There is a place that every Canadian military spouse must know about – Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Now, you might be wondering why on earth it would be important that you familiarize yourself with a small Quebec town, nestled just outside of Montreal. The answer is simple: Saint-Jean is the home of CFLRS.
CFLRS, the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School, is a place that every member of the Canadian Forces knows of, a place where the vast majority have spent time and a place that recruits come to have a complicated love/hate relationship with. CFLRS is the home of multiple training programs the most prevalent being BMQ (Basic Military Qualification), BMOQ (Basic Military Officer Qualification) and PLQ (Primary Leadership Qualification).
If your spouse is now, or in the future will be, posted for training at CFLRS there are some things you should know to make your life flow much more smoothly during their course.
About the Mega…
The Megaplex, or the Mega as it is affectionately known, is the main building of CFLRS. This is the building where the recruits eat, sleep, study, exercise and do nearly everything else during their time in Saint-Jean. The building can be seen from blocks away and can be a little intimidating for anyone who has never been there before.
For many people their first trip to the Mega is also their first trip onto a Canadian Military base. When you pull into the front gate make sure to slow down for the guard; the guard will be a Commissionaire (a retired member of the Canadian Forces) and they are usually very friendly. They will ask what you are doing and they may even ask to see identification. Don’t be alarmed – they are just doing their job. It is a military base after all.
Before you go to the Mega to pick up a loved one make sure you know which door to pick them up at. The building is around a kilometer in length, so being aware of which entrance you need to be at is imperative. Also, watch out for the one way streets within the base and be sure to keep to the speed limit because there are always MP’s patrolling.
One final note about the Mega, and about Canadian Military life in general, while in uniform or on base soldiers are discouraged from showing any affection (which translates into no kiss hello, no hand holding, no hug) regardless of how long it’s been since you’ve seen them. The instructors at CFLRS are particularly hard on BMQ or BMOQ recruits, so don’t take it as a personal slight if your spouse doesn’t greet you with any hint of physical affection.
Once you’re safely away from the Mega you and your soldier can enjoy all that Saint-Jean has to offer; unfortunately, that’s not a whole lot. Saint-Jean is a military town with a large industrial presence. There are some chain restaurants, a healthy supply of Tim Horton’s and a couple hotels. There is also the beautiful Richelieu River that is lovely in nice weather.
If staying in Saint-Jean for your visit it is a good idea to learn some simple French phrases if you don’t already speak French. Most people in Saint-Jean are bilingual but since it is a French town everyone always appreciates it if you make the extra effort. “Hello”, “have a nice day”, “please”, “thank you” and “in English” are always helpful!
If you don’t want to stay in Saint-Jean you’re in luck! Montreal is just a short drive away, though there is often heavy traffic in the downtown area so plan on it taking a little longer than you’d think. Montreal is an incredible Canadian city where not being fluent in French is no inconvenience as the entire city speaks English.
If a big city isn’t quite to your liking there are multiple Montreal suburbs such as Brossard, Saint-Luc and Longueuil which are all within a half hour drive of Saint-Jean.
Though it may not seem like the top tourist destination, Saint-Jean holds what you’re looking for most of all – your soldier. If you’re lucky enough to be able to visit CFLRS do take the time to. Your soldier, especially a recruit, will appreciate it more than you know!