Dr. Jim Boutilier retires from MARPAC


SLt M.X. Déry, MARPAC PA Office ~

Dr Jim Boutilier has gone from a junior officer in the RCN Reserves on the East Coast to being a navigator for the Royal Navy in the UK, then teaching in Fiji to teaching at the then-Royal Roads Military College (RRMC) and ultimately helping West Coast MARPAC commanders understand their theatre of operations in the Asia Pacific region.

After travelling all over the world in many roles and jobs, Dr Boutilier is finally retiring. Unlike his previous transitions in employment, this one should be relatively simple.

At the tender age of 17 he began his Baccalaureate in history at Dalhousie and joined the RCN Reserve at HMCS SCOTIAN under the University Naval Training Divisions scheme. After completing his master’s at age 22, he moved to the UK to begin his PhD at the University of London, where he joined the Royal Naval Reserve.

“They had a fleet of minesweepers and they navigated from the English Channel up into the Baltic and much of that area was still dangerous in the 1960s due to mines from the Second World War,” explained Dr. Boutilier. “That was a bit of a challenge for a young navigator.”

Despite being from Bedford Nova Scotia and navigating the waters around Western Europe, Dr. Boutilier found himself teaching at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, in 1969.

As luck would have it though, his naval background and his passion for history coalesced into a professorship at Royal Roads Military College in Victoria.

For the next 24 years, Dr. Boutilier helped create the future leaders of the CAF. “I loved teaching at the military college… I didn’t like marking very much, but I loved teaching,” he said.  “It was very exciting to watch my one-time students advance through their careers.”

From the current Chief of Defence Staff to former heads of the RCN, many a commissioned officer took their history lessons from Dr. Boutilier at Royal Roads Military College before it transitioned to Royal Roads University in 1995, during which he played a key role in saving the school.

After an exhausting 18 final months setting up Royal Roads University, Dr. Boutilier was asked by Rear-Admiral Bruce Johnston to join him at MARPAC as a policy advisor, the position he is retiring from at the end of the month.

“My job was to keep the senior staff informed about what was happening in their area of responsibility,” he said. “I have a very broad mandate from Vladivostok all the way to Wellington and West as far as the Persian Gulf.”

Although the role of advisor is not the same as teaching, Dr. Boutilier enjoyed the change of pace nonetheless. “I thoroughly enjoy the hands on approach necessary here at MARPAC. I enjoyed the opportunity to get back to sea and the demi-diplomatic dimensions of my job working with foreign diplomats, academics and naval personnel.”

After being one of the first policy advisors in Canada outside of Ottawa, Dr. Boutilier has managed to build his team over the years.

“I have a wonderful staff of young analysts who have been keen, and enthusiastic, and productive, and that has made my job particularly enjoyable. I have been lucky to be so ably supported.”

After more than 60 years since he joined the RCN Reserve, Dr. Boutilier is leaving behind his staff and the millions of miles he travelled to talks and conferences, to sit at a big oak desk and attempt to tell his story.

“I’m immodestly going to write an autobiography,” he said with a smile, while explaining that he will also be writing two other books.

“Time with my family is what is on the horizon. I have a young daughter who is a very talented musician. I look forward to spending more time with them.”

Those wishing to celebrate with Dr. Boutilier before his departure are welcome to come to the Wardroom at 1400 Tuesday, 29 October, for an informal farewell.

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  1. bill fenton says:

    are you the son of Wilfred & Betty Boutilier?
    if so we would have grown up together in Bedford although I was more of age of Joan and you of my sister Mary (deceased)

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