Home Canadian Army Love and Sacrifice: A Profile of Fern Taillefer

Love and Sacrifice: A Profile of Fern Taillefer

Taillefer receiving Special Service Force proficiency award 1982 for best combat support private (Courtesy of Fern Taillefer)

Fern Taillefer has served the CAF in an array of roles and continues to do so outside of his military career

On the eve of Remembrance Day, the solemnity of the occasion fills our hearts. The hushed tones, the crisp November wind and the collective reflection of a nation honoring its heroes. It was in this spirit that I had the privilege to speak with Fern Taillefer, a man whose life and service epitomize the essence of this important day.

Fern Taillefer is a retired military veteran and former military police officer, who shared his incredible journey with me. Our conversation was an exploration of his service, the sacrifices made and the significance of Remembrance Day.

Taillefer’s life is a testament to dedication and selflessness. He spent 20 years in the Canadian military, rising to the esteemed rank of Warrant Officer. His journey began as a young boy with a deep-seated desire to serve his country, later branching into a military career that saw him stationed in various parts of the world, including the Middle East.

“[Joining the CAF] was in my blood, Taillefer said. “I needed to be a soldier and just loved it. All the jobs, especially in the military, I got to do a lot all over the world, in Europe and Canada, of course.”

Taillefer going on patrol in Egypt with UNEF 2 1977 (Courtesy of Fern Taillefer)

During our discussion, Taillefer recounted his experiences in the Middle East, where he played a pivotal role in security operations and transport of essential supplies. He painted a vivid picture of his 19-year-old self who delivered supplies in the regions of Egypt, Israel, and the Golan Heights, all the while witnessing the realities of conflict up close. His voice trembled with emotion as he shared a poignant moment from his early military service, the arrival of a fallen soldier on a return flight, making the somber reality of his duty clear.

“When I got to Cairo, we landed and were told to stay in our seats,” said Taillefer. “I look out the window and on the belly of the aircraft. there’s a coffin of a soldier being put onto a conveyor belt to return home. This Canadian soldier was killed on the mission that I was going on. My whole mindset really changed at that point. This was real serious stuff, very dangerous.”

Taillefer as a young Army Cadet circa 1975 walking out of a hangar at CFB North Bay as the RSM of the 204 Algonquin Cadet Corps, Annual Inspection (Courtesy of Fern Taillefer)

Taillefer’s military career continued to evolve as he moved into the realm of personal protection. He became a bodyguard for high-profile individuals, including government officials, the Queen and the Queen’s mother; a role that held immense responsibility and risk. His training and experiences are a testament to his unwavering commitment to safeguarding the lives of those he protected.

“Your training takes over automatically. We volunteer to do a job and to do it to the best of our ability,” he said. “Sleep deprivation was huge. You get up way before the family did to check that everything’s secured. The big thing for me to do was looking for car bombs. We had to search cars every single day and every time we left the car unattended, it had to be searched again. The final task was to take it for a drive around the block. If it didn’t blow up, you carry on… I did that for years.”

A young 16-year-old Private Taillefer with the Algonquin Regiment, in Timmins at a display at the Armouries (Courtesy of Fern Taillefer)

The conversation shifted to the topic of the transition from military to civilian life, a daunting prospect for many veterans. Taillefer spoke about the challenges he faced, emphasizing the importance of researching the job market and available support systems.

“I came home a different person. I can tell you right now, it changes your whole life. It was just so much hypervigilance. I didn’t stop searching for bombs under my own personal car in Canada until about three and a half years ago.”

Taillefer on the ranges in England training for Close Protection (Courtesy of Fern Taillefer)

He highlighted that his military experience played a crucial role in his subsequent policing career, underscoring the ability to utilize one’s skills in civilian life. Taillefer credits his friends, family and wife Sandi for supporting him throughout his career and especially afterwards by understanding the potential repercussions regarding mental health.

In his policing role with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) following military service, Taillefer oversaw the transit system’s anti-terrorism program which spanned from the subway to the busses and garages.

Parade Marshall Taillefer on 11 November, 2020 (Courtesy of Fern Taillefer)

Taillefer’s story, however, isn’t just one of personal sacrifice and dedication as it’s also a story of giving back. He currently serves as the Poppy Chairman and Veterans Assistance Officer for the City of Barrie, positions where he provides support and guidance to veterans in need. His commitment to his fellow veterans is unwavering.

As Remembrance Day approaches, Taillefer shared his perspective on why this day holds such significance. He acknowledged the importance of recognizing the sacrifices made by veterans and their families, not only in the past but also in contemporary conflicts. He stressed the need for education and remembrance, especially for the younger generations, to ensure that the sacrifices of those who served are never forgotten.

Fern Taillefer (Courtesy of Fern Taillefer)

Taillefer’s dedication and service to his country, as well as his continuous support for veterans, exemplify the true spirit of Remembrance Day. His words remind us of the enduring importance of honoring those who serve and have served and the duty we all share in ensuring their sacrifices are remembered and respected.

In a world that often rushes by, it’s essential to pause, reflect and remember. Fern Taillefer’s story serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by our veterans and it encourages us to honor them on Remembrance Day and beyond.

By Caleb Hooper