Meet James Strickland

Commander (retired) James Strickland comes from a military family. His great-grandfather was a pilot in WWI, before Canada had an Air Force, and survived after being shot down in France. His father, and his father’s brother, bravely served in WWII.

James joined the CAF in 1986. Over time, his career took him on a progressively more risky path as he found himself in Canada’s elite special operations unit where he spent the majority of his military career.

“It was more a calling for me; if you made it through the selection, then you were meant to be there.”

When James officially retired from the Navy in 2019, he got a job heading up the security department for a Canadian multinational and multi-billion-dollar company. But after three  short years, his new career took an unexpected turn. When the company’s stock plummeted, he got laid off for the first time in his life.

The transition was jarring, and he wondered if he’d somehow failed. But thanks to words of wisdom from colleagues, James realized the layoff wasn’t a failure at all, but rather an opportunity for change. It was the first time in his career he had the luxury to take the time to reflect and reassess his goals.

He decided to take a year to focus on professional experimentation and introspection. He learned about True Patriot Love Foundation’s Barbeau Peak expedition and applied to participate in the climb, seeing it as an opportunity to get back into training and focus on his next challenge.

But for James, the climb was about so much more.

“Half of it is about fundraising, and the other half is for my daughter.”

After her second year at the Royal Military College (RMC), James’ daughter Nicole got diagnosed with leukemia. It was a grim prognosis – a bone marrow aspiration showed a staggering 98% cancer. Her dreams were abruptly put on hold.

Thankfully, her older sister was a perfect match for a stem cell transplant, and Nicole recovered, returning to RMC where she graduated as the top cadet. Soon after her first posting, her cancer relapsed…and she beat it again.

True Patriot Love rallied behind the family and provided an outpouring of emotional and financial support that James is grateful for to this day.

The memory of his daughter’s fight against cancer is helping James prepare mentally for the trek, giving him the inspiration to push ahead.

“I have to get over the fact that I’ve got injuries that I can feel when I train. And it’s not an ego thing; as an officer my whole life, I’m used to leading by example. It would be hard for me if I was the one slowing the expedition down.”

For James, the Barbeau Peak expedition dovetails with some of the challenges he’s faced as a Veteran, navigating his newest career pivot as a crisis management consultant and leadership coach serving fellow Veterans while working alongside corporate executives.

“We’re in transition more often than we’re in the status quo. And it’s a good thing.