Team Rubicon Canada – Answering The Call Like No One Else Can

November 15, 2019 - Defence Stories

Author: Emily Lindahl, Corporate Internal Communications – ADM(PA)

Natural disasters are on the rise in Canada, and can have a devastating financial and emotional impact on families and communities. Team Rubicon Canada seeks to lessen this impact through its veteran-led volunteer force. Veterans hold the skills to ‘live rough’, and were trained to plan and react as a team. Put these together and you get the goal of Team Rubicon Canada; to serve communities by mobilizing veterans to continue their service, leveraging their skills and experience to help people prepare, respond and recover from disasters and humanitarian crises.

It started May 2016, when a contingent from Team Rubicon–United States arrived to help the residents affected by the devastating fires in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Having established a strong and well-known desire to create a Team Rubicon in Canada, a small team of Canadian veterans set to work with their teammates on Operation Pay Dirt. Since then, Team Rubicon Canada has grown to over 1,200 volunteers known as “Greyshirts” who are ready to be deployed on disaster response operations.

Retired General Rick Hillier has had the pleasure of watching the organization take shape. His belief that “no veteran leaving the Canadian Armed Forces should ever feel like they don’t have skills,” and his passion for trying assist veterans led him to a place as Chair on the Board of Directors when Team Rubicon came to Canada. The organization seeks to make the transition from soldier to civilian easier by connecting skills to a need. “That is why I wanted to put my shoulder behind this,” Gen Hillier states.

Since then it has grown organically, led by former semi-pro hockey player, professional lacrosse player, and CAF veteran, Bryan Riddell. “Veterans have the ability to serve people on the front lines. They spent a good part of their careers doing thankless tasks, thinking on their feet, and living rough in uncertain situations,” he says. He has been CEO of Team Rubicon Canada since January, 2018.

Missions in Canada [2016 Fort McMurray fire and the 2019 flooding in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick] and missions outside of the country (most recently, Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas), have benefited from the experience and skills of Canadian veterans. Team Rubicon trains all of their volunteers and removes barriers, all towards making it as easy as possible for veterans to get involved.

Gen Hiller, Ret’d attests that “almost every single one of our veterans enjoyed their service to Canada and the world.” Team Rubicon allows them to apply their skills to a new purpose with minimum effort and resources. It also provides the camaraderie of being a team, one that is focused on achieving their common great mission.

Their latest mission meant travelling to the Bahamas. But there was no tropical resort paradise waiting for them. Five waves of greyshirts, who worked hard for fourteen days at a time, were deployed to the Bahamas to ‘muck out’ buildings by removing hazardous debris, insulation, and drywall from flooded homes, schools, and churches. Volunteers, such as veteran Reservist Dan Faughnan, contributed to the effort, commenting that “it was catastrophic, complete devastation.” Even among the ruins, he noticed one thing. “Our mission ran like a military op, and people felt cared for.” His pride at seeing colleagues and teammates put themselves in this situation is unmistakable.

Dan knows it all makes a difference. “On the second to last day there were four different times where I saw people carrying their belongings. They were coming back home, and due, in part, to our help, they will succeed.”

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