With wider search for soldiers, Canada's military broadens horizons - InfoNews.ca

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With wider search for soldiers, Canada's military broadens horizons

Brig.-Gen. Charles Lamarre, the commander of the Canadian Mission Transition Task Force, speaks in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Sunday July 17, 2011. Canada's military is going all out to erase its reputation for intolerance and misogyny, aiming to recast itself instead as welcoming to Canadians of all races, religions and sexual orientations.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Murray Brewster
June 26, 2017 - 6:00 AM

OTTAWA - Canada's military is going all out to erase its reputation for intolerance and misogyny, aiming to recast itself instead as welcoming to Canadians of all races, religions and sexual orientations.

The effort — driven by several factors, including a need to bolster its dwindling numbers — includes a comprehensive effort to connect with and recruit women, new citizens and even members of the LGBT community.

The Trudeau government's plan to invest an extra $62 billion in the military over the next 20 years includes hiring 3,500 more full-time personnel and 1,500 part-time reservists, numbers that would bring the ranks of the Forces to their highest level since the end of the Cold War.

First, though, comes a significant and persistent challenge: getting more Canadians to join.

The Forces have struggled for years to hit recruiting numbers, resulting in thousands of unfilled positions such as pilots and technicians.

That's why fixing the recruiting system is a top priority, said Lt.-Gen. Charles Lamarre, the chief of military personnel, whose role is to oversee all aspects of human resources in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Central to that goal is making the military more inclusive, diverse and attractive to all Canadians, regardless of their backgrounds.

"Our population doesn't look like all white guys," Lamarre said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"If you want to get the very best people — the very smartest, most capable, most committed and most ingenious — then you need to look broadly and not exclude groups that would be very useful to you."

There is more to the push towards increased diversity and inclusiveness than simply recruiting, though that part of the equation is vitally important.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada's chief of the defence staff, recently released a diversity strategy in which he noted that Canada was becoming more diverse — and the military needed to follow suit.

Doing so would be necessary to attract and retain people, Vance wrote, as well as to ensure the military continued to reflect the society it is sworn to protect, and to increase its effectiveness on missions abroad.

That's why the Forces appear to be turning a page: leaders are recognizing the real importance of diversity, said Alan Okros, an expert on diversity in the military at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

"This idea that people with different views, different experiences, different skill sets are going to make the military stronger has been kind of coalescing and coming together for about a year and a half," Okros said.

"This isn't a luxury, this isn't social engineering, this isn't political manoeuvring or political correctness. This is now an operational requirement."

Vance has since taken the unprecedented step of ordering the military to grow the percentage of female personnel to 25 per cent in the next decade, up from 15 per cent.

Recruiters are now launching targeted advertising campaigns and reaching out to women who previously expressed an interest in a military career but didn't join.

Senior commanders, meanwhile, are reviewing everything from uniforms and ceremonies to food and religious accommodations to see whether they meet the requirements of a more diverse force.

Lamarre plans to speak Monday at a citizenship ceremony in Ottawa in hopes of explaining to new Canadians what he describes as "a tangible way in which they can serve their nation."

And he hopes to sit down with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and other indigenous leaders to talk about ways to reach out and attract people from those communities.

Others within the military are getting in on the action too, with the head of the navy, Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, issuing a directive last week encouraging his sailors to attend Pride parades in uniform.

Vance is expected to issue a similar directive to the rest of the military in the coming days.

Not everyone agrees with what the military is doing, Lloyd acknowledged, including some of those who are already in uniform. But changing the face of the Forces isn't just some feel-good exercise, he said.

"In order to be successful in the future, we need to be able to recruit from the entire population."

There are other challenges to overcome besides convincing some current personnel of the importance of diversity.

The military is still trying to overcome years of bad headlines about the treatment of women and members of the LGBT community by adopting a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct.

There has also been a historic lack of interest in the Forces by many ethnic communities, particularly those that trace their origins to countries where the military has a bad reputation.

And then there are the problems identified by auditor general Michael Ferguson last year, namely that the recruiting system is struggling with red tape and the effects of Conservative budget cuts.

"We're definitely still at the planning stage," Lamarre acknowledged. "We're in the process of actually saying: 'What is it we must do?'"

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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