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Jan Advocate 2017

104 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 1 J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE Canadian Forces personnel who recognized his talents and offered a series of life-changing opportunities. He joined the military as a firefighter in the air force and was stationed at a number of Canadian Forces bases in Canada and Europe. While stationed in Europe he competed in boxing and judo. His very good friend who served with Mel, Sid Stephen, recounts two notable stories of this period in Mel’s life. The first involved a sergeant in a real boot camp saying to Mel, who was talking at the time, that they were there to get fit. He instructed Mel to do 20 push-ups, which Mel proceeded to do with one arm, thereby silencing the sergeant. The second involved Sid lending a book to Mel, which sparked in Mel an interest in reading that never waned. Fortunately, while stationed in Europe, Mel’s first fire chief recognized his potential and put him on a shift that allowed him to finish high school in his 20s. At this point in his life Mel was someone with a keen street sense, an athlete who knew how to compete and who was rapidly developing his intellect. Several years later, Mel was selected for the Canadian Forces University Training Programme for Men (as it then was), which enabled him to complete an honours degree in philosophy. He then served as an administration officer. As a young officer at CFB Penhold, Air Defence Command HQ North Bay, Mel had an early test having to stand up to the base commander and his efforts at intimidation and coercion relating to the promotion of his girlfriend at the base canteen. This was one of the early examples, and there were many, of Mel standing up for just process regardless of the ramifications. In 1974 Mel was selected for the new Military Legal Training Plan and attended law school at UBC. During the summers he worked for the Assistant Judge Advocate General in Esquimalt, ably assisting with a series of fraud investigations and prosecutions. Upon graduating in 1977 he articled under the tutelage of prominent Victoria counsel Dermod Owen-Flood, Q.C. (later Mr. Justice Owen-Flood), who was certainly a mentor to Mel—on occasion a challenging one as Mel often recounted. Owen-Flood together with the others at the firm gave rise to Mel’s attraction to criminal defence work. Upon his call to the B.C. bar in 1978, Mel became a legal officer in the Office of the Judge Advocate General serving at the Directorate of Personnel Legal Services at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. As noted by Mel’s colleague Commander Sheila Archer, one of Mel’s fellow officers said “it was there that Mel honed a well-developed sense of outrage at the manner in which individuals could be (and were) abused, together with the knowledge and skills to mitigate the abuse by using the institution’s own rules and process.” Another colleague said of Mel during this period that


Jan Advocate 2017
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