jokes. The di­vi­sion’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties were do­mes­tic – at­tend­ing to for­est fires and tor­na­does – as well as de­ployed op­er­a­tions, and Fitch reg­u­larly pre­pared troops of 1,000 to 2,000 to fly to Bos­nia, Afghanistan and other coun­tries where they were needed.

In 2001 he was ap­pointed ma­jor gen­eral, a rank third from the top in Canada’s Armed Forces, and re­lo­cated to Ot­tawa. Here, he su­per­vised plan­ning the re­struc­tur­ing and mod­ern­iza­tion of Canada’s army re­serves.

Fitch had just re­lo­cated to Vic­to­ria, B.C., when in 2006 he was called up from the sup­ple­men­tary re­serve in sup­port of Oper­a­tion Podium, the Cana­dian Armed Forces’ sup­port to the 2010 Van­cou­ver Win­ter Olympics.

His pri­mary duty was the lead­er­ship of the Games Red Team, a project in which he and his team sim­u­lated a ter­ror­ist cell and cre­ated prac­tice sce­nar­ios to pre­pare Olympics’ plan­ning staff for a po­ten­tial at­tack.

“Our goal was to im­prove the ca­pac­ity of the armed forces to deal with some po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing sit­u­a­tions,” he ex­plained. “The model be­hind it is, train hard, fight easy. We dis­ci­plined our­selves to be real and started giv­ing Olympics’ plan­ning staff gen­tle prob­lems, up­ping the ante to present them with tougher and tougher prob­lems.”

Af­ter the Win­ter Olympics, when his full re­tire­ment came into ef­fect, Fitch ded­i­cated him­self to com­mu­nity work. As a qual­i­fied civil en­gi­neer he was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing with the con­struc­tion of the Cen­tre for Jewish Life and Learn­ing (Chabad), the first new syn­a­gogue to be built on the is­land since 1863. He vol­un­teers with the Vic­to­ria Jewish Ceme­tery Trust and the Van­cou­ver Is­land Chevra Kadisha, and serves as chair of CIJA’S Na­tional Com­mu­nity Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee.

He’s been house com­mit­tee chair and trea­surer of Con­gre­ga­tion Emanu-el and a board mem­ber of the Jewish His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety of B.C. But Fitch’s Jewish vol­un­teerism is just one as­pect of his larger com­mu­nity in­volve­ment.

He serves on vol­un­teer boards of di­rec­tors of not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clud­ing the Last Post Fund; the Royal United Ser­vices In­sti­tute of Van­cou­ver Is­land and the Cana­dian Corps of Com­mis­sion­aires, Vic­to­ria, the Is­lands and Yukon di­vi­sion. He’s also life gover­nor of the Do­min­ion of Canada Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and the Bri­tish Columbia Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion.

Fitch re­ceived the Queen’s Di­a­mond Ju­bilee Medal for his tire­less com­mu­nity work and cred­its the sup­port of his fam­ily, par­tic­u­larly his wife Sharon, for his pro­fes­sional ca­reer and ex­ten­sive vol­un­teer ser­vice.

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